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Leaving Congo with my pet chameleon and a piece of lava

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Africa – the most wonderful place I've ever lived in
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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So it was just beautiful. And when we... Everything grew. Our bedrooms opened out into the yard and we would sneak out at night and eat strawberries and peaches and things like that that we'd just have little picnics outside. And the floor of the jungle would glow with some kind of fungus or something like that. It was just the most beautiful place I've ever lived. And of course we were always trying to fight back things growing. So I remember once the gardeners, they tried to get the gardeners to make a fence so they cut sticks to make a fence, to fence off the vegetable garden. And then the next morning we came and the fence had sprouted blooms. All these sticks had taken root. I still remember the smell and of all the places I've lived on Earth that was one of the most wonderful.

W Daniel Hillis (b. 1956) is an American inventor, scientist, author and engineer. While doing his doctoral work at MIT under artificial intelligence pioneer, Marvin Minsky, he invented the concept of parallel computers, that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He also co-founded the famous parallel computing company, Thinking Machines, in 1983 which marked a new era in computing. In 1996, Hillis left MIT for California, where he spent time leading Disney’s Imagineers. He developed new technologies and business strategies for Disney's theme parks, television, motion pictures, Internet and consumer product businesses. More recently, Hillis co-founded an engineering and design company, Applied Minds, and several start-ups, among them Applied Proteomics in San Diego, MetaWeb Technologies (acquired by Google) in San Francisco, and his current passion, Applied Invention in Cambridge, MA, which 'partners with clients to create innovative products and services'. He holds over 100 US patents, covering parallel computers, disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, and various electronic and mechanical devices (including a 10,000-year mechanical clock), and has recently moved into working on problems in medicine. In recognition of his work Hillis has won many awards, including the Dan David Prize.

Listeners: George Dyson Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Africa

Duration: 1 minute, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017