Romania players change squad numbers for maths problems before Spain game

In preparation for their friendly match with Spain, Romanias players have swapped their normal squad numbers for problems in a bid to help their countrys children with their maths

In preparation for their friendly match with Spain on Sunday night, Romanias players have swapped their normal squad numbers for maths problems in a bid to help their countrys children with their education.

The idea for the new numbers, printed on the back of training tops, will be supported by a video at the Cluj Arena explaining the initiative, which is designed to combat Romanian children dropping out of school as of 2014 the rate is 18%, one of the worst records in the European Union.

Football and mathematics are not mutually exclusive, said the Romanian Football Federation president, Razvan Burleanu. We must look at sports and education as not only complementary but fundamental elements integrated in the training and perfection of children. We want to have healthy generation and smart students who achieve performance and tools through tailored passions. Through this project, children will learn the basics of football and have an opportunity for the first time in our country to discover mathematics through an attractive approach.

Romania host Spain off the back of a 1-0 win over Lithuania on Wednesday. Having finished second in their Euro 2016 qualifying group behind Northern Ireland, they will play France in the opening match of the tournament on 10 June before going on to face Switzerland and Albania in the group stage.

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Can you solve it? Are you smarter than the Gogglebox brainbox?

Bill from the telly will boggle your noddle

Hello guzzlers,

In the the week that Gogglebox is back on the telly, were all going to try our hands at some brilliant puzzles.

The following four gems were all devised by Bill from Gogglebox: hes the one that sits next to his pal Josef in a house in Cambridge.

Bill is William Hartston, a former British chess champion, a writer and a longtime lover of maths and puzzles. A kindred spirit.

To solve these brainteasers you will have to think laterally. If you are struggling Ill be back at noon UK with some tips. (Tips now added below)

Now relax on your sofa, make sure you have refreshment at hand a plate of biscuits, a Pot Noodle or a gin and tonic and enjoy:

1) What is the next number in the following series?

23, 9, 20, 14, 14, 9, 20, 6, …

2) Mary I; George III, Henry III, James II, George IV, Charles I, …

Why might Henry I be an appropriate way to end the series?

3) What comes next in the following series?

2.1, 3.5, 3.3, 2.3, 1.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 1.8 …

4) What comes next in this series:

1, 2, 9, 12, 70, 89, 97, 102 …

Thanks so much to Bill for letting me use these puzzles. His most recent book Even More Things That Nobody Knows: 501 Further Mysteries of Life, the Universe and Everything is terrific and is out in paperback in November.

Bill in his chess glory days Photograph: Bill Hartston

Ill be back with the answers at 5pm UK.

I post a puzzle here on a Monday every two weeks. If you want to propose a puzzle for this column, please email me Id love to hear it.

Im the author of several books on maths, as well as the kids book Football School: Where Football Explains the World which tells you loads of amazing stuff parents dont tell you such as when exactly footballers poo, why eagles are the most common mascot for football teams and how to play football on Mars

You can check me out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, my personal website or my Guardian maths blog.


1) Think about the alphabet.

2) Think what the numbers might be referring to.

3) Think about your keyboard.

4) Think about subtracting 1.

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The Cleveland Indians have been hot all year. So why is nobody watching?

Economic decline, population loss and a saturated market mean the Indians are among the worst supported teams in baseball despite this years success

It was a big weekend for the Cleveland Indians. The Detroit Tigers were in town, and the AL Central title was at stake. The Tigers came in six games back, but the three-game series was the first of seven encounters between the two teams before the end of the season. For the Indians, the math was simple: win this series, and the Tigers would move far enough back in the rear-view mirror to practically assure a Cleveland playoff spot in October.

The Indians won the series 2-1, and the magic number to clinch the division dropped to seven with 13 games to play. There was baseball excitement in Cleveland. Maybe a Tribe championship to follow the Cavaliers riveting NBA title a few months ago? A chance for a city that has had a professional baseball team since 1869 to win its first title since 1948.

