Interview with far-out mathematician, Clifford A. Pickover

Many years ago, Bruce Sterling handed me a stack of computer printouts and told me that I needed to publish them in bOING bOING (the zine). They were fever-dream science fiction stories written by a mathematician employed at IBM's Watson Research Center. The author was Clifford Pickover. I ran several of his stories and reviewed some of his books, which were about computer visualization, Fortean-style phenomena, speculations on alien lifeforms and cultures, and Lovecraftian horror-fantasy.

Today, Pickover runs a bunch of websites, including Reality Carnival, a blog about quirky science and philosophy. ("Ex-atheist describes near-death experience." "Do fruit flies have free will?" "Self-transforming women with temporal distortion.")

His book titles are intriguing, too:
A Beginner's Guide to Immortality: Extraordinary People, Alien Brains, and Quantum Resurrection, Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves: Sushi, Psychedelics, Parallel Universes and the Quest for Transcendence, and The Girl Who Gave Birth to Rabbits: A True Medical Mystery, are just a few.

The website Alerati has a new interview with this supremely weird and wonderful scientist.

Aliens on dark worlds might develop a very keen sense of temperature and use this for both communication and exploring their environment. While humans can sense gross changes in temperature, some animals on Earth posses thermal sensors far finer than ours. For example, the mosquito can register differences of as little as one five-hundredths of a degree centigrade at a distance of 1 centimeter. Some fish such as the sole respond to temperature changes in the water of as little as 0.03 degrees Centigrade. The bedbug can crawl along a wall of a bedroom, sense a tiny area of exposed skin, and jump to it.

Humans sense relative temperatures. We know that one glass of tea is hotter than another. But we can't tell say precisely how hot it is. Other creatures on Earth sense absolute temperature. For example, some fish can be trained to recognize a particular temperature within 1 degree of accuracy irrespective of whether the fish came out of a previously warmer or colder environment. Some birds have the ability to maintain their nests at a precise temperature and make small alterations to the nest if it becomes a degree too hot or cold.