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Dancing Naked in the Mind Field

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  594 ratings  ·  86 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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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
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
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Sep 16, 2007 Audrey rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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.
Una piacevole lettura, e si impara anche qualcosa. Come si faceva scienza trenta o quarant'anni fa ad esempio, e perché non è più così. Mi piace Mullis e mi piacciono le sue idee complottistiche, che a volte hanno qualche fondamento, tanto simili a quelle di Grant Morrison. Sarà il fatto che entrambi hanno fatto uso abbondante di sostanze psicoattive :) Un suo difetto, che spesso in ambiente accademico ho riconosciuto in ricercatori brillanti, è l'arroganza, la presunzione di conoscere a fondo p ...more
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.
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
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
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
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
Alice S.
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
Una ventina di capitoli senza legame fra loro, scritti da una personalit�� molto molto eclettica. Molto originale, sopra le righe, anche sforzatamente, sicuramente pieno di s��, Mullis non deve essere una persona facile con cui relazionarsi. Eppure, lo spirito di fondo �� quello che mi �� piaciuto e che mi ha fatto leggere il libro in poche ore: la voglia di scoperta, il non fermarsi alla superficie delle cose per trarne conclusioni, il senso critico.
Manca, e di molto anche, l'umilt��.
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
Good one. The guy is like Feynman, but more into surfing and drugs.

Half of the book is fun and autobiographical ("This taught me an important lesson: Never mix explosive chemicals under a big tree"). I guess if somebody stores beer and radioactive isotopes in the same fridge, he is likely to have plenty of fun stories to tell. Also, it turns out that Kary employed the "let's put the second lock on this thing!" tactics decades before we invented them during the parking battles of Vavilova 60.

Once you get over this ego of his and get over some of his..."paranormal experiences", he actually brings forth and exposes the reader to alternate views that are present in the scientific community that are not very popular and therefore typically silenced. His views and arguments on such topics were to me the more interesting parts of the book. No matter if you agree or disagree with him, they are still valid points to consider. At the least, the book provokes great discussions and makes you c ...more
What one should undoubtably learn from Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993, is never to take science for granted, because otherwise we might as well turn the scientific estabilishment into the 21st century's Catholic Church.

The book itself is enjoyable, partially because of Mullis' ironic style and highly entertaining hubris. Many of his scientific views, however, seem to originate from the desire of being "against the system" rather than from true evidence; and while some of them are
Cheryl Jackson

Interesting, thought provoking, funny and off the wall. While definitely not what I expected to read in an autobiography from a Nobel Prize winner or the inventor of PCR, I thoroughly enjoy it. I laughed out loud numerous times, took notes on topics I want to research, and nodded my head regarding his opinions on the lack of true science when it comes to politics, media and money. This does not imply that I agree with all of his opinions, but I do agree with the fact that if a government agency
Not the most elegant writing, but the guys a great story teller, obviously a genius, and has an extraordinary sense of humor. It's a good read! I'm reading it for the second time, and still love it.
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
Cristina Yukino
Non male, bello, a tratti davvero poetico, ma non è un libro per chi capisce poco o nulla di fisica/chimica etc…
Bello comunque.
I not sure how to even categorizes this book and that's a good thing. The book is about Kary Mullins but is more just an avenue for his thoughts than anything else. Mullins is a scientist who still holds a strong respect for the mysterious, the unknown, and the tangible problems effecting our species. Most importantly he is a scientist who is willing to speak strongly about what he believes is true regardless of the political implications of his statements. The world grows for the better when we ...more
Assolutamente geniale. Senza neanche potersi dare l'etichetta di scrittore, lo scienziato Mullis, premio Nobel per la Chimica nel '93, riesce a spiegare con semplicità e ironia la tecnica che lo ha immesso automaticamente tra i più grandi scienziati del mondo: la PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction). Attraverso una narrazione leggera e a tratti realmente esilarante, racconta la storia dei suoi studi, dei suoi lavori e delle avventure vissute che lo escludono dalla categoria di ricercatori etichettati ...more
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