Back when I first discovered the internet around the turn of the millennium, one of the first people I noticed on-line was Mega Society member Christopher Michael Langan, who was busy obliterating a platoon of atheists in an internet debate. Given the fact that atheists typically have much higher IQ’s than theists, this anomalously brilliant theist caught my attention. But what really caught my attention was that when the debate died down, and people started discussing more casual topics like buying motorcycle helmets, Chris mentioned that he couldn’t do so because his head was too big.
I immediately jumped into the conversation with a bunch of geeky statistical calculations which showed that according to the Gaussian curve (a statistical abstraction that is seldom perfectly observed) Chris’ head circumference was about as much of an outlier as his IQ. This indicated that Chris’ stratospheric test score was a physiologically based phenomenon. His superhuman intelligence was perfectly paralleled and likely largely caused by his super-normal brain size. I loved the symmetry of that! It was aesthetically very pleasing to me.
A little while later, I had heard that Chris’ phenomenal Mega Test score was being recognized by Esquire magazine which had crowned him “The Smartest Man in America“. I immediately rushed to the store to buy a copy. I opened it up to read the following:
A great minotaur of a man with a basso profundo voice, Chris is six feet tall and weighs 275 pounds. A former cowboy, Construction worker, and Park Service firefighter, he has a fifty-two-inch chest, twenty-two-inch biceps, a cranial circumference of twenty-five and a half inches–a colossal head, more than three standard deviations above the norm.
Actually it’s a lot more than three standard deviations above the mean. 25.5 inches equals 647.7 mm. In 1995, 5012 active duty males in the U.S. army had their head circumference measured. The mean was 568.2 mm with a standard deviation of 15.8 mm. Assuming this sample is representative of American men, Chris is 5.03 SD above the mean. Assuming a normal distribution, less than one in 3 million American men has a head circumference that big!
Of course head circumference is only a crude proxy for brain size but it’s fascinating nonetheless. Here’s a cool video of Chris talking about his colossal cranium. I just wish he’d give me some credit for the discovery. 🙂