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Here is a multidimensional playland of ideas from the world's most eccentric Nobel-Prize winning scientist. Kary Mullis is legendary for his invention of PCR, which redefined the world of DNA, genetics, and forensic science. He is also a surfer, a veteran of Berkeley in the sixties, and perhaps the only Nobel laureate to describe a possible encounter with aliens. A scienti Here is a multidimensional playland of ideas from the world's most eccentric Nobel-Prize winning scientist. Kary Mullis is legendary for his invention of PCR, which redefined the world of DNA, genetics, and forensic science. He is also a surfer, a veteran of Berkeley in the sixties, and perhaps the only Nobel laureate to describe a possible encounter with aliens. A scientist of boundless curiosity, he refuses to accept any proposition based on secondhand or hearsay evidence, and always looks for the "money trail" when scientists make announcements. Mullis writes with passion and humor about a wide range of topics: from global warming to the O. J. Simpson trial, from poisonous spiders to HIV, from scientific method to astrology. Dancing Naked in the Mind Field challenges us to question the authority of scientific dogma even as it reveals the workings of an uncannily original scientific mind.


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Here is a multidimensional playland of ideas from the world's most eccentric Nobel-Prize winning scientist. Kary Mullis is legendary for his invention of PCR, which redefined the world of DNA, genetics, and forensic science. He is also a surfer, a veteran of Berkeley in the sixties, and perhaps the only Nobel laureate to describe a possible encounter with aliens. A scienti Here is a multidimensional playland of ideas from the world's most eccentric Nobel-Prize winning scientist. Kary Mullis is legendary for his invention of PCR, which redefined the world of DNA, genetics, and forensic science. He is also a surfer, a veteran of Berkeley in the sixties, and perhaps the only Nobel laureate to describe a possible encounter with aliens. A scientist of boundless curiosity, he refuses to accept any proposition based on secondhand or hearsay evidence, and always looks for the "money trail" when scientists make announcements. Mullis writes with passion and humor about a wide range of topics: from global warming to the O. J. Simpson trial, from poisonous spiders to HIV, from scientific method to astrology. Dancing Naked in the Mind Field challenges us to question the authority of scientific dogma even as it reveals the workings of an uncannily original scientific mind.