Youd think that a ticket to the Indians-Tigers series would have been hard to come by, given the longtime rivalry the Tigers and the Indians entered the American League in 1901 and the implications for the postseason. But the team only drew, on average, about 25,000 for this meaningful September series, about two-thirds of the Progressive Field capacity. Tickets on StubHub were going for less than $10. And based on the number of fans wearing Tigers gear, it was obvious that a few thousand of those in attendance had driven the two and a half hours from Detroit.

The numbers for this series were no aberration. The low attendances for the Indians this summer are causing some head-scratching among sports business experts. The team has been in first place since early June, but are third last in the league in attendance, ahead of only Oakland and Tampa Bay. The league average is about 30,000 a game, and the Indians are drawing just under 20,000.

And yet the team has been reasonably successful over the past decade. Counting this year, the Indians have been .500 or better in six of the past 10 years, and barring some unforeseeable collapse this year will be the third playoff appearance for the Tribe in the past decade. But despite those successes, the team has been in the bottom third of Major League Baseball attendance in every one of those 10 years.

The attendance numbers for Cleveland are mind-boggling, said Wayne McDonnell, the academic chair of NYUs Tisch Institute of Sport Management, Media and Business and a man known as the business of baseball professor.

What is a likely explanation, but one no one in Cleveland wants to deal with, is that maybe the citys population loss is finally hitting the sports marketplace, McDonnell continued. When you look at demographics and household incomes and the number of teams in a market, sports fans have to make hard decisions on where they are spending their money, and maybe Cleveland fans are choosing basketball and football over baseball because they dont have enough for all three.

In the case of Cleveland baseball fans, the interest is still there, but just not enough interest to buy tickets. Proof of that is that the local TV ratings are up about 50% over last year. But Cleveland has the smallest US metro area with three of four major league sports teams (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL), and the Cleveland metro areas average household income is the fourth lowest of the MLB team markets (ahead of only Pittsburgh, Miami and Tampa Bay). For economists, its simple: fewer people with less money means less spending. And with the success of the Cavaliers, and the popularity of the Browns no matter how bad they are, the Indians may be the odd team out in Cleveland.

Since 2010, only two metro markets in MLB have lost population: Cleveland and Pittsburgh. But population loss and a bad economy are only part of the reason the Indians might not be drawing; it is also hemmed in by sports market geography. Three other major league baseball teams are within 250 miles.

Tyler Naquin signs autographs for the fans at Progressive Field. Cleveland are third last in attendance, ahead of only Oakland and Tampa Bay. Photograph: David Maxwell/Getty Images

There are no reasons the Indians should not be drawing well this year under the basic criteria for the business of baseball. Besides the team being very good, the Indians and the city have invested about $40m in stadium upgrades in the past two years, including a new scoreboard, better restaurant options and more plaza areas that allow fans to move and watch the game from great sightlines. In fact, a popular ticket option started two years ago gets a fan a standing-room-only ticket and a beer for $13, and bar areas inside the stadium to sit in. Progressive Field is 22 years old, but has none of the fan dissatisfaction issues that the stadiums in, say, Tampa Bay or Oakland have.

The team has also been overachieving in some ways, with few big-name players and a bottom-of-the-league payroll. Manager Terry Francona has gotten very good numbers from what many consider average players, and they are vying for the best record in the American League and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (the Texas Rangers are one-and-a-half games ahead for home field). In many ways, like the city it calls home, the Indians are a hard-working, blue-collar team that one would think would appeal to the masses in north-east Ohio.

The fact is that this team is still popular, and we see the support in the TV ratings and people wearing Indians gear all over town, said John Adams, who has been pounding his drum in the Cleveland Indians bleachers for 43 years. But the poverty rate here is real, and people are struggling. The comeback they are talking about in Cleveland is that we are staying afloat and not sinking. But for a family of four to spend a few hundred dollars going to a baseball game is just not doable for many here right now.

The population numbers are daunting. The city of Cleveland itself has dropped from 500,000 in 1990 to about 385,000 today. In 1970, the Cleveland metro area had 2.3 million people; it now has 2 million. The only baseball markets that have lost population during that time are Pittsburgh and Detroit, but Detroit has about 4 million people and is still big enough to accommodate four pro sport teams. Even when the Akron-Canton and Youngstown populations are added to the mix, the Cleveland market has still diminished.

