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The Quest for genius

By Producer Matt Percival
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This month on Quest, we take a journey into the human mind, the complex gray matter that distinguishes us from the rest of life on Earth.

Along the way, we will explore the concept of genius, the mysterious workings of the brain and whether Richard Quest is as smart as he thinks.

When it comes to challenges of a cerebral kind, few can match the majesty of chess. And when it comes to grandmasters, nobody is more regal than Russia's Garry Kimovich Kasparov.

After retiring from professional chess tournaments more than a year ago, Kasparov now devotes most of his time to Russia's political arena, where he is an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Quest meets Kasparov in New York and learns about his political ambitions and how strategies perfected on the chess board can be used in real life.

The name Mensa is synonymous with extraordinary mental agility. This year the largest, oldest and most famous high IQ society in the world celebrates 60 years since it began. It is marking the occasion with an international gathering in Orlando, Florida.

Richard submits his own application to Mensa, but does he have what it takes to join this exclusive club? And will he have what it takes to stand up the intellectual prowess of Mensa's youngest member, four-year-old Mikhail Ali?

In the sleepy town of Cold Spring Harbor on New York's Long Island is a laboratory with an uncanny knack of churning out Nobel Prize winners. One of them is Dr. James Watson.

His claim to genius arose in the 1950s, out of dogged persistence and the pursuit of scientific understanding. The race was on to unravel the structure of DNA, the building blocks of mankind.

Watson's discovery of the double helix was among the most important of the 20th Century. Now in his late 70s, Watson has had plenty of time to reflect on the significance of his brain's contribution to science.

According to Einstein, "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."

Brain guru and best-selling author Tony Buzan would probably disagree with Einstein. He is on a mission to help us better harness our intelligence.

Having founded the World Memory Championships more than a decade ago, Buzan is convinced the computer inside us knows no boundaries if we teach it how to work properly. Quest puts Buzan's pioneering mind-mapping techniques to the test in the vain hope he can salvage what little memory he has left.

The mind works in mysterious ways, or so the saying goes. Kim Peek was born with congenital brain damage. He scores below average in IQ test and struggles with the simplest tasks, such as tying his shoe laces, yet in his own way he is very much a genius, a so-called savant with a photographic memory and an ability to do complex mental arithmetic without a calculator.

He remembers everything he has ever read and his abilities were the inspiration for the character of Raymond Babbit, played by Dustin Hoffman, in the Oscar-winning film Rain Man. Peek is now in his 50s, and Quest visits him to get a glimpse of life as "the real Rain Man."

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