30 review for Dancing Naked in the Mind Field

  1. 4 out of 5

    Philipp

    tl;dr: trolling is a art The problem with ebooks is that you can't throw them against the wall. In this case of Mullis' autobiography, or rather loose collection of essays, I wanted to do exactly that about 5 times - it has been a long time since I've been this physically angry at a book. The first quarter of the book is alright - he details how he perfected PCR, how he got the Nobel Prize for that, etc. The one thing that starts to annoy is his constant drive to portray himself as such an unconve tl;dr: trolling is a art The problem with ebooks is that you can't throw them against the wall. In this case of Mullis' autobiography, or rather loose collection of essays, I wanted to do exactly that about 5 times - it has been a long time since I've been this physically angry at a book. The first quarter of the book is alright - he details how he perfected PCR, how he got the Nobel Prize for that, etc. The one thing that starts to annoy is his constant drive to portray himself as such an unconventional person - "Hey everybody, I go to strip-clubs! I'm OK with drugs! I was totally spontaneous and cool when I met the wife of the Japanese tenno![1]" You just expect at some point to read "hi every1 im new!!!!!!! holds up spork my name is kary but u can call me t3h PeNgU1N oF d00m!!!!!!!! lol…as u can see im very random!!!!" etc. pp. Some of the early chapters are interesting, for example, when he tries to explain the scientific method. Why he then goes and throws everything out of the window is beyond me - I think it's because he loves being in a position opposite to the mainstream, even if that means distorting and twisting the truth until it becomes a lie. First, the chapter about his belief in astrology - his evidence that it exists: 3 people guessed his star-sign. Also, a program used the constellation of planets at his birth to describe his character, and I quote: "Most of the things that the fifty-page document said about me were correct. But some of them were entirely wrong." (p. 118). Guess what, that's how horoscopes are written! Make them so vague and general that "most of the things" are correct! It doesn't take a scientist to notice that, yet Mullis constantly assures us that he's a scientist. Literally: "I am a scientist", at least 3 or 4 times in the book. Then it gets worse and he "goes full retard" (Tropic Thunder, 2008), in his views on global warming: "What is the trouble with something being out of balance if the natural state of that thing is change?" (p94). He then goes on: "The concept that human beings are capable of causing the planet to overheat or lose its ozone seems about as ridiculous as blaming the Magdalenian paintings for the last ice age" (p 96). That's his entire rhetoric - he doesn't cite any proof to the contrary, he just does his impression of Rush Limbaugh. That's it! We humans can and have changed this planet massively, starting with "small things" like the artificial Suez Canal, to changing the entire picture of earth at night. We got enough weapons to irradiate and destroy the surface of the earth. And of course the state of earth is change, the problem we humans might get is that this change might wipe us out. He conveniently doesn't mention this - it doesn't fit his story. The chapter that made me truly angry is the one where he starts to deny the HIV->AIDS causality, and that's when he gets so self-satisfied and the smugness just oozes out of the pages, into your lap, forcing you to take a shower. He says that the presence of HIV-antibodies shows that HIV has been defeated: "Antibodies signaled that the virus had been defeated. The patient had saved himself." (p 139). That's like saying that the presence of soldiers shows that there is no war. This shows that he either doesn't know a thing about the human immune system or he outright lies to save his worldview, I don't know if Wikipedia was very big in 1998, but a look into an encyclopedia could have certainly helped him. And then he goes in and does these absolutely dirty tricks: "They didn't show that everybody with the antibodies had the disease. In fact, they found some healthy people with antibodies." (p 139). That is so dishonest that I'm getting angry again just typing this - it takes time for the symptoms of a disease to develop [2]. He goes into his descriptions of some of the major players of the early HIV "controversy", notably Gallo and Duesberg. He uses language again to make one look good and one look bad: "In spite of his lack of luster as a scientist, Gallo had worked his way up in the power structure. Peter Duesberg, despite his brilliance, worked his way down" (p 142). Peter Duesberg is one of the biggest douchebags in recent history, and one of the first HIV-denialists. He used to be the editor at PNAS and used that status to circumvent peer-review for one of his denialist articles, something which Muller describes this way: "Duesberg pointed out wisely from the sidelines in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that there was no good evidence implicating the new virus." (p 143). He again conveniently doesn't mention that Duesberg used his (former) status to get his article into PNAS. He also ignores the HIV-AIDS evidence that was already available in 1998, most disingenuous by saying that "no-one had proven that HIV causes AIDS". The problem with proving that is that you have to literally infect a human with HIV, something which no ethics committee in the world will approve. But there are some cases from before the publication of this book which Mullis could have had a look at. There's the Florida dentist case from 1990, in which a dentist unknowingly infected some of his patients, who were all tested positive for HIV and later died of AIDS, same as the dentist, Wikipedia has an overview: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimberly... This case was the first case in which someone proved that HIV causes AIDS, something which Mullis conveniently forgets. That was 8 years before this book! Another big case was when three lab workers got infected with HIV and developed AIDS, that was in 1997, maybe too close to the publication of this book (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/90...). There's a mountain of evidence for the causality HIV->AIDS, but Mullis always pretends as if he's the lone warrior showing the world that "the big pharma-companies" just want to make money with the disease of others. See here for evidence: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAI... By the way: after the publication of this book, Duesberg became a member of the advisory panel to Thabo Mbeki in South Africa, and his denialism prevented the use of antiretroviral drugs, one of the main reasons why AIDS spread so much leading to literally hundreds of thousands who died of AIDS in South Africa. That man has a lot of blood on his hand! (Check Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Du...) And then, the prime piece, the one that made me throw my Kindle across the room, the most disgusting sentence I've read all year: "If a person has three hundred sexual contact a year - with people who themselves are having three hundred contacts a year - that's ninety thousand times more opportunity for infections than a person involved in an exclusive relationship". (p 146) YES IT'S THEIR OWN FAULT THAT THEY HAVE AIDS. THESE DISGUSTING PIGS AND THEIR FILTHY POLYGAMY!! [3] LET'S ALL SHAME MORE VICTIMS. Edit: According to the WHO, 2% of the 8 million children who die per year die because of AIDS. Did these have too much sex too? (Source: http://www.who.int/pmnch/media/press_...) Does he cite peer-reviewed publications for any of his viewpoints? In one chapter he makes fun of a nutritionist for not citing any sources in her "crusade" against margarine, and writes that you should always cite sources. Yet there isn't a single paper cited in this book, a thing you would think a scientist would do. Of course, there are the other crazy things [4] I don't want to go into because to him, they happened, and I can't criticize that. There's a lot more going on in this book that for the purpose of my sanity I will now forget so I can't write about it here. The only thing you'll learn in this book is that you shouldn't trust people just because they got a prize, even if it's the Nobel Prize. [1] Apparently the official title is "chief wife"? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_... [2] especially in HIV that can take up to 3 months, in some cases several years: http://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-a... [3] capslock is cruise control for rage [4] Glowing raccoons abducting him over night. Someone saving him from a laughing gas overdose via astral travelling. His telepathy with a friend. That said friend's face morphing into other faces, even though Mullis was sober. etc.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    (review originally written for Bookslut) It is widely accepted in the scientific community that Kary Mullis is a kook. Which is a rather odd reaction to a man who has won a Nobel Prize in chemistry and who invented PCR, a tool that not many microbiologists or biochemists would happily live without. But I suppose that it's to be expected, as most press attention that Kary Mullis receives is not centered around his scientific achievements, but rather around his passion for surfing, his past use of (review originally written for Bookslut) It is widely accepted in the scientific community that Kary Mullis is a kook. Which is a rather odd reaction to a man who has won a Nobel Prize in chemistry and who invented PCR, a tool that not many microbiologists or biochemists would happily live without. But I suppose that it's to be expected, as most press attention that Kary Mullis receives is not centered around his scientific achievements, but rather around his passion for surfing, his past use of LSD, and his reputation for chasing women. So a book by Kary Mullis is bound to be more interesting than the average book of essays written by a chemist. And oh, is it. To sum up: Mullis believes in astrology, traveling through the astral plane, recreational use of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, and glowing raccoons that talk. He doesn't believe in global warming, the advice of nutritionists, or the fact that HIV causes AIDS. To put it mildly, the theories and opinions expressed in his book, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, are controversial. They are also terribly fascinating. Amongst the many things that Kary Mullis is, he is also an excellent story teller. I ended up reading at least 80% of this book aloud to my husband. It would start out, "Oh, you have to hear this!", and then I would inevitably back up and read him the whole chapter. In this book, Mullis meets the empress of Japan and calls her "sweetie," nearly kills himself with nitrous oxide, is bitten by several brown recluses back when the only known treatment was surgery, speaks to a glowing raccoon in the forest, accidentally causes an explosion during a science demonstration, and also accidentally makes tear gas in a friend's garage the summer after they graduated from high school. He has no shortage of interesting stories to tell, and he tells them well. He's also very persuasive. I read the chapter on astrology and was ready to go out and buy an astrological chart. I read the chapter on appropriate use of scientific funding and inquiry and was ready to write a letter to my congressman, asking him to defund the relativistic heavy ion collider (RHIC) in favor of funding the search for near-Earth asteroids that could collide with our planet. (This is especially significant because I spent two years working on projects related to RHIC while pursuing my masters degree, and actually have two friends employed at RHIC right now.) Of course, most of these conversions were short-lived, and on some issues he never had much of a chance of convincing me (in fact I think it's dangerous to assert that human beings could not possibly alter the climate), but some of his arguments linger. For instance, there is a disturbing lack of scientific evidence supporting the claim that the HIV virus causes AIDS. It sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory at first to doubt something that we've all taken for granted for so long, but if it were true, why aren't there articles in peer-reviewed journals offering evidence to that end? Kary Mullis can mess with your mind just as effectively as a dose of LSD. So if you read this book, read it with a healthy dose of scientific skepticism. As Mullis himself points out, just because something is published (and even in a scientific journal), that doesn't make it so. And just because the man won a Nobel prize, that doesn't mean he's an expert on every topic he discusses. But read this book because it's fun. I promise it will make you laugh. And shake your head in disbelief. The only thing it won't do is bore you.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    My uncle lent me this book and told me that, in his scientific opinion, Kary Mullis will be as famous as Einstein a century from now. I figured that would be a book worth reading; it didn't disappoint, but it did provoke. There is an entire chapter that talks about horoscopes. Mullis describes his sign as one that comes on strong and then backs off. That is EXACTLY how this book is. About 10 pages in, I was ready to throw the book across the room and give it negative stars; Mullis is arrogant, op My uncle lent me this book and told me that, in his scientific opinion, Kary Mullis will be as famous as Einstein a century from now. I figured that would be a book worth reading; it didn't disappoint, but it did provoke. There is an entire chapter that talks about horoscopes. Mullis describes his sign as one that comes on strong and then backs off. That is EXACTLY how this book is. About 10 pages in, I was ready to throw the book across the room and give it negative stars; Mullis is arrogant, opinionated, and controversial. But then he backs off, and you realize how brilliant, creative, and thoughtful he is, too. I definitely do not agree with a lot of what he writes and believes, but the book made me uncomfortable in the best possible way and made me ask questions about some very fundamental things. It also gave me a better grasp of the major developments and controversies in the very modern science.

