"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

Dec 5, 2008

Raising the Dead

The Mad Scientist Bringing Back the Dead.... Really.

Bubbling cauldrons, toxic substances, insane and dangerous ideas -- whatever happened to that kind of science? Take a look at Mark Roth in his lab in Seattle. It's mad. It's heroic. It's science the way it's supposed to be.

By: Tom Junod -Esquire.com

There are things you should know about, just because they're weird. Did you know that people with diabetes exhale rocket fuel? It's true, but it's weird, right? And spontaneous combustion. That's true, too, apparently, albeit in a bigfoot sort of way. People just explode. Mark Roth keeps a file on them, because, well, for one thing, he's interested in the genetics of spontaneous combustion, and, for another, he's interested in what keeps people from exploding, like, all the time. I mean, why shouldn't they? People never ask that. But then, they never ask a lot of things. Human beings are 37 degrees Celsius. That's pretty much the standard. But why? Nobody ever tells you. You can read a thousand books on bioenergetics and they won't even ask the question. So it's unexplained, and that's when you can learn things. You can learn things when things are unexplained -- when the sword is still in the stone. Take movement, for example. We humans are absolutely programmed to be interested in movement. In fact, if you're a biologist, you're really a movementologist; you study that which moves. You're a slave to the animate. Which, of course, is how Mark Roth got the idea that deanimation really might be the better scene, and found himself in Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Now, Mark Roth is a scientist. He's not a philosopher or a crank. He proves things, experimentally, according to the scientific method. In 2007, he got a MacArthur, so he's a genius, certified. He's got this long, narrow oracular head, shaped like a Corinthian column, expanding as it gets to the gray matter. He's got a flexible nose, 1 or 2 degrees off center. He's got kind, tired eyes -- Vonnegutian eyes -- to which his eyebrows, scroll-shaped, offer fancy punctuation. He's got a ginger-colored mustache and ginger-colored hair going gray, now that he's pushed into his fifties. He's got long, skinny arms that he waves around, and long, skinny legs covered with ginger-colored freckles that are available to view because he used to be a runner for the University of Oregon and still wears shorts to work, and blue Converse sneakers, and white socks bright with elastic. He sometimes gives you a goofy double thumbs-up when he thinks he's proved his point, when he's proved that what he's talking about -- be it ball lightning or the philosopher's stone -- is not a crazy idea but rather a gamer. Still, he's got a lot of ideas, for a scientist, and some of them come from unusual sources, like tabloidy news reports and science fiction.

It's a weird thing about scientists -- you would think that they would love science fiction. But they don't. To admit that you get your ideas from science fiction, if you're a scientist, that's, like, career-threatening, man, just like it might be professionally risky to say you work in Mark Roth's lab, no matter how outlandish and game-changing its accomplishments. And so, yes, Mark Roth is a scientist. But he's a scientist in the way that you used to want to be a scientist when you were a kid, with weird substances -- dangerous substances, toxic substances, indeed the most toxic substances known to man! -- bubbling away in his lab, rather than a scientist in the way that most scientists are scientists, with NIH funding, a stack of grant applications to catch up on, and a commitment to pursue the one or two ideas that got them that precious federal funding to the death. And so last year, when one of his nephews was in a store in South Carolina and his mother -- Roth's sister -- came by to get him...when the boy wouldn't move because he was so engrossed in the latest edition of Ripley's Believe It or Not! and his mother finally had to yell at him...when the boy trudged dutifully out to the car and, when they were on the road, finally told his mother that she should have let him keep reading that book because Uncle Mark's in it...well, Uncle Mark wasn't exactly displeased when his sister called him later that night to tell him that he'd made Ripley's. He'd had papers published in Science, he'd had papers published in Nature, he'd had papers published in the most prestigious scientific and medical journals in the world, but Ripley's Believe It or Not!, for his work making suspended animation possible in human beings? He made Ripley's? That was cool, man. That was an honor. That was science.

The funny thing is, suspended animation wasn't even the weirdest idea he had when he made his decision to stop being a reductionist -- which is not only what most scientists are but also what the NIH pays them to be -- and start becoming an expansionist. And it was definitely a decision, a moment of desperate clarity. See, he'd done his share of bricklaying. He'd done his share of saying, This is the protein, this is the gene -- you know, sitting around the campfire, warming his hands with the other scientists. Indeed, he'd had enough success with RNA splicing at the Carnegie Institution in Baltimore to know two things: First, that some scientists weren't necessarily happy that he'd had success with RNA splicing; and, second, that the same scientists who weren't necessarily happy that he'd had success with RNA splicing wanted him to do RNA splicing for the rest of his natural life. Talk about weird...but that's not what convinced him to leave the campfire. No, what convinced him that he had to start going out into the woods and fetch his ideas from the darkness was...the darkness itself.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

~There is no God and we are his prophets.~

-Cormac McCarthy-

Man is superior to the stars if he lives in the power of superior wisdom. Such a person being the master over heaven and earth by means of his will is a magus and magic is not sorcery but supreme wisdom



'The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them'.....'Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.'.....'In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.'.....'War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.' George Orwell

war is terror

Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasaGo with God and in Good Health

photo credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk/Powered by Blogger ---Who Links Here--- Site Feed
Site best viewed in Firefox, Mozilla or with eyes wide shut.
Free counters provided by Andale