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A chemistry lab experiment goes wrong

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An uncaring school principal
W Daniel Hillis Scientist
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But there were all kinds of crazy expats and yes, there were people who I'm pretty sure were mafia people and some kind of criminals. Lots of diplomats, lots of spies. And they all sent their children to the same school. And so I got to the school which was run by the state department and the principal was a guy by the name of Mr Curry who I now think was an ex-CIA operative who was an alcoholic. He was clearly an alcoholic. And he got posted to be the principal of this school which he clearly wasn't interested in doing. But that was his job. And I got to the school and the school was just a mess. And... But I somehow found out that the school had a budget for the student council which had never been spent for years and so it had accumulated quite a lot of money. And I... So I said, 'We should have a student council', there wasn't one. So we had elections and I ran for president and my brother ran for treasurer and my best friend ran for vice president. So we had the complete slate. And so we took over the student council. And we had a pretty big budget and a principal who really didn't care about anything. So I decided to paint the school blue. So we bought blue paint and we painted the school blue. And he was fine with that.

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: principal, student council, school, painting

Duration: 1 minute, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2016

Date story went live: 08 August 2017