  4. 4 out of 5

    TrudyAn

    This was an interesting book in parts. The writer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993 and the book was published in 1998. Some of the content is fascinating, but much is very dated and some is just plain weird. For example, the author mocks the link between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change, and the link between HIV and AIDS. He believes in astrology, writes a lot about his use of LSD and other drugs, once saw a glowing green raccoon while not under the influence, and This was an interesting book in parts. The writer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993 and the book was published in 1998. Some of the content is fascinating, but much is very dated and some is just plain weird. For example, the author mocks the link between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change, and the link between HIV and AIDS. He believes in astrology, writes a lot about his use of LSD and other drugs, once saw a glowing green raccoon while not under the influence, and believes he may have encountered aliens. There was too much information about his personal life, especially his opinions about women, some of which made my skin crawl. There was so much strangeness in this book, it was hard to focus on the interesting scientific bits that are still relevant.

  5. 5 out of 5

    TY

    It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be from reading all the reviews. And I just couldn't accept many of his views. His AIDS denialism, believing in astrology and denying that global warming is taking place. Since the book was written in 1998, I wonder if he has changed his mind of some of his views, seeing that there had been more evidence supporting these issues. The few chapters he wrote on AIDS was absolutely horrible. You can almost say that he has no clue as to what a virus is or even kn It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be from reading all the reviews. And I just couldn't accept many of his views. His AIDS denialism, believing in astrology and denying that global warming is taking place. Since the book was written in 1998, I wonder if he has changed his mind of some of his views, seeing that there had been more evidence supporting these issues. The few chapters he wrote on AIDS was absolutely horrible. You can almost say that he has no clue as to what a virus is or even know the definition of immunology. It was a misguided and ignorant viewpoint. What's worse? He was so vocal about all these theories and believes lacking scientific evidence, especially the one on HIV, complaining they did not have proper citations or references, but guess what, his book does not even have a reference section. Most books I've read written by scientists have had a reference section at the end, even if it is a biography, that's what they're trained to do. His doesn't. Maybe my book is missing a few pages. Hypocrisy. Oh hypocrisy. Regardless, he deserves credit for PCR and there are a few pages that I did enjoy in the book. That earned him the extra star.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Artie

