Intelligence: What makes a smart head

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Intelligence: What makes a smart head
Intelligence: What makes a smart head

The Roots of Intelligence

Why are some people smarter than others? Researchers have always puzzled over the question of what makes a clever mind. One thing is now clear: the list of ingredients is longer than expected!

It was an extraordinary achievement that Wenzel Grüß showed on this October day in 2018 before the eyes of millions of television viewers: the student from the small town of Lastrup in the Oldenburger Münsterland headed a football into the air more than 50 times, without dropping or catching it. The fact that the viewers of the Russian TV show "Amazing People" applauded him so enthusiastically afterwards was only marginally due to Wenzel's sporting skills. During the ball game, he had also calculated the fifth power of the number 67 - a ten-digit result in just 60 seconds.

The 17-year-old has an unusual talent for arithmetic: He multiplies, divides, takes roots from twelve-digit numbers in a matter of seconds, and all without pen, paper or other tools. At the last mental arithmetic world championship, Wenzel made it to third place. Particularly complex tasks could keep him busy for 50 or 60 minutes, he says, for example when he breaks down a 20-digit number into its prime factors. What helps him? "Short-term memory is probably the most important thing."

Wenzel's brain is obviously a bit ahead of the thinking organ of normally gifted contemporaries, at least when it comes to dealing with numbers. But why are some people mentally more capable than others? …

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