Pickover, Clifford A. 1957-
Pickover, Clifford A. 1957-
Born August 15, 1957, in Ocean, NJ; son of Merwin B. Pickover (an electrical engineer) and Regina Taubman (a teacher); married Elahe Khorasani (a computer programmer), June 2, 1985; children: Alan. Education: Franklin and Marshall College, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1978; Yale University, M.Phil., 1980, Ph.D., 1982. Hobbies and other interests: Piano playing, raising large Amazonian fish, collecting prehistoric skulls, computer art, the practice of Ch'ang-Shih Tai-Chi Ch'uan and Shaolin Kung Fu.
Home—Millwood, NY. Office—IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598.
IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY, research staff member, 1982—; writer, 1990—. Recipient of numerous patents for computer accessories and methodologies. Computer graphics have been featured in exhibitions and on magazine covers.
First prize, Beauty of Physics Photographic Competition, Institute of Physics, 1990; sixteen invention achievement awards, three research division awards, and four external honor awards from IBM T.J. Watson Research Center.
Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty: Graphics from an Unseen World, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1990.
Computers and the Imagination: Visual Adventures beyond the Edge, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1991.
Mazes for the Mind: Computers and the Unexpected, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1992.
The Visual Display of Biological Information, World Scientific (River Edge, NJ), 1993.
Chaos in Wonderland: Visual Adventures in a Fractal World, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1994.
The Pattern Book: Fractals, Art, and Nature, World Scientific (River Edge, NJ), 1995.
Keys to Infinity, Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 1995.
Black Holes: A Traveler's Guide, Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 1996.
The Alien IQ Test, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1997, Dover Publications (Mineola, NY), 2002.
The Loom of God: Mathematical Tapestries at the Edge of Time, Plenum (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Piers Anthony) Spider Legs (science fiction), Tor (New York, NY), 1998.
Strange Brains and Genius: The Secret Lives of Eccentric Scientists and Madmen, Plenum Trade, 1998, Morrow (New York, NY), 1999.
Time: A Traveler's Guide, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Surfing through Hyperspace: Understanding Higher Universes in Six Easy Lessons, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Wonders of Numbers: Brain-Crushing Adventures in Math, Mind, and Meaning, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The Girl Who Gave Birth to Rabbits: A True Medical Mystery, Prometheus Books (Glendale, CA), 2000.
Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2001.
Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty: Graphics from an Unseen World, Dover Publications (Mineola, NY), 2001.
The Stars of Heaven, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2001.
The Mathematics of Oz: Mental Gymnastics from Beyond the Edge, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience, Palgrave (New York, NY), 2002.
The Zen of Magic Squares, Circles, and Stars: An Exhibition of Surprising Structures across Dimensions, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2002.
Calculus and Pizza: A Cookbook for the Hungry Mind, John Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 2003.
A Passion for Mathematics: Numbers, Puzzles, Madness, Religion, and the Quest for Reality, Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 2005.
Sex, Drugs, Einstein, and Elves: Sushi, Psychedelics, Parallel Universes, and the Quest for Transcendence, Smart Publications (Petaluma, CA), 2005.
The Mobius Strip: Dr. August Mobius's Marvelous Band in Mathematics, Games, Literature, Art, Technology, and Cosmology, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2006.
A Beginner's Guide to Immortality: Extraordinary People, Alien Brains, and Quantum Resurrection, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Leonardo (art and science journal), member of book review panel, 1990-92; "Brain-Boggler" columnist, Discover magazine. Contributor to "Brain-Strain" column, Odyssey. Associate editor, Computers and Graphics, Computers in Physics, and Theta; member of editorial board, Odyssey, Idealistic Studies, Leonardo, Speculations in Science and Technology, and YLEM.
The Best of the Journal of Chaos and Graphics, three volumes, Media Magic, 1991.
(With I. Hargittai) Spiral Symmetry, World Scientific (Hackensack, NJ), 1992.
The Pattern Book: Fractals, Nature, and Art, World Scientific (Hackensack, NJ), 1993.
Visions of the Future: Art, Technology, and Computing in the Next Century, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1993.
The Visual Display of Biological Information, World Scientific (Hackensack, NJ), 1993.
(With Stuart K. Tewksbury) The Beauty of Scientific Visualization, Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 1993.
(With Tewksbury) Frontiers of Scientific Visualization, Wiley (Hoboken, NJ), 1994.