    This would be the second somewhat autobiographical book I've read involving a Nobel laureate, and the two are vastly different. Mullis is a serious hippie kid who experimented with mind-altering drugs and has the utmost disdain for his own scientific community, not to mention a delightfully caustic wit for (in my opinion) the majority of the world. He's entertaining is you're a fan of debunking scientific myths, the bitter rants of a biochemist, or the O.J. Simpson trial (of which he was nearly This would be the second somewhat autobiographical book I've read involving a Nobel laureate, and the two are vastly different. Mullis is a serious hippie kid who experimented with mind-altering drugs and has the utmost disdain for his own scientific community, not to mention a delightfully caustic wit for (in my opinion) the majority of the world. He's entertaining is you're a fan of debunking scientific myths, the bitter rants of a biochemist, or the O.J. Simpson trial (of which he was nearly a participant). Oh, the guy invented the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) process that allows basically all DNA work today to be done because previously they couldn't replicate DNA in large quantities sufficient to be used for stuff like DNA testing. Oh but like Feynman, he's also kind of a slut (woohoo free love!)... I guess even Nobel prize-winning boys will be boys.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Marielle

    This book is just short enough for me to call it entertaining. My assessment of Mullis is that he is brilliant but bat shit insane. Take everything he says with .1 moles of NaCl.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    This guy is my new hero. So I just finished Mind Field(Sunday 16SEP07) and it was so awesome, I would give it an additional star if I could. This is a truly remarkable book written by an extremely intelligent, eccentric, and keenly observant individual. Be sure to to read the dedication, despite the author's admitted wanderlust, it is quite sweet. I have to include some of the last words in the book, found them very moving: The appropriate demeanor for a human is to feel lucky that he is alive and This guy is my new hero. So I just finished Mind Field(Sunday 16SEP07) and it was so awesome, I would give it an additional star if I could. This is a truly remarkable book written by an extremely intelligent, eccentric, and keenly observant individual. Be sure to to read the dedication, despite the author's admitted wanderlust, it is quite sweet. I have to include some of the last words in the book, found them very moving: The appropriate demeanor for a human is to feel lucky that he is alive and to humble himself in the face of the immensity of things and have a beer. Relax. Welcome to Earth.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    The LSD fueled meanderings of an arrogant man

  10. 4 out of 5

    Pat Cummings

    I knew The Emperor of Scent was jogging my memory about something, and finally recalled the flavor of thought from Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis' autobiographical Dancing in the Mind Field . There it was again—that joyful sense of discovery you remember from your childhood explorations of the world, the belief that you can learn it all if you just keep your eyes and mind open. Of course, not many of us have childhood memories that include compounding tear gas or keeping laboratory refrigerat I knew The Emperor of Scent was jogging my memory about something, and finally recalled the flavor of thought from Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis' autobiographical Dancing in the Mind Field . There it was again—that joyful sense of discovery you remember from your childhood explorations of the world, the belief that you can learn it all if you just keep your eyes and mind open. Of course, not many of us have childhood memories that include compounding tear gas or keeping laboratory refrigerators stocked with radioactive isotopes. Kary Mullis was awarded the Nobel for chemistry in 1993, but even before the prize ceremony in Stockholm, his discovery was changing lives. Before Mullis, DNA evidence had to be fresh and abundant in order to be useful in forensic science. Mullis uncovered a way to replicate DNA, expanding the existing sample of whatever size until you have enough to be useful. Move over, Gil Grissom—Kary Mullis is the real star of CSI! Mullis doesn't hesitate to discuss the use of his discovery—one essay titled "Fear and Lawyers in Las Angeles" covers the multi-layered part he played in the sensational trial of OJ Simpson. But the collection of essays in the book is more about that journey of discovery than it is about the road signs along the way. Don't look to learn how to put together a polymerase chain reaction. You might learn how to survive the bite of the brown recluse spider, choose nutritional foods, determine which scientist is telling the truth in a debate. Or you might simply trip the light fantastic with Kary Mullis. He's a marvelous dancer!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Zina

    Here we have a true scientist in the real sense of the word. He bases his findings on valid research, not just what most people accept as a theory. He has a valid question that no scientist can satisfactorily answer: Where can he find any reference on the claim that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS? No one can answer this and there is no research or findings to support the claim, yet many PhD scientists get angry at any other suggestion. The book is utter brilliance, including his views on astr Here we have a true scientist in the real sense of the word. He bases his findings on valid research, not just what most people accept as a theory. He has a valid question that no scientist can satisfactorily answer: Where can he find any reference on the claim that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS? No one can answer this and there is no research or findings to support the claim, yet many PhD scientists get angry at any other suggestion. The book is utter brilliance, including his views on astrology (which I share). His storytelling skills are impeccable and so is his story about inventing PCR and later receiving the Nobel prize. The more I read about him, the more I like this guy. This is why modern day science has turned into the new religion: because nobody is allowed to ask the real questions. Kary Mullis is banned from several scientific conventions and is deemed crazy. Well, if this insanity, I'd love more scientists to be this kind of insane. In fact, they are required to be.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ken Householder

    Hilarious and informative. This book contains some of the most entertaining stories from one of the greatest minds of the 20th century and it goes on to challenge some very large assumptions we make about the world around us. From LSD to global warming and HIV.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cristian

