A Beginner's Guide to Immortality
Extraordinary People, Alien Brains, and Quantum Resurrection
Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006
"Pickover inspires a new generation of da Vincis to build unknown flying machines and create new Mona Lisas." -- Christian Science Monitor
"Bucky Fuller thought big, Arthur C. Clarke thinks big, but Cliff Pickover outdoes them both." -- WIRED
"A perpetual idea machine, Clifford Pickover is one of the most creative, original thinkers in the world today." -- Journal of Recreational Mathematics
My interview. We entered Second Life, the on-line virtual universe, to explore, dream, and discuss the nature of reality and our place in our vast cosmos.
(More photos of our journey here.)
This book is a companion to the book Sex, Drugs, Einstein and Elves.
After you die....
Through the centuries, many have striven to achieve "immortality," through science, myths, religion, or dreams of
lifelike heavens -- and also through a creative work that left some lasting mark.
A Beginner's Guide to Immortality highlights these unusual thinkers who punched through our ordinary cultural norms while
becoming successful in their own niches. Here, we celebrate these extraordinary people and their curious ideas.
Science writer Cliff Pickover explores the borderlands of science and art in his latest and greatest work.
Part memoir and part surrealistic perspective on culture, Pickover gives readers a glimpse of new ways of thinking and of
other worlds as he reaches across cultures and peers beyond our ordinary reality. Unlock the doors of your imagination with
topics that range from the creative genius of author Truman Capote, musician John Cage, and occult rocket-scientist Jack
Parsons, to cutting-edge scientific speculation on immortality, mythology, near-death experiences, evolution and intelligent
design, and quantum resurrection. A Beginner's Guide to Immortality is the hammer that shatters the ice of our unconscious.
Pickover illuminates some of the most mysterious phenomena affecting our species. What is creativity? What are the
religious implications of mosquito evolution, simulated Matrix realities, the brain's own marijuana, and the mathematics of the
apocalypse? Could we be a mere software simulation living in a matrix? Who are Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Emanuel
Swedenborg? Did church forefathers eat psychedelic snails? How can we safely expand our minds to become more
successful and reason beyond the limits of our own intuition? How can we become immortal?
Science writer Cliff Pickover explores the borderlands of science and art in his latest and greatest work. Part memoir and part surrealistic perspective on culture, Pickover gives readers a glimpse of new ways of thinking and of other worlds as he reaches across cultures and peers beyond our ordinary reality. Unlock the doors of your imagination with topics that range from the creative genius of author Truman Capote, musician John Cage, and occult rocket-scientist Jack Parsons, to cutting-edge scientific speculation on immortality, mythology, near-death experiences, evolution and intelligent design, and quantum resurrection. A Beginner's Guide to Immortality is the hammer that shatters the ice of our unconscious.
Pickover illuminates some of the most mysterious phenomena affecting our species. What is creativity? What are the religious implications of mosquito evolution, simulated Matrix realities, the brain's own marijuana, and the mathematics of the apocalypse? Could we be a mere software simulation living in a matrix? Who are Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Emanuel Swedenborg? Did church forefathers eat psychedelic snails? How can we safely expand our minds to become more successful and reason beyond the limits of our own intuition? How can we become immortal?
Table of Contents
A Celebration of Unusual Lives
Chapter 1 Truman Capote and The Brain from Planet ArousIn which we encounter The Brain from Planet Arous, "The Visible Man," sex-starved alien brains, Truman Capote, the Fissure of Rolando, the stigmata of genius, In Cold Blood, Mia Farrow, Music for Chameleons, Candice Bergen, Norman Mailer, Answered Prayers, the grunting of a renegade hog, eccentric geniuses, the nature of creativity and intelligence, Blackwing-602 addicts, work habits of successful writers, homosexuality, mental disease, short people, guitarist Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, famous polydactyls, the "Black and White Ball," and the six-fingered Vladislav Khodasevich.
Chapter 2 John Cage and the Zen of MusicIn which we encounter John Cage, the future of music, the end of movies, "Europera 5," the mystery of silence, "Eclipticalis With Winter Music," amygdala-stimulation movies, neoproterozoic Lake Vostok, deadly mushrooms, overspecialization, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, premaxillary bones, Samuel Johnson, Haydn's Farewell Symphony, Francis Galton, the Biblical book of Job, and the silence of God.
