Register to reply

Insane physicists and mathematicians

by betyoudidntthink
Tags: insane, mathematicians, physicists
Share this thread:
zoobyshoe
#37
Jan21-04, 06:54 PM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,625
Originally posted by Tsunami
Did they indicate that this was a unique phenomenon or is this how all bipolar manic brains look with PET?
As I recall this was presented as a typical manic PET. It was juxtaposed with a schizophrenic PET which showed strange darkness in the frontal lobes.
I've been searching for images, but no luck yet. There are lots of articles available (I googled PET scans + austic savants) - one of which indicates a left anterior temporal lobe dysfunction (which is also present in schizophrenics) dx'd from a PET scan, but I don't know yet if this is typical of all savants.
The trouble is there are too many different things that "schizophrenia" can be. It's really a grab bag diagnosis they've never been able to link to a definite cause.
zoobyshoe
#38
Jan21-04, 06:59 PM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,625
Originally posted by hypnagogue
Wonder how they managed to catch that. "Are you in? OK, good. Now, be manic on the count of 3."
I wasn't sure if you were joking or not, but in case not, the way they "catch" this is easy: a manic episode can last weeks. Normally they're shorter; a few days, but there would almost always be time to do a PET scan.
master_coda
#39
Jan21-04, 07:41 PM
P: 678
Originally posted by zoobyshoe
The trouble is there are too many different things that "schizophrenia" can be. It's really a grab bag diagnosis they've never been able to link to a definite cause.
This is a little OT, but this isn't entirely accurate. At the very least, schizophrenia is no more "grab bag" than bipolar disorder. It isn't just some disease assigned to people when they have a mental illness we can't diagnose.
zoobyshoe
#40
Jan22-04, 05:46 AM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,625
Originally posted by master_coda
It isn't just some disease assigned to people when they have a mental illness we can't diagnose.
Yes, I wasn't clear. What I mean is that the list of possible causes is a grab bag: enlarged ventricles, brain infections, too much dopamine production, too many dopamine receptors, improper metabolism of sugars, and others.
"Schizophrenia" describes a range of symptoms without providing a clue to the actual cause in a given individual.


My sence about bipolar from what I've read so far, is that the bag of speculative possible causes contains alot fewer items.
adrenaline
#41
Jan22-04, 05:58 AM
Sci Advisor
adrenaline's Avatar
P: 274
Master-coda is right, the diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar etc is much more of an exact science than personality disorders, subtle variation of autism such as Asperger's etc. The latter can require 8 hours of neuropsycological testing before it can be made. Zooby shoe is right in that we really don't know what causes it. For that matter, we don't know what causes ADHD, bipolar disease, major clinical depression, OCDs etc.

