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The world's best mental calculators are invited every two years to compete for the Mental Calculation World Cup. On September 30, 2018, 15-year old Tomohiro Iseda of Japan, succeeded 27-year-old Yuki Kimura of Japan, as the current world champion. (2018-2020). Tomohiro Iseda is the 3rd Japanese person to win the Cup, after Naofumi Ogasawara (2012) and Yuki Kimura (2016) . Shakuntala Devi from India has been often mentioned on the Guinness World Records. Tamil Indian-Malaysian performer Yaashwin Sarawanan was the runner-up in 2019 Asia's Got Talent.
In 2005 a group of researchers led by Michael W. O'Boyle, an American psychologist previously working in Australia and now at Texas Tech University, has used MRI scanning of blood flow during mental operation in computational prodigies. These math prodigies have shown 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.
Mental calculators were in great demand in research centers such as CERN before the advent of modern electronic calculators and computers. See, for instance, Steven B. Smith's 1983 book The Great Mental Calculators, or the 2016 book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race and the film adapted from it.
Champion mental calculators
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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, 2014)
|2||Marc Jornet Sanz|
Seventh Mental Calculation World Cup (Bielefeld, 2016)
Eighth Mental Calculation World Cup (Wolfsburg, 2018)
The Mind Sports Olympiad has staged an annual world championships since 1998.
MSO mental calculation gold medal winners
The Mind Sports Organisation recognizes five grandmasters of mental calculation: Robert Fountain (1999), George Lane (2001), Gert Mittring (2005), Chris Bryant (2017) and Wenzel Grüß (2019), and one international master, Andy Robertshaw (2008).
Mental calculators (deceased)
- Aitken, Alexander Craig
- Ampère, André-Marie
- Bidder, George Parker
- Buxton, Jedediah
- Colburn, Zerah
- Dase, Johann Zacharias
- Devi, Shakuntala
- 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
- 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 "thinking machines" are outlawed.
In Roald Dahl's novel Matilda, the lead character is portrayed having exceptional computational skills as she computes her father'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 1991 movie Little Man Tate, Fred Tate in the audience blurts out the answer during a mental calculation contest.
In the 1990s NBC TV sitcom NewsRadio, reporter/producer Lisa Miller can mentally calculate products, quotients, and square roots effortlessly and almost instantaneosly, on demand.
In the 1997 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, in 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 leverages to avoid being returned to his original state of cognitive impairment.
In the 2012 film Safe, a female child math genius is kidnapped to be used by the Chinese Triad.
In the 2014 Sci-Fi novel Double Bill by S. Ayoade, Devi Singh, a mental calculator, is one of the 70 lucky children who win a trip to the moon.
In the 2016 film The Accountant, a high-functioning autistic tracks insider financial deceptions for numerous criminal organizations.
In the 2017 film Gifted, an intellectually gifted seven-year-old, Mary Adler, becomes the subject of a custody battle between her uncle and grandmother.
- Michael W. O'Boyle; et al. (October 2005). "Mathematically gifted male adolescents activate a unique brain network during mental rotation". Cognitive Brain Research. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 25 (2): 583–587. doi:10.1016/j.cogbrainres.2005.08.004. PMID 16150579.
- Shetterly, Margot Lee (2016). Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race. William Morrow and Company. pp. 115. ISBN 978-0062363596.
Some of the women were capable of lightning-fast mental math, rivaling their mechanical calculating machines for speed and accuracy. Others, like Dorothy Hoover and Doris Cohen, had highly refined understandings of theoretical math, differentiating their way through nested equations ten pages deep with nary an error in sign. The best of the women made names for themselves for accuracy, speed, and insight.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-02-16. Retrieved 2007-02-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Stepanov, Oleg. "Meet the Human Computer. By Samuel Schreiner, Jr. READER'S DIGEST, Nowember 1976".