Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cliff Pickover and Immortality

Cliff Pickover's newest book begins, "Last night, I dreamed I was eating Truman Capote's brain. It tasted like black licorice, but smelled of blood."

I discovered Pickover when he was interviewed by George Norry, the host of Coast to Coast AM. First understand that Coast interviewees range from people who channel the ghost of JFK to the shrieking rants of conspiracy theorists. Most Coast guests have very unconvincing credentials and are a questionable lot, to put it lightly. So, when this mad scientist appeared one on the show one rainy summer evening, talking about similarities in DMT drug experiences experiences, time travel paradoxes, and comparisons between sushi and the native language of Hopi Indians, I didn't pay any more attention than the round-table discussions of the shape of alien eyes. Keep in mind I'm not trying to diminish how interesting these topics can be (though nearly all are patently false they sure are fun to listen to), it's just that they are as common on Coast to Coast as Brittany Spear's recent haircut is on more mainstream news shows.

Partially due to time, but mostly due to lack of interest, I never listen to a Coast interview twice. However, over the next few weeks, I found myself returning to that interview again. It was basically three hours of a very articulate person concisely describing fascinating thought-experiments that act as a kind of catalyst for thinking about the world in new ways. I did a little research and found that Pickover has published over 30 books and has real credentials to back up his science ideas. He received his Ph. D. from Yale in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.

On a whim I bought his then newest book, "Sex, Drugs, Einstein, and Elves" and have never looked back. As Mandy will tell you, it's not something to lightly attempt reading if you are suffer from any form of A.D.D. Most of the topics are covered in two or three paragraphs and whose thematic connections are loose and ever-changing. It's like reading a book that was created by using the linking, cross-indexing architecture of HTML to organize a jumble of loosely related subject material.

I'm mid-way through his latest book. "A Beginner's Guide to Immortality." It's structured in a much more linear fashion than "Sex, Drugs, Einstein, and Elves" complete with chapters and everything! It still wildly surges from dissections of the works of Capote to the esoteric genius of John Parsons creating surprising neural linkage in it's wake. As an aside, Parsons is the man, who, in the 1950s, was most responsible for creating the NASA space program, solid-fuel rockets, and the founding of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He was also certifiably insane.

If you're in the mood for some strange, mind-expanding reading, you can't go wrong with Pickover. A good quote from Wired sums him up well, "Bucky Fuller thought big, Arthur C. Clark thinks big, but Cliff Pickover outdoes them both."

4 comments:

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