07/11/2016 5:09 PM AEDT | Updated 21/12/2016 10:42 AM AEDT

Young Geniuses Answer Big Questions About Life, Love And The Brain

Yep, they're all under 30.

Getty Images/Ikon Images

If we want the big -- and small -- questions answered about life, love and the universe, it makes sense to ask a bona fide genius. Below, some of the world's finest young minds -- who all feature in a new podcast series Decoding Genius -- tackle some of the most compelling questions of our time.

Maya Burhanpurkar, 17


Maya Burhanpurkar is a student, scientist and entrepreneur primarily interested in climate change and medical research.

Do you think it's possible for us to learn how to harness more of our brainpower?

Absolutely. Neuroplasticity is now a very well understood concept. It can be as simple as exercising your brain to tackle a new topic where possible - just research it and try to understand something that interests you. It's a good way to learn more and use your brainpower.

What's the single most pressing scientific issue of our time?

There are so many but I think if I had to chose one I'd say global warming. I've seen the effects of climate change on the Inuit people when I was in the Arctic -- it's an issue that will affect our entire species and it threatens to wipe out civilisation as we know if we don't address it now.

Does love at first sight exist?

I certainly hope it does! Personally I'm still waiting and I hope it's not just a random chemical reaction but the scientist in me suspects that love and attraction might be based on a chemical reaction. I'm also a romantic though, so I think there's something inherently unexplainable when it comes to love.

Josh Tiessen, 21.


Josh Tiessen is garnering worldwide attention for his fine artworks, which feature rustic landscapes and animals.

Who would you bring back to life now to effect change in the world and why would they be your choice?

In the area of art, I would like to bring back someone who never had the chance to be understood and valued while they were alive, like Vincent Van Gogh. Historians believe he went insane due to the toxic chemicals in his paints, which caused his early demise. Most do not realise that before all that, he was trained theologically and actually left many letters with fascinating spiritual insights, and actually infused these thoughts into his work as an artist. A book was published, "The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh" and it contains some provocative but little-known quotes that have had a profound effect on me, and I'm sure on others who have read them. If he could have had a chance to put forth these ideas, I believe he would have effected change in the world.

How can art change the world?

I am increasingly amazed by the disarming effect of art. It transcends linguistic, ethnic and cultural barriers like nothing else. When we look at a piece of art it appeals first to our senses, but also subliminally it can actually shape the way we think. In an age where culture wars and dogmatic rhetoric abound, I find that people are more responsive to visual art, as it is has a way of making hard truths more easily digestible.

Kelcie Miller-Anderson, 22


Kelcie Miller-Anderson is a scientist who is interested in green technology. When she was aged just 15, she discovered a method of making contaminated soil useable again.

What is the one thing each individual can do to make the world a better place?

I think that one thing each of us can do to help make the world a better place is to ask questions. It seems so simple, but I think that lots of our most promising innovations and new discoveries come from the minds of the curious, those who are constantly asking questions and trying to understand the world around them. I think that if everyone were to question their surroundings, and search for the answers to these problems, we as a population would be able to solve some of our more pressing problems a little bit quicker.

What is the most important piece of advice you would you give to your younger self?

The advice I'd give to my younger self is not to worry about my age, experience or education. When it comes to innovation there tends to be a preconceived idea that those who are older, with more education and experience are the ones who have the greatest potential to innovate, solve problems, or create change. However, I've learned that truly anyone can be innovative and create change. All it takes it an individual who is willing to look at things a little bit differently, and who is passionate enough to see their ideas through.

Is the modern technological world over stressing our brains and is there a solution?

I would disagree, the modern technological world has given us the potential to innovate at such a increased rate. Although I do think sometimes there are times when we should unplug for a while. We constantly have access to such a wealth of information, this allows us the opportunity to be constantly learning and teaching ourselves. The technology behind my startup MycoRemedy came out of an everyday observation that had me questioning why dandelions could grow in such toxic environments. The ability to quickly and efficiently research the answer led to the knowledge I needed to start crafting environmental remediation solutions.

How does it feel to you when people question the validity of science? For example, subjects like climate change and vaccines?

Because I've grown up around science it's really difficult when people challenge things with scientific evidence and backing just because they don't necessarily agree. I think a lot of this misinformation and protest to proven concepts and ideas comes from a lack of accessibility to the right information. I would love to see scientific papers, literature, and peer reviewed articles made more accessible to the general public so that they too can have access to scientifically valid information.

Zac Tiessen, 19


Zac Tiessen is a guitarist who creates complex heavy metal compositions on his laptop.

What's it like to be considered a teen genius?

It's human nature for people to get their back up on that, so I don't rely on it, I just try to keep producing the best music I can make and let people enjoy it for what it is. If they say it's complex and innovative yet inherently musical -- as they have in the past -- I feel gratified and truly thankful for the gift I have been given.

Can music change the world, and if so, how?

I'm very immersed in the actual making of instrumental music, so I don't spend huge amounts of time pondering this, yet I have had people come to me and express how certain compositions have spoken to them on a deeper level, even without any lyrics. I have seen how music itself can impact people's lives, even in the simplest of ways like uplifting their spirit, to a much larger scale like inspiring movements that make a difference in the world. As a composer and musician, I am thrilled when I can play a small part in this.

What do you think the world will look like in 50 years' time?

Multiple art forms are already converging upon stages and in concert halls alike. The future will unfold in an effervescent cascade of multi-sensory genres that our minds currently cannot conceive of. The next few decades will be an interesting ride for sure!

Maya, Josh, Kelcie and Zac are all subjects of a new six-part podcast, "Decoding Genius". Speaking to six young geniuses from around the world, the podcast investigates what it really means to be a genius, whether people are born geniuses or become them, and why geniuses persist when others give up. Download and subscribe to the podcast here.