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.
He seems to believe that he could generate a repulsion force by manipulating superstrings. IMHO he's trying to do something that's fundamentally beyond the reach of physics.
Oh, and I wonder what his anti gravity field would do to any matter between the vehicle and the earth. There might be some interesting side effects (cf. Isaac Asimov's "The Billiard Ball")
Wow, great post!
Then the kid needs to spend some time as a chimney sweep apprentice before traipsing off to college.
Figures don't lie - but liars figure.
Thanks for your work with the gifted. You are entirely right. I know a child who was way ahead of his peers in learning all the way through school. He finally found an area where his gifts were rewarded. He is very happy and an astonishing achiever. There are not enough like you who recognize and appreciate this.
The problem is that students and teachers are jealous of those who can absorb vast amounts of information with relative ease.
I have to disagree. While no child prodigy, I did learn to read at age 4, currently read about 2K words/min with 95% comprehension, don't own a television, and have read books about the original Constitutional Convention, the 5th Marines, the use of subs during the Philippines campaign of WWII, large chunks of Escoffier, and Plato's Republic in the last few days, along with a regular reserve job.
I get along great with those less educated and able. I have to, they are my airmen and leadership.
I read web synopsis of everything that each is interested in, so we have chit-chat, and toss in a few of the things that I care about.
You don't have to be smart to be good, and you don't have to be good to be smart, but good AND smart is a great combination.
I'm grateful for a mom that taught me to read early, a dad the put me in private school, and teachers that let me reach my limits. I'm also grateful for a USAF that taught me some manners and management skills.
I felt the same way, but my parents stifled my creativity and forced me to go through he whole 12 year thing.
Twelve years of elementary school?? I got out in nine. I must have been a prodigy myself.
Dang it all, that was before the female teachers were hitting on the kids. They would have been safe with me. I wasn't a minor.
I took my three year old Grandson to the zoo recently. I rented one of those large strollers for when he got tired as the zoo was a large one. He spent most of the time racing around pushing the stroller. Getting his attention focused on the animals was just a momentary distraction. I am sure he was concentrating on string theory while racing around.
I guess there is no accounting for individual variance. I become extremely frustrated with individuals who aren't my intellectual equals. When I'm unable to convey a thought, or when I find myself searching in vain for words that they're understand, I'm just banging my own head againt the wall. I can't count the women I only took around the block once because I couldn't bare another discussion with them.
How does this work?
Uh....It wasn't an American University...
I thought there were 10 kinds of people...those who understand binary, and those who don't.
Like Shirley McClain?
October 25, 2005. Song Yoo-geun displaying his admission certificate yesterday at Inha University.
From what I see, most US high school graduates have peaked by age 25 and they will even tell you it is all downhill from there.
Besides was not Condi some sort of prodigy ?
That certificate is rather large even for an 18-year old student. Given the size (and assuming Yoo-geun's is the same size as that of any other student,) students probably hang them on the wall as a life-long trophy.
It's probably like one of those fake checks given away, representing the actual check awarded (I'm sure you know what I'm talking about). He's a cute kid.
Frankly, I'm not sure the average joe does either.