Tue, Nov 30, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Turn yourself into a diamond: tips on having a good life

BRAINY FUN Scientists have compiled a list of 100 things to do before, and after, you die, including boiling an egg with a cellphone or ogling Galileo's middle finger


A think tank of British scientists has come up with a new way of quickening the intellect -- a brain-taxing spin on the old formula of 100 things to do before you die.

The group, which includes the evolutionary biologist Richard Daw-kins, astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield and the inventor James Dyson, urges us all to take samples of our own DNA, measure the speed of light with chocolate, and solve the mathematical mystery of the number 137.

The list, compiled by New Scientist, suggests booking to see Galileo's middle finger (preserved in Florence) or ordering liquid nitrogen to make the "world's smoothest ice-cream" at home.

More complicated options include joining the 300 Club at the South Pole (they take a 93?C sauna, then run naked to the pole in -73?C) or learning Choctaw, a language with two past tenses -- one for giving information which is definitely true, the other for passing on material taken without checking from someone else.

The appeal to scientists of such native American precision runs through the whole collection, but the compilation's editors, Valerie Jamieson and Liz Else, also want participants to have fun.

"You've only got one life, so make the most of it," they said. "Swim in a bioluminescent lake, boil an egg with a mobile phone, or have a new species named after you."

With a little practice -- carefully explained -- you may also be able to achieve multiple orgasms, or, for US$66,000, clone your pet cat.

The scientists also offer five things to get organized for your remains after death. These include leaving your body for use in car crash research, which has saved an estimated 8,500 casualties since 1987, or having the carbon in your ashes turned into a diamond.

The list is "the best science has to offer in the way of new experiences," said Jamieson and Else, who have tried to include a number of easy options.

Lives may be trans-formed by watching the night sky or simply going out at night and adjusting to the low levels of light -- two of the 100 -- or assisting at the birth of an animal.

"This is one of life's most surprising and moving experiences and pretty accessible," the booklet says. "Farmers are often only too happy to have help, and if you want something more exotic, ask a zookeeper if you can be involved in the birth of a camel, zebra or giraffe."

Like all scientific experiments, the list comes with a clutch of warnings about taking care, especially when making the nitrogen ice cream (wear goggles and gloves) or touching a tiger.

The mathematician Ian Stewart, who suggests the latter after two "awesome" goes at it himself, adds: "Do not attempt it without professional assistance."

There is also, inevitably, some crossover with the more banal lists of things to do before you die, even if the scientists' equivalent of visiting Everest is much more interesting. The Earth's rotation causes a 20km bulge at the equator, making Chimborazo volcano in Ecuador the highest mountain above sea level.

If you want to win the lottery meanwhile, enter a proof for one of seven conjectures which so frustrate mathematicians that there is a US$1 million prize for cracking any of them.

The mystery of the number 137 requires prolonged "brain gym," according to its proposer Paul Davies, theoretical physicist and author of Einstein's Unfinished Revolution.

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