The Violence that Made a Maths Genius

A violent attack that resulted in traumatic brain injury for Jason Padgett also brought on an obsession with maths and an ability to understand complex concepts.

On the night of Friday 13 September 2002 Jason Padgett was attacked and robbed by two men outside a karaoke bar. He staggered to a hospital across the street where he was told he had concussion and a bleeding kidney thanks to a punch to the gut. “They gave me a shot of pain medication and sent me home,” he remembers.

But once home, Padgett’s behaviour changed quickly and dramatically. He had sustained a traumatic brain injury, which can bring on obsessive compulsive disorder – OCD. In Jason’s case, he became increasingly afraid of the outside world and would only leave his house to stock up on food.

But while Padgett was experiencing all these negative consequences from his attack, something incredible was happening too. The way Jason was seeing things, changed.

“Everything that was curved looked like it was slightly pixelated,” he explains. “Water coming down the drain didn’t look like it was a smooth, flowing thing anymore, it looked like these little tangent lines.”

The same thing happened with clouds, sunlight streaming between trees and puddles. To Padgett, the world essentially looked like a retro video game. Seeing such a radically different view of his surroundings evoked conflicting emotions in Padgett. “I was surprised…confused. it was beautiful but it was also scary at the same time.”

Because of these visions, Padgett began to think about huge questions in relation to mathematics and physics. Given his hermit-like existence at that time, the internet became a valuable source of information to him as he read extensively about mathematics online.

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