Chapter 3 Gilgamesh, God, and the Language of AngelsIn which we encounter Maidanek death butterflies, crawling brains, brains in jars, the doll-people of the Popol Vuh, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, cryonics, near-death experiences, Emanuel Swedenborg, glimpses of hell, Gehennah, Tophet, Jewish Sheol, the Witch of Endor, H. P. Lovecraft, devils and demons, Beelzebub, Iblis, ash-Shaytan, Jesus in Hell, Gilgamesh, Austen Henry Layard, Utnapishtim, Mount Mashu, George Smith, the Flood, the afterlife, Susan Blackmore, William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, John Nash, schizophrenia, the power of placebos, the quest for reality, over-belief, John Dee, John Kelley, Enochian records, Terence McKenna, Plato, and DMT-containing plants.
Chapter 4 The Matrix, Quantum Resurrection, and the Quest for TranscendenceIn which we encounter H. P. Lovecraft's "The Whisperer in Darkness," Greg Egan's Permutation City, Larry and Andy Wachowski, brains made of bicycle parts, the North American Vexillological Association, Jell-O minds, autistic simulacrums, zombies, actuopalynologists, brain pseudomorphs, cosmic onions, the location of the soul, hyperspecialization, Rene Descartes, dreaming, the Tajal people, Marilyn vos Savant, The Matrix, Frederik van Eeden, lucid dreaming, simulating reality, multiverses, artificial life, gebits, Ray Kurzweil, Emily Dickinson, Digital Philosophy, Stephen Wolfram, Robert Heinlein, The Truman Show, George Berkeley, consciousness, Robin Hanson, "peas and carrots," uncommon psychiatric disorders, Nick Bostrom, Process Physics, quantum resurrection, and quantum immortality.
Chapter 5 Jesus and the Future of Mind-Altering DrugsIn which we encounter highway mega-messiahs, Biblical use of marijuana, psychedelic snails in the Christian basilica at Aquileia, "keneh-bosem," Carl Sagan, Jesus in movies, brain-eating monsters, Roger Corman, Attack of the Crab Monsters, Nancy Sinatra, Jack Nicholson, LSD, the value of mind-altering drugs, the brain's own marijuana, endocannabinoids, MDMA (ecstasy), "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," DMT, ayahuasca, Ibogaine, Myron Stolaroff, Einstein and Google, state-specific sciences, and Charles Tart.
Chapter 6 Clockwork Butterflies and EternityIn which we encounter Rainer Maria Rilke, Nathaniel Hawthorne, beauty, death, robot butterflies, ether butterflies, hypergraphia, 64 obsession, Nikola Tesla, Philip K. Dick, Alice Flaherty, writers who used drugs, the dream butterflies of Ernst Junger, Jack Kerouac, and Benzedrine-laced Coca-Cola.
Chapter 7 Evolution, Ice Cream, and The Goddess of Chopped LiverIn which we encounter Sylvia Weinberger, chopped-liver, God's laryngeal nerve, Reuben Mattus, "prochronic" events, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, the Reese Candy Company, livers in myth, foie gras, Liver-Eating Johnston, Silence of the Lambs, Attack of the Liver Eaters, "Merrye Syndrome," liver evolution, liver divination, intelligent design, creationism, molecules in space, the emergence of life and new species, monkeys typing the Bible, Robert Ardrey's killer ape, mosquitoes, flowers, polyploidy, beetle engineering, poodles and wolves, fecund enclaves of subterranean creatures, the Omphalosian view of reality, Philip Henry Gosse, John C. Whitcomb, Arkansas Act 590, abortion, escape ovulation, zygotes, hepatoscopy, Etruscans, haruspimancy, the liver and the "butterfly effect," divination, and Shakespeare.
Chapter 8 The Whispers of HistoryIn which we encounter mathematical formulas, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Jean-Paul Sartre, large libraries, Malcolm X, dictionaries, wonders of the modern world, Will Durant, the waves of history, knots, Isaac Asimov, James Burke, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein, Marjorie Cameron, Alvin Toffler, Karl Japsers, the axial age, Marshall McLuhan, Truman Capote, Wilhelm Rontgen, Velcro, Charles Goodyear, Harry Coover's superglue, the mathematics of rapture, the Doomsday Argument, Nick Bostrom, the phalanges of history, and Charles Fourier.
ConclusionIn which we encounter Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, Gilgamesh gardens, New Jerusalem, Calvino strings, and spacetime tangles.
