Clifford Alan Pickover (born August 15, 1957) is an American author, editor, and columnist in the fields of science, mathematics, science fiction, innovation, and creativity. For many years, he was employed at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York where he was Editor-in-Chief of the IBM Journal of Research and Development. He has been granted more than 700 U.S. patents, is an elected Fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and is author of more than 50 books, translated into more than a dozen languages.
Clifford Alan Pickover
|Born||August 15, 1957|
|Alma mater||Yale University (PhD 1982)|
Franklin and Marshall College
|Known for||Pickover stalks |
|Institutions||Thomas J. Watson Research Center|
Pickover was elected as a Fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry for his “significant contributions to the general public’s understanding of science, reason, and critical inquiry through their scholarship, writing, and work in the media.” Other Fellows have included Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov. He has been awarded almost 700 United States patents, and his The Math Book was winner of the 2011 Neumann Prize.
He received his Ph.D. in 1982 from Yale University's Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, where he conducted research on X-ray scattering and protein structure. Pickover graduated first in his class from Franklin and Marshall College, after completing the four-year undergraduate program in three years.
He joined IBM at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in 1982, as a member of the speech synthesis group and later worked on the design-automation workstations. For much of his career, Pickover has published technical articles in the areas of scientific visualization, computer art, and recreational mathematics.
He is currently an associate editor for the scientific journal Computers and Graphics and is an editorial board member for Odyssey and Leonardo. He is also the Brain-Strain columnist for Odyssey magazine, and, for many years, he was the Brain-Boggler columnist for Discover magazine.
Pickover has received more than 100 IBM invention achievement awards, three research division awards, and four external honor awards.
Pickover's primary interest is in finding new ways to expand creativity by melding art, science, mathematics, and other seemingly disparate areas of human endeavor. In The Math Book and his companion book The Physics Book, Pickover explains that both mathematics and physics "cultivate a perpetual state of wonder about the limits of thoughts, the workings of the universe, and our place in the vast space-time landscape that we call home."  Pickover is an inventor with over 700 patents, the author of puzzle calendars, and puzzle contributor to magazines geared to children and adults. His Neoreality and Heaven Virus science-fiction series explores the fabric of reality and religion.
Pickover is author of hundreds of technical papers in diverse fields, ranging from the creative visualizations of fossil seashells, genetic sequences, cardiac and speech sounds, and virtual caverns and lava lamps, to fractal and mathematically based studies. He also has published articles in the areas of skepticism (e.g. ESP and Nostradamus), psychology (e.g. temporal lobe epilepsy and genius), and technical speculation (e.g. “What if scientists had found a computer in 1900?” and “An informal survey on the scientific and social impact of a soda can-sized super-super computer”). Additional visualization work includes topics that involve breathing motions of proteins, snow-flake like patterns for speech sounds, cartoon-face representations of data, and biomorphs.
Pickover has also written extensively on the reported experiences of people on the psychotropic compound DMT. Such apparent entities as Machine Elves are described as well as "Insects From A Parallel Universe".
Pickover stalks are certain kinds of details that are empirically found in the Mandelbrot set in the study of fractal geometry. In the 1980s, Pickover proposed that experimental mathematicians and computer artists examine the behavior of orbit trajectories for the Mandelbrot set in order to study how closely the orbits of interior points come to the x and y axes in the complex plane. In some renditions of this behavior, the closer that the point approaches, the higher up the color scale, with red denoting the closest approach. The logarithm of the distance is taken to accentuate the details. This work grew from his earlier work with Julia sets and "Pickover biomorphs," the latter of which often resembled microbes.
In "Frontiers of Scientific Visualization" (1994) Pickover explored "the art and science of making the unseen workings of nature visible". The books contains contributions on "Fluid flow, fractals, plant growth, genetic sequencing, the configuration of distant galaxies, virtual reality to artistic inspiration", and focuses on use of computers as tools for simulation, art and discovery.
In "Visualizing Biological Information" (1995) Pickover considered "biological data of all kinds, which is proliferating at an incredible rate". According to Pickover, "if humans attempt to read such data in the form of numbers and letters, they will take in the information at a snail's pace. If the information is rendered graphically, however, human analysts can assimilate it and gain insight much faster. The emphasis of this work is on the novel graphical and musical representation of information containing sequences, such as DNA and amino acid sequences, to help us find hidden pattern and meaning".
In mathematics, a vampire number or true vampire number is a composite natural number v, with an even number of digits n, that can be factored into two integers x and y each with n/2 digits and not both with trailing zeroes, where v contains all the digits from x and from y, in any order. x and y are called the fangs. As an example, 1260 is a vampire number because it can be expressed as 21 × 60 = 1260. Note that the digits of the factors 21 and 60 can be found, in some scrambled order, in 1260. Similarly, 136,948 is a vampire because 136,948 = 146 × 938.
In addition to “Vampire numbers”, a term Pickover actually coined, he has coined the following terms in the area of mathematics: Leviathan number, factorion,Carotid–Kundalini function and fractal, batrachion, Juggler sequence, and Legion's number, among others. For characterizing noisy data, he has used Truchet tiles and Noise spheres, the later of which is a term he coined for a particular mapping, and visualization, of noisy data to spherical coordinates.
In 1990, he asked “Is There a Double Smoothly Undulating Integer?”, and he computed “All Known Replicating Fibonacci Digits Less than One Billion". With his colleague John R. Hendricks, he was the first to compute the smallest perfect (nasik) magic tesseract. The “Pickover sequence” dealing with e and pi was named after him, as was the “Cliff random number generator” and the Pickover attractor, sometimes also referred to as the Clifford Attractor.
Starting in about 2001, Pickover's books sometimes began to include topics beyond his traditional focus on science and mathematics. For example, Dreaming the Future discusses various methods of divination that humans have used since stone-age times. The Paradox of God deals with topics in religion. Perhaps the most obvious departure from his earlier works includes Sex, Drugs, Einstein, and Elves: Sushi, Psychedelics, Parallel Universes, and the Quest for Transcendence, which explores the “borderlands of science” and is “part memoir and part surrealist perspective on culture.”. Pickover follows-up his “quest for transcendence” and examination of popular culture with A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality: Extraordinary People, Alien Brains, and Quantum Resurrection.
Starting in 2008, Pickover's books began to focus on the history of science and mathematics, with such titles as Archimedes to Hawking, as well as The Math Book, The Physics Book, and The Medical Book—a trilogy of more than 1,500 pages that presents various historical milestones, breakthroughs, and curiosities.
Wikidumper.org is a website created by Pickover that promises to permanently record a snapshot of the "best of the English Wikipedia rejects", articles that are slated for deletion at the English Wikipedia. WikiDumper was launched on November 4, 2006, and accepts user submissions. Although the site doesn't specify its criteria for inclusion, many of its articles don't cite their sources. The site has been criticized as likely to be less accurate than English Wikipedia.
Pickover is author of over forty books on such topics as computers and creativity, art, mathematics, black holes, human behavior and intelligence, time travel, alien life, Albert Einstein, religion, dimethyltryptamine elves, parallel universes, the nature of genius, and science fiction.
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