Space probe porn

Francis Crick, deadhead

This is intriguing: Apparently, Francis Crick was on LSD when he conceived of the double-helix shape of DNA. A story in the Sunday Mail reports on Dick Kemp, a British biochemist who in the early 50s experimented with synthesizing TCH and hallucinogens such as LSD. One of the Kemp’s friends, Garrod Harker, told the Mail reporter about a fascinating conversation the two once had:

“Dick Kemp told me he met Francis Crick at Cambridge. Crick had told him that some Cambridge academics used LSD in tiny amounts as a thinking tool, to liberate them from preconceptions and let their genius wander freely to new ideas. Crick told him he had perceived the double-helix shape while on LSD. [snip]

“Shortly after, I visited Crick at his home, Golden Helix, in Cambridge. He listened with rapt, amused attention to what I told him about the role of LSD in his Nobel Prize-winning discovery. He gave no intimation of surprise. When I had finished, he said: ‘Print a word of it and I’ll sue.’”

This may not be as surprising as antidrug conservatives might imagine. Cutting-edge scientists have a long history of using themselves as guinea pigs to determine the effects of new chemicals; they’re also intrigued by anything that can help them think better. Put the two together, and I’d imagine a pretty large number have tried LSD and Ecstasy, which are renowned for producing philosophically unique states of mind.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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Collision Detection: A Blog by Clive Thompson