Celebrating the scientific experiment (and a cogent take on global warming!)

by Marty Crossland on December 2, 2009

I really enjoyed a TED talk by Kary Mullis, where he talks about the nature of scientific experimentation as it relates to the nature of the scientist (or scientist-to-be). Dr. Mullis is a Nobel prize winner who discovered a way to “amplify” (or replicate) DNA strands, a now widely popular method that enhances genetic studies and criminal investigations.

In this entertaining talk he describes how his natural inquisitiveness as a child led to his significant contributions to science and society. In an interesting twist near the end of the talk, he discusses the real observational data from many sources that, in his opinion, debunk the notion of global warming — that is, despite ample observational data, no one has actually shown that global warming is occurring.

Teachers and instructors in the sciences, in particular, may find this presentation of interest and even inspirational.

As you listen to this talk, please be forewarned: Dr. Mullis is something of a “rough-cut gem”, and his choice of expressions and language at certain points may be offensive to some. Nevertheless, I found it a fascinating, entertaining, and very educational presentation.

About Kary Mullis (from the TED website)

In the early 1980s, Kary Mullis developed the polymerase chain reaction, an elegant way to make copies of a DNA strand using the enzyme polymerase and some basic DNA “building blocks.” The process opened the door to more in-depth study of DNA — like the Human Genome Project. Mullis shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing this technique.As he tells it, after winning the Nobel Prize, his next career move was to learn how to surf. It’s typical of Mullis, whose scientific method is to get deeply curious about a topic, work it out from first principles, and then imagine the next giant leap forward. As he puts it in his Nobel autobiography, revised several times since 1993, “I read a lot, and think a lot, and I can talk about almost anything. Being a Nobel laureate is a license to be an expert in lots of things as long as you do your homework.”

Most recently, he’s been taking a hard look at immunity; a recent patent from his company Altermune describes the redirection of an existing immune response to a new pathogen.

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