    Should one wait for tenure or winning the Nobel Prize to become controversial? You can become anytime, but then you may wait longer for honors, seems to be the answer of Kary Mullis, the Nobel prize laureate in Chemistry that propelled DNA research by discovering the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Kary seems to be at odds with public and political beliefs and the ones of the scientific establishment. He implies that many ideas that the scientific community dismisses could be further investigat Should one wait for tenure or winning the Nobel Prize to become controversial? You can become anytime, but then you may wait longer for honors, seems to be the answer of Kary Mullis, the Nobel prize laureate in Chemistry that propelled DNA research by discovering the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Kary seems to be at odds with public and political beliefs and the ones of the scientific establishment. He implies that many ideas that the scientific community dismisses could be further investigated, as there are reasonable evidence to support them, while widely accepted facts by the scientific community may have little scientific support. Kary dismantles the conceptions that HIV causes AIDS, that humans activity causes Global Warming, or that all drugs necessarily harm. According to him, though there are multiple grants and research projects that act based on the assumption that HIV is leading to AIDS, there is no paper in a recognized scientific journal proving this connection. In other words, this idea is a bogus. Plus, the fact that AIDS is spreading is not because it is really so, but because the definition of what AIDS is expands. While some drugs that should help cure it (like AZT), only help kill the person. He compares those drugs to chemotherapy. However, in chemotherapy you know that the treatment is killing you, as well as the cancer, and you would hope that the cancer would die before you. In case of AZT you do not have this reassurance. He also challenges the global warming and the way state institutions measure its effect, by looking at the spread of people with cancer. While, he argues that it would be wiser just to place some panels near the North Pole to measure if the content of radiation is changing over the years. On the other hand, Kary tends to suggest that Astrology could have some truth to it (a number of people determined his zodiac sign by observing him). He also may have had an alien encounter, and a telepathic connection with a friend. These are mostly his own experiences, and he did not go as far as verifying them scientifically, however he seems to accept the possibility of their truth. It seems that the approach Kary has is to contest the established consensus in the scientific community, be it what everyone believes to be true or what everyone believes to be false. He seems to be tackling mostly simple problems and finds simple solutions, but those solutions are neglected by others. How did he get this way? A part could come from his natural genius. Another part could be related to the fact that he is a child of the '60s and '70s with their rebelliousness, random sex and drugs experimentation. Kary had multiple experiences with LSD and other drugs. We can recall some other unconventional scientists of that time like Timothy Leary of Harvard University that combined LSD with Tibetan Buddhism. Do we still have this type of scientists now?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Mullis is nuts. I guess once you get to the sort of rarefied scientific air that Mullis climbed to you sort of have to be. Or maybe being nuts beforehand is what allows you to get there in the first place. In the end, he invented something that allowed the pace of molecular genetics to advance by leaps and bounds in a few years and is in use in literally every moderately funded biology lab in the world. It's a quick read at just a few pages over 200. I got a kick out of his many offbeat anecdotes Mullis is nuts. I guess once you get to the sort of rarefied scientific air that Mullis climbed to you sort of have to be. Or maybe being nuts beforehand is what allows you to get there in the first place. In the end, he invented something that allowed the pace of molecular genetics to advance by leaps and bounds in a few years and is in use in literally every moderately funded biology lab in the world. It's a quick read at just a few pages over 200. I got a kick out of his many offbeat anecdotes, from his varied (and copious) drug use and the synthesis of many hallucinogenic organic compounds to his unashamed admission that perhaps there is something to astrology after all. Throw into this the fact that he claims he 'may have' met an alien, and there you have it. Mullis is opinionated sometimes to the point of seeming arrogant, and he does have his grouchy side. I came away with a tremendous respect for Mullis (though I don't think he's a guy I'd like to spend lots of time around) because he's not willing, in the absence of proof, to toe the company line on anything. I liked his discussion of the highly politicized issue of climate change, coupled to his analysis of the media's need to keep us in line via fear mongering. Now, where I think he's more than a little nutty is his assertion that AIDS is not caused by HIV. And I'm also a little distressed that he seems to believe that science devoid of morality is a wonderful thing. I have to disagree with him. Though I respect him, Mullis' 'look how awesome I am' routine gets a little tiresome toward the end of the book. But it's a worthwhile read if you want to know how a genius thinks. It's also an indirect way of seeing how politicized science (and scientists) are.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Barryhobbs

