National Geographic : 2017 May
genius 37 ripples in the fabric of space-time. It took one hun- dred years, enormous computational power, and massively sophisticated technology to definitive- ly prove him right, with the physical detection of such gravitational waves less than two years ago. Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the very laws of the universe. But our under- standing of how a mind like his works remains stubbornly earthbound. What set his brainpower, his thought processes, apart from those of his merely brilliant peers? What makes a genius? Philosophers have long been pondering the origins of genius. Early Greek thinkers believed an overabundance of black bile— one of the four bodily humors proposed by Hippocrates—endowed poets, philosophers, and other eminent souls with “exalted pow- ers,” says historian Darrin McMahon, author of Divine Fury: A History of Genius. Phrenol- ogists attempted to find genius in bumps on the head; craniometrists collected skulls— including philosopher Immanuel Kant’s—which they probed, measured, and weighed. None of them discovered a single source of A century after Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space-time— in his general theory of relativity, scientists like Kazuhiro Yamamoto (on bicycle) plan to use the first under ground gravitational wave telescope, KAGRA, in Hida, Japan, to explore what he deduced but could not detect.