• Aug 15, 1957
    (b.) - ?

Bio/Description

An American author, editor, inventor and columnist in the fields of science, mathematics, and science fiction, he is employed at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, New York. 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. He 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, developing code for IBM's IntelliStation (IBM's high-end personal computer). He holds over one hundred seventy United States patents. For much of his career, he has published technical articles in the areas of scientific visualization, computer art, and recreational mathematics. He is currently the editor of the IBM Journal of Research and Development, and is currently an associate editor for the scientific journal Computers and Graphics. In addition, he 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. His 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, which was the winner of the 2011 Neumann Prize, and his companion book The Physics Book, he 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." The passion that drives his work is the search for that delicate balance between chaos and order. At the center of his passion lie fractals, computer-generated patterns that can represent mathematical concepts. Fractals are often objects of beauty, not to mention useful tools for areas as diverse as medicine, computer science and education. His work on what is termed Pickover stalks revealed certain kinds of details that are empirically found in the Mandelbrot set in the study of fractal geometry. In the 1980s, he proposed that experimental mathematicians and computer artists examine the behavior of orbit trajectories for the Mandelbrot 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. He is the 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 has also 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. He is also 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. He has authored over forty books on such topics as computers and creativity, art, mathematics, black holes, human behavior and intelligence, time travel, alien life, Einstein, religion, dimethyltryptamine elves, parallel universes, the nature of genius, and science fiction. His earliest books often focused on patterns that characterize mathematics such as fractals, chaos, and number theory. Computer graphics, reminiscent of this chaotic attractor, were common in his early works. Some of his later books often discussed "science at the edges," including such topics as parallel universes, quantum immortality, alien life, and elf-like beings seen by some people who use dimethyltryptamine. In "Frontiers of Scientific Visualization" (1994) he explored "the art and science of making the unseen workings of nature visible". The book 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) he considered "biological data of all kinds, which is proliferating at an incredible rate". He has stated, "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". Starting in 2008, his 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. He has also contributed articles to The Washington Post, BYTE, and Wired, and has been featured on The Discovery Channel and CNN. He 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.” He has received more than one hundred IBM invention achievement awards, three research division awards, and four external honor awards.
  • Date of Birth:

    Aug 15, 1957
  • Noted For:

    Member of team that worked on the design-automation workstations, developing code for IBM's high-end personal computer, IntelliStation
  • Category of Achievement:

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