Dave Barnes

A Man on Stage

Rate this Entry

Some time back we had a series of posts about “the way things might be”. Glenn told a story of a “Man on Stage” who appears in the flood lights, says some confusing things that sound like they might have some validity but leaves people scratching their heads. Like a philosophical hit and run driver, the man disappears again as the light clicks off. At any given time, there are a number of competing theories for “the way things are”. At best, only one –may- be correct or even on the right track. It’s not always easy to follow the most valuable path. Here’s one of my favorite accounts:

In Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, Kary Mullis tells a story of how, at twenty two, he submitted an article to the prestigious science journal, Nature, called “The Cosmological Significance of Time Reversal”. He says that it was a description of “the entire universe from beginning to the end” created from his personal experience and imagination.

It was 1968 and Mullis was a graduate student in Biochemistry at UC Berkeley. He says “I had read a lot about astrophysics and had taken some psychoactive drugs, which enhanced my perceived understanding of the cosmos.”

To his surprise it was accepted. He recounts:

“I received a flurry of letters from all over the world requesting reprints. At first I was elated by the response. Nature Times News Service circulated an article beginning, ‘It sounds like the wildest science fiction. But an American scientist seriously suggests that half the matter in the universe is going backwards in time.’ Some lady in Melbourne sent it to me with a letter asking for my autograph. Later in the article they referred to me as “Dr. Kary Mullis of California University.” I began to be a little concerned. Something was definitely amiss in the world of science.

“I was not a doctor. I was still a student, only hoping to become a doctor. Who had promoted me to doctor? Why would the news services pick up the story and print it all over the world in the papers? I was not really and experienced astrophysicist. What did I know about the universe?

“I grew up. I lost that long-abiding feeling that there were older, wiser people minding the store. “

In 1983, Kary Mullis conceptualized the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a way to multiply available DNA to measureable levels.

Mullis submitted his PCR paper for publication to the journals, Nature and Science and was -rejected- by both.

PCR made modern genetic analysis, from DNA fingerprinting to mapping the human genome, practical. In 1993 Mullis won the Nobel Prize for his method.

Tags: None Add / Edit Tags