I think associating untreated mental illness with "freeing" a brilliant mind is erroneous. The majority of homeless wanderers who are unable to contribute to our society are untreated schizophrenics etc. Remember, most schizophrenics and bipolars are normal until they reach a certain age and a "psychotic break" occurs...so bringing up medication of children does not apply to them. This was the case with John Nash. This was the case with my brother, a physicist at Princeton. Luckily, he was a bipolar which is much easily treated. He went from wandering around homeless and undergoing repeated instituionalization in Los Angeles until I got him to stay on his lithium. He is now a full time, brilliant consultant and is productive, creative and happy. As for medicating kids, let's not forget that teenagers have the highest rates of successful suicides...brilliant or not, that pretty much puts them out of the picture if we are to ignore real clinical depression in teenagers. I think some of the bad taste associated with medicating children involves those with ADHD. Tha'ts because some were misdiagnosed (either just chronically sleep deprived, over caffeninated and sugarized etc.) The latest Lancet continues with further proof that this is a physical disease, (less frontal temporal brain size and greater amount of grey matter by MRIs.) PET scans show a almost silent brain....even a alzheimer's patient has more activity on a PET scan and the PET scan changes when an activator such as strattera or ritalin is added. This was at a neuro conference at Wake Forest Medical School in North Caroline two years ago.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth.
zoobyshoe
#42
Jan22-04, 06:31 AM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,625
Originally posted by adrenaline I think associating untreated mental illness with "freeing" a brilliant mind is erroneous.
I agree with this 100%. The percentage of mentally ill who might do something brilliant is exceptionally small compared to the overwhelming majority who are just suffering.
master_coda
#43
Jan22-04, 11:57 AM
P: 678
Originally posted by adrenaline
I think associating untreated mental illness with "freeing" a brilliant mind is erroneous.
I also definitely agree with this. Most people with a mental illness are like most people without one...they are not geniuses. Avoiding treating them because we don't want to "level out" a brilliant mind seems irresponsible to me.
rocketcity
#44
Jan29-04, 08:54 AM
rocketcity's Avatar
P: 45
As good as it is, and [Helen and Henry] Wright's is one of the best scientific biographies available [of George Ellery Hale], she does stand guilty of starting a terrible misconception about Hale's mental state. It is generally well known that Hale suffered from nervous breakdowns that were at times completely incapacitating. Wright gets the credit for starting the story about Hale's supposed little "elf" that visited and talked to him, and who has come to represent his illness. Historians William Sheehan and Donald Osterbrock trace it to a misunderstanding of one of Hale's letters to a friend and note that the "'demon' (the word he actually used) was a metaphor, referring either to his conscience or to his depressed mood (like Winston Churchill's 'black dog'), and certainly not an apparition." ...

Book Review of Explorer of the Universe: A Biography of George Ellery Hale (History of Modern Physics and Astronomy, Vol 14) at booksunderreview.com

***

I was rather hoping it was true myself...

P
zoobyshoe
#45
Jan29-04, 11:08 AM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,625
I'm not sure I understand. Hale used the term "demon" as a metaphor and they changed demon to "elf"? If so, why did they do that?
rocketcity
#46
Jan29-04, 12:42 PM
rocketcity's Avatar
P: 45
The first paragraph of my post was from a book review by John Rummel in Capital Skies. You may find the text at:

http://www.madisonastro.org/capskies...02_October.pdf

I was unable to find the Sheehan and Osterbrock source that he cites for the 'elf' story being spurious. I did find one book by Osterbrock, on the history of the Yerkes Observatory, that confirmed that Hale suffered from mental illness as an adult, but there was no mention of either metaphorical demons or actual elves.

Perhaps someone has a copy of the Sheehan and Osterbrock text? Or a source that can give the text of the letters upon which the story is allegedly based?

P
rocketcity
#47
Jan29-04, 08:11 PM
rocketcity's Avatar
P: 45
The Sheehan and Osterbrock quote comes from a letter published in the New York Times in response to a statement in a book review by Carolyn Hughes. I contacted John Rummel, and he forwarded me a link to the letter to the editor:

To the Editor:

Concerning Carolyn T. Hughes's review of Richard Panek's ''Seeing and Believing'' (Books in Brief, Feb. 14), it is certainly true that George Ellery Hale was the greatest telescope builder of all time. He was also a manic-depressive who had several nervous breakdowns. But it is a complete myth that he thought he was visited by an elf who spoke to him. This statement first appeared in an otherwise excellent biography of Hale, ''Explorer of the Universe'' (1966), by Helen Wright, who misinterpreted one letter Hale wrote to Hugh F. Newall, an astronomer friend in England. In reality, Hale's ''demon'' (the word he actually used) was a metaphor, referring either to his conscience or to his depressed mood (like Winston Churchill's ''black dog''), and certainly not an apparition. Nevertheless, the ''elf'' has taken on a life of its own in the history of astronomy, referred to not only by Panek but in several other books and on television programs from PBS shows to ''The X-Files.''
Donald Osterbrock
Santa Cruz, Calif.