For comparisons sake, look at Dallas-Fort Worth. In 1970, DFW was similar to the population of Cleveland with 2.4 million, but now has 7.1 million people. DFW only had the Dallas Cowboys back then, but its growth brought in teams from MLB (Rangers), the NBA (Mavericks) and the NHL (Stars). Cleveland still has three franchises and even had an NHL team in the mid-70s. But the Cleveland population loss is even bigger when you look at the national trends: the US has had a population gain of about 50% since 1970.

The geographical factor is also a problem. Within a two-hour drive of Progressive Field in Cleveland, there are three decent-size towns: Toledo (metro population of 650,000), Columbus (2 million) and Youngstown (550,000). But Toledo is closer to Detroit, Columbus is closer to Cincinnati, and Youngstown is closer to Pittsburgh. There are also six minor league baseball teams within two hours, which gives cheaper options for the casual baseball fan.

There are other factors at play. The Dolan family bought the Indians after the successful 1990s, when they went to two World Series in 1995 and 1997, but attendance declined soon after and payroll spending went down significantly. Baseball is also is having trouble with younger fans; the games are too long for many and have too little action for others.

The success of the Cavaliers with LeBron James hasnt helped, either. To some degree, the Indians are now behind the curve [that] the Cavs success has brought about, said Robert Boland, a professor of sports management at Ohio University. Businesses have to buy Browns and Cavs tickets in advance because they will be gone if they dont. The Indians tickets are always there, so the business community feels they can buy them when they need to. But businesses and fans buy fewer tickets if they think they can get them at the last minute.

Can the Indians reverse the trend? The best blueprint might be the New York Mets, which had a losing record in 2014, went to the World Series last year and are in playoff contention this year. Mets attendance was 26,500 in 2014, and this year is at 34,500, an increase of 30%.

But the economics might be different for Cleveland. The Indians went to the American League Championship Series in 2007, and were just one win away from the World Series. That success did not translate into increased attendance; it actually went down in 2008, by about 5% (28,500 a game to 26,700). Since 2010, the Indians have only been above the 20,000 average once.

A part of the reason people are perplexed by this is the perception that Cleveland is such a great sports city and its fans will show up for losing teams regardless. That perception is based upon emotion, and the belief that sports teams are immune from basic economics. But the exceptions sometimes complicate those analyses.

Mathematics are important, but if they were the only predictor, Green Bay wouldnt have an NFL team and St Louis wouldnt be drawing 40,000 a game for the Cardinals, said Jacob Rosen, a sports business analyst and columnist for the Cleveland sports website Waiting For Next Year. Cleveland fans have always had a higher affinity for sports than other growing areas in the country. Sports means a lot more to people in the midwest than the west coast.

But where [the Indians] are at right now is difficult to change; it is tough in baseball at this time to reverse sinking attendance numbers, Rosen said. The stadium is no longer shiny and new. Casual fans have other options. But I still think winning this year and getting in the playoffs will have an effect. Fans here are very hungry for winning, and maybe well seen how that affects things from how the city has reacted to the Cavs title.

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Brownlee brotherly moment underlines why they are worlds best triathletes | Sean Ingle

Alistair helping Jonny to the line in Mexico is a sporting classic already but while encouragement is part of their success they also like to get one over each other

It took barely hours for the image to become an instant sporting classic. One moment Jonny Brownlee is striding to victory in the final World Triathlon Series race of the season, about to become world champion for the second time; the next his legs buckle beneath him as if punched by an invisible haymaker. Then, just as Jonny is stumbling like a drunk into an official, his elder brother, Alistair, swoops to the rescue, hooking his arm around his shoulder and helping him to cross the line in second place. Jonny then slumps to the floor, floppy and desperately spent from heatstroke.

The pictures of these two brothers in arms brought to mind a hobbling Derek Redmond being helped to finish the mens 400m in the 1992 Olympics by his father or perhaps the American Abbey DAgostino and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand aiding each other after a collision during the 5,000m at the Rio Olympics. There were thousands of retweets when the videos were posted on social media and praise from other athletes, such as Jessica Ennis-Hill.

