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See Inside Scientific American Volume 311, Issue 2

Tapping Your Inner Rain Man

A blow to the head can sometimes unmask hidden artistic or intellectual gifts

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A 10-year-old boy, Orlando Serrell, knocked unconscious one day by a baseball, discovered afterward that he could bring to mind the exact day of the week for any date after the accident and could remember the weather for each day since the trauma as well. He could also recall the most minute daily events.

Jason Padgett, the victim of a brutal mugging in 2002 that left him with a severe concussion, soon afterward began to see what he describes simply as “images.” He began to sketch them out on paper. When he showed his work to others, he learned that the repeating, self-similar patterns were fractals.

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