Patterns Everywhere – The Man Who Sees Math

In 2002, Jason Padgett was a fun-loving guy who lived for the next party and thought that math was stupid. A midnight mugging that knocked him unconscious changed everything.

A Giant Video Game

As the concussion faded he started seeing the world around him as an unending flow of pixels and tangents. The world had turned into a giant video game. It was beautiful but also scary. Accompanying this striking change of perspective was a serious case of obsessive compulsive disorder.

Padgett was fascinated and confused by this strange enhancement of his perceptions. He scoured the Internet looking for answers and ran across fractals – visual depictions of complex mathematical formulas that repeat endlessly. He took to drawing the patterns he saw as a way to make sense of them. On one of his rare trips outside, a physicist recognized his art as fractals and recommended he take a math class. Only then did Padgett discover the language to describe his experience.

Acquired Savant Syndrome

Padgett has been called a mathematical genius. He was eventually diagnosed with acquired savant syndrome, a condition he shares with maybe a half-dozen people in the world. He has a wonderful ability to explain complex mathematical concepts in ways others can understand.

His fractal art is exhibited in museums and galleries across the world. He has given TED talks and lectures at conferences and on TV, extolling people to dig for the deeper potential we all have to connect with the universe. His wish is for everyone to see the incredible beauty in the world around us.

The Night Nurse – Art Imitating Life

I began work on The Night Nurse around 2012. I discovered Jason Padgett’s story in 2020, as I was polishing the last draft and doing some final research. To my astonishment, my protagonist’s ability to see patterns – and the danger of being distracted by them – closely resembles Jason Padgett’s amazing story. It’s like art imitating life.

Jason and I both believe that we all have it in us. The world is filled with beautiful patterns, in fact it’s made of them. Have a look. See what’s around you. Just try and avoid getting knocked in the head.

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