It was a vital intervention. Jonnys condition was serious enough for him to be taken to hospital, thus missing the podium presentation. Alistair said: If hed conked out before the finish line and there wasnt medical support it could have been really dangerous. It was a natural human reaction to my brother but for anyone I would have done the same thing. I think its as close to death as you can be in sport.

Yet for all the kudos and praise that has rightly been directed their way, it would be wrong to sugarcoat what happened on Sunday in Mexico. Alistair was intervening not only to stop his brother falling but also to try to help him win the world title. The mathematics were simple.

Alistair was out of the running for the world title having missed a number of races earlier in the season and he knew Jonny had to win the final race in Cozumel, with the Spaniard Mario Mola finishing no higher than fourth, to take the top prize. All was going to plan until Jonny pushed too hard in the heat, losing the race to the South African Henri Schoeman and the world championship to Mola. A not entirely sympathetic Alistair said afterwards: I wish the flipping idiot had just paced it right and won the race. He could have jogged the last two kilometres.

Some might consider that remark a little raw but that is how the brothers are, simultaneously encouraging, chiding, bickering, helping each other to become the worlds best triathletes while also refusing to waste an opportunity to take the mickey. The pair are enormously bright: if it had not been for triathlon Alistair would have gone to the University of Cambridge and Jonny to Durham and they like to get one over on each other, physically and intellectually, whenever they can.

Alistair was just as cutting when Jonny collapsed at the finish having won bronze at the London 2012 Olympics. Jonny was unable to walk or stand for an hour and was vomiting through his nose. The reaction of Alistair, who had sprinted away to win gold? I wasnt too worried. Id seen Jonny like that before and I knew he would be OK. Of more concern was that he might have to stand on the Olympic podium wearing only his shorts: his special tracksuit was soaked with sweat and covered in blue vomit.

Then there were the Games in Rio last month. With the 1500m swim and 40km bike completed, Jonny and Alistair were out on the road on the run in front, battling for Olympic gold and silver. Then Jonny uttered one word to his brother relax and Alistair, who interpreted it as a sign of weakness, attacked to retain his title.

Not that this brotherly battle is a one-way street. In their autobiography, Swim Bike Run, Jonny admits that when Alistair then a 20-year-old outsider was leading the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he was desperately thinking: This is the Olympics. Its special. You cant have my brother winning it.

When asked about their relationship a couple of years ago, Alistair said: Jonny would deny it to the core but I think his entire life has been about trying to compete with me. Trying to get level with me and then beat me. There was a time when he wasnt into triathlon for its own sake; he wanted it because I had it.

Jonathan Brownlee (@jonny_brownlee) September 19, 2016

Not how I wanted to end the season, but gave it everything. Thanks @AliBrownleetri, your loyalty is incredible

Despite all the one-upmanship they almost always work together across hours and days and months of training each year on a typical Wednesday, for instance, they might swim for 90 minutes and go for a 75-minute run in the morning before a four-hour bike ride and another 30-minute run in the afternoon precisely for moments such as in Rio, when they confirmed they were best multi-event athletes on the planet. Alistair says: Throughout my entire life Ive had my brother trying to beat me at everything I do. It has been an enormously positive force.

The feeling is clearly mutual. Jonny tweeted from his hospital bed in Mexico: Not how I wanted to end the season, but gave it everything. Thanks @AliBrownleetri, your loyalty is incredible.

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Did you solve it? The logic question almost everyone gets wrong

The results are in and yes, most of you got this one wrong. Heres why.

Earlier today I set you this puzzle:

Jack is looking at Anne, but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married, but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

  • A: Yes
  • B: No
  • C: Cannot be determined

The correct answer is A.

Before I get to the explanation, a few words on why I set the question. I wanted to test if it really was the case that more than 80 per cent of people choose C. Well, the results are in, and with more than 200,000 submissions, this is how you voted:

  • A 27.68 per cent
  • B 4.55 per cent
  • C 67.77 per cent

More than 72 per cent of you chose the wrong answer. Maybe its an exaggeration to say that almost everyone gets this question wrong but the vast majority of you did! (And thats not accounting for the fact that many of you who took part are seasoned readers of this puzzle column, and were warned that this question was not all it seemed.)

