Up front: I'm a total layperson with no formal scientific training. I'm also a rational human being who doesn't believe in mumbo-jumbo but can allow for there to be plenty of counterintuitive reality that we haven't yet discovered. No Bigfoot or Nessie talk, but, you know, open-minded. So I recently viewed a moving speech by Carolyn Porco (on youtube at watch?v=qGSv-uZCOyY). She is very fond of Galileo, and credits him, more or less, with the invention of the scientific method. I'm not sure I can believe this to be true, as it seems obvious to me that the scientific method (at least the basic idea of testing one's opinions against reality) is hard-wired into our behavior (just watch your kids), and it seems staggering to me that it took us so long to formally articulate the concept. But ignoring that point for the moment, it occurred to me that until Galileo, human reason had really gone as far as it could go, and a new way of thinking was required. It has always bothered me that the extremes of our knowledge (e.g., quantum and relativistic phenomena) are so out of whack with our intuitions. It's a good point that we evolved in this middle order of magnitude so we lack good intuitions at the extremes. But science has been challenging our intuitions for centuries--quantum mechanics and relativity weren't the first surprises, after all. Yet every time our intuitions have been challenged, we've quite readily assimilated our new discoveries into our thinking, and without even realizing it we absorbed the surprises into our intuitions. But extreme phenomena still challenge our intuitions--we can't seem to assimilate them. Hence the craziness of string theory, for example. It seems to me that perhaps we need a new cognitive tool in order to take the next big step in human understanding. The scientific method is an indispensable tool--we'll always need it--but we need a new, additional tool. A new way of thinking, some mode of thought that we can train ourselves to use that will allow us to have a better, and intuitive understanding of the extremes. Having such thoughts rolling around in my mind, I discovered Daniel Tammet, who has a rare and extreme form of high-functioning autistic savant syndrome. He can do amazing math and language stuff, without trickery. It's just that his mind works differently. And I guess he has written a book suggesting that we can train ourselves to think like he does. So the big question behind this long speech is this: has anyone thought to discuss the extremes of our physics with any of the Daniel Tammets of the world, to see if they have anything interesting to tell us? Perhaps some patterns that the rest of us aren't seeing?