Friday, November 18, 2011

Great Minds

The autobiography of Kary Mullis - Dancing Naked in the Mind Field - rewards a quick reader.  He spends very little time on his childhood, or his parents, or relationships - but presents a series of thoughts, challenges, teases, and rants - in a lucid, humorous and provocative way.

He won a Nobel Prize in biochemistry, but remains quite clear that much of what we call Science still needs querying.  He searches for the original citation that HIV causes AIDS, and can't find it; he suspects climate change scientists of a greater interest in funding than in a scientific approach; he remains dismissive of most of the pseudo-science of diet that so many of us find addictive; he remains totally unashamed of his experiments with drugs, most particularly LSD - and blatantly loves women and surfing. In terms of people holding down jobs than contributing usefully to society, he also points at the Prohibition Police, who, having lost their main focus of illegal alcohol turned their attention to (then legal) marijuana, rather than disband the no-longer needed bureaucracy, funding channels and hierarchy of jobs.

As the record of an interesting life, this joins the books of Richard Feynman (who loved playing bongos, became fascinated by locks, etc - while working in Quantum Physics), and John Lilly (one of the really far out scientists), and even Bucky Fuller (although perhaps the science community might think of him as an engineer if they think about him at all.)

Be prepared for jokes and surprises, too.  He describes what he still considers might have be described as an alien abduction, and defends astrology as something he finds works, whether or not we can understand how - comparing it to other areas of folk wisdom (like herbs that work, which we don't accept or use until we can extract the active ingredient).

Kary Mullis also offers an interesting reading list on his website.

A very refreshing mind to spend time with.

If you don't feel like reading, maybe check him out on the ever-intriguing TED Talks.

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