Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science

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From Nobel Prize-winning scientist James D. Watson, a living legend for his work unlocking the structure of DNA, comes this candid and entertaining memoir, filled with practical advice for those starting out their academic careers.
 
In Avoid Boring People, Watson lays down a life’s wisdom for getting ahead in a competitive world. Witty and uncompromisingly honest, he shares his thoughts on how young scientists should choose the projects that will shape their careers, the supreme importance of collegiality, and dealing with competitors within the same institution. It’s an irreverent romp through Watson’s colorful career and an indispensable guide to anyone interested in nurturing the life of the mind.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Mar 25, 2009
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9780307481795
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
Education / Professional Development
Science / Life Sciences / Molecular Biology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The story of molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn and her groundbreaking research on telomeres and what it reveals about the resourceful opportunism that characterizes the best scientific thinking.

Molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn—one of Time magazine's 100 “Most Influential People in the World” in 2007—made headlines in 2004 when she was dismissed from the President's Council on Bioethics after objecting to the council's call for a moratorium on stem cell research and protesting the suppression of relevant scientific evidence in its final report. But it is Blackburn's groundbreaking work on telomeric DNA, which launched the field of telomere research, that will have the more profound and long-lasting effect on science and society.

In this compelling biography, Catherine Brady tells the story of Elizabeth Blackburn's life and work and the emergence of a new field of scientific research on the specialized ends of chromosomes and the enzyme, telomerase, that extends them. In the early stages of telomere research, telomerase, heralded as a potential cure for cancer and diseases related to aging, attracted the voracious interest of biotech companies. The surrounding hype succeeded in confusing the role of telemorase in extending the life of a cell with a mechanism that might extend the lifespan of an entire organism. In Brady's hands, Blackburn's story reveals much about the tension between pure and applied science, the politicking that makes research science such a competitive field, and the resourceful opportunism that characterizes the best scientific thinking.

Brady describes the science accessibly and compellingly. She explores Blackburn's struggle to break down barriers in an elite, male-dominated profession, her role as a mentor to other women scientists (many of whom have made their mark in telomere research), and the collaborative nature of scientific work. This book gives us a vivid portrait of an exceptional woman and a new understanding of the combination of curiosity, imaginative speculation, and aesthetic delight that powers scientific discovery.

What prompts a well-renowned scientist in molecular biology to write memoirs about a part of his life? In the case of Gunther Stent, it was not to reflect on his career as a scientist, but to come to an understanding of his own soul. In his seventies, he had come to see that he had been, throughout his life, an emotional sleepwalker, especially as regards women and, in addition, that he had been troubled by Jewish self-hatred. His story may have more to do with St. Augustine's Confessions than with a scientist's memoirs.

Stent provides insight into the power of political correctness, and the ability of a government to establish a perverse vision of reality. For readers interested in bioethics, Stent's memoirs help to explain how Germany could have been the first country to enact an all-encompassing protection for human research subjects while it was also the country that produced the medical experiments of the Nazis and the greatest perversion of medical morality in history.

Stent is a person of intelligence and subtlety, an accomplished writer, a deep and wise man, and a loyal friend. His narrative is centered emotionally on a youth spent in Berlin in the Nazi period. As a boy of fourteen he was an eyewitness of the horrors of the Kristallnacht pogrom.On New Year's Eve 1938 he escaped from Germany across the "green frontier." He came to America in his teens, only to return to Berlin at the end of World War II as a scientific consultant for the U.S. Military. On his return to the States, Stent participated in the exciting early scientific breakthroughs of molecular biology that transformed the twentieth-century life sciences.

His Nazis, Women and Molecular Biology is a piercing self-examination, and as its review in Science Newsletter says, "an act of self-exposure, abnegation, contrition, and expiation." It will be of keen interest to those who have inhabited Stent's worlds or shared his experiences, as well as those who wish to learn more about them.

Gunther S. Stent is professor emeritus of neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of such classic texts as Molecular Biology of Bacterial Viruses and Molecular Genetics, as well as philosophical books, such as The Coming of the Golden Age, Paradoxes of Progress, and, most recently (2002), Paradoxes of Free Will.
New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018

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A brilliant and brave investigation into the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs--and the spellbinding story of his own life-changing psychedelic experiences

When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third. Thus began a singular adventure into various altered states of consciousness, along with a dive deep into both the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan sifts the historical record to separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s, when a handful of psychedelic evangelists inadvertently catalyzed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research.

A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan's "mental travelogue" is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both suffering and joy, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives.
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