Cathedrals of the Mind
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Pickover's book entertains, informs, and invites his readers -- old and new -- to test their powers of lateral thinking and to see the world in a fresh way.
"Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror." -- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
A Beginner's Guide to Immortality is a celebration of unusual lives and highlights creative thinkers who punched through our ordinary cultural norms while becoming successful in their own niches. Here, we study these extraordinary people and their curious ideas. Through these individuals, we can better explore life's astonishing richness and glimpse the diversity of human imagination.
Their works and ideas often bear a personal mark, and a striving to tear apart traditional thinking or to make an impact -- whether it was for their brilliant writing, for making the world's best chopped liver, or creating shocking new musical forms. Almost all of the people in this book had an irreverence toward authority and a self-sufficiency and independence. They were passionate about their work. Most blazed a trail. What can we learn from them to enhance our own creativity?
Going beyond the intriguing individuals, many of the concepts in the book encourage lateral thinking, and grab ideas from many fields such as mathematics, philosophy, zoology, and entertainment. We'll tackle quantum resurrection, the religious implications of mosquito evolution, simulated Matrix realities, the brain's own marijuana, and the mathematics of the apocalypse. If each area of human knowledge is likened to a spider web that glimmers in the sunlight, then these special topics come with unexpected connecting strands that unite the webs in a vast, sparkling fabric.
In the first part of the 21th century, we are leaving the Information Age and entering the Conceptual Age. The most important people, and certainly the most interesting, will be those who create inventions that change our ways of life and break new ground. But more importantly, the hottest individuals will be those who are good at recognizing patterns in culture and belief, those who try to understand the forest and not just the trees. These pattern recognizers also help others become creative and dream daring dreams.
This book is for anyone who wants to be transported to new seas, while deepening the waters and lengthening horizons. The book is a mystery-garden carried in the palm of your hand.
Is life just a dream?
"IT IS hard to classify this book, certainly one of Clifford Pickover's most quirky and free-roaming. As the author himself says in the foreword, it is part memoir and part celebration of extraordinary people with extraordinary ideas, such as the author Truman Capote and the rocket scientist Jack Parsons. In these essays Pickover manages, among other things, to ask: What is the origin of creativity? What are the religious implications of mosquito evolution? Could we be a software simulation in a matrix? And can we ever become immortal? A stimulating and mind-expanding brew." (From issue 2591 of New Scientist magazine, 17 February 2007, page 52)
