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WHEN A BAD BOY TURNS GOOD On Friday September 13, 2002, 32year old Jason Padgett stopped by a local bar to pick up his friend. As he left, he noticed two patrons giving him dirty looks. These bar thugs advanced upon him and struck the back of his head, bringing him to the ground. His next memory was of being in a Tacoma hospital. For Jason, reality would never be the same again. LEFT: ‘Pi’ drawn by Jason Padgett as we can. In 2005, Jason decided to draw what he saw when he looked at light bouncing off a car window. He grabbed a pencil and created a striking image using only straight lines. Putting pencil to paper helped Jason deal with the new world he had found himself in. Eventually he returned to his job as a furniture store sales person – and, from his first day back, started decorating the white walls with his colorful drawings. Customers were curious about the peculiar but fascinating artwork. “Who made them?” they asked. “I did,” the skinny, autodidact artist would reply. “They are hand-drawn. If you look at them close up, you can see it for yourself.” People were shocked: Who knew the dorky guy in the furniture store could draw? Soon enough, most locals in town were talking about the eccentric man in the furniture store who was drawing amazingly complex images by hand. Jason couldn’t think about anything but patterns all day long. But, as time went by, he realised that, while his drawings captivated people’s attention, most couldn’t understand his explanations for his creations. He might as well have spoken Russian! Try as he may, he couldn’t explain why, but had the odd sense that his imagery somehow related to mathematics. In an attempt to ease his frustrations, a mathematician friend advised him that if he wanted to make himself understood, he would have to learn to speak the language of mathematics. Until then, Jason’s only interests had been getting drunk (and getting women), but eager to find answers, he signed up for a trigonometry class and a couple of calculus PA G E 5 7 • F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H 2 0 1 3 • I S S U E 1 0 • G U R U Previous Page: (Maths) Flickr • trindade.joao, (Eye) Flickr • dwmizell, (PI) Jason Padgett After a hasty in-and-out by the doctor, he was diagnosed with internal bleeding and a concussion and sent home to rest. But Jason barely made it home before he sensed that something was wrong – unusually freaky, in fact. Reality was broken! Jason looked around at a grotesque, almost eerie world: vases and windows would seemingly shatter spontaneously. It was as if someone had grabbed a rock and powerfully tossed it at reality, cutting the contours of everyday objects into tiny pieces. As cars moved away, reality split into geometrical patterns: light bounced off their shiny paint, ripping open empty air to reveal rainbows of right-angled triangles. To Jason’s dismay, these new visions didn’t go away. Frightened, he locked himself inside his apartment and stayed there for three years. He left only when his reservoir of canned beans was running low. Jason also saw motion differently. After his violent attack, objects no longer moved smoothly. Instead, he saw motion in ‘picture frames’. He was apparently suffering from ‘motion blindness’, an exceptionally rare condition that gives the appearance that reality is frozen. In 1983, Josef Zihl and his colleagues wrote of a patient (called ‘LM’) who had sustained damage to both sides of the brain (in an area known as the posterior temporal cortex). LM found pouring a cup of coffee nearly impossible “because the fluid appeared to be frozen, like a glacier.” The frozen image would eventually be replaced by an image of the cup overflowing with coffee. Jason’s condition was similar: though motion did not appear completely frozen to him, it did seem discontinuous. “It is as if someone is pressing the pause button on a video very quickly,” Jason told us. Thankfully, because his ‘picture frames’ are replaced by new images very quickly, Jason could pour a cup of coffee as well

Guru Magazine Issue 10

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