June 19, 2012

"I did think of it all on my own."

Jack Andraka, age 15. Watch him get the $75,000 Intel prize...



... and don't click off before you get to the part where he explains — with brilliant clarity — what he invented. And read the article. I love the stuff about his parents:
When he was in grade school, his father, a civil engineer, bought him and his older brother a plastic model river with running water. The boys would throw all kinds of foam boats and objects down the river and see which ones would drown and how different objects would impede the flow. His parents, he says, never really answered any of the questions they had. Go figure it out for yourself, they would say. “I got really into the scientific method of developing a hypothesis and testing it and getting a result and going back to do it again.”
Do you have the nerve to treat your kids like that? Figure it out for yourself!

I love that kid... and his parents (who follow a child-rearing approach that my parents used).

70 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

where is the article link?

MadisonMan said...

He seems happy to have won.

Ann Althouse said...

Link added. Sorry.

edutcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

Good for him.

As for parental help, as I've said, my father was a great one for, "Look it up".

As for figuring things out, I guess we all do that to one degree or another, but this kid sees possibilities that don't occur to most people.

Hopefully, we'll hear more from him.

fivewheels said...

My parents were like that. Eventually I figured out that at least sometimes they made me figure it out because they didn't know the answer, but the result is beneficial either way.

Chip Ahoy said...

That is the longest sustained silent scream I have ever seen.

Synova said...

If he didn't think he had a very good chance to win, what were the *other* projects? Wow.

Actually... I bet he really thought he should win but knew he might not and was trying very very hard to prepare for not winning.

As for the parenting style. Honestly? Some people are driven people and some people aren't. The trick may be recognizing the driven ones and putting them behind the wheel (so to speak.)

I've talked to people who seemed to think that children with a musical talent, or other talent, would compulsively practice, that you didn't have to make them practice.

But *most* people are not like that.

Not that they have to be, of course. But when they aren't we shouldn't feel like we didn't do our parenting right or, alternatively, fail to insist on a certain level effort.

Curious George said...

Meh, he doesn't even have a high school degree, much less a college degree. That makes him an idiot, right lefties?

He's gonna be Bob Hope rich.

bagoh20 said...

Isn't that the same approach as saying: "I don't know kid, get me another beer."

That was my dad's approach, which seems less passive-aggressive.

Chip S. said...

What a way to spend your spare time as a 15-year-old!

Great kid. Everyone should take a vow right now not to begrudge his 1%er status in a few years.

bagoh20 said...

I think I understand what he invented, and I don;t want to down play it, but it seems pretty obvious once you know nano tubes and antibodies. I get the feeling we are gonna find out later, this has been done. Even if so, it's great for a 15 year old to do it, and to be so driven.

At 15, I was discovering things too, but they were only new to me. Still they were awesome.

elkh1 said...

Three very un-PC winners: no minorities, no XX chromosomes. Boycott Intel.

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

What a great story and a fantastic young person. He gives us all hope for the future.

My parents were like that too. They never just gave us the answers but encouraged us with questions and made us think for ourselves.

"Why do you think that will work" "What do you think will happen if you do XX" "Maybe you should read this book or article and let's discuss it later.

Mark said...

"I think I understand what he invented, and I don;t want to down play it, but it seems pretty obvious once you know nano tubes and antibodies. I get the feeling we are gonna find out later, this has been done. Even if so, it's great for a 15 year old to do it, and to be so driven."

It is pretty obvious once you put the pieces together, but then so are a lot of great inventions. (The light bulb comes to mind. Everybody knew that when you heated things to high temperatures they would glow, and everybody knew you could heat materials with electricity, and everybody knew you needing an oxidizing atmosphere to make things burn; the genius was realizing that a glowing thing in a vacuum -- or a non-reactive atmosphere -- would glow for a long time without burning out.)

His earlier projects were pretty brilliant too. It won't be long at all before this charming kid is an evil One Percenter. Such a shame.

Chip S. said...

I get the feeling we are gonna find out later, this has been done.

I thought he said he had a patent on it.

Mike and Sue said...

"Great kid. Everyone should take a vow right now not to begrudge his 1%er status in a few years."

-Chip S.

Ha! That is so true!

elkh1 said...

O mine, a potential high school dropout.

We used to have college dropouts making a difference, Steve Jobs, Michael Dells, Bill Gates. Now we may have a high school dropout.

Conclusion: Colleges especially the super expensive ones are to enslave "dummies".

TML said...

