Skip to comments.Eight-year-old physics genius enters university
Posted on 11/06/2005 11:06:05 AM PST by sourcery
Song Yoo-geun, 8, wants to build flying cars, defying Newton's law of gravity, and the physics genius which has made him Korea's youngest university student may very well drive him to that dream.
Amid scholastic achievements that have confounded experts, the public spotlight is squarely on the child prodigy and his parents, both 46 and both former teachers. What has made Yoo-geun - born late November 1997 and actually just shy of 8 years old - so special?
His parents differ from the vast majority of Korean parents who show a passion approaching zeal for their children's education.
"No fixed daily routines for our boy," said Yoo-geun's parents. "Yoo-geun has a monthly schedule only. Rather than being confined by a rigid timetable, Yoo-geun has the freedom to explore every field he wants to."
While other children his age are first graders at elementary school, he is a freshman at the Physics Department of Inha University in Incheon, west of Seoul.
He set a record by completing elementary, junior-high and high school curricula in just nine months - a progression that normally takes Koreans 12 years - before being admitted to university.
With no school record to rely on for screening Yoo-geun's qualifications, the university tested him through an interview in October. He surprised professors by explaining the Schroedinger equation, which is of central importance to the theory of quantum mechanics.
Experts say the equation, proposed by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger in 1925, plays a role analogous to Newton's second law in classical mechanics.
It's no wonder then that Yoo-geun is now a national figure and the focus of media attention. People are curious about his mental capabilities and how he will be taught at university. They also want to know how he is different from ordinary children and how he has been brought up.
"Once we took Yoo-geun to a zoo. There he was looking at animals for four and a half hours straight. It was when he was three or four years old. We thought then that he was either a prodigy or the opposite," his father Song Soo-jin said in an interview with The Korea Herald at his apartment in Guri, Gyeonggi Province.
The interview was conducted mainly with the senior Song since Yoo-geun is lacking in his ability to communicate with adults.
"I think it's good to let my son do whatever he wants," the father said. According to him, when Yoo-geun is engrossed in solving math problems or doing games, he often concentrates on them for up to 14 or 15 hours. "He likes to reach conclusions, even it takes a long time."
He said his son wants his to undertake research at CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory near Geneva.
Yoo-geun's dream is to make flying cars, based on the superstring theory - an attempt by science to explain all particles and forces of nature by representing them as vibrations of tiny strings.
"It goes against Newton's law. Everything on earth gets drawn to the surface by gravity, but in the case of flying cars, it's different," Song said. "There should exist the same opposite magnitude of power as the earth's gravity-pull. So, a balance is formed between gravity and reaction, which makes flying cars float in the atmosphere," he explained.
"To study more on flying cars and the super-string theory, Yoo-geun wants to join CERN," the father said.
Yoo-geun first made headlines in March last year when he received a certificate for information-processing, normally given to professional engineers in their 20s or 30s. A KBS-TV program introduced his extraordinary talent in physics last November.
In March this year, he went to an elementary school but after a few days said he didn't feel suited to the school system. He took a test to obtain a diploma certifying graduation from elementary school, and passed it.
But the Song family became embroiled in legal disputes with the school authorities after they refused to approve the exam result and issue a diploma.
In April, the Song family won the case. Afterwards, on April 5, Yoo-geun passed the middle school-level entrance exam, followed on Aug. 3 by the high school-level entrance exam. In October he was admitted to the Physics Department of Inha University.
Then Science and Technology Minister Oh Myung labeled Yoo-geun as "the first prodigy in science" and promised to offer him scholarships for five years. Oh said the government will provide support for him to be able to experiment at state-run research institutes and study at universities abroad.
Yoo-geun's father is basically against prodigy schools because, he says, their institutional methods prevent children from growing creatively. Plus, he added, it's absurd to produce the same number of gifted students every year.
Nationwide there are currently 23 such schools, which accept a set number of students. What about other gifted students who, unfortunately, weren't allowed to enter? The standards to determine genius become unclear, the senior Song said.
Asked if media attention is burdensome, he said "proper attention" is desirable because proper media attention can enable encouragement to be passed on. Furthermore, it will generate more interest in physics, an area which is declining but fundamental to advancing science.
Song also said he hopes media attention can help Yoo-geun become the Park Se-ri of physics. By winning many LPGA golf championships, Park became a model for young, aspiring golfers. After Park, plenty of female Korean golfers such as Kim Mi-hyun and Grace Park and Michelle Wie have figured prominently on the women's golf circuit.
"Public attention on Yoo-geun shouldn't stop here. I'd like to see more kids go along the same path, shoulder to shoulder with Yoo-geun," said Song.
Yoo-geun has received his share of criticism, along with the hype. When he appeared on television with signs of atopic skin reactions on his face, the gossip, although lacking legitimate grounds, was that the rash was caused by severe stress. Critics said his mother should be held responsible for making her kid study excessively.
Educators in the mainstream found fault with his father's decision to enroll Yoo-geun at Inha University after rejecting offers from top-notch and prestigious national universities like Pohang University of Science and Technology or Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Techonology.
"I believe, above all, the first priority in education is to make every child happy, said Song.
"The single most important thing in education is to find a favorable, encouraging environment for a kid - in other words, let him be," he concluded.
I hope Kim Jong-Il doesn't get a hold of this kid...
Good for him. I pray he goes far.
You cannot really hold a genius back. The simply don't play like other kids. Even when you send them outside to play a little, they will be looking at things and doing things differently. They will NOT fit in socially AT ALL with their "peers." Let him study. He is happy.