Future Health, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1995.
Visualizing Biological Information, World Scientific (Hackensack, NJ), 1995.
Fractal Horizons: The Future Use of Fractals, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1996.
Chaos and Fractals: A Computer Graphical Journey: Ten Year Compilation of Advanced Research, Elsevier (New York, NY), 1998.
Clifford A. Pickover, a research staff member at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, has written numerous books in the field of computer graphics and its applications, including Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty: Graphics from an Unseen World, Computers and the Imagination: Visual Adventures beyond the Edge, and Mazes for the Mind: Computers and the Unexpected. Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty is a guide intended to enable computer users to perceive structural patterns in diverse areas of science and art and to simulate such natural and biological shapes. Pickover shows how such knowledge can be gained through generating visual representations of various phenomena, including plant tendril growth, human speech, and cancer genes. Genevieve Stuttaford, reviewing for Publishers Weekly, stated that the work serves as "a tool for discovery and problem-solving" for scientists and mathematicians.
Both Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty, and Computers and the Imagination cater mainly to computer-literate readers advanced in mathematics, but do at times shift to a more popular level of discussion. Computers and the Imagination is largely a source book of methods in scientific visualization, in which computers are cued to display graphic representations based on mathematical formulas. Christian Science Monitor contributor Laurent Belsie called the work "a kind of literary flyover of the frontiers of mathematics." The book presents what a Publishers Weekly contributor termed "a kind of cybernetic aesthetic" and "mathematics' beauty made visible." Included in the book are computer-generated palindromes (words, verses, sentences, and numbers that read the same backward or forward); discussions of number theory and computer-generated poetry and fiction; and simulation experiments, such as constructing artificial spider webs that will efficiently trap insects. Several sections include outlines of computer programs and formulas that will allow readers to display given examples on their own computers.
In Mazes for the Mind, Pickover continues to illuminate innovations in generating and applying computer graphics, approaching his subject matter from unusual perspectives. According to BYTE contributor Raymond G.A. Cote, a reader of Pickover's Mazes for the Mind should "be prepared to have your mind taken apart, rearranged, and handed back to you." The book includes chapters titled "How to Stuff an Elephant into a 24-Dimensional Sphere," "Fractals and Feminism," and "My Computer Esophagus." Covering topics such as 4-D geometry, genetic music, and fractal applications, the work involves the reader in games, puzzles, and exercises that demand "whole-brain thinking," according to Cote, and offer admittance into "a world of knowledge."
Despite the demands of his research position at IBM—where he has received almost a dozen patents—Pickover continues to write and edit as many as four books a year. His eclectic mix of subject matter includes Surfing through Hyperspace: Understanding Higher Universes in Six Easy Lessons and Time: A Traveler's Guide. Both of these books bring higher mathematics, theoretical physics, and geometry to bear on such issues as time travel and the physical properties of higher spatial dimensions. In a Publishers Weekly review of Time, a reviewer noted that Pickover "does not shy away from the mathematics…. A careful reader with some basic science should be able to follow Pickover chapter by chapter…. The imaginative and humorous approach makes a difficult subject palatable."
Black Holes: A Traveler's Guide imagines the reader as the captain of a starship who encounters a black hole while journeying through space. The book then proceeds to walk the reader through a number of experiments involving the black hole's mass, event horizon circumference, and tidal forces. Each experiment is based on computer programs, and Pickover has included an appendix of additional information that allows the reader to continue to experiment. In a review for Astronomy, Stephen E. Peters noted: "This game can be played by anyone—black hole knowledge is not necessary—and might be a good way to introduce children to the concept."
With Strange Brains and Genius: The Secret Lives of Eccentric Scientists and Madmen, Pickover wrote a book about his fellow inventors. Strange Brains and Genius profiles some of the world's leading scientific and mathematical minds, revealing both their contributions to humankind's knowledge and their individual peculiarities. Pickover offers his own diagnoses for some of the most eccentric scientists he profiles, speculating that some of them might have had serious neurological illnesses ranging from epilepsy to obsessive-compulsive disorder. A Publishers Weekly contributor called Strange Brains and Genius a "delightful collection," noting that Pickover "shows genuine fondness for his subjects and an appreciation for their accomplishments, which he explains clearly…. This is lively and immensely enjoyable scientific history."
In Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction, Pickover addresses the concept of predicting the future in a reasonable, scientific manner. He looks at all of the traditional forms of prediction, from reading the stars to the prophecies of Nostradamus. It is not his purpose to insult anyone who engages in these activities, merely to point out that they are more enjoyable than accurate. He includes a list of the more bizarre methods for determining the future, including reading the holes in Swiss cheese. David Pitt, in a review for Booklist, called Pickover's effort "an excellent book for skeptics and believers alike." A critic for Publishers Weekly remarked that "true believers and skeptics alike cannot fail to be won over by Pickover's disarming affection for his subjects even at their most ridiculous." In a review for Utopian Studies, Stephen Weninger wrote of Pickover's effort: "Even if it is not a comprehensive survey, it is impressive in its scope, at once meticulous and highly readable."
The Stars of Heaven is an overall guide to astronomy in which Pickover explains his conviction that the stars hold all of the secrets to the creation of the universe, including the origin of mankind. He also provides readers with a history of astronomy, and uses fictional accounts to help enliven his information throughout. David Siegfried, writing for Booklist, found that the use of fictional characters was not the most appropriate way of conveying the material, stating: "This educational device has its fun moments, but some serious readers may find it a bit much." Rebecca Johnson, writing for Sky & Telescope, concurred, adding: "While the book's fanciful story may be entertaining, some difficult concepts aren't fully explained. Also, a reader would need a high-school physics class (or even freshman college astronomy class) to understand some of the vocabulary."
Pickover chooses to look at science from a different angle in his work The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience, which addresses the concept of an omniscient higher power and the paradoxes that result from that assumption. Pickover is not intent on either defining God or debating the validity of any religion, but instead looks at the scientific concepts behind the idea of a supreme power that knows all, and the responsibilities that come with that knowledge. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked: "At its best, the book achieves a juxtaposition of cosmic relevance and intellectual whimsy, but the overall execution is uneven."
The Mobius Strip: Dr. August Mobius's Marvelous Band in Mathematics, Games, Literature, Art, Technology, and Cosmology takes as its origin the mobius strip itself—a simple slip of paper or ribbon that is twisted into a loop and attached in such a way that it appears to have no point of origin, and only one side if one were to trace it around continuously. Pickover uses this device as a leaping off point to discuss a myriad of ideas in various subject areas, including puzzles, drawings, and jokes, all of which link back to the strip. He also includes a brief history of Dr. August Mobius, the German mathematician who developed the self-named strip in the nineteenth century. Gilbert Taylor, reviewing for Booklist, stated: "Full of amusement and curiosity, Pickover's eclectic book should absorb the numbers set." A contributor for Publishers Weekly observed that "Pickover is less successful in his forays into literature and the arts, and at times he wanders far a field," but enjoyed the more mathematical applications included in the book.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Astronomy, November, 1996, Stephen E. Peters, review of Black Holes: A Traveler's Guide, p. 100.
Booklist, March 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Dreaming the Future: The Fantastic Story of Prediction, p. 1209; December 1, 2001, David Siegfried, review of The Stars of Heaven, p. 619; May 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Mobius Strip: Dr. August Mobius's Marvelous Band in Mathematics, Games, Literature, Art, Technology, and Cosmology, p. 59.
BYTE, January, 1993, Raymond G.A. Cote, review of Mazes for the Mind: Computers and the Unexpected, p. 249.
Christian Science Monitor, October 29, 1991, Laurent Belsie, review of Computers and the Imagination: Visual Adventures beyond the Edge, p. 14.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2001, review of The Stars of Heaven, p. 1406.
Publishers Weekly, March 30, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Computers, Pattern, Chaos, and Beauty: Graphics from an Unseen World, p. 48; July 25, 1991, review of Computers and the Imagination, p. 43; May 23, 1994, review of Chaos in Wonderland: Visual Adventures in a Fractal World, p. 74; April 20, 1998, review of Time: A Traveler's Guide, p. 54; May 25, 1998, review of Strange Brains and Genius: The Secret Lives of Eccentric Scientists and Madmen, p. 76; February 12, 2001, review of Dreaming the Future, p. 197; December 17, 2001, review of The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience, p. 83; March 6, 2006, review of The Mobius Strip, p. 59.
Sky & Telescope, June, 2002, Rebecca Johnson, "Wacky Stellar Adventures" review of The Stars of Heaven, p. 66.
Utopian Studies, winter, 2002, Stephen Weninger, review of Dreaming the Future, p. 239.