I will be answering questions from 12pm EDT. My new book, 'Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning and Math' explores the many ways in which math/numbers underpin our inner and outer lives. http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-In-Numbers-Life-Meaning/dp/0316187372

Proof: https://www.facebook.com/DanielTammetAuthor

Check out my website http://www.danieltammet.net to learn more about me and my work.

Thanks to everyone for your comments and questions - I've really enjoyed taking part. Wishing you all the very best.

Comments: 167 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

Klutztheduck20 karma

Not a question but just wanted to say, I still have that documentary in my computer where you learned Icelandic in a week. That was incredible. When I was a kid the only super power I ever wanted was to master all languages. I feel like you can do that. You can be a superhero.

daniel_tammet_13 karma


durful14 karma

What is your favorite number?

daniel_tammet_24 karma

Asking me to name my favourite number is a bit like asking a mother to name her favourite child. Just between us, I find 11 particularly beautiful and the number 4 is probably the number I feel closest to because it's shy like me.

BadGirlSneer12 karma

Wow! Can you describe 11?

daniel_tammet_14 karma

Round, shiny, bright white. There's a picture of it at the start of chapter 11 of 'Born On A Blue Day'.

2ndSkyy13 karma

Hey Daniel ! i Remember seeing you when you came to iceland for 'Kastljós' my question is:

Has your Icelandic faded over the years or do you still keep it up ?

daniel_tammet_18 karma

I have some great friends in Iceland and use Icelandic with them when I visit or phone/email. I also read in Icelandic and would recommend the short stories of Gyrdir Eliasson.

bencordoza13 karma

You have a truly amazing mind!

daniel_tammet_10 karma


31624912 karma

I saw Brainman [a documentary about Daniel] years ago, you seemed like a very intelligent and kind person! I was inspired enough to try my hand at casually memorizing pi myself; I've been working on it sporadically every since, and find it very enjoyable and edifying. Personally, that's enough to keep me interested, so I don't worry too much about making errors when reciting it, but you were able to get through a large number of digits without making a single error. When first learning those digits, did you make errors? When reciting it, did you feel your knowledge was certain, or did you have to watch out for making careless or sincere errors?

Also, as an artist, I can certainly understand the intimate link between numbers and art; I'm sure you've addressed this previously, but do you see any link between numbers and mimetic (imitative) art, or mostly abstract work?

Thanks for the AMA and the inspiration! I'm certainly going to read some of your books!

daniel_tammet_7 karma

You'd enjoy my essay 'The Admirable Number Pi' in my latest book, 'Thinking in Numbers'. There's lots about the 'number artistry' of reciting Pi.

JingleB11 karma

I don't really have a question, but I do have something to say.

All of your interviews, documentaries, and written works have made me extremely fond of you. I'm not sure exactly what it is about you, but you're one of the people I'd most like to meet in the whole world. You are fascinating!

On a side note, Born On A Blue Day helped my oldest childhood friend feel more confident and at ease with his autism. Of course you have had a positive impact on far more people than just myself and my friend, but to have a chance to tell you in an environment where you may actually see it? Well, I couldn't resist.

Thank you for helping reduce the stigma attached to autism, and helping people living with the condition.

Keep up the inspiring work!!


P.S I can recite Pi to 22,515 digits :P

daniel_tammet_6 karma

Thank you. I'm so glad to hear that my first book helped your friend.

devpsychnerd9 karma

Hi Daniel,

I'm curious about what kind of reactions and feedback you generally get from other individuals on the spectrum or with synesthesia.

  • What percentage concur with your explanations/experiences?
  • What dissenting opinions or responses have stood out to you?
  • Do you feel like a spokesperson for ASD or synesthesia?

I know Temple Grandin has faced some criticism from the ASD community regarding her portrayal and opinions. I would imagine you have faced some similar critiques. How do you respond to those individuals?

daniel_tammet_4 karma

I couldn't tell what percentage, but many synaesthetes experience the same or similar colours and emotions for particular numbers and words. Not all synaesthetes perceive in the same way, of course.

One synaesthete wrote to tell me that numbers had genders (like nouns in many languages), so for example 7 was male but 9 was female etc. That was the first time I had heard of that form of synaesthesia.

I don't feel like a spokesperson. I'm a writer, so I want my books to represent ideas and experiences that the reader can relate to personally.

