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Einstein Project

The genome and intelligence

Rothberg: sequencing the genome of 400 mathematicians and physicists

POPTECHRothberg: sequencing the genome of 400 mathematicians and physicistsPOPTECH

American entrepreneur Jonathan Rothberg, known for establishing two genetic sequencing companies and selling them for hundreds of millions of dollars, is leading a new venture. Alongside physicist Max Tegmark, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he will sequence the genomes of 400 mathematicians and theoretical physicists from the most important universities in the United States in an initiative dubbed Project Einstein. The idea that it is possible to find a genetic basis for the talent of math and physics geniuses is controversial. The criticisms involve ethical issues, such as the possibility of using such information to select embryos, but there are also questions about whether studies with limited sample sizes can unravel the complexity of intelligence.  “It is unlikely that the Einstein Project will produce data of statistical significance,” geneticist Daniel MacArthur, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told the journal Nature. He studies genetic data from 13 million people to see how complex traits are inherited. But project participants are curious. “As a fan of science fiction, I like the idea of having my own genome sequenced,” said David Aldous, a mathematician at the University of California, Berkeley.