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11 Child Prodigies and the Amazing Things They'd Done by Age 11

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Enjoy being humbled (humiliated?) by these 11 amazing child prodigies – some from history and some doing their prodigy thing in the here and now.

Image credit: JuditPolgar.com

1. Hungarian chess grandmaster Judit Polgar (1976-) began playing in tournaments at the age of six and, by the age of eleven, she had defeated her first grandmaster, Vladimir Kovacivic. She became the best female chess player in history. No other female has ever won a game against a men’s chess world champion; she has beaten nine of them.

2. American professional billiards player Willie Mosconi (1913-1993), at the age of six and standing on a box, played an exhibition match against the reigning world billiards champion in front of a packed house. He lost that match, but it earned him some major attention. By the age of eleven, Mosconi was the juvenile champion and regularly held popular trick shot exhibitions. He picked up the awesome nickname “Mr. Pocket Billiards” and won more World Straight Pool Championships (15) than anyone. He was also Paul Newman’s pool mentor as he prepared for his role in the 1961 movie, The Hustler.

3. French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote a treatise on vibrating bodies at the age of nine and scrawled his first proof on a wall with a piece of coal when he was eleven. He is probably best remembered for Pascal’s theorem (something about hexagons or whatever), which he threw out there at age 16. Oh, and he also invented the mechanical calculator.

4. German composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) is the child prodigy poster child. He began playing the harpsichord at age three and learned to play his first piece of music three days before his fifth birthday. He was composing his own music at five and, at six, embarked on a three-and-a-half year European tour with his father and older sister who was not too shabby of a musician herself.

5. Korean mega-genius Kim Ung-Yong (1962-) could have conversations at six months, could read in Japanese, Korean, German and English by the age of four and could perform complex calculus by the time he was five. From the ages of three to six, he sat in on University physics courses. The Guinness Book of World Records recognizes Kim as having the world’s highest IQ which is estimated to be over 210. Yowza.

6. Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) showed his talents for art at a very early age. His mother claims (as mothers often do) that his first words word “piz, piz” – short for “lapis” (Spanish for “pencil”). There is non-mom-derived evidence of his prodigious talent: Picasso drew “Picador” when he was just eight years old.

7. Actress Anna Paquin (1982-) won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her debut acting performance in The Piano when she was just eleven years old. Why do I choose to showcase Ms. Paquin here instead of the youngest Oscar winner in Tatum O’Neal who won at age ten? Well, Anna now plays Sookie Stackhouse on HBO’s True Blood, which only serves to enhance her general awesomeness.

8. Canadian hockey star Wayne Gretzky (1961-) was playing against ten-year-olds when he was only six. The uniforms intended for the ten-year-olds were far too large for the undersized Gretzky who tucked his sweater into the right side of his pants: a tradition he continued throughout his hockey career. When he was ten, he scored an incredible 378 goals and added 139 assists in just one season. Athlete prodigies need love too, you know.

9. British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) learned Greek at age three and had read all of Herodotus’s Histories and was quite familiar with Plato’s Dialogues by the age of eight. He was also more than competent in Latin and Greek and had read through most of the major Latin and Greek works, in their original languages, by the age of ten.

10. American smart kid Gregory Smith (1990-) could memorize and recite books by the time he was 14 months old and could add by 18 months. He went from second to eighth grade in one year and began high school at the age of seven, graduating with honors two years later. He entered Randolph-Macon college at ten and, there, majored in mathematics with minors in both history and biology before pursuing his masters at the University of Virginia. OK, so he’s an academic stud – fine. But wait, there's more! The activist work he began as a pre-teen for children’s rights throughout the world has made a serious impact. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.

11. Indian mental calculator Somani Priyanshi (1998-) took home the overall title at the most recent Mental Calculation World Cup in 2010 when she was just eleven years old. Her specialty? Square roots from six-digit numbers up to eight significant digits (Somani placed first). A couple other events at the MCWC: addition of ten numbers of ten digits each (Somani placed second) and multiplication of two numbers of eight digits (Somani placed second). Yes, her competitors were grown folks.

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Space
Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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travel
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.

STOP 1: BANNERMAN CASTLE // BEACON, NEW YORK

59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.

STOP 2. GILLETTE CASTLE STATE PARK // EAST HADDAM, CONNECTICUT

116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.

STOP 3. BELCOURT CASTLE // NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.

STOP 4. HAMMOND CASTLE MUSEUM // GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS

111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.

STOP 5. BOLDT CASTLE // ALEXANDRIA BAY, THOUSAND ISLANDS, NEW YORK

430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.

STOP 6. FONTHILL CASTLE // DOYLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.

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