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Dancing Naked in the Mind Field


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Kary Mullis was awarded the Nobel Prize and the Japan Prize for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).


Heralded for his discovery of the polymerase chain reaction (a.k.a. "DNA fingerprinting"), the Nobel prize-winning chemist is also an accomplished surfer, believes in the feasibility of alien abduction, and is probably the most famous witness never called to testify at the O.J. Simpson trial. His book establishes Mullis as the heir to the late Richard Feynman's crown as science's flakiest genius. (LJ 9/15/98)

When biochemist Mullis won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993, the press played up his being the first surfer laureate, as well as the first to admit having used LSD. In this collection of essays, Mullis reveals that he also encountered a woman who saved his life while cruising over him on the astral plane, as well as an extraterrestrial who seems to have been a cross between a raccoon and E.T. Mullis argues passionately against the commercialization of science, by which unorthodox but promising ideas fall victim to grantsmanship and marketing; against the assertion that the HIV virus is the cause of AIDS (Mullis insists this theory is still not backed by sufficient evidence); and against the outlawing of psychoactive substances without giving scientists time to study their effects on the nervous system. Mullis was an expert witness on the DNA evidence at the O.J. Simpson trial, although he wasn't called upon to testify. Here, he gives his take on personalities in the trial and explains why he thinks the LAPD's handling of the blood samples was like running a "one-man line-up." Some of Mullis's opinions, like his slightly muddled critique of global warming and his defense of astrology (he didn't receive the Nobel for his work in astrophysics), come across as just plain cranky, in various senses of the word. But whether or not readers agree with Mullis or believe all the details in his accounts of some of his experiences, his eccentric and often insightful opinions about science and life in general will challenge them to reexamine their own beliefs. (Aug.)

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