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Dancing Naked in the Mind Field

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  843 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 4th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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Jun 27, 2013 Philipp rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
(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
Jul 17, 2007 Jean rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Apr 24, 2008 Artie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Environmentalists, scientists, and anyone in bio or chem related fields.
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Giulia Crepaldi
May 03, 2015 Giulia Crepaldi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
La prova regina del perché non bisogna fidarsi di quello che dice un Premio Nobel, solo sulla base del Premio Nobel.
Questo libro è un'accozzaglia di capitoli quasi sempre sconnessi l'uno con l'altro in cui la scoperta della PCR viene trattata en passant e molto superficialmente, mentre scopriamo che per l'autore non è assolutamente credibile un intervento umano nei mutamenti climatici, ma lo sono sicuramente le proiezioni astrali ed i procioni spaziali (no, non Rocket Raccoon), e che non ci sare
Sep 13, 2012 Andrea rated it liked it
Disorganico, provocatorio, narcisista. A tratti divertente.

È un libro disorganico. Non c'è un progetto, non c'è un inizio né una fine, non è una raccolta di saggi, non è un'autobiografia. È più o meno «tutto quello che mi passava per la testa mentre avevo una tastiera a portata di mano».

È pieno zeppo di provocazioni riguardanti argomenti caldi, come AIDS, buco dell'ozono, riscaldamento globale.
Il "messaggio" (forse l'unico messaggio che Mullis intenda veicolare realmente) è: «Mantenete sempre un
Apr 07, 2009 TY rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Sep 10, 2007 Audrey rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: scientists, Carla, anyone in scientific field, everyone else
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
Sep 23, 2007 Marielle rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
Apr 24, 2017 Jenny rated it it was ok
The LSD fueled meanderings of an arrogant man
Mar 30, 2014 Cristian rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, science
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 ...more
J.G. Keely
From a consummate genius; developer of PCR; a bit of a strange man. It was lovely to see a person with a passionate and intelligent vision of the world, whose sense of joy and rationality led him down unexpected and influential paths; one of which led to a Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, there is also a cautionary tale in this: that no matter how ensconced one is in the rational process, it is easy to be 'caught up'.

Mullis reference several drug-based and sober experiences which support certain bel
Pat Cummings
May 22, 2015 Pat Cummings rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
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
Dec 11, 2007 Barryhobbs rated it liked it
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
Jul 13, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 03, 2016 Aija rated it liked it
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
Dec 31, 2015 Thais rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alcuni capitoli sono davvero meravigliosi, esilaranti, interessantissimi. Altri, quelli dove l'autore espone le sue idee sul mondo della scienza, risultano un po' noiosi.
Un premio Nobel (vinto nel '93) non è bastato a calmare Kary Mullins, vulcanico biochimico che non ha paura di sperimentare droghe, surf, donne e chi più ne ha più ne metta, e che non si lascia abbindolare facilmente: qualunque cosa gli dicano deve essere dimostrata scientificamente, altrimenti non ci crede. E così comincia a in
Jun 22, 2012 robxyz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una biografia originale di uno scienziato irriverente ed estroso: Kary Mullis � quello che ha scoperto la PCR, insomma quella cosa tra l'altro che poi i vari CSI usano per trovare le prove sulla base del DNA, piu' o meno, ecco. Pero' il libro non e' assolutamente "tecnico", ma parla di questo personaggio totalmente fuori dai giri accademici che nel giorno in cui e' stato insignito del premio Nobel ha mollato tutti ed e' andato a fare surf come suo solito. Ora e' pure in edizione economica.
Ken Householder
Aug 20, 2007 Ken Householder rated it it was amazing
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.
Ender Jones
May 22, 2017 Ender Jones rated it it was ok
Interesting dude for sure, and as a biology student it was cool to read about the origin of PCR but the dude is a climate change denier and an HIV/AIDS denier (not the mention the disgustingly homophobic things he said in that chapter) so by the time i got to that part of the book i was like, fuck him and just skimmed the rest. Goes to show that a brilliant mind can still be extremely ignorant.
calico Rosenberg
Feb 07, 2014 calico Rosenberg rated it it was amazing
so there i was, innocently chasing cats in the bookstore 'twice told tales' when i found myself in the educational science section and decidedto see if there were any neurobiology type books taht didnt predate my own existence--and I randomly saw this title.

