Rothberg and physicist Max Tegmark, who is based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, have enrolled about 400 mathematicians and theoretical physicists from top-ranked US universities in a study dubbed ‘Project Einstein’. They plan to sequence the participants’ genomes using the Ion Torrent machine that Rothberg developed.
Critics say that the sizes of these studies are too small to yield meaningful results for such complex traits. But Rothberg is pushing ahead. “I’m not at all concerned about the critics,” he says, adding that he does not think such rare genetic traits could be useful in selecting for smarter babies.
Some mathematicians, however, argue that maths aptitude is not born so much as made.. “I feel that the notion of ‘talent’ may be overrated,” says Michael Hutchings, a mathematician also at Berkeley.