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Book Review: Dancing in the Mind Field by Kary Mullis

Posted by on May 2nd, 2009 with 0 Comments

I’ve got a week off from my Masters program… which means I get to pick my own reading!

Surprising even myself, I choose to dig into Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis‘ “Dancing Naked in the Mind Field”. 
I found it in a used book store and was hooked after reading the chapter “The Attack of the Loxosceles Reclusae” a hilariously off color recounting of his reaction to a series of spider bites.
The whole book fits this profile – funny, clever, and surprising at every turn. Science should never be boring, but sadly, it usually is.
Well, fortunately, Kary isn’t a geek in a white coat. Let me rephrase that… he is a geek in a white coat, but he’s also much more.
His childhood stories of launching rockets to see if the frog astronauts come back, of mixing random chemicals to see how they react (often badly), his fascination with bodies (particularly female ones)… these are all stories from my youth (and the youth of a million American males like me).
One of my favorite books is Michael Crichton’s (yes, the Michael Crichton of ER and Jurassic Park) “Travels” – an autobiographical journey into what’s possible, if not explainable, in this world. I had always hoped for “Travels 2”, but Crichton died a few years back. 
Fortunately, it looks like Mullis wrote it for him (and me).
Here’s one of my favorite straightforward rants from the book:
The temperature of the earth is due to the size and shape of the orbit that it follows around the sun, the angle that its rotational axis is tilted to its orbit, the length of its days, the radioactive decay and residual gravitational heat deep below the crust, and the elements that were here from the beginning, and God knows what else, but not us.

We are a thin layer of moss on a huge rock. We are a little biologic phenomenon that makes words and thoughts and babies, but we don’t even tickle the soles of the feet of our planet.
I don’t have to agree with all his opinions to enjoy all his stories.
Here’s an article about him, if you’re interested.
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