I0n5O27RjTsd9 karma

I saw you on TV. You were described as autistic, but I saw nothing unusual in you that a layperson could see. What symptoms of autism do you have? Do you even agree with the diagnosis?

daniel_tammet_18 karma

I was diagnosed in 2004 by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University as 'Aspergers with excellent adaptation in adulthood'. 'For many children, their symptoms improve with treatment and with age. Some children with autism grow up to lead normal or near-normal lives.' http://ec.europa.eu/health/major_chronic_diseases/diseases/autistic/

You might also find this Forbes magazine article of interest: http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2013/01/17/can-people-really-grow-out-of-autism/


Can you talk about your experience meeting with Kim Peek?

daniel_tammet_8 karma

I met Kim and his father, Fran, in Salt Lake City in 2004. It was a beautiful and moving experience. We were in the city library, where he spent much of his time, and he showed me around the aisles which he knew so well. Later, we had a meal together and talked about his daily routine (he would ring his mother every day, for example). Kim passed away in 2009 but I know that his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of many.

Sythestiascientist6 karma

Hey Daniel! Thank you so much for doing this!

I've waiting for this ama for weeks now!

I've read all your books and I truly feel you've knocked the scientific understanding of the human brain on its feet. The feats you have accomplished are just beyond words. I just want to know more about the synesthesia that you and so many others experience.

1). Are you always able to see shapes and colors? Like if you get a headache what happens?

2) Do you know what Aleksander Vinter aka Savant experiences? I've heard that you guys have met before. What did you guys talk about? I feel like his ability to think out songs in literally seconds is something that seems similar to you being able to form a landscape of numbers and colors inside your head?

Thank you again for doing this!

P.S. I really think that your one of the most brilliant minds to ever walk the face of the earth. Isaac Newton Status

daniel_tammet_2 karma

Headaches do not affect my synaesthesia.

I'm not familiar with Vinter or his work.

NotADoucheBag6 karma

Mr. Tammet, it is really amazing to have you on here answering our questions! Can you tell us a story about a particular time you overcame a significant problem with your skill set? Have your abilities allowed you to take any "shortcuts" in everyday life? Also what is your response to your portrayal in Moonwalking with Einstein? Thanks again!

daniel_tammet_5 karma

I've responded to another question about that in this thread. It was weird and distressing to be distorted and see the distortion incite a few individuals on internet blogs and forums to write homophobic and other unpleasant comments. I prefer to focus on my writing.

beardedrugby5 karma

The way you visualize numbers as colors and then are able to transfer the image in your head to a painting is truly incredible. Are any of your paintings for sale or alternatively, have you given thought to doing commissions? I'm sure you've got plenty going on in the rest of your life, but to have an abstract painting by you of, say, of the digits of ones birthday would be amazing.

Also, so jealous of your Icelandic feat of language. I love Iceland and even though nearly everyone speaks English, it would be nice to be able to say more than please and thank you in their native tongue.

daniel_tammet_4 karma

Yes, my artwork can be purchased via my website: http://www.danieltammet.net/artwork.php

T-Wel-ER5 karma


daniel_tammet_5 karma

Thank you for the kind words!

ZeldaB4 karma


daniel_tammet_5 karma

It'd be great to stimulate your child's interest in numbers and colours while integrating them into games that help develop social skills (for example, counting together, swapping cards or cubes, etc.)

the_drew4 karma

Hi Daniel, I've been a fan of your work for years, so it's nice to meet you!

My question: I have a tremendously inquisitive and curious mind, however I lack the ability to concentrate on one subject and prefer to absorb multiple information streams simultaneously. This gives me broad awareness of many things but little knowledge. Do you have tips or strategies to help me learn how to focus on one thing at a time (currently I'm trying to learn Swedish).

Thanks, and good luck with the book!

daniel_tammet_10 karma

I'd recommend reading as a way of absorbing multiple forms of information (words, images, ideas) and concentrating on one thing (the reading experience). Books in Swedish will certainly help you acquire the language too.

Aurorae3 karma

How much money do you make from being tested/interviewed?

What defines you as a savant rather than someone with highly developed mnemonic skills?

How's your dating life?

daniel_tammet_11 karma

I write full-time (I've also been published in the Guardian, Observer, Esquire, Salon, The Advocate, Slate, Aeon Magazine) so I make my living as a writer. Scientific experiments don't pay, at least not any that I've participated in.

Savantism is the presence of exceptional ability within a history of developmental disorder (such as autism) and according to scientists I meet these criteria.

I live with my partner, Jerome, in Paris.

ificouldf3 karma

Heureux de savoir que nous sommes dans la même ville!

Petite question (after all it's an AMA), qu'aimez vous le plus à Paris? Et quels endroits ou expériences vous "donnent le plus d'énergie" ? Vous êtes une personne tout à fait admirable, et je vous souhaite (Jérome et vous) le meilleur.

daniel_tammet_6 karma

Merci pour votre message. Heureux que ma participation vous ait plu ! J'aime l'ambiance a la fois mathematique et litteraire qui se trouve ici. Les quartiers differents (chinois, le jardin des plantes) sont sympas.

heycmonnow3 karma

Daniel, I remember seeing your story on tv years ago and have wanted to know how you perceive the number 2 ever since.

