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"If you have a gut response to a story, you are not responding to something new ..you are really responding to a story you were told when you were six or seven…"
- Samuel R. Delany

Chronovitameter  
  Device that can determine a person's date of birth - and the date on which he or she will die.  

Does the FUTURE worry You????????
Don't waste money on fortune tellers - consult
Doctor Hugo Pinero, Bio-Consultant
to help you plan for the future by infallible
scientific methods.

Dr. Hugo Pinero claims that he can determine the date of a person's death by scientific means. Would you volunteer to know the date of your death? How about your birth date?

"Here it is, boys." The mass of equipment that met their eyes vaguely resembled a medico's office x-ray gear. Beyond the obvious fact that it used electrical power, and that some of the dials were calibrated in familiar terms, a casual inspection gave no clue to its actual use.

"What's the principle, Doc?"

He stepped up to one of the reporters. "Suppose we take you as an example. Your name is Rogers, is it not? Very well, Rogers, you are a space-time event having duration four ways. You are not quite six feet tall, you are about twenty inches wide and perhaps ten inches thick. In time, there stretches behind you more of this space-time event, reaching to perhaps nineteen-sixteen, of which we see a cross-section here at right angles to the time axis, and as thick as the present. At the far end is a baby, smelling of sour milk and drooling its breakfast on its bib. At the other end lies, perhaps, an old man someplace in the nineteen-eighties.

"Imagine this space-time event that we call Rogers as a long pink worm, continuous through the years, one end in his mother's womb, and the other at the grave..."

"Now think of our long pink worm as a conductor of electricity. You have heard, perhaps, of the fact that electrical engineers can, by certain measurements, predict the exact location of a break in a trans-Atlantic cable without ever leaving the shore. By applying my instruments to the cross-section here in this room I can tell where the break occurs, that is to say, when death takes place."

From Lifeline, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Street and Smith in 1939
Additional resources -

One of the reporters consents to allow Pinero to try the machine, to determine the date of his birth; the procedure is as follows:

"Now, how much did you weigh at birth? Ten pounds?... I am trying to approximate the average cross-section of our long pink conductor... Now, will you seat yourself here. Then place this electrode in your mouth. No.. the voltage is quite low, less than one micro-volt, but I must have a good connection." The doctor left him and went behind his apparatus, where he lowered a hood over his head before touching his controls. Some of the exposed dials came to life and a low humming came from the machine...

"I get sometime in February, nineteen-twelve..."

Take a look at this very clever video explaining ten dimensions to you in layman's terms. Of particular interest is the explanation of how a person can be seen in four dimensions, which is about two minutes in.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Lifeline
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Lifeline
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Chronovitameter-related news articles:
  - Death Risk Rankings Provides 'Death Calculator'
  - 'Predict Your Death' Paper Withdrawn

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