Why is this question so tricky? It is because it appears to give you insufficient information. Annes marital status is not known, nor can it be determined, and so you make the inference that the question posed cannot be determined.

In fact, Annes marital status is irrelevant to the answer. If she is married, then a married person is looking at an unmarried person (Anne is looking at George), and if she isnt, a married person is looking at an unmarried person (Jack is looking at Anne).

Written down it becomes more obvious. If > means looking at then:

Jack > Anne > George, or

Married > Unknown > Unmarried

Replace Unkown with Married or with Unmarried and either way there is clearly a married person looking at an unmarried one.

This image may be helpful:

Pogo (@pogobeta) March 28, 2016

@alexbellos @bwecht

The puzzle caused many hands to be slapped on many foreheads.

Alex Rose (@Owlex_R) March 28, 2016

@alexbellos oh god, I’m so annoyed. Sorry, put me down in the “didn’t think hard enough and got it wrong” column.

As I expected, some people blamed getting the answer wrong on the poor wording of the question. For those of you who thought that Anne was not a person, then yes, C is the correct answer. But, come on guys, we can assume that Anne is a human being.

Robert Munafo (@mrob_27) March 28, 2016

@ShemyDjent @Hey_its_Boon @alexbellos @bwecht The question’s flaw is in using the word “person”; I must consider: what if Anne is my cat?

Others said that married and unmarried are not binary states, since what about widowed, or divorced. The Wikipedia article on marital status clears that one up.

Todays puzzle really belongs more to psychology than it does to mathematics or logic, as it is about the lazy assumptions we make, rather than whether or not we have the ability to solve the question.

Yet the reasoning that is used – that in order to solve something we need to consider all possibilities without knowing which is true – is frequently used in maths. In this video, the brilliant James Grime gives an example using irrational numbers.

The example about irrational numbers starts at 5.51

Source of todays puzzle: Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking That IQ Tests Miss by Keith E Stanovich, Scientific American.

I post a puzzle here every second Monday. My most recent book is Snowflake Seashell Star, a colouring book of mathematical images for all ages. (In the US its title is Patterns of the Universe.)

You can check me out on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and my personal website. And if know of any great puzzles that you would like me to set here, get in touch.

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One study says there are 4 types of people. 2 of them might screw you over. Which are you?

How much do you really trust people?

That’s what scientists in Spain wanted to find out. So they staked out a festival in Barcelona and recruitedabout 500 volunteers to play a little carnival game for fun, prizes, and, you know, advancing our knowledge of human psychology.

The games were all variations of the prisoner’s dilemma.

What’s the prisoner’s dilemma? I’ll explain. (You can read this section in a gangster-y detective voice if you want).

It’s a famous thought experiment that helps us figure out how people manage trust, risk, and temptation while making decisions, see? If you’re being traditional, what you do is get two wise guys, separate the lugs, and tell ’em that they’re both under arrest. But you’re a nice guy, and you’ve really got their best interests at heart, so you’ll cut ’em a deal: If they rat on their buddy, they go free.

But here’s the twist, if they both rat, both go to the slammer. Of course, they could both clam up, in which case you can’t do much. Maybe give ’em a little time in the clink, but that’s about it.

Imagine that you were the prisoner: Do you trust your friend and clam up so you’re both safe from prison?

Or do you think you can play ’em by turning them in and getting yourself a better deal? (You can stop the gangster voice now. Or don’t. It’s a free country.)

This kind of game also happens on reality TV all the time when partners have to decide whether they want to split the money or take it all. And you can tweak the game by changing how big the rewards and punishments are, too.

In the case of the Spanish study, the scientists made the volunteers play a few different games with different setups.

Instead of trying to place people’s reactions in pre-existing categories, the scientists in this study gathered everyone’s results, then let a computer group the people together as best it could.

This is what it found:

First, there were the optimists. These people will work together whenever the everyone-works-together option is most rewarding. They seem to believe that when the payoff’s obvious, everyone will work for it.

Then, there were the pessimists. These people always expect to get screwed over and will only try to cooperate when they’ll benefit anyway.

Thirdly, there were the trusting people. They’ll always cooperate, whether it makes sense or not. Bless their (naive) little hearts.