Son of a bitch, I actually teared up as he ascended the stage. What an example of the anti-moron of today. 100% delightful and encouraging. My 14-year old daughter watched in amazement as well. Fan-fucking-tastic.

PatCA said...

edutcher, my parents too! "Look it up."

I think I read the encyclopedia several times over.

Love you, Jack, you are a wonderful American superstar boy!

Larry J said...

As for parental help, as I've said, my father was a great one for, "Look it up".

As for figuring things out, I guess we all do that to one degree or another, but this kid sees possibilities that don't occur to most people.


Perhaps some of the difference comes from the "figure it out" verses "look it up" approach. When you look something up, you're accepting the standard "approved" or published answer. When you figure it out on your own, you learn a lot more because you're actively seeking the answer, trying new approaches and, in this example, learning the scientific method.

Hopefully, we'll hear more from him.

I suspect we will. Something tells me this young man is going places. His motivation (having an uncle die of pancreatic cancer) may have resulted in something that will save thousands of lives every year. Using the same approach, it could revolutionize the early detection of many types of cancer. His approach is so simple and inexpensive that it might be part of a standard physical within a few years. Who know, perhaps existing detection techniques like mammograms will be largely obsolete.

This story really hits home with me. One of my brothers died of lymphoma last year. It had been misdiagnosed for a long time and by the time it was diagnosed, it had spread throughout his body. He died less than 9 months later. A discovery like this one, adapted to detect lymphoma, might've saved his life.

Robert Cook said...

"At 15, I was discovering things too, but they were only new to me."

So was I...and, I suspect, were all 15 year old boys!

Cedarford said...

Not just a good bit of basic science but taking that into an invention that appears to be worth 100s of millions, globally, in medical and perhaps pollutant testing.

Hope he has a good lawyer to protect him and his patent from rich people and their lawyers stealing it. Or the Chicommies and Indians from grabbing it and not paying a cent in royalties.

If so, he is a rich young lad.
Even if he has "failed yet to graduate from the government employee center he has to show up at to "learn". "

Patrick said...

I actually love single wall carbon nanotubes

This 15 year old kid probably ends up saving lives. That's pretty cool to think about.

David said...

The other thing I liked a lot was the kid to Jack's right throwing his arm around him.

I'd like to know more about Mom and Dad.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

Wow.

Gifted kid.

Just, wow.

wyo sis said...

The kids at this event are the kids who will change the world. I hope they get the chance to do it.
In reference to yesterday's thread about education this is a real lesson about how kids learn. Yes, we're talking about a healthy, brilliant, motivated, kid with parents who provided him with opportunities, but the fact is those opportunities owe very little to government intervention in his life, and everything to the freedom to take advantage of opportunities.

JohnG said...

Interesting, the kid with the Steve Jobs' haircut comes up with a method for early detection of pancreatic cancer...

Patrick said...

"At 15, I was discovering things too, but they were only new to me."

So was I...and, I suspect, were all 15 year old boys!


For most of us, it was 15 year old girls.

tiger said...

1) Totally amazing and good for him.

2) Now I'm gonna be a jerk but this was so obvious to me that I'm surprised no one else mentioned this: I realized as I watched him run down the aisle that I can't recall the last time I saw a more effeminate young man, nttawwt, although his explanation was great.

Mark said...

"Who know, perhaps existing detection techniques like mammograms will be largely obsolete."

If I'm understanding the science, and I think I am, then as long as the tumor secretes a protein marker, then the technique should work. Even if the there is no specific marker, but maybe three or four proteins that are characteristic, it should still work, because then you just test the sample for identifying set. Even if he can't make a single strip that will test for multiple proteins at the same time, the strips for each individual protein will be cheap enough to run individually.

And since it's the same basic mechanism as the standard diabetes blood sugar test, one modest blood sample should be good for at least 40 individual tests. This really is a breakthrough.

MadisonMan said...

Now I'm gonna be a jerk

Prophecy fulfilled. Congratulations. I'm sure if you won a life-long dream at age 15 that you'd've bared your chest and showed all the hair there.

I thought it was fantastic that he stood on stage crying. What a fantastic relief it must've been to have the selection over with!

He does need to learn to speak without inflecting upwards at the end of declarative sentences. But age will teach him that.

Mark said...

Tiger, considering the number of lives this young man's invention will save, he could wear and evening gown and a fruit basket on his head and I will call him "Sir" and beat the crap out of anyone who gives him crap in my presence.

He shows every sign of being a gift to humanity. Don't be a putz.

bagoh20 said...

