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My life list: Ise Shrine

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My life list: Northern Lights
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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There's still a lot of things on the list. There are some things that I've partially done that I want to do more of, like see the Northern Lights was on my list and I'd never seen the Northern Lights at all. And they're kind of hard to see, because you have to get the timing right with the phase of the moon and the weather and so I would watch when solar flares happened, when the moon phase happened, and actually just last year all the right things happened and I realised I would have a good chance of seeing them if I just flew to Alaska, so actually... I'd booked a flight to Alaska and I'd called... I was going to stop over in Seattle on the way. And I think I called you. I called... I'm not sure I reached you. I reached Neal Stephenson and said, 'Meet me at the airport, we're going to see the Northern Lights.' And we flew and he just had hours to meet me, so I flew from Burbank to Seattle, he got on the plane, we flew and we arrived at ten o'clock at night. We went out into the Yukon, we flew to Fairbanks and sure enough, saw the Northern Lights and it was just incredible. And then we left the next morning and flew back. So it was a lot of flying, but I also felt like it was so beautiful that I have to see them again. So that's still... there are some things. That's one that's on my life list that's sort of half done. I don't feel like I've really done it yet. I didn't get to see enough of it.

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: Alaska

Duration: 1 minute, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 05 July 2017