It's my favorite number in that it is the only even prime number. I was wondering if that characteristic had anything to do with how you 'saw' it. (Or other prime numbers for that matter)

Thanks for doing this ama.

daniel_tammet_6 karma

Two is a wavy number, a movement like the wind.

jesteryte2 karma

Could you explain the process you go through when you learn a language? I understand about viewing a number as a color - like visualizing pi as a multicolor horizon of dips and peaks - that makes sense to me - but how does that work for language? Do you imagine the grammatical structure as a landscape, does it look colorful to you? How would you break down the process of visualizing language to someone who doesn't naturally understand languages in that way?

daniel_tammet_6 karma

For me, it's about meaning rather than memorisation. There's a great article at the Atlantic about that: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/09/when-memorization-gets-in-the-way-of-learning/279425/

Take the words 'motele' (engine) and 'motema' (heart) from the Lingala language. One approach is to artificially create links like an engine revving in a motel room and a blood-splattered computer modem.

My own approach is to note the similarity between the two words and perceive a natural link between the two objects they describe: the heart is the body's engine, pumping blood to every part. The 'l' sound vibrates (as does an engine when it gets going) whereas the 'm' sound (in moteMa) feels more solid. That's how I'd tell the two apart.

Like Vladimir Nabokov (who also experienced synaesthesia), words have colours and textures and this does help me form associations that are memorable. I describe this in my first book, Born On A Blue Day.

Postscript6242 karma

Are you a fan of Borges? More specifically, have you ever read "Fuenes the Memorious"? And if so what are your thoughts on it? If you haven't I'd highly recommend you check it out.

daniel_tammet_3 karma

I'm a big fan of Borges (he appears in the very first chapter of 'Thinking in Numbers') and enjoyed his short story about the man who cannot forget. It's fiction, but very well-written. My own experience is very different. I have no difficulty forgetting!

skyrimnerd1 karma

I read your book, Born on a Blue Day and find how you look at things very interesting. I have a few questions for you; thanks for doing this AMA!

1.) What is your favorite book?

2.) What is your favorite language?

3.) How is your language you are working on doing, and what is your favorite word in that?

daniel_tammet_3 karma

1.) Too many to name just one, but I'm a big fan of Yasunari Kawabata (Snow Country, The Sound of the Mountain, The Master of Go), Saul Bellow, Halldor Laxness, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and the poetry of Les Murray, among many others.

2.) I don't have a favourite language - every language offers a unique perspective on our world. I live in Paris, so my everyday language these days is French but I still write in English and read in Icelandic, German, etc.

3.) I loved inventing words growing up, but I don't think it's anything more serious than a former pet project. Writing gives me the opportunity to be creative.

RetrospecTuaL1 karma

1) How many languages can you speak fluently?

2) Can you accomplish higher level of calculations in your mind other than just "simple" arithmetic, such as logarithmic values, derivative or integration? For example, upon seeing ln(2), ('ln' being the natural logarithm), do you see its decimal value visualized in front of you as you with other irrational numbers such as pi?

daniel_tammet_3 karma

I'm not a mathematician and have no particular ability for higher math. What interests me are the broader ideas in math - for example, infinity - and the links between math and literature.

Like many people who know multiple languages, my knowledge level varies from language to language depending on access to the language, amount of practise, exposure etc. I use 3 languages (English, French, Icelandic) on a daily or near-daily basis, have given live TV interviews in four (including German) and have some varying knowledge of half a dozen others.

Deezuss1 karma

First, I must say that i am more than jealous of your cognitive capabilities, they truly reflect the beauty that is the human mind.

Here's my question: Do you see any particular darkness in the numbers 23 and 666 that are often associated as pertaining to evil?

daniel_tammet_1 karma

Well, 6 is small dark and black so '666' isn't a pretty number. But I don't think it's evil. No number is good or evil.

fromatoz1 karma

Hi Daniel!

I've been a fan ever since reading Born on a Blue Day. It's been years since then, but if I recall, you once painted a landscape of the digits of pi. Do you often paint/play music/ otherwise create art? If so, what is your process like? Where do you find your inspiration?


daniel_tammet_2 karma

I love listening to music - classical, but also pop. I also read lots (non-fiction and fiction, including poetry) and gain a lot of inspiration from that too.

thisfreakinguy1 karma

Hi Daniel, I don't have a question but I wanted to tell you I greatly enjoyed 'Embracing the Wide Sky'! I'll definitely check out your new book.

daniel_tammet_2 karma

Thank you and glad you enjoyed 'Embracing the Wide Sky'.

doobeedoobee1 karma

I recently read Born on a Blue Day and loved it!

