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- "Human calculator" redirects here. For the systematic use of people for routine calculations, see Human computer.
Mental calculators are people with a prodigious ability in some area of mental calculation, such as multiplying large numbers or factoring large numbers. A good many are also experienced scientists, linguists, writers, and so on.
Mental calculators were in great demand in research centers such as CERN before the advent of modern electronic calculators and computers. See, for instance, the 1983 book The Great Mental Calculators, whose introduction was written by Hans Eberstark.
The world's best mental calculators are invited every two years to compete for the Mental Calculation World Cup. On October 12th, 2014, 13-year-old Granth Thakkar of India succeeded Naofumi Ogasawara of Japan, as the current world champion.
Michael O'Boyle, an American psychologist previously working in Australia and now at Texas Tech University, has recently used MRI scanning of blood flow during mental operation in mathematical prodigies to display startling results. These math prodigies show increases in blood flow to parts of the brain responsible for mathematical operations during a mental rotation task that are greater than the typical increases (see Cognitive Brain Research, October, 2005).
- 1 Mental calculators from history
- 2 Mental calculators in fiction
- 3 Champion mental calculators
- 3.1 First Mental Calculation World Cup (Annaberg-Buchholz, 2004)
- 3.2 Second Mental Calculation World Cup (Gießen, 2006)
- 3.3 Third Mental Calculation World Cup (Leipzig, 2008)
- 3.4 Fourth Mental Calculation World Cup (Magdeburg, 2010)
- 3.5 Fifth Mental Calculation World Cup (Gießen, 2012)
- 3.6 Sixth Mental Calculation World Cup (Dresden, 2015)
- 3.7 MSO mental calculation gold medal winners
- 4 See also
- 5 External links
Mental calculators from history
- Aitken, Alexander Craig
- Ampère, André-Marie
- Bidder, George Parker
- Buxton, Jedediah
- Colburn, Zerah
- Dase, Johann Zacharias
- Deshong, Peter M.
- De Grote, Herbert
- Devi, Shakuntala
- Diamandi, Pericles
- Dysart, Willis (a.k.a. Willie the Wizard)
- Eberstark, Hans
- Euler, Leonhard
- Finkelstein, Salo
- Fuller, Thomas
- Gauss, Carl Friedrich
- Griffith, Arthur F.
- Hamilton, William Rowan
- Inaudi, Jacques
- Klein, Wim (a.k.a. Willem Klein)
- McCartney, Daniel
- Neumann, John von
- Ramanujan, Srinivasa
- Riemann, Bernhard
- Ruckle, Gottfried
- Safford, Truman Henry
- Shelushkov, Igor
- Wallis, John
Mental calculators in fiction
In Frank Herbert's novel Dune, specially trained mental calculators known as Mentats have replaced mechanical computers completely. Several important supporting characters in the novel, namely Piter De Vries and Thufir Hawat, are Mentats. Paul Atreides was originally trained as one without his knowledge. However, these Mentats do not specialize in mathematical calculations, but in total recall of many different kinds of data. For example, Thufir Hawat is able to recite various details of a mining operation, including the number of various pieces of equipment, the people to work them, the profits and costs involved, etc. In the novel he is never depicted as doing actual academic mathematical calculations. Mentats were valued for their capacity as humans to store data, because computers and "thinking machines" are outlawed.
In Roald Dahl's novel, "Matilda", the lead character is portrayed having exceptional mathematical skills as she computes her dad's profit without the need for paper computations. During class (she is a first-year elementary school student), she does large-number multiplication problems in her head almost instantly.
In Haruki Murakami's novel Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, a class of mental calculators known as Calcutecs perform cryptography in a sealed-off portion of their brains, the results of which they are unable to access from their normal waking consciousness.
In the Fox television show Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm Wilkerson displays astounding feats of automatic mental calculation, which causes him to fear his family will see him as a "freak," and causes his brother to ask, "Is Malcolm a robot?"
In the movie Little Man Tate, Fred Tate in the audience blurts out the answer during a mental calculation contest.
In the sci-fi thriller Cube, one of the prisoners, Kazan, appears to be mentally disabled but is revealed later in the film to be an autistic savant, who is able to calculate prime factors in his head.
In the 2006 film Stranger than Fiction, the main character, Harold Crick, is able to perform rapid arithmetic at the request of his co-workers.
In the 2009 Japanese animated film Summer Wars, the main character, mathematical genius Kenji Koiso, is able to mentally break purely mathematical encryption codes generated by the OZ virtual world's security system. He can also mentally calculate the day of the week a person was born based on their birthday.
In another Fox television show Fringe the third episode of the third season Olivia and her fellow Fringe Division members encounter an individual with severe cognitive impairment who has been given experimental nootropics and as a result has become a mathematical genius. The individual is able to calculate hundreds of equations simultaneously which he uses to manipulate to his advantage to avoid being returned to his original state of cognitive impairment.
Champion mental calculators
Every two years the world's best mental calculators are invited to participate in The Mental Calculation World Cup, an international competition that attempts to find the world's best mental calculator, and also the best at specific types of mental calculation, such as multiplication or calendar reckoning. The top three final placings from each of the world cups that have been staged to date are shown below.
First Mental Calculation World Cup (Annaberg-Buchholz, 2004)
|2||Jan van Koningsveld|
|3||Alberto Coto García|
Second Mental Calculation World Cup (Gießen, 2006)
|2||Jan van Koningsveld|
Third Mental Calculation World Cup (Leipzig, 2008)
|2||Jan van Koningsveld|
|3||Jorge Arturo Mendoza Huertas|
Fourth Mental Calculation World Cup (Magdeburg, 2010)
|2||Marc Jornet Sanz|
Fifth Mental Calculation World Cup (Gießen, 2012)
|2||Hua Wei Chan|
|3||Jan van Koningsveld|
Sixth Mental Calculation World Cup (Dresden, 2015)
|2||Marc Jornet Sanz|
The Mind Sports Olympiad has staged an annual world championships since 1998.
MSO mental calculation gold medal winners
The Mind Sports Organisation recognises three International Grandmasters of Mental Calculation: Robert Fountain (1999), George Lane (2001) and Gert Mittring (2005), and one International Master, Andy Robertshaw (2008).
- Mental Calculation World Cup site
- Memoriad site
- Prodigy Calculators by Viktor Pekelis
- Willem Klein
- Thought and machine processes
- Tricks and techniques
- The "Great" Mental Calculators
- Lightning Calculators is a three-part essay that discusses these individuals, their methods, and the media coverage of them.