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March 30, 1995|LEONARD REED | Times Staff Writer

His firm, Total Multimedia (TMM), is a maverick in video compression--the technology that stores visual images on CD-ROM discs--but weathered storms in the marketplace and bitter infighting during a 1994 bankruptcy filing from which TMM only recently emerged. Greg Martini had been a large investor in TMM, and it was the company's indebtedness to him that forced the reorganization, family members say.

Kramer's father, Ray, is a retired professor of electrical engineering who joined TMM at its inception, in 1989, as a sort of scientist-in-residence. Above everything, however, Ray Kramer's abiding passion was in working out mathematical equations that sought to advance an understanding of the cosmos. As far back as 30 years ago, Ray felt that he was onto something original, and only recently did he and his son manage to yoke the power of these equations in TMM's computers, says Ray.

The breakthrough, in fact, came just two weeks before Kramer's disappearance, and an elated Taylor, his father says, dubbed it "Ray's Moment." While the essence of their work remains secret, Ray Kramer allows that he has long sought, through the study of gravitation waves and particles, to determine whether transmission faster than the speed of light is possible.

If so--that is, if there were a light barrier to pierce just as once there was a sound barrier to break--it would mean that communication could occur via gravity waves anywhere in the universe within one second. To the extent science can measure the universe, light takes 10 billion years to cross it. The implications of Ray Kramer's theorems, should they work, are thus revolutionary not only to science but to life everywhere it might exist. They would bridge the two disparate fields of electromagnetism and gravitation.

The great challenge to an outfit such as TMM is in harnessing a piece of such theoretical science and making it serve a here-and-now video or computer product that sells in the marketplace and makes money for the company. TMM specializes in fractal compression--a mathematically driven, software-based approach to recording and playing back video images that does away with the need for computer hardware such as accelerator cards and other high-end accessories. Fractals are mathematical equations that uncannily capture information in three dimensions.

TMM declines to say how something related to "Ray's Moment"--and the subject of two sleepless weeks by Taylor Kramer--might be of commercial use, if at all.

But Jennifer Kramer, seeing her husband act with obsessiveness and run equations at 3 a.m., was concerned enough to ask Kramer what it was that was driving him so. She quotes him as saying, one week before his disappearance: "Imagine being able to flash up a picture of a missing child on this computer screen, or even a part of a picture, and with this new equation being able to find that child in a fraction of a second."

Further elaboration of that statement is as missing as Taylor Kramer himself. And the statement itself is not without haunting dimension. Ray Kramer is not without irony in asking, with a sad, feigned laugh, "Is this his idea of a test to find him?"

3/30/95 Nobody really thinks so.

Kathy Kramer-Peterssen, Taylor's sister from Youngstown, Ohio, has been helping Jennifer Kramer, friends and TMM lead a search. She is blunt in suggesting that Kramer had approached a perilous line: "He was so excited that he was calling the math 'sacred.' I worried that he was having visions.

"My brother takes the weight of the world upon himself," Kathy continues. "He loves Jennifer, he loves his kids dearly. But he banked everything on this discovery with my dad, and his mind just ran away with it. He talked of supernovas, earthquakes, all events having no coincidences. I fear he had some kind of breakdown."

Jennifer Kramer, seated in Wildflower Playfield in Thousand Oaks, stifles sobs in saying, "He's out there but his mind is gone."

That, of course, is yet to be seen.

The search for Taylor Kramer has been slow and, as far as local police are concerned, thwarted by no indications of foul play.

"There's no crime here," Sgt. David Paige of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said. "All we have is a despondent individual who said he'd commit suicide." Still, a sheriff's helicopter was dispatched to search the Santa Monica Mountains and San Fernando Valley--and nothing turned up.

Chuck Carter, the private investigator, feels the disappearance is a conundrum. "I've never seen a case like this," he says. "If you're 6-foot-5, and if you've got a vehicle out there, even if you're just walking around, getting from point A to B without being noticed is difficult to do."

Within the first week of his disappearance, as the search fell increasingly to TMM and Kramer's family, thousands of flyers went up throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties. And that's when the calls of sightings started coming in.

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