    It's like reading a smart asshole's blog that has been edited and shoved into a short paperback. About every sixth page, expect him to mention his nobel prize, or some reason that scientists are the highest order of life amongst humans and have been repressed and humiliated throughout history. There are many chapters that will remind you of some strange guy you met at a bar that seemed smart and interesting until he felt you were worthy of hearing about his "special" knowledge. Abducted by a talki It's like reading a smart asshole's blog that has been edited and shoved into a short paperback. About every sixth page, expect him to mention his nobel prize, or some reason that scientists are the highest order of life amongst humans and have been repressed and humiliated throughout history. There are many chapters that will remind you of some strange guy you met at a bar that seemed smart and interesting until he felt you were worthy of hearing about his "special" knowledge. Abducted by a talking glow-in-the-dark raccoon? You were saved from nitrous oxide poisoning by a stranger that mind-traveled to you and pulled the line from your mouth? That said, he IS a smart guy, and it does read like talking to many of my more institutionalized science friends. Big words and non-fluffy, but easy to understand. He makes a few good points, and a lot of iffy ones. It's an easy read, and will change your opinion of exactly who wins Nobel's. Plus, the chapter about him accepting protection money to avoid him speaking at your respected and hallowed institution is funny, if pretentious and conceited.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A brief, hilarious and often provocative book by the Nobel Prize winner who invented the polymerase chain reaction, which greatly improved DNA analysis and eventually launched many crime shows. The book was published in 1998, so it's dated. The author is entirely contrarian and makes some interesting points about such things as HIV and AIDS never having been proved to be connected, how big pharma invents maladies for which it can sell us expensive drugs, how horoscopes calculated by scientists m A brief, hilarious and often provocative book by the Nobel Prize winner who invented the polymerase chain reaction, which greatly improved DNA analysis and eventually launched many crime shows. The book was published in 1998, so it's dated. The author is entirely contrarian and makes some interesting points about such things as HIV and AIDS never having been proved to be connected, how big pharma invents maladies for which it can sell us expensive drugs, how horoscopes calculated by scientists may be accurate, but not those calculated by self-proclaimed horoscope readers and proclaimers. He believes the American system of trial by jury is a laugh, because he or she who can hire the biggest guns wins. He learned this when he testified at the O.J. Simpson trial. He also describes LSD trips (before it became illegal), how he encountered what people have described as an alien, and how global warming is ridiculous, because man is such tiny speck on the planet that we can't measure global warming in terms of millenia, and all we are really reporting on is the recent weather. It's a fun, crazy book. It has no naked pictures.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aija

    WOW, is this conspiracy or controversy? Ozone hole is not an issue (it's all about money!). HIV does not cause AIDS (it's all about money!). Global warming is not an issue (it's all about money!). Every psychologist should study astrology and horoscopes (not about money). Trans fats are OK (don't remember what about that was). Could they have been aliens (no idea)? And this is what a person who got Nobel thinks? Could it be he is wrong in the other fields apart from PCR? What else .. Kind of *enterta WOW, is this conspiracy or controversy? Ozone hole is not an issue (it's all about money!). HIV does not cause AIDS (it's all about money!). Global warming is not an issue (it's all about money!). Every psychologist should study astrology and horoscopes (not about money). Trans fats are OK (don't remember what about that was). Could they have been aliens (no idea)? And this is what a person who got Nobel thinks? Could it be he is wrong in the other fields apart from PCR? What else .. Kind of *entertaining* read, although I put the book aside for a while and resumed reading after few months. Now I have to do my own investigation about all these matters or what (as he suggests reading elementary school science books, if I recall correctly).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    If you're interested in how scientists actually make great discoveries - read this book. You might be surprised. The part I remember most about this book was when the author was driving down the road, exhausted, pulled over and suddenly had the flash of insight that was the basis for his discovery of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) - for which he won the Nobel Prize. Just an amazing story. I loved the way Mullis was so open about his quirkiness and the mistakes he has made during his life - the k If you're interested in how scientists actually make great discoveries - read this book. You might be surprised. The part I remember most about this book was when the author was driving down the road, exhausted, pulled over and suddenly had the flash of insight that was the basis for his discovery of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) - for which he won the Nobel Prize. Just an amazing story. I loved the way Mullis was so open about his quirkiness and the mistakes he has made during his life - the kind of mistakes you wouldn't expect a Nobel Laureate to make. I respect him for his humility and for sharing so much about himself. He's truly an inspiration.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    I want to party with this guy. Kary Mullis, known to us biology dorks as the guy who invented PCR, reflects on growing up, synthesizing psychoactive compounds in a garage in college, dropping acid and inhaling a whole lot of nitrous while working for Cetus (oh, and coming up with PCR), winning the Nobel Prize, hitting on the empress of Japan, the OJ trial, being abducted by aliens, and my favorite-- being paid 7 grand NOT to give a talk at Glaxo. A fantastic read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Superstar777

    Kary Mullis is to me a shaamanistic psychedelic reincarnation of Einstein. In his book he indulges you to understand the inner working of a wide spectrum of sciences. He knows as much about history and political systems, and even astrology. It is clear to me why the space aliens had to kidnap him to find out how he knew all this! It is a thoroughly entertaining and one of the 10 best books I have read out of the thousands I've read. Kary Mullis is to me a shaamanistic psychedelic reincarnation of Einstein. In his book he indulges you to understand the inner working of a wide spectrum of sciences. He knows as much about history and political systems, and even astrology. It is clear to me why the space aliens had to kidnap him to find out how he knew all this! It is a thoroughly entertaining and one of the 10 best books I have read out of the thousands I've read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Funny, hilarious and thought provoking...I don't believe I will ever trust anything touted as fact again. I completely enjoyed his alternative thought process, he has a creative mind. It's a pleasure to look inside and still see a child, with a Nobel prize in under one arm and a surf board under the other....Can't wait to see what he'll invent next :) Funny, hilarious and thought provoking...I don't believe I will ever trust anything touted as fact again. I completely enjoyed his alternative thought process, he has a creative mind. It's a pleasure to look inside and still see a child, with a Nobel prize in under one arm and a surf board under the other....Can't wait to see what he'll invent next :)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Sharon Moore

    This is the fabulous autobiography of Kary Mullis, winner of the Nobel prize in Chemistry for his development of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique for amplifying DNA. It is HILARIOUS!!! Mullis may be a scientist and a brilliant man, but he certainly is a down-to-earth, funny human being in this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lola

    Genius/madman/party animal. I know this guy. Fascinating journey into the mind of a real mad scientist.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Voras

    A book which to me describes what it means to be an independent thinker, whether right or wrong.