i believe t was my developmental biology professor who mentioned this guy and his book, about 3 or 4 years ago, and it has been high in the lis tof books Ive wnted to read ever since, but id sort of forgotten about it. i got so excited and be
Andrew Rivers
Feb 21, 2017 Andrew Rivers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good read

Inspiring read, while his ideas are certainly not conservative his emphasis on learning for yourself makes me want to get back to the lab.
Alice S.
Feb 08, 2008 Alice S. rated it did not like it
Before I take out my chop-saw, I should probably make a note of the book's good points. So here they are:

Kary Mullis is highly entertaining. He is the epitome of, "You can do whatever the hell you want when you've got a Nobel Prize." He is the expert witness befitting the OJ trial. You can amuse yourself quite a bit by counting the number of recreational drugs that he's mentioned using or making a timeline of his love life. The entire book is peppered with amusing quotes, my favorite being the o
Libro decisamente peculiare.
Da un premio Nobel per la chimica non ci si aspetta un tale delirio di esperienze; e invece si può sicuramente dire che Mullis ha provato di tutto.
Mi sono piaciuti moltissimo i capitoli in cui parla del metodo scientifico, della curiosità che dovrebbe sempre guidare la mente di uno scienziato, e di come invece adesso l'abbia sostituita l'economia. Altra posizione importante: Mullis invita sempre e comunque a non prendere nulla per dato, ad esigere prove, spiegazioni e
Dec 24, 2013 Emanuela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un libro costituito da episodi autobiografici di questo scienziato geniale come biochimico, (è stato insignito del Nobel per la scoperta della PCR - Reazione a catena della polimerasi-), ma anche e soprattutto per la sua azione critica delle relazioni tra scienza e industria farmaceutica, ecologia e questioni esistenziali di varia natura.

Si rimane un po' sconcertati di fronte a certe dichiarazioni e alle analisi che vanno contro l'opinione comunemente accettata dalla comunità scientifica o la ri
Di norma non amo i genii proprio per la loro massiccià sregolatezza, ma quest'uomo s'è guadagnato in una settimana tutta la mia stima ed il mio rispetto. Kary Mullis è si un premio Nobel (chapeau) ma è soprattutto una persona che ragiona con la propria testa e che aiuta gli altri a fare altrettanto. Non è così face recensire questo libro poichè i suoi contenuti sono molto vari; Mullis propone capitoli con temi compleatamente diversi.. legati tra di loro solo perchè l'autore narra vicende persona ...more
May 10, 2011 Audiaa rated it really liked it
Kary Mullis won the Nobel Prize for describing PCR, but that's not what this book is about; it's about a lot of the other crazy things this guy has done and has in his mind. I'd heard previously that Mullis was a crazy druggie hippie surfer with a fondness for women, but that was mostly from people who didn't even know the man -- this book was a first hand account of how that is all true. Some examples include the talking glowing raccoon and the woman traveling through a different plane of exist ...more
May 05, 2013 Stella rated it liked it
I have to say that I'm a bit disappointed, I expected more from a Nobel prize winner. The book is full of personal stories, which sometimes are interesting, but they are told in a superficial way, there is not that depth I would have hoped for. While reading one may wonder why is the author writing that. This is because the stories appear to be disorganised. Fair enough, it's just a collection of anecdotes, not really a book.

The scientist however makes a few interesting points and I think it's
Philip Swain
Feb 09, 2017 Philip Swain rated it liked it
I applied to work with Kary Mullis at Cetus in its heyday. Despite being rejected (I think I was because I never heard back from him), I never lost interest in his human take on science. "Dancing Naked" is a reflection on the way the man thinks and does science. I continue to admire his child-like fascination with molecules and how to make them work for the benefit of mankind. I only wish there were more like him.
Apr 06, 2015 Tiago rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ottimo per farsi un'idea della persona, e del personaggio; peccato Mullis sia simpatico come un esame della prostata fatto da un contrabbassista.
Serie di aneddoti dalla sua vita, con momenti simpatici, battute discutibili, e tanto, tantissimo, narcisismo. Non sono certo se sia più divertente od irritante leggerlo che parla di metodo scientifico, nega riscaldamento globale e la relazione HIV/AIDS, e via così, e poi racconti di essere stato rapito da alieni procioni parlanti(sic), salvato da un di
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“The biggest battle I fought with the danger officer was over the fact that I insisted on keeping my lunch and a case of Beck’s beer in the same fridge in which I kept my radioactive isotopes.” 1 likes
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