Finally, we get the envious people. Envious players don’t really seem to care what the outcome is, as long as they’re getting more.

There were roughly the same number of optimists, pessimists, and trusting people about 20% of the group each. Envious was a bit more, at about 30%. There was also a mysterious fifth category, which the computer couldn’t classify.

Living in a world of envious people might seem like a downer, but we can actually do a little scientific jujitsu on this and turn it into something awesome.

That’s because this experiment is part of game theory, a branch of mathematics that studies how people make decisions, which carries important consequences in designing things like laws, political systems, or jobs.

While we like to assume people will always act rationally, this study suggests that people think with their gut as much as their brains. And knowing more about people’s motivations means we can add new little incentives to big projects that affect lots of people. Maybe that new anti-poverty law needs a little bonus for the rich to appease envious players, for example or maybe it needs a fail-safe to keep the pessimists happy.

By understanding what motivates people, we can motivate people to do good in the world.

As for what the mysterious fifth category is, maybe it’s this guy:

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Here’s What It Takes To Raise Seriously Smart Kids, According To A 45-Year-Long Study

The Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) is one of the more colorfully named scientific studies. Now on its 45th year, it tracked the careers and accomplishments of up to 5,000 individuals, starting from when they were children or teenagers. As detailed by Nature, it would go on to transform the way gifted children are both identified and nurtured by the US education system.

More than anything other longitudinal study, it arguably is the best source in the world for understanding how to make children grow up with some impressive intellectual heft. It has produced hundreds of academic studies, and in particular, it appears to know how to spot talent ripe for development in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Unsurprisingly, many of those in SMPY which is coordinated by Vanderbilt University have gone on to become high-profile scientists. So whats the secret to turning your kids into potential geniuses?

Well, it appears that, contrary to many other studies, SMPYs data seems to suggest that a lot of it is born and bred in youth, and that inherent intelligence beats repeated practice when it comes to becoming an expert in something. In fact, early cognitive ability has a greater effect on achievement than either continued practice or other factors like the familys socio-economic status.

This finding also runs against the grain of most Western educational ethoses, which prioritize improving the abilities of children who struggle in this regard rather than those who have potential to reach great heights. Essentially, SMPY finds that if youre smart, and you are identified as such and nurtured, you will make it.

As such, standardized testing was a common method used by the initiative to find intellectually potent kids. Along with the partnered program at Johns Hopkins Universitys (JHU) Center for Talented Youth, the program tended to admit those who scored in the top 1percent in their university entrance exams.

Alumni included Mark Zuckerberg, Lady Gaga, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin, along with pioneering mathematicians Terence Tao and Lenhard Ng. Whether we like it or not, these people really do control our society, says Jonathan Wai, a psychologist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program in Durham, North Carolina, and a collaborator with JHU, told Nature.

Standardized testing is used to find those with high potential. bibiphoto/Shutterstock

Initiatives like the SMPY have also been criticized for how it may be putting too much emphasis on the smartest kids. Some worry that those with slightly more limited potential may be ignored by such initiatives. Additionally, labelling kids as smart from an early age could undermine their willingness to learn.

Importantly, it has not been conclusively shown that theres just one single factor that will guarantee your child will grow up to be the next Richard Feynman or Rosalind Franklin. Many different studies trying to pick apart the varying influences of nature versus nurture seem to settle on the idea that its a bit of both genetics and their upbringing.

One suggests that parental love, in terms of being very supportive and cooperative with your child around the pre-school age, significantly boosts their brain growth rate. Another study strongly hints that complex tasks that get increasingly difficult over time are huge boons to neural connectivity and mental flexibility.

Interestingly, computer games of varying kinds are structured in this way, and an increasing body of evidence suggests that the occasional spurt of virtual roaming, puzzle solving, or competitive combat in video games may contribute towards improving cognitive functions in later life. Learning how to play a musical instrument and regularly reading booksis just as neurologically beneficial for adults as it is for children.