  25. 4 out of 5

    zxyra

    a personal hero

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anthony O'Connor

    An interesting book By someone who mostly comes across as a pompous blowhard. Smug and self satisfied and full of his own opinions. Sure he got the Nobel prize for successful ways of tinkering with DNA. Which he keeps reminding us of over and over. But this doesn’t make him an expert at everything else. Which he seems to think he is. He brags repeatedly about his surfing, his sexual successes and his drug use since this 'obviously' makes him a colorful, unconventional, interesting and fun loving An interesting book By someone who mostly comes across as a pompous blowhard. Smug and self satisfied and full of his own opinions. Sure he got the Nobel prize for successful ways of tinkering with DNA. Which he keeps reminding us of over and over. But this doesn’t make him an expert at everything else. Which he seems to think he is. He brags repeatedly about his surfing, his sexual successes and his drug use since this 'obviously' makes him a colorful, unconventional, interesting and fun loving human being. I think he tries a little too hard to impress us with this. Now as for the outliers when it comes to opinions. There are some whoppers. Dangerously misleading whoppers. HIV does not cause AIDS! There was no problem with the ozone layer it was all a conspiracy by the freon manufacturers faced with an expiring patent! Trans Fats are OK. It's all a conspiracy of fear mongering to increase profits. Cholesterol levels do not relate to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. ( If you listen to this nonsense you do increase your risk of dying. Source of truth - just about every medical professional in the world. So don’t. ) Human activity does not contribute to climate change. There is no problem. Relax and enjoy. Have a beer. It’s all dirty politics. Advanced physics and maths is a waste of time. Too remote from ‘real’ human concerns. And a lot of it just abstract nonsense. 90% of the physics budget should be redirected to something useful like scanning for incoming asteroids. Sure there is a bit of directed sarcasm here. He does seem chagrined that mathematicians and theoretical physicists think they are on the whole vastly smarter than mere biochemists. Sorry Jack. They do and they are. Facts are facts. He had a real alien abduction experience ... yeah right. Which involved talking to a squirrel ... no comment. He had a real experience with a super psychic ... yeah right. Anyone can claim these things. And many people do. Doesn’t make it true. Most of them are just plain lying. Astrology is real and deserves a decent look. Apparently some people guessed his star sign. Three times!! Now based on all of this you would think that we’re just listening to a loud mouthed opinionated crank who just loves being a contrarian for its own sake. BUT he does give some very realistic and sober assessments of the nature of the modern scientific process. And By a very successful and knowledgable insider. In a word or four Corrupt to the core. Economically and politically subborned by deranged lunatics who care nothing about what is actually true. But do care immensely about grants, careers and political advancement. So maybe some of the above outliers should be re-examined rationally and objectively. Possibly ... but not likely. And fat chance of that happening anyway. Vested interests reign supreme. This is mostly the extended rant of a reasonably intelligent but deeply smug and self-satisfied individual, wholly convinced of his own uniqueness and innate superiority. With little real evidence for that. A bit of a crank and a bit of a conspiracy nut and not to be taken too seriously. But he is interesting - I'll give him that.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Willy

    an interesting dude who would probably score very high (off the charts!) in Openness to Experience-- as a consequence, highly creative, also highly kooky. Some quotes: * "there is a general place in your brain, I think, reserved for Melancholy of relationships past. It grows and prospers as life progresses, forcing you finally, against your better judgement, to listen to country music. " (13) * "They didn't know me, and they were asking everyone who came out of the water if you was Kary Mullis. A an interesting dude who would probably score very high (off the charts!) in Openness to Experience-- as a consequence, highly creative, also highly kooky. Some quotes: * "there is a general place in your brain, I think, reserved for Melancholy of relationships past. It grows and prospers as life progresses, forcing you finally, against your better judgement, to listen to country music. " (13) * "They didn't know me, and they were asking everyone who came out of the water if you was Kary Mullis. Andy dizm admitted to being me. They asked him how it felt to win the Nobel Prize. He Proclaimed that it was like a dream come true. They asked him what he would be doing the rest of the day, and he turned to me and said, wow I just remembered, this is Kary Mullis." * Kary Mullis thought Hillary Clinton was the smart one: "I did have the opportunity to speak with Hillary. At that time she was in charge of American Health Care. I wondered whether she really knew what you was doing. For example, did she know how the healthcare system work in Australia?... She told me exactly how the healthcare system works in Australia... She told me exactly how the healthcare system works in Ireland. I came away thinking she was a smart woman. He's got a lot of charm and is taller than I pictured in. It's easy to understand how he got elected, but Hillary is the smart one." (22) * "Everything we played with today would be considered too dangerous for adults to use without federally approved supervision. But in 1960 chemicals were just bottles of stuff that no one took very seriously. It's perfectly acceptable to turn 16 year old boys loose in a chemistry lab." (28) * "We were paying Fluka $100 a gram. No one in the company had noticed that we had a kilogram of the very same chemical in stock but under another name. When are you place an order with Luca, they would turn around and order the required amount from us at $24 a gram and send it on to our customer" (30) * "He figured I would not be very successful and science because I was too interested in everything else, including women. He introduced me to visitors to the lab as his 'wide angled genius'." (36) * "I couldn't help but notice the amazing coincidence that the American patent on the production of freon, the principal chlorofluorocarbon used in refrigerators and air-conditioners, expired it just about the same time freon was banned." (117) * "The first week of class I became friendly with the only guy in my class with long hair, Brad. I figured he would have LSD.". (163)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Costin Manda