This appears at http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/03/1...s/letters.html
(You must register with nytimes.com to read it, but that's free and painless.)

P
zoobyshoe
#48
Jan29-04, 08:50 PM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,625
Thanks for your trouble, rocketcity. It is a situation not unlike that of Maxwell, who never used the word "demon" in proposing his molecule monitoring fellow, but who rather simply called it an "entity".

I wonder if Hale's original letter is written such that it is easy to misinterpret, or if the biographer authentically lacked enough of a poetic bent to realize he was expressing himself metaphorically?

-Zooby
NanoTech
#49
Feb2-04, 09:28 AM
P: 64
One of the greatest intellectuals to walk this Earth would be defined as "mentally unstable" by the psychological definitions. Newton was known to be very anti-social and short-tempered to an extreme. e.g never leave his house,never socialize. Would you consider him to be "crazy" after all of the work of genious he developed? I believe there is a fine line between personality disorders and intellectually proficient behavior. What some people perceive as being antisocial, others perceive it as very concentrated on a subject of matter.
zoobyshoe
#50
Feb2-04, 03:53 PM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,625
Originally posted by NanoTech
Would you consider him to be "crazy" after all of the work of genious he developed?
Yes, more or less. His accomplishments were in spite of whatever psychological problems he had, not because of.

Perfectly emotionally stable people are capable of very great things. Mental problems are not a sign of genius. Go back and read the post by Adrenaline in this thread: mental illness 99.99999 % ot the time simply incapacitates people.
NanoTech
#51
Feb2-04, 07:58 PM
P: 64
If Newton wouldn't have been the way he was, he might not have developed all of his great ideas. I do understand that mental illness incapacitates people- so maybe Newton would have developed even more and better ideas, and maybe not.
adrenaline
#52
Feb4-04, 05:32 AM
Sci Advisor
adrenaline's Avatar
P: 274
Originally posted by NanoTech
One of the greatest intellectuals to walk this Earth would be defined as "mentally unstable" by the psychological definitions. Newton was known to be very anti-social and short-tempered to an extreme. e.g never leave his house,never socialize. Would you consider him to be "crazy" after all of the work of genious he developed? I believe there is a fine line between personality disorders and intellectually proficient behavior. What some people perceive as being antisocial, others perceive it as very concentrated on a subject of matter.

Newton may have had a variant of one of many personality disorders, which are different from full blown incapacitating psychiatric disorders that respond to medicines. Isn't there a theory that he was the way he was because he might have been gay? Not that there is anything wrong with that. It might explain the fact he never got married and there were some strangely passionate letters that still survive between him and a swiss mathmatician named Nicolas Fatio. (I think they lodged together on many trips etc.) But, alas, all speculation.
NanoTech
#53
Feb4-04, 11:18 AM
P: 64
Interesting- I never knew that rumor about Newton, but it seems to be a reasonable speculation. I say it was his concentrated work ethic above all other things, but it could be any of a combination of these perspectives that made Newton what he was.
zoobyshoe
#54
Feb4-04, 12:14 PM
zoobyshoe's Avatar
P: 5,625
Originally posted by adrenaline
Newton may have had a variant of one of many personality disorders, which are different from full blown incapacitating psychiatric disorders that respond to medicines.
Schizoid, Schizotypal, Borderline, Histronic, Avoidant, and Dependent, don't fit Newton

Elements of Paranoid, Antisocial, Narcissistic and Obsessive-Compulsive do fit. At the bottom of the list is the Cover-your-shrink-butt catchall of " Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified."

Adrenaline, are you familiar with Geschwind's Sydrome?


Register to reply

Related Discussions
Best all time mathematicians/physicists. General Math 183
Musings on the physicists/mathematicians barrier Differential Geometry 70
Question for physicists and mathematicians General Discussion 2
Can I know if I'm insane, or is that for you to decide? General Discussion 3
Insane prob Calculus 4