abortion, xxi-xxii, 21-22, 198-201 accidental discoveries, 224-225 afterlife, 40-47, 50-58, 63-69, 71, 81, 112, 119, 158, 179, 237 See also near-death experiences alcoholism, 1, 4, 6-7, 16-18, 140-142, 149, 161 Ardrey, Robert, 188-190 artificial life, 90-93 Asimov, Isaac, 216 Attack of the Crab Monsters, 99, 132-134 Atwater, P. M. H., 46 Axial Age, 222-223 Ben and Jerry's, 178 Benzedrine, 171 Berkeley, George, 102 bestsellers, xii Bible, xxiii, 37, 47, 50, 53, 66, 129, 186, 214, 236 bicycle brain, 103-104 bipolar disorder, 10, 17, 111 bits, universe, 114-115 Black and White Ball, 5-6 Blackmore, Susan, 58 Blackwing-602, 8-9 Boids, 92 book scenes, 109-110 Bostrom, Nick, 104-105, 112-114, 228-230 Brain from Planet Arous, The, 2-3, 23, 25, 40, 76, 131 brain bicycle parts, 103-104 frozen, 43 interfaces, 24-25, 29, 41 in jars, 40, 42 mind, 96-97, 101-104, 239 movies, 40-41; see also Brain from Planet Arous simulations; see simulated mind and worlds Brockman, John, 105, 212 Burroughs, William, 168 butterfly effect, xx-xxi, 106, 204 symbols, 56, 160-165, 169, 172 Cage, John, xv-xvi, xxii, 26-33 Cahill, Reginald, 117-119 Calvino, Italo, 235-238 Cameron, Marjorie, xxii, 219-220 cannabinoids, 138,146-148 cannabis, 129, 130, 136-141, 145-148, 151-152, 168 See also marijuana Capote, Truman, xv-xvi, xxii, 1-22, 223 Carter, Brandon, 228 Cathedrals of the Mind, xxii, 243 Chalmers, David, 100 chameleons, xiv-xvi, 240 Christina, Greta, 237 computational hypothesis, 100 conceptual age, xvii consciousness, 63-64, 80, 85, 102-103 105, 150-151, 169, 239 Jell-O, 123-124 mind, 96-97, 101-104, 239 Conway, John, 93 Coover, Henry, 224 Corman, Roger, 99, 133-135, 181 Corral, Valerie, 145 creationism, 182-183, 196 creative class, xviii creativity, 10 class, xviii schizotypes, 19 sexuality, 14, 20 Crowley, Aleister, 218 cryonics, 43 cuneiform, 50, 53 Daumal, René, 169 Davies, Paul, 90 Dawkins, Richard, 183 Dee, John, 67-69 devil, 47-48 Dick, Philip, 166 digital philosophy, 100 divination, 202-205 DMT, 71, 77, 115, 138, 141, 170, 236 doll people, 69 Donovan's Brain, 41 doomsday argument, 227-228 dreams, 83-87, 115-116 lucid, 87-89 drugs laws, 149-151 and writers, 168-171 See also cannabinoids, psychedelics dualism, 97 Donne, John, 238-239 Durant, Will, 210, 214 eccentricity, 8-9, 19, 59, 218 Eco, Umberto, 210 Egan, Greg, 78-80, 94 Egolf, Tristan, 16 Enochian, 67-69, 219 escape ovulation, 200 Everett, Hugh, 120 evolution, 182-193 dogs, 183, 190-192 Lystrosaurus, 196 mosquitoes, 190, 192-193 outer space, 185 speciation, 190 theory, 183 Tiktaalik, 183-184 See also intelligent design Fiend Without a Face, 40-41 finger lengths, 12 Flaherty, Alice, 167 flood, 53-55, 70, 194 Florida, Richard, xvii-xviii, 14 Fourier, Charles, 230-232 Fredkin, Ed, 100-101 Galton, John, 35 gebits, 118 genius, xiv, 7-8 afflictions, 9-10, 17-19, 61 bipolar disorder, 10, 17 children of, 161 creativity, 10 resistance to, 9 school ability, 15 sexuality, 12, 14, 20 suicide, 16 Gilgamesh, Epic of, xxiii, 50-55, 58, 70-72, 101, 157-158, 236, 240 God, 37, 101, 130, 228 Goethe, Johann, 33-34 Google, 144 Gosse, Philip, 194 Gould, Stephen, 151 Grob, Charles, 141 Häagen Dazs, 177-178 Hanson, Robin, 82, 109, 127 Harris, Sam, 84, 126 haruspices, 202-205 Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 160-166 Heinlein, Robert, xxiv, 101 hell, 44-49, 66, 220, 227 Hemingway family, 16 hepatoscopy, 201 history false, 194 knowledge, 214, 226 revolutions, 221-222 sensitivity to events, xx-xxi, 204 simulation, 106-107 social innovations, 230-231 Hitler, xxi Holt, Jim, 198, 227 homosexuality, xv, 4, 13-14, 16, 18, 20, 232 hypergraphia, 166-168 ibogaine, 142 ice cream, 177-178 Ice Man, 81 immortality methods of achieving, xxiii, 26, 34, 43-44, 120-123, 199 quantum, 119-121 intelligent design, 187, 194-198 inventions, xvii, 13, 106, 212, 216, 223-224 machines, 225-226 Invisible Cities, 235-236 IQ, 14, 84, 140 Jacobs, A. J., 32-33, 167, 242 James, William, xv, 60-64, 150 Jarrell, Randall, 18 Jaspers, Karl, 222 Jell-O consciousness, 123-125 Jesus, 46, 49, 128-131, 222-223, 238 Johnson, Samuel, 35 Johnston, Liver-Eating, 180 Junger, Ernst , 172 Kelley, John, 67-69 Kerouac, Jack, 