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October 22, 2014

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Las Vegas’ genius club: Yes, we do have a Mensa chapter

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Christopher DeVargas

At a monthly Toastmasters meeting, Mensa member Lauren Sheer explains her duties as grammarian, which involve noting grammatical errors fellow members make during their speeches.

For all that Las Vegas is, it isn’t known as an intellectual mecca. It’s hard to imagine Einstein playing slots or Aristotle pontificating in a strip joint.

Nevertheless, this city does have its share of certifiable geniuses. And they turn up in unexpected places.

Total U.S. Mensa membership numbers about 56,000, a fraction of the estimated 6 million Americans who, based on IQ, would be eligible to join. Worldwide, Mensa has 110,000 members, with chapters on every continent except Antarctica.

“Yeah, we’ve got a few rocket scientists,” said J.R. Wilson, head of the Southern Nevada chapter of Mensa, an international organization for people with high IQs.

Las Vegas Mensa members have included hookers, construction workers and a former captain in the Romanian Air Force. The chapter was founded in 1965 by a stewardess, a lawyer, a teacher and a millionaire. Today, the group has 351 members from Southern Nevada and northern Arizona.

What does the ragtag collection of brainpower do for fun?

Chapter activities include outings to ethnic restaurants, Boxing Day bashes (as in the British holiday) and museum tours. Another popular pastime: murder mystery parties.

Curiously, geniuses are no better at solving the clues than anyone else, membership coordinator Rose Powers said.

“Usually, only two or three people get it right,” she said.

But members frequently debate why it would have made more sense for someone else to have been the killer, she noted.

Vegas for Dummies?

Is Las Vegas dumber than most cities?

Afraid so, some Mensa members say. They point out that just 22 percent of Clark County residents have a college degree, compared with 28.5 percent nationwide.

But Wilson argues that the area’s collective IQ is underrated. He cites the brain power required by Nellis Air Force Base, UNLV, the valley’s high-tech companies, even the gambling industry.

“You can’t be stupid and run a casino,” Wilson said.

Feeling misunderstood

Being brilliant has its drawbacks. One is dealing with stereotypes about Mensa members.

“No, we do not wear name tags with our IQs on them,” Wilson said. Nor are members a bunch of stuffy nerds who sit around talking about particle physics, Powers said.

Perhaps it doesn’t help that Mensa’s national headquarters published a holiday gift guide that listed such items as a Higgs-Boson watch, DNA helix bookcase, Chewbacca bathrobes and periodic table building blocks.

Anatomy of a brainiac

Mensa’s youngest recruit is a 3-year-old Arizona girl whose parents enrolled her after she taught herself Spanish using an iPad and scored 160 on an IQ test.

By Mensa standards, she’s an anomaly. That’s partly because of her gender — males outnumber females 2 to 1 in Mensa — and partly because of her age. Chapters nationwide are struggling to attract younger members, Wilson said.

“In our case, ‘younger’ means under age 40,” Wilson said.

Are you Mensa material?

In the old days, a stellar score on the SAT or GRE could get you into Mensa. But that changed as college admission tests became “dumbed down” in the 1980s and ’90s, Wilson said.

Today, would-be Mensans must score in the top 2 percent on one of 200 intelligence tests deemed acceptable by the group. Mensa also created its own admission test. Among the types of questions it asks:

1. What is the four-digit number in which the first digit is one-fifth the last, and the second and third digits are the last digit multiplied by 3? (Hint: The sum of all digits is 12.)

2. Jane went to visit Jill. Jill is Jane’s only husband’s mother-in-law’s only husband’s only daughter’s only daughter. What relation is Jill to Jane?

3. Which of these words is least like the others (the difference has nothing to do with vowels, consonants or syllables)? MORE, PAIRS, ETCHERS, ZIPPER

4. Tabitha likes cookies but not cake. She likes mutton but not lamb, and she likes okra but not squash. Following the same rule, will she like cherries or pears?

5. What is the number that is one more than one-tenth of one-fifth of one-half of 4,000?

6. In a foot race, Jerry was neither first nor last. Janet beat Jerry, Jerry beat Pat. Charlie was neither first nor last. Charlie beat Rachel. Pat beat Charlie. Who came in last?

7. Find the number that best completes the following sequence: 1 2 4 7 11 ? 22

8. Marian bought 4 oranges and 3 lemons for 90 cents. The next day, she bought 3 oranges and 4 lemons for 85 cents. How much did each lemon and orange cost?

9. Start with the number of total mittens the numbered kittens lost, and multiply by the voting age in the United States. What’s the answer?

10. Name a nine-letter word that contains only one vowel.

Scoring

Compare your answers to the correct ones below, total your results and find your rating.

9-10. Congratulations, brainiac! You are Mensa material.

7-8. Good chance you qualify for Mensa.

5-6. Not bad; you might make Mensa.

Less than 5. You had an off day. Try more games here.

Answers

1. 1,155.

2. Jill is Jane’s daughter (Jane’s mother’s husband is Jane’s father, his daughter is Jane, and Jill is her daughter.)

3. Zipper (The others can be anagrammed into the names of cities: Rome, Paris, Chester.)

4. Cherries (Tabitha likes food with only two syllables.)

5. 41 (4000 / 2 = 2000, / 5 = 400, / 10 = 40, + 1 = 41.)

6. Rachel.

7. 16 (Each number adds 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, respectively, to the proceeding number.)

8. Oranges cost 15 cents each; lemons cost 10 cents each.

9. 216 (This refers to a child’s nursery rhyme. 3 kittens at 4 mittens each = 12 x 18. Kittens have 4 paws.)

10. Strengths.

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