Scientific American Mind talks with author and autistic savant Daniel Tammet:
Numbers assume complex, multidimensional shapes in my head that I manipulate to form the solution to sums or compare when determining whether they are prime or not. For languages, I do something similar in terms of thinking of words as belonging to clusters of meaning so that each piece of vocabulary makes sense according to its place in my mental architecture for that language. In this way, I can easily discern relations between words, which helps me to remember them. In my mind, numbers and words are far more than squiggles of ink on a page. They have form, color, texture, and so on. They come alive to me, which is why as a young child I thought of them as my “friends.” I think this is why my memory is very deep, because the information is not static. I say in my book that I do not crunch numbers (like a computer). Rather I dance with them.
His take on IQ:
The bell curve distribution for IQ scores tells us that two thirds of the world’s population has an IQ somewhere between 85 and 115. This means that some four and a half billion people around the globe share just 31 numerical values (“he’s a 94,” “you’re a 110,” “I’m a 103”), equivalent to 150 million people worldwide sharing the same IQ score. This sounds a lot to me like astrology, which lumps everyone into one of 12 signs of the zodiac.
(Hat tip: 3QD)