Coming up with this has to be someone's full time paid job. Probably a number of grants have been given to do just this very thing. I think those people should at least get a participation trophy. Think about their self esteem. What this kid did to them was very selfish, and cruel.

PatCA said...

Is the test going to be used now? It's interesting how medicine is now developing cheaper and more efficient tests and treatments. Yay!

Mark said...

20, I already had the thought that this is going to make a not-insignificant number of people in Big Pharma Not Happy At All.

Palladian said...

"I did think of it all on my own."

Elizabeth Warren would disagree.

A dangerous little budding individualist we have here.

madAsHell said...

"I did think of this all on my own"

So....now I'm suspicious.

madAsHell said...

At 15, I was discovering things too, but they were only new to me. Still they were awesome.

Where they wearing skirts??

madAsHell said...

Damn!!

Were not Where!!
I blame the alcohol!

DADvocate said...

Kudos to you for posting this. These kids need and deserve the same recognition as athletes, or more. This is our future.

ed said...

One of the commenters in that article pointed out that a similar technique is used to determine if toxins are in the environment. So the patent may or may not get off the ground depending on how it all plays out.

But in any event this is a serious invention and I applaud this young man. His invention might save my life. Stranger things have happened.

JAL said...

I saw this earlier from another link and absolutely loved it.

You know -- like the comments in the discussion below about the crazy enviros eliminating the human problem -- we have people out there who connect the dots and find new answers. I love people who think the way he does about so many different things.

Congratulations, Jack Andraka.

JAL said...

I believe he said he has a very aggresive patent attorney.

Also, if it were already known, what the heck have we been doing the past 25 - 50 years? Yes, a similar discovery was described in a chemistry journal but his application is in the life sciences.

If this is what it appears to be, this young man has saved many lives.

My sister-in-law died of pancreatic cancer which by the time they found it was too far advanced to do a Whipple surgical procedure. She was in an experimental drug study through Sloan Kettering and lived well past what was expected.

tim maguire said...

Pretty amazing when I think about what I was doing at 15. But did I hear him say his process is 26,000X more expensive? That can't be right.

And I was disappointed to hear him emphasize that he had patented his process. Nice that it's patentable, I hope he makes a boatload of money, but there's something distasteful about the rush to lock up ideas.

tim maguire said...

madasHell, initially, I was also suspicious at the emphasis on "I did think of this on my own," but I bet that's a question most people ask him. May as well get it out of the way now.

wyo sis said...

He said less expensive it you listen carefully. I thought the same thing at first.

JAL said...

26,000X more expensive?

I didn't hear it right to start with either, but read the article in Forbes. It's in there, along with some other amazing things.

I never knew low-head dams were such killers. (Link in article) This kid has an amazing brain.

Chip S. said...

there's something distasteful about the rush to lock up ideas

There's no chance whatsoever that he uses his patent to "lock up" his idea. He'll license it to the bidder of his (and his parents') choosing. Whether it's the high bidder or a lower bidder, the idea will be put into production.
Remember what his inspiration for this project was.

Also, winning patent approval establishes the basis for his claim that it was his own, innovative idea. Even in this thread questions were raised about that early on.

There is no downside to his patenting his idea that I can see. And upon reflection, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if every kid in this competition was advised to do that prior to entering.

JAL said...

Also the "I did think of it all on my own" comes from, I would guess, his lab location at Johns Hopkins. Some / many would assume that his idea came from the "grown-ups."

And he is a high school freshman. Think about it.

JAL said...

Patenting a technique or process is a different thing than patenting genes or tissue. (Just finished Michael Crichton's "Next".)

icepilot said...

Patents reveal the invention to those who care nothing about laws.

Elon Musk has yet to submit a patent for the collection of innovations that resulted in the Dragon spaceship supplying the International Space Station. He doesn't want to give the Chinese any more help than he has to.

Chip S. said...

Patents reveal the invention to those who care nothing about laws.

As do science competitions.

Synova said...

"Elizabeth Warren would disagree."

No doubt.

No doubt he could never have done it without the infrastructure we have and support of his parent and The People.

Thing is... inventing this IS HIM DOING THE CONTRIBUTION IN RETURN PART. That part is taken care of, done, completed! And as he goes forward, if it is put into production and he gets money for it, THOSE transactionS on both sides of getting and giving back benefits will also be completed.

It's not PAY BACK... it's PAY AS YOU GO.

Bah!

Casey said...

That's ok, Tiger, I thought he came across as a Miss America pageant-winner myself.

...And not just effeminate, but effete. After all, who runs down the aisle literally shrieking & flapping his hands, holding both hands to his chest as if he can't breathe, then falls to his knees in classic "psycho Tom Cruise" style?