    Kary Mullis is a chemist who, in 1983, invented Polimerase Chain Reaction, something that would revolutionize DNA analysis in terms of increased speed. He won the 1993 Nobel prize for that. He also is a controversial scientist who claims possible alien encounters and telepathy, denies global warming as an effect of human intervention, is skeptic about HIV causing AIDS and generally believes that most scientists are inventing reasons to get funded rather than doing anything scientific. He also ad Kary Mullis is a chemist who, in 1983, invented Polimerase Chain Reaction, something that would revolutionize DNA analysis in terms of increased speed. He won the 1993 Nobel prize for that. He also is a controversial scientist who claims possible alien encounters and telepathy, denies global warming as an effect of human intervention, is skeptic about HIV causing AIDS and generally believes that most scientists are inventing reasons to get funded rather than doing anything scientific. He also admits smoking pot, taking LSD and generally experimenting with any mind altering chemical that he can make. He likes women and some of them like him. That is what this book is all about, a sort of "I am Kary Mullis, hear me roar!". I started reading the book because I was falsely led to believe that he describes how training his mind with LSD lead him to the idea of PCR. The book is not about that at all, and if the article above is true about Mullis had an advantage over his colleagues: he had trained his brain to think differently by using hallucinogenic drugs, there is no mention of that in this book. It is simply an autobiography, but written with gusto and sincerity. Some of the things he says are both logical and hard to accept (because so many others are of opposite views), some of them are simply personal beliefs. As many a talented person, he is intelligent, he had early opportunity to practice his passion (chemistry), a close friend to share it with and support from a local chemistry business owner who kind of adopted him for the summers and gave him the tools he needed to grow. The way he writes his book reminds me of the style of another scientist friend of mine: devoid of bullshit and intolerant of stupidity. Bottom line, it is a nice book, simply written, short, I've read it in a few hours. It is a window in the life of an interesting person, and as such, I liked it. I can't say I've learned much from it, though, and that is somewhat of a disappointment coming from a book written by a man of science.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anna Beltramini

    I thought I was supposed to like this book and agree with everything Mullis says since, you know, he's a Nobel Prize winner. I was wrong. I was expecting it to be an autobiography, with tales of his adventures. In the first few chapter it is so, and they are delightful: tales of him winning the Nobel, meeting the Japanese Emperor and his childhood. But then the book becomes a 200-page-long conscience flux. Because Mullins is such an eccentric character, his thoughts are still interesting, and ce I thought I was supposed to like this book and agree with everything Mullis says since, you know, he's a Nobel Prize winner. I was wrong. I was expecting it to be an autobiography, with tales of his adventures. In the first few chapter it is so, and they are delightful: tales of him winning the Nobel, meeting the Japanese Emperor and his childhood. But then the book becomes a 200-page-long conscience flux. Because Mullins is such an eccentric character, his thoughts are still interesting, and certainly thought provoking. He takes a lot of unconventional stances (such as not believing the existence of man-made climate change but believing in astrology and talking raccoons), but since he argues them passionately, it was fascinating to look into the mind of a "non-conforming" thinker. However, he often goes after the scientific community because of the "sheep-like thinking" of its members, which was unexpected and reveals his deep underlying God complex. Reading this book did inspire me to look more critically at scientific claims but dude, chill, it's not you vs. the world. Furthermore, at several points of the book I caught myself thinking "what the fuck am I reading?" and I finally made up my mind: Mullis is a brilliant biochemist but also a weird, weird man and it's not always worth it to listen to his rambling ideas.

  30. 5 out of 5

    James Mills

    I picked up this book because with COVID-19, there were so many things swirling around the internet about Mullis, the inventor of PCR, and I wanted to read straight from the source. This was a fantastic read. Thought provoking, funny, frustrating, strange, and certainly entertaining. There is no question that Mullis was a genius and the broad scope of his curious mind displayed in this book was impressive. Reading the chapters felt like sitting at a bar and having a conversation with an interest I picked up this book because with COVID-19, there were so many things swirling around the internet about Mullis, the inventor of PCR, and I wanted to read straight from the source. This was a fantastic read. Thought provoking, funny, frustrating, strange, and certainly entertaining. There is no question that Mullis was a genius and the broad scope of his curious mind displayed in this book was impressive. Reading the chapters felt like sitting at a bar and having a conversation with an interesting new friend who is full of stories that you don't know if you should believe or not. And some of these narratives are certainly hard to believe. But there were other sections that were profoundly deep and human. For me, it was like a cross between reading Richard Feynman and Craig Ferguson. I read this over the Advent season and found one chapter to be the most magnificent description of the Incarnation I have ever read, even though that is far from what Mullis was trying to articulate in the chapter. But that is what this book does. It makes you think and make connections between seemingly random and disconnected ideas. His curiosity is contagious. It would have been fantastic to hear his thoughts on how his invention is being (mis)used in the current world of the pandemic and it would have been interesting to see how people tried to silence his voice while using his invention.

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