Let's hope the media backs off and gives this kid some space. I wish he'd focus on fusion energy so we could wall off the middle east.
So he gets his PhD at 10, overthrows Einstein's theory of relativity at 14, has his super string car up and running at 18, gets his Nobel at 20, then what?
Actually, from what I read, most of these child geniuses are totally burnt out by the time they're 20 and are never heard from again. The exceptions seem to be in the world of music for some reason.
...or American educrats...
"The interview was conducted mainly with the senior Song since Yoo-geun is lacking in his ability to communicate with adults."
My cat's genius exceeds that of Einstein.....but unfortunately he is lacking in his abililty to communicate with humans.
But aren't most forced into some sort of academic system? The kid seems intent to pursue an application of his abilities. Hell even he get's burned out after creating a flying car, the benefits for the scientific community should be quite impressive.
Did they ask him yet about how often he thinks about touching his private parts?
I felt the same way, but my parents stifled my creativity and forced me to go through he whole 12 year thing.
"Did they ask him yet about how often he thinks about touching his private parts?"
Those lucky Koreans doesn't have the Ninth Circuit:
Their peers aren't the other play ground kids. They'll find FreeRepublic some day and find a whole bunch of genius+ peers.
It is possible that the really smart ones escape detection.
Er, fission works just fine. Right now. It has for more than half a century. Our energy problems are political not physical.
I have a confession to make.
Before I read the article I said,"I bet the kid is Asian"
I'm still stereotyping.
This is really impressive! And 8 year old kid as a Physics freshman. From the sound of it, he will have his Ph.D in Physics by the time he is 10.
He surprised professors by explaining the Schroedinger equation, which is of central importance to the theory of quantum mechanics.
The interview was conducted mainly with the senior Song since Yoo-geun is lacking in his ability to communicate with adults.
I think I saw this episode of the X-Files. The problem will be keeping the aliens from taking him back to their own planet.
Burn out by age 15. Suicide by 21.
Then he figures out that a black whole is 6 months from eating us?
That's odd. I've always thought of it as being equivalent to Newton's first law. Both are essentially statements of conservation of energy.
I'm ashamed of this board. I thought by now there would be a posted picture of George Jetson's family car.
"He surprised professors by explaining the Schroedinger equation, which is of central importance to the theory of quantum mechanics."
Hope he doesn't take up poker, or we're all finished!
That's an interesting point. I can understand the reasoning behind a comment like that.
My perception would be that people who are incredibly bright, off the scale so to speak, would be harder to hide than $100 million dollars under your mattress.
The one possiblity I could agree with though, would be that proper diagnosis might be a problem. So might sanity. So might channeling the benefits of such a mind into a complimentary vs destructive force.
People with such incredible briliance, see scientific things clearly, like you and I see a road sign clearly. I'm not sure they are as able to see morality issues with that same clarity. I'm not trying to dump on the Einstine Hawkings people. I'm actually talking about people that could surpase them, and I do think they are out there.
It's kindof hard to address this issue without acting like these folks are monsters. That's not what I'm trying to intimate. Socially, the extremely brilliant are sometimes simply unable to cope with social performance.
That these parents seem to have brought this kid to the place he's at without destroying him, or allowing society to destroy him is rather remarkable IMO.
The study of this dynamic is an interesting field IMO. Hope I've conveyed some rationality to this. It's kindof a tough topic to touch on without sounding like you've gone off the deep end.
IMO, you're referencing a work ethic without intentionally doing so. At the present time some Asians seem to put their noses to the grind-stone as well as anyone on the planet. The results speak for themselves.
Einstine, Hawkings, other brilliant minds pop up here and there and will continue to do so.
I am inspired by the savant mind at times. Some of those people are very gifted in narrowly focused areas. I sometimes wonder if we haven't ignored what might be an incredible resource if channeled properly.
Reminds me of the movie Parenthood. The little girl is a genius, and is completely freaked out from something as simple as the old "sliding thumb" trick.
At last, a physicist who'll understand man's true place in the order of the universe: we're here to drive the flying cars!
I've always held that there are 3 kinds of people in this world - those that can do math and those that can't.
I was one of those!
As long as that flying car does the quater-mile in less than 12 seconds and gets better than a hundred miles to the gallon.
Had a stastics class where the instructor tried to prove that 2+2=5 but no one caught him since he went so fast and used 2 blackboards, erasing the first one to finish the problem thereby erasing where he had conned us!
He also stated on the first day of class that anyone writing or uttering the word stastics in the class would automaticly fail and that the class was to be known as how to lie with figures and how to make figures lie.
My parents were convinced I skipped several of grades, even though I attended nine months for each of them. Heh heh heh...
You know... there are three kinds of lies:
But seriously, university level stats are nothing to joke about... they can be confusing, and leading people into confusing territory is a good way to lie to them. Statistics do not really lie...
Sure you can. Happens every day. Ask anybody who has joined Mensa, even the ones who have experienced great success.
Yes that happened to me.
I had a discreet mathematics professor that proved to us that he was god. I forget how he did it; I remember being unimpressed and stuck to the notion that there is only one God and he wasn't it.
BTW, I don't mean to imply that the professor was discreet, only that the math was discreet and that he was the professor of such.
"Statistics do not really lie"
They do when you choose which ones you use and disregard any that disprove your lie.
"Once we took Yoo-geun to a zoo. There he was looking at animals for four and a half hours straight. It was when he was three or four years old."
Poor Kid will probably burn out at 14.