Dude? Reserve. Ur doin' it wrong.

Methadras said...

My dad was the same way. "go figure it out." I treated my daughter the same way. She's better off for it and so am I.

wyo sis said...

He's 15 Casey. What you saw was unfeigned joy.

John Lynch said...

This isn't so much about parenting as sheer ability. Sorry, but simply telling your kids to "figure it out," isn't going to help if they don't have the IQ.

The Crack Emcee said...

tiger,

Now I'm gonna be a jerk but this was so obvious to me that I'm surprised no one else mentioned this: I realized as I watched him run down the aisle that I can't recall the last time I saw a more effeminate young man,...

Me too - which is the only reason it's here. Ann's attempting to manipulate us, which I resent, and makes me want to slap the kid and scream, "Close your fucking mouth!"

Mark,

Tiger, considering the number of lives this young man's invention will save, he could wear and evening gown and a fruit basket on his head and I will call him "Sir" and beat the crap out of anyone who gives him crap in my presence.

He shows every sign of being a gift to humanity. Don't be a putz.


What a moron. Don't try to manipulate me and I'll attempt resisting, but the fact of the matter is, there are 300 million people in this country and the 2% who are gay have been shoved down my throat for the last few decades and I'm sick of it. Those behind that manipulation are the putzs - blame Ann. That - all by itself - is ruder than anything I say (ask Miss Manners). I don't need anyone to tell me how to feel about gays, the environment, or my health, and I want everyone to shut-the-fuck-up about them, stop trying to cultishly manipulate me, and let me live my life. Your peer pressure won't work here. As this thread shows, it only works on the weak.

I don't know what you are, tough guy, but I'm a man and enjoying being toyed with ain't part of that equation.

Ann thinks she's smart - she ain't that fucking smart. She's a silly feminist. The reason for divorces, unwanted children, and the general breakdown of society - partially so she can bear hug every swish on the planet. Well - like this kid - I'm also the recipient of her efforts. Mean ol' black troubled asshole Crack:

How do you like her work?

She couldn't make me enjoy this for anything - and, if you tried to "beat the crap" out of me, I'd enjoy taking you down for it.

Ain't NOTHING funnier than a feminized male losing the fight for males being feminized.

Dave said...

Wonderfully life affirming post Ann, and a brilliant novel use of nanotech. Antibodies do not generally do that well in Western blots; it must be the nanotech presentation.

MadisonMan said...

Crack, wouldn't it have been easier -- and shorter -- to type

Get off my lawn!

Dave said...

The basic elements of the idea are not that new, but the combination is novel. It's the orders of magnitude increase in sensitivity that really surprises. This goes way beyond pancreatic cancer to any disease with a defined circulating protein marker. I expect to see it as a replacement for the PSA test (which is very poor), and as a screen for colon and breast cancer. Awesome.

tim in vermont said...

Wow.

Thanks for posting an encouraging me to watch the whole thing.

Erik Robert Nelson said...

It's absolutely brilliant, of course, that a 15 year old managed to pull this off. And since this is all run by Intel, I'm sure they did their homework, but ... this technique sounds familiar to me already. I could have sworn it had already been done by someone. Not to take anything away from the kid, who clearly put a lot of time and effort into it. At fifteen, no less. I wonder about a patent, though. Best of luck to him.

X said...

a great accomplishment and a great kid. a real credit to himself, Liz Warren, and the entire Cherokee Nation.

XRay said...

'X'

LOL!

John Orzechowski said...

A young Wolowitz!
But Sheldon still would not be
very much impressed...

Icepick said...

Late to the party...

Yeah, the kid is effiminate. He also came up with a great idea. I'm guessing he won the contest because of the idea and not because of teh gay.

He does need to learn to speak without inflecting upwards at the end of declarative sentences. But age will teach him that.

The inflections are definitely a little annoying, but did you notice the lack of other verbal ticks? I counted one brief "um" and that was it. He did throw in an "and stuff" near the end, but he was completely lacking in "uh"s, "like"s, "you know"s, long pauses, grunts and similar tricks to gain time to express a thought. (Unlike our current POTUS, whose speech is lettered with such effluvia.) A very, very sharp mind behind that voice.

The Crack Emcee said...

Icepick,

Yeah, the kid is effiminate. He also came up with a great idea. I'm guessing he won the contest because of the idea and not because of teh gay.

Same here. I wish someone would talk with him so he'll know he can live like that, too.

What in the fuck do people think being adults is for?