How to be a (sort of) Genius

I remember, in my teens, reading a newspaper story about a woman who was officially the smartest person in the world, with the highest IQ. One thing that the article noted was that, for all her brains, she couldn’t hold a knife and fork properly… so someone dining with her, ignorant of her claim to fame, would probably witness her in action and think “What an idiot!” It was perhaps nature's way of making up for her astounding brain power.

A few years later, I was told by a friend – a psychology student – that there is no universal definition of “intelligence” – which makes sense to me. I know people whose conversation is not exactly intellectual, but their brilliance at fixing car engines, televisions or other machines is far beyond my understanding.

I’m the opposite, more or less. Many people have kindly suggested that I’m intelligent, presumably because I write articles and blogs that used words like “mercurial” and “condescension” (and even spell them correctly). But faced with a machine (even one that’s working), I’ve been known to deal with it by yelling at it or throwing something at it. This is not only stupid (and, in case you were considering that technique, useless), but rather rude.

Even Einstein, the man whose name has become synonymous with intelligence, was such an appalling space-cadet that he once used a $1,500 cheque as a bookmark, then lost the book! (That was back when $1,500 was a rather tidy sum.)

All this possibly make IQ testing pointless. However, when I was confronted by an unofficial IQ test on the Web, I was intrigued. I quickly did the online test, planning to keep the results to myself. That plan didn’t work out…

I can’t remember the exact score, but some quick research revealed that I was in the top 5 percent of IQ – almost (though not quite) high enough to become a member of MENSA, the organisation for brainiacs. (I even passed the ultimate test: I completely ignored the accompanying offer to purchase an e-book telling me more about my score. Smart thinking, huh?) Bearing in mind that it was an unofficial test, I showed off these results to my friend Rathin, who took the challenge. (Well, it wasn’t meant to be a challenge. He was supposed to just accept it and worship at my feet. But he got the wrong idea.)

Now I should point out that I did the test fairly quickly, working out all the answers (correct or otherwise) in my head. Rathin, however, spent a good hour doing it, and his desk was littered with scrap paper, filled with scribbles, diagrams and mathematical equations. Result: He had an even higher (unofficial) IQ than I did! He had passed the real intelligence test: if you must work out a problem, it makes good sense to work everything out on paper, with use of a ruler and a calculator (something that, strangely enough, hadn’t even occurred to me).

We showed off our scores to our friend Prachar – and this awakened his competitive side. (Well, I say “awakened”, but it hadn’t exactly lain dormant. This is a guy who organises running races and then plays a game where everyone has to guess the number of online entries. A real buzz, that one!)

Prachar returned from the office one night, to show that he had achieved a higher score than either of us. He later confided to Rathin that he had spent all night doing that test, and used up many pieces of scrap paper.

His score wasn’t perfect – but then, anyone smart enough to get a perfect score would presumably be doing something better with their time. But it showed an amazing coincidence: all three of us were geniuses or near-geniuses!

Well, unofficially at least. Chances are that everyone's score is boosted on these tests, just so they will get excited and buy the book. It's all rather meaningless really.

Oh well... at least we can all use cutlery.