Wolfram|Alpha – Productivity – Math Phd IQ


The most remarkable TED presentation I’ve seen in a while. I felt disappointed only seeing it six years after its recording. Wolfram|Alpha is basically the ‘Deep Thought’ superhuman computer in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. You know, the computer which answers 42 to ‘the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything’. If that doesn’t strike you as impressive, read Stephen Wolfram’s wikipedia page. Or the following excerpt:

He was educated at Eton College, but left prematurely in 1976. He entered St. John’s College, Oxford at age 17 but found lectures “awful”, and left in 1978 without graduating to attend the California Institute of Technology, the following year, where he received a PhD in particle physics at age 20. Wolfram’s thesis committee was composed of Richard Feynman, Peter Goldreich, Frank J. Sciulli and Steven Frautschi, and chaired by Richard D. Field.

Why is Wolfram|Alpha so impressive? Google or Bing’s search engine just finds what other people have said or posted and spits out the most relevant queries regarding your search phrase. Wolfram|Alpha looks up facts, does calculations on them regarding your search phrase and gives you a precise answer. It’s not foolproof yet, but it sure is getting there.


I mentioned in a previous post that I will have to apply a tight schedule again. From last friday on I’ve been tracking my time spent studying on this app called Productivity Challenge Timer. It has been a real eye-opener and motivator. You quickly realise if your planned study hours are actually spent studying. In my case a lot of time went wasted due to too much leeway in between sports, studying and going to class. I’ve rescheduled my week and see how I’ll fair this time.

Is there a required IQ to understand the concepts in order to be able to complete a phd in pure math? Is 130 enough?

Came across a nice motivational answer to the question above, by Franciscus Alex Rebro.

There is a minimum IQ required to complete a PhD in math, surely. I don’t know what it is, but somebody with an IQ of 30 (“severely retarded”) would not even be able to communicate basic ideas in English, so a PhD would be out of the question.

130 is easily more than enough. 100 is probably enough. I believe people of average intelligence can complete a math PhD if they happen to be driven enough.

Edit: Since this answer is receiving an unexpectedly high number of views, and comments from skeptics, perhaps a little clarification is in order. I’m not claiming that if you took a typical person with IQ 100 and dropped them in a math PhD program with no preparation, that they wouldn’t quickly fail out. But I believe that the skills needed to obtain a math PhD are trainable in anybody over a certain baseline intelligence who is willing to put in the necessary time and effort. I’m talking about years here, the amount of time it takes to master math at the highschool, undergraduate, and graduate levels. I think most people have this capacity, but get the desire to do it absolutely bludgeoned out of them throughout their adolescent education, because well school sucks. Then when they’re asked to think about something mathematical, they start to shut down over the slightest frustration they experience, because they never mastered the basics. They begin to think only people of genius level IQs are capable of understanding the material. But that isn’t true. The concepts in math PhD programs are only difficult seeming because they’re built on a large number of earlier concepts, not because they operate with some kind of different logic system only comprehensible to geniuses. If somebody is capable of learning to speak a language fluently, or learning how to fix an automobile or design a website or do other complex tasks, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to gradually build up a sophisticated understanding of math, one little concept at a time. That is all that’s needed to get a math PhD – that and a special kind of tolerance for almost constant feelings of confusion.

This question also popped into my mind a while ago. Reading an insightful answer from a math Phd was a pleasant surprise.



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