SMPY suggests it’s clear early on if children will rise to the top of their fields. Pressmaster/Shutterstock

[H/T: Nature]

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27 podcasts to make you smarter

Want to feel like a genius? These mind-expanding podcasts will give you everything you need to do just that

As the cold rustle of conkers start to hit the pavements and a new generation of pencil cases bulge under the weight of novelty felt-tips, it must be the start of a new term. Sadly, we cant all be going back to school. But that doesnt mean we need to let our brains fester like an opened tub of yoghurt on a hot day. The audio wonderland of modern podcasts is ripe with all the insight, analysis, facts, statistics and research you need to at least blag a GCSE. Here is a rundown of some of the best podcasts to make you feel (if not actually sound) like a genius:


The weekly stories from This American Life often spread beyond traditional state borders their recent episodes from Greeces refugee camps were brilliant, with reports on romance, wild pigs, women doing their laundry in a baseball stadium locker room and what its like to live in a former psychiatric hospital. You can also trawl the archive for stories from Haiti, the lie that saved Brazils economy and even the odd look at Europe (yes, they too covered Brexit).

A weekly listen to From Our Own Correspondent will do more for your understanding of global news than my curriculum ever managed, while The Documentary podcast from BBC World Service can cover anything from protest in Putins Russia to Syrias secret library and incubator babies on display in Coney Island.


The New Yorker Fiction Podcast is like the greatest book group, English seminar and public lecture you never joined. Each month the magazines fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, invites a different New Yorker author to choose and read aloud a story from the magazines archive then discuss it. I started with AM Homes reading Shirley Jacksons short story The Lottery, set in a sinister village, and it haunts me still.

Is English language your bag? Then Helen Zaltzmans The Allusionist is the etymology party youve been waiting for. After all, who knew a simple word like please could have such completely different meanings and uses on either side of the Atlantic?

If you like your journalism lengthy, perhaps the Longform interviews with journalists such as Malcolm Gladwell and Kathryn Schulz, speechwriters like Jon Favreau who worked with President Obama and editors like David Remnick will tickle your pickle, or the Guardians own excellent Long Reads audio series. After all, readings for squares, I heard.


There are some amazing science stories in the RadioLab archive, from a genuinely terrifying exploration of the howling, spit-thickening spread of rabies, to the woman put in a coma as an experiment and a look at the day the dinosaurs died.

You can go a long way at a dinner party with a couple of the BBCs Inside Science episodes under your belt, and first dates will whizz by with the science anecdotes afforded by the last season of Invisibilia. Not to mention the unending popularity of Prof Brian Cox and Robin Inces Infinite Monkey Cage.


If Melvyn Bragg had been my history teacher, rather than a woman who decorated her classroom with warnings about the dangers of ragwort, I may have ended up with quite a different degree. In Our Time will teach you more about world history than most museums and you dont even need to pack a lunch. Im particularly enjoying the latest series on the history of The North.

Elsewhere, Stuff You Missed in History Class will give you a good grounding in everything from Chinas Great Leap Forward to the Matchgirls Strike and the Anglo-Cherokee war.

For those who prefer their history a little more specific, Im a huge fan of Great Lives, in which a notable modern figure looks at a person from the past who has inspired or excited them try Sara Pascoe on Virginia Woolf or Anthony Horowitz on Alfred Hitchcock.


If The Essay from BBC Radio 3 was a country, Id move there. There are amazing features on everything from British film comedians to Dadaism, great sonnets, and the artistic impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Adventures in Design is a topical (if now behind-paywall) look at modern graphic design, while Song Exploder invites musicians and songwriters to pick apart their compositions in forensic detail. And if you want to delve into the world buildings-first, then 99% Invisible is far more than just an architecture podcast.


What I know about sport could fill the sweaty confines of a Slazenger Classic Abdo Guard, but even I have been known to laugh at the ArseBlog podcast. Particularly when Irish writer and presenter, Andrew Mangan, described striker Olivier Giroud as a big fucking ride.


The murky subjects of toxic debt, trading in oil, the economy of housing, Brexit and how to count your bitcoins are made more comprehensible thanks to NPRs Planet Money. It wont teach you how to do long division, but it will give you some prime number chat. Also worth a listen is the BBCs mathematics show More or Less, hosted by the Undercover Economist Tim Harford, which takes a look at the real stories behind the statistics found in the news.