171 Klinger, Christopher, 117-119 knots, 215-216 knowledge, xv-xviii, 64, 82, 95, 102, 116, 210 growth of, 214-216 Kosslyn, Stephen, 239 Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, 55-59 Kurzweil, Ray, 95, 98 LaBerge, Stephen, 88-89 laryngeal nerve, 198 lateral thinking, xvi Layard, Austen, 51 LEGO, 102-103 Levitt, Steven, xxi Linklater, Richard, 85-86 liver, 176-182, 201-202, 205 Liver Eaters, 181 Lloyd, Seth, 114, 240 Lotsof, Howard, 142 Lovecraft, H. P., 42, 77-78 Lowell, Robert, 18 LSD, 136, 138, 142-144, 166, 225 lucid dreams, 85-89 M&Ms, 178 Maidanek, 56 Malcolm X, 211 many-worlds interpretation, 120-123 marijuana, xvi, 129-130, 137-140, 144-152 See also cannabis mathematical formulas, 208-210 and rapture, 226-228 Matrix, The, 84, 89, 98-99, 110 Mattus, Rose, 177-178 Mayakovsky, Vladimir, 18 McKenna, Terence, 68, 128 McLuhan, Marhsall, 223 MDMA (ecstasy), 138-139, 141 Mesopotamia, xxiii, 50-55, 201-203 Metzger, Richard, 218-219 mind simulations; see simulated minds and worlds Mindscan, 94-95 Mishima, Yukio, 16 monkeys typing, 186-187 Moravec, Hans, 123 mosquitoes, 190-193 movies, xviii, 24-25, 40-41, 46, 77, 132, 135, 181 multiverse, 90 mushrooms, xv, 26, 31-33, 130, 149 music deformed musicians, 11-12 futuristic, xiv, 24, 29 See also Cage, John Muslims, 44-45 Nash, John, 60-62 near-death experiences, 45-49, 56-59, 63-64 Nephilim, 69 New Jerusalem, 236 Nicaragua stamps, 208-209 Noah, 53-55 Nozick, Robert, 100 obsessive behavior, 10, 35, 138, 162, 165-167, 170 omphalos, 194 Oscillococcinum, 179 Pang Brothers, xviii Parsons, Jack, xv-xvi, xxii, 218-221 peas and carrots, 108-109 Permutation City, 78-80, 94 phalanges, 230-232 Pink, Daniel, xvii planets, 213 Plato, 70 Platt, James, 87-88 polydactylics, 11-12 pop culture, xvii, xxv Popol Vuh, 69 process physics, 117-119 Proust, Marcel, 169 psilocybin, 149 psychedelics 130, 135-139, 140-149, 153, 168 See also DMT psychiatric disorders, uncommon, 110-111 quantum immortality, 120 many-worlds, 120, 122-123 process space, 119 resurrection, 119-120 quotations, see Cathedrals of the Mind Ramanujan, Srinivasa, 209 rapture, 226 reality onion, 111-112 reality simulation, 100-101, 106, 111-117 See also simulated minds and worlds Reese Candy Company, 178 Reese, Martin, 90 Reinhardt, Django, 11-12 resurrection, quantum, 119-120 Riegel, Hans, 178 Rilke, Rainer, 157-160 Roe v. Wade, xxi-xxii Röntgen, Wilhelm, 224 Ruck, Carl, 130 Rucker, Rudy, 239 Sagan, Carl, 137, 151 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 210 Satan, 47-48 Sawyer, Robert, 94-95 schizophrenia, 19-20, 60-61, 140 serendipity in science, 224-225 sexuality, xvi, 12-14, 20, 44, 218 social innovations, 232 Sheol, 47-51 Shermer, Michael, 183, 197 Shulgin, Alexaner, 153 silence, 28, 36-37 simulated minds and worlds, 78-84, 89-112 Smith, George, 53-54 snails, 130 social prosthetic systems, 239-240 soul, 96-97 specialization, xxiv, 32-33, 82 speciation, 191-192 Sporns, Olaf, 96 Stolaroff, Myron, 142-144 Storm, Howard, 45-46 Stradanus, Johannes, 212 suicide, 15-18, 122, 161, 218 suspended animation, 43-44 Swedenborg, Emanuel, 64-66 Tart, Charles, 150 Taylor, Theodore Roosevelt, 11 technology, 221 See also inventions THC, 145-148 time perception, 136-137 Toffler, Alvin, 221 Tsiolkovsky, Konstantin, 216-217 TV shows, xviii Utnapishtim, 53-55, 101 Van Eeden, Frederik, 85 virtual lives, 116-117 Volume Library, 211-213 Wachowski Brothers, xvi, 99-100 Waking Life, 85-86 Weinberger, Sylvia, 176-178 What We Believe But Cannot Prove, 105 Witkiewicz, Stanislaw, 170 Wolfram, Stephen, 101 Woolf, Virginia, 15 writers on drugs, 168-172 self-destructive, 15-18, 168 X-rays, 224 Yesenin, Sergei, 18 Yule log, xix