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IUPUI Math and Science Prodigy, 13, Loves Planets, Astronomy, But Prefers to Keep his Feet on the Ground: '60 Minutes.'

Jake Barnett and Morley Safer
Jake Barnett and Morley Safer


January 17, 2012

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Editor's note: On Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, a CBS 60 Minutes segment featured IUPUI  freshman Honors Scholar Jacob Barnett. Barnett enrolled as an Honors Scholar at IUPUI in fall 2011 after auditing courses and earning college credit at IUPUI as a Special Programs for Academic Nurturing (SPAN) student.

View the 60 minutes segment.

Locally, WISH-TV, Channel 8.1, airs 60 Minutes at 7 p.m. Sunday.  Below is a news release issued by CBS:

Jake Barnett is one in 10 million. He has been acing college math and science courses since he was 8 years old. Now 13, he attends college, where he tutors fellow students in math. Fascinated with astronomy, Barnett could probably calculate how much fuel it would take to get to his favorite planet, Saturn. But when Morley Safer asks the talented teen if he wants to be an astronaut, he quickly defers to his brother, saying he’d rather run things from the ground. Safer’s profile of the young math and science prodigy will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday Jan. 15 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network

“Not an astronaut – that’s like, too dangerous,” Barnett tells Safer. “I’m going to be the guy controlling the astronauts. If anyone’s an astronaut, it’s going to be my brother,” says the teen about Wesley, one of his two brothers.

Barnett’s unique talent is enabled by his ability to remember anything he wants. The boy can name 200 of the infinite numbers of pi all because he memorized them in a few hours. But that doesn’t mean he is not creative. His mind is overflowing with new physics problems and theories he often writes down on walls and windows. Does his head ever get cluttered? “Not at all. I remember math and numbers. I don’t remember other things,” he tells Safer, laughing. “If someone asked me where something is in the house, I tell them ‘I don’t know.’”

So what does a child math and science prodigy do for fun? That’s a trick question for Barnett, who is as happy solving math problems as another boy might feel hitting a homerun in little league. But for pure un-academic fun, there’s always space says the young astronomer. “Does looking up space articles online count?”


originally published on Jan. 13, 2012; updated Jan. 17, 2012