Now, he's at work on a theory that challenges the Big Bang—the prevailing explanation among scientists for how the universe came about. It's not clear how developed it is, but experts say he's asking the right questions.
"The theory that he's working on involves several of the toughest problems in astrophysics and theoretical physics," Scott Tremaine of Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Studies—where Einstein (pictured) himself worked—wrote in an email to Jake's family. "Anyone who solves these will be in line for a Nobel Prize."
It's not clear where Jake got his gifts from. "Whenever I try talking about math with anyone in my family," he told the Indianapolis Star, "they just stare blankly."
But his parents encouraged his interests from the start. Once, they took him to the planetarium at Butler University. "We were in the crowd, just sitting, listening to this guy ask the crowd if anyone knew why the moons going around Mars were potato-shaped and not round," Jake's mother, Kristine Barnett, told the Star. "Jacob raised his hand and said, 'Excuse me, but what are the sizes of the moons around Mars?' "
After the lecturer answered, said Kristine, "Jacob looked at him and said the gravity of the planet ... is so large that (the moon's) gravity would not be able to pull it into a round shape."
"That entire building ... everyone was just looking at him, like, 'Who is this 3-year-old?'"