How are your kitty(ies) doing?

Have you read or heard Jon Ronson's "The Psychopath Test"? I was struck by his assertion that it's damaging to define people by their 'maddest edges'. I wonder if you feel similarly or had any other reactions to that work. (If you haven't, I recommend it!)

Do you feel like your understanding of the languages you do know allow you to pick up on similar languages even without practice or study? I.e. German --> Dutch ?

That's all I can think of! Thanks for the AMA!

daniel_tammet_1 karma

I haven't heard of Ronson's work but agree with your point.

Knowing more than one language certainly helps when you want to acquire another language - similar sounds, patterns, ideas appear over and over. Human minds surpass geography.

Anandaloha1 karma

Dear Daniel, You are one of my favorite people in the world. I've often had questions I'd like to ask but now that I can, they evade me. So, I'll just ask what would your recommendations be considering the economy, math-wise? Do you have ideas that could remedy our world problems? And do you have any observations concerning genetic modification in foods? All the best to you. Suzanne

daniel_tammet_2 karma

Hi Suzanne, thanks for your kind words. There's a chapter about the economy/inequality in 'Thinking in Numbers' that you might enjoy.

gcurrey1 karma

Daniel, I greatly enjoy your books. Any plans to speak again in metro Atlanta? We heard you at Agnes Scott College several years ago.

daniel_tammet_2 karma

I'd love to come again to Atlanta. Feel free to invite me!

Margenberg1 karma

Hi Daniel I find you an amazing person. I am reading a Born on a Blue Day. I seem to be losing my memory. Do you have any tips or techniques for remembering things or help with focusing and concentration.

daniel_tammet_1 karma

There's a chapter about memory in my second book 'Embracing the Wide Sky' with advice and tips.

MatthewAV1 karma

Did you develop your math skills over time or did it just 'happen'?

daniel_tammet_1 karma

Nothing just 'happens'. I played with numbers a lot as a child - I describe them in my autobiography as being my friends - and this experience helped me understand many underlying patterns and relationships between them. I also had a standard schooling and learned the basics in class like anyone else.

mothflavour1 karma

Hi Daniel,

I read your first book years ago and it's been a favourite of mine since then. You come across as a kind individual. My question has to do with people who believe they have no affinity for numbers, or "can't do math". I see this a lot, especially in the preteen girls I care for.

Do you have advice for or examples of how a person who believe they are useless with numbers can start to understand or even like math?

daniel_tammet_3 karma

I'm obliged to mention my new book, 'Thinking in Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning and Math' (there's a link at the top of this page). It's filled with stories to show how math/numbers underpin our inner and outer lives. It's a book for everyone - you don't have to be 'mathy' at all. Hopefully it can show that everyone has some kind of affinity for numbers and absolutely can do math - it all depends on how it's taught and explored.

jlimbo-6 karma

In Josh Foer’s book, Moonwalking with Einstein, he examines your past and recounts interviews he had with you personally. He is lead to believe you are not a savant, but rather a highly trained mnemonic. I did further reading about this, and it seems he’s not alone with that assertion. I share this belief. I think you are a fraud and while I doubt you will ever come clean and disclose this whole act that has brought you limited fame and undoubtedly more money than you deserve, redditors (and people in general) deserve to know – particularly while you attempt to further your lies in a public forum.

daniel_tammet_9 karma

Foer's claims are weird and wrong. For example, he states that neural colour regions did not light up in my brain under the scanner, but a recent scientific paper showed that many synaesthetes' brains do not show colour region activation: http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/7/1622

I also took the Synaesthesia Battery Test in November 2011, following a request by Professor Robert Kurzban at the University of Pennsylvania. The full data were sent to Professor Kurzban and to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University. I scored 0.55 for grapheme-colour synaesthesia, where “a score below 1.0 is ranked as synesthetic. Non-synesthetes asked to use memory or free association typically score in the range of a 2.0.” On the Speed Congruency Test I scored an accuracy of 92.86% with a mean reaction time of 1.041 seconds +/- 0.245. “An accuracy percentage of right answers in the range of 85-100 typically indicates synesthetic association between the graphemes and colors.” Non-synaesthetes asked to use memory typically score 67% accuracy with slower reaction times.

There's also biology: my father has schizophrenia which is a significant risk factor for an autism spectrum disorder (http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=1206780) and I suffered temporal lobe epileptic seizures as a young child, which are up to 30 times more common among individuals on the autistic spectrum (Comorbidities in Developmental Disorders edited by Martin Bax and Christopher Gillberg).