Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spotlight - "From Birdmen to Autistic Savants"

("Spotlight" posts are my attempt to introduce you to intriguing people, events, or things around the world that you'd probably otherwise never have heard of. Enjoy!)

Dan Osman - wikipedia

I stumbled across the late great Dan Osman while watching this video of beautiful female rock climber Natalija Gros posted on Digg. Dan was an Asian American climber who played a large role in popularizing free-solo rockclimbing (climbing without any gear). He was known for living a bohemian lifestyle , rarely working, and living in a tree house for months at a time. He died in 1998 at age 35 while performing a controlled free-fall jump at Yosemite National Park when his rope failed. You can watch the story of his last jump here, but the video that motivated me to post his story on my blog is this amazing footage of him speed-climbing Lover's Leap in California. Simply mind-blowing:

Wingsuit Flying - wikipedia

Wingsuit flying was started in the 1930's by "birdmen" like Leo Valentin, who created wings from canvas, steel and wood, and were able to glide in the air for miles. Apparently 72 of the 75 original birdmen died while testing suits. While at the Circuit City in Chinatown DC I saw a special on tv about modern birdmen who now use a safe and reliable wingsuit designed in Europe in 1998 that have made Wingsuit Flying a popular new extreme sport. Dare devil Swiss Wingsuit flyer Ueli Geoenaghatz raced a passenger plane from mainland Ireland to the Aran Islands. The 17.6 km journey which normally takes the Aer Arran passenger plane 7 mins travelling at an average sped of 130mph was beaten by Ueli in a wingsuit as he reached speeds of over 200mph. Here's part of the special I saw:

Autistic Savants - wikipedia

Those suffering from some sort of autism who also possess very rare forms of brilliance or mental abilities. I came across this term when I saw the movie Rain Man on tv tonight, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman. Daniel Tammet is one of these modern autistic savants. In his mind, he says, each integer up to 10,000 has its own unique shape, colour, texture and feel. He has described his visual image of 289 as particularly ugly, 333 as particularly attractive, and pi as beautiful. 6 apparently has no distinct image. Tammet described 25 as energetic and the "kind of number you would invite to a party"... He holds the Eurpean record for reciting pi down to 22,514 and possess a unique ability to learn new languages, which he proved by learning Icelandic in one week. He's also creating a new language called Manti, based on Estonian and Finnish.

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