Jos Stam is standing on a pearl-white beach under a cloudless sky. He is visiting his parents, who are vacationing in Faro, a medieval town on Portugal's Algarve coast. Stam, a 41-year-old computer scientist specializing in 3-D graphics, doesn't look at the world the way the rest of us do. Reality is a binary riddle to be cracked, a series of fleeting images best appreciated after they've been rendered into 1s and 0s. Even here, watching the waves hit a beach in Portugal, his thoughts drift, as they always do, toward numbers. He begins scribbling in a small black notebook filled with mathematical interpretations of everything he sees.