General studies

Whether youre dating, starting a new job, or just want something new to say to your pets, you can learn a lot from the The Inquiry, which has programmes on everything from coral reefs to putting solar panels in the Sahara desert. The Middle East Week podcast will give you a great grounding on some of the worlds most controversial issues, More Perfect is a fascinating look at the American justice system and you can get to grips with some serious international relations via Global Dispatches. Little Atoms, from Resonance FM, will help you scrub up on politics, literature, science, art and comedy, and I have learned pretty much everything I know about farming, food, technology, growing vegetables and the rural economy thanks to The Archers (not to mention the rigours of baking ginger scones).

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Twelve-year-old becomes Ivy League university’s youngest ever student

Jeremy Shuler, who was home-schooled by his aerospace engineer parents, is settling in at Cornell University and finding classes kind of easy so far

When he was two, Jeremy Shuler was reading books in English and Korean. At six, he was studying calculus. Now, at an age when most children are attending middle school, the exuberant 12-year-old is a freshman at Cornell University, the youngest the Ivy League school has on record.

Its risky to extrapolate, but if you look at his trajectory and he stays on course, one day hell solve some problem we havent even conceived of, said Cornell engineering dean Lance Collins. Thats pretty exciting.

Jeremy is the home-schooled child of two aerospace engineers who were living in Grand Prairie, Texas, when he applied to Cornell. While Jeremys elite-level SAT and advanced placement test scores in math and science at age 10 showed he was intellectually ready for college, Collins said what sealed the deal was his parents willingness to move to Ithaca. Jeremys father, Andy Shuler, transferred from Lockheed Martin in Texas to its location in upstate New York.

I wanted to make sure he had a nice, safe environment in terms of growing up, Collins said.

With his bowl-cut hair and frequent happy laughter, Jeremy is clearly still a child despite his advanced intelligence. He swung in his chair while his parents, who he calls Mommy and Daddy, recounted his early years during an interview at the engineering school where his grandfather is a professor, his father got his doctorate and Jeremy is now an undergraduate.

Jeremy Shuler, 12, with his parents Andy and Harrey. Photograph: Mike Groll/AP

From the beginning, he was physically advanced, very strong, said Harrey Shuler, who has a doctorate in aerospace engineering but put her career on hold to home-school Jeremy. He fixated on letters and numbers at three months old, knew the alphabet at 15 months, and was reading books on his own at 21 months in English and Korean, his mothers native language.

When he was five, he read The Lord of the Rings and Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics on his own. Enrolling him in kindergarten was pointless.

We were concerned about him socialising with other kids, his mother said. At the playground he was freaked out by other kids running around screaming. But when we took him to Math Circle and math camp, he was very social. He needed someone with similar interests.

Jeremy nodded vehemently at that, saying his closest friends are from the math discussion groups. One of my Math Circle friends actually wrote Minecraft for Dummies, he said, adding that the computer game is one of his favourite pastimes, along with reading science fiction.

He said hes settling in to college life.

I was nervous at first, but Im a lot more excited than nervous now, he said, adding that hes already made a couple of friends. As Mommy said, all the kids in math camp were older than me, so Im used to having older friends. As long as they like math.

Hes enjoying the classes, especially the theoretical discussions, he said. The classes are kind of easy so far, but I know theyll be harder pretty soon.

Thats an important thing to keep in mind, according to others with experience in early college. Joe Bates, founder of Singular Computing in Newton, Massachusetts, and a leading researcher in artificial intelligence, entered Johns Hopkins University when he was 13. Now 60, Bates said college was liberating after conventional schooling that always bored him.

Jeremy Shuler on campus in Ithaca. Photograph: Mike Groll/AP

It was actually the first time it was fun and interesting to be in school, Bates said. On a social level, he felt more at home with his nerdy college classmates than he had with junior high students.

If I were to give Jeremy any advice, it would be that it can be hard and you should not assume you can manage everything, Bates said, recalling how distressed he was when he found himself struggling with his doctoral studies at Cornell engineering.

You should truly keep your parents and advisers informed, and ask them for help. Its not going to be like before, when you could just do everything.

As for the future, Jeremy plans to just keep on learning. I want to pursue a career in academia, he said.

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