The Great Debate UK

Keep calm – you are middle aged but could still become a genius


A fascinating study from the U.S.’s National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) entitled “How does Age Affect Scientific Genius” was a breath of fresh air for those of us hurtling towards middle age. Images of precocious youngsters going to university at age six and making their first million in their early teens are, thankfully, few and far between. It is mid-career when your genius peaks, according to the paper written by Benjamin Jones, EJ Ready and Bruce Weinberg.

While it gave this author a boost to know that her best work may not be behind her, age, demographics and your chosen field of study can all impact when you reach your peak performance. For example, creativity peaks earlier in abstract fields, while it peaks later in fields with context, for example history. Hence why Sergey Brin and Larry Page could co-found Google when they were both PhD students at Stanford. The internet itself was a young and relatively unexplored field that lent itself to “discoveries” and breakthroughs in the garages of young geeks.

In contrast, take the field of economics. Very rarely does someone under the age of 50 get a Nobel Prize. Take Paul Krugman, when he won the Nobel Prize (surely the highlight of any career), he was 55. This paper would argue that certain fields like economics suffer from a “burden of knowledge”. Hence, by the time you have studied your way through all of the theory behind economics you could be a decade or so into your career before you even start forging ahead with your own innovations and discoveries.

The paper also noticed an interesting development in physics in the last century. In the first half of the 20th Century when the foundations of quantum mechanics were established, this revolutionary period allowed for early-career contributions – career peaks – compared to recent years. As scientific and technical knowledge expands and deepens it raises the educational burden on future generations, and pushes out their potential genius into the future. According to this report, since 1985 physics laureates have become notably older.

Silver Web surfers face unique challenges


Matthew Bath

-Matthew Bath is technology editor at Which? The opinions expressed are his own.-

Today’s children take PCs for granted. Comfortable with cursors and wonderful with Windows, children use PCs for everything from watching video clips on YouTube to logging onto school networks to virtually hand in homework.

from UK News:

Is five too young to start primary school?

schoolThe largest review of primary schooling in England for 40 years has said children at five are too young to start formal education and that six would be a more suitable age.

The Cambridge University study says play-based learning should go on for another year. Making children start school so young was a throwback to the Victorian age when the factories wanted them to start early so they could finish early and get working on the production line sooner.