?<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"> <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>


The right to produce this as a dramatic work in any form is reserved by the author. (c) 1986-2007 (name omitted to enter a juried competition)

June 2007 this file is Modern_Biology_6_4_07.htm

on the web at www.frogojt.com/mdrnbiol.html




ACT ONE SCENE ONE (Cast list at the end of the file.)

SETTING: Hirschhorn's office. TIME: Friday Morning. 1987.

One half of the stage is a slicklooking corporate-type office: leather highback chair, polished desk, pen and pencil stand, facing chairs for visitors, nice rug, corporate art on the walls, and an abstract sculpture loosely based on the double helix of DNA on a pedestal. Coffee table with fresh flowers and two chairs in foreground. Corporate MUZAK. (The other half of the stage is Doc's laboratory.)

Professor Harry Fields, usually known as DOC, is ushered in by an ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT, who invites him to sit at the coffee table and takes his overcoat. Clock says 10:00.

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT: Doctor Hirschhorn will be with you in a moment. Please make yourself comfortable, Doctor Fields.¬Ý

Exit Administrative Assistant, closing the door.

Doc flips through an erudite journal on the coffee table, then starts back at the beginning and flips it kinetoscopically. Smiles a bit to himself, thinking about the good old days. He starts to go through the journal again, more thoughtfully, like a scholar, gets interested in an article, gets distracted, goes back to the article, gets distracted again, looks around the room, stares idly at the table of contents on the back cover.

HIRSCHHORN enters. No overcoat.

HIRSCHHORN: Hello Doc. Glad you could make it.¬Ý

DOC: Robbie!¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Long time no see, Doc. How's it going?¬Ý

DOC: I've been better. It was you who wanted to see me?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Of course. Nobody told you?¬Ý

DOC: I felt like I was talking to a bunch of goons. "The Director". "The Director wants to speak to you, Professor." "Perhaps you ought to discuss this with the Director, personally, on Friday, Dr. Field." I'm kind of in a rush right now, I got to go give a seminar at Sleight's institute, it's all the way across town, but whatever it is, Robbie, I'm sure we can figure this out. We may have had our differences in the past, Robbie, but I'm sure that we can talk all of this over, iron it out.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: We're simply asking you to be a part of our team, Doc. To contribute. Dr. Olden explained our Proposition for an Award for Centers of Excellence in Molecular Genetics.¬Ý

DOC: Hey, Robbie -- What do they call you here, Mister Hirschhorn? Mr Director? What?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Robbie is fine, Doc. Just fine.¬Ý

DOC: You know, we always share what we have, but what have we got?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Doc, Doc, we know your accomplishments. You've been tremendous! Really. We respect you.¬Ý

DOC: I got like ten -- less than ten -- picomoles of some obscure protein, you could lose it on the glassware. You gotta siliconize the test tube you put it in, you shouldn't lose it. What do you want with it?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: We want only cooperation, Doc. A little cooperation. It goes a long way.¬Ý

DOC: Robbie, please, don't patronize me.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Well, Doc, don't take me for an idiot. We need you, Doc, we need you, and we need the "ten picomoles" of your "obscure" protein, and we need the aminoacid sequences you got for the obscure protein, and we need the 28 synthetic oligonucleotides you've got for a hybridization probe, and we need the DNA inserts from the positive clones you got from the three hundred and forty thousand transformants from Manilovian's liver library, for the obscure protein. We need it all, Doc. We need the gene, Doc. Because as dumb as you act, Doc, we know -- I know -- that you're a smart cookie, and that gene is the gene we been looking for.¬Ý

DOC: Robbie, I don't understand. I know this game, Robbie, and I know the lengths some people will go to, to get a leg up on the competition. But you don't just strongarm a guy to get his enzymes.

HIRSCHHORN: (taken aback; curious; thoughtfully) Enzymes? It's an enzyme? This protein has enzymatic activity? (tyrannical again) Let me lay it out real straight, Doc. You know, and I know, that you've got the gene for antagonistic rotenone-binding neurodegenerative factor. And you're sitting on it.

DOC: We're not sitting on it. We're creating a vaccine. We are going to....¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Doc, we don't want a vaccine. You give me a vaccine, and I'll cook you up a batch of the disease.¬Ý

DOC: What?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: We want that gene, Doc. We want target population neurodegeneration.

DOC: You want to ... you're proposing to ... cause some kind of sudden senility in target ... selected ... populations? No!¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Doc, it's not my decision.¬Ý

DOC: No, wait; you wouldn't want senile. You'd want crippled. Palsied. Like those Frozen Addicts in California. Got Parkinson's. Overnight. You want to cause neuropathies like rotenone does, like methylphenylpyridine does. on purpose? MPTP?

HIRSCHHORN: Doc, all we ask is that you cooperate ...

DOC: Who wants such a thing? Who could possibly want such a thing?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Doc, all we ask is that you cooperate, take the position we offered you, the Chair -- and settle down for a nice comfortable run at the Directorship of the Academy.¬Ý

DOC: I would never work for a bunch of warmongers on an unholy...¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Doc, cut the crap! You've been working for us for years. All those Dee Oh Dee grants? Department of Defense. That's a big IOU you left on the table. We're just calling in our chits, Doc. We're just calling in our chits. (getting right in Doc's face) You either do this, or you got no more lab, no more graduate students, no more publications, (poking Doc in the ticket pocket) no more trips to Europe, no more prizes, no more science. A regular Duesberg.¬Ý

DOC: What happened to you? You had such promise. So what if you never got a degree. Only an undergraduate -- four published papers! Brilliant papers! So what happened? This isn't science you're talking here. This ... this is Alchemy.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: No, Doc. This is (caricaturing vintage Doc) Modern Biology.

DOC: (wounded to the quick) That's...I could... (pretty violent; picking up the sculpture) I should...

At "could", Hirschhorn pushes a button under the desk.

Two pinstriped Agents enter. AGENT #2 has an M1911A Government-model .45, cocked, locked and drawn. Agents are not smiling.

Hirschhorn drops back a few steps into a gunslinger's stance, and makes the V sign of the Sixties.

HIRSCHHORN: (smiling) Peace.

The Agents made their point, Agent #2 lowers his pistol. Hirschhorn relaxes.

HIRSCHHORN: Listen, Doc. I'm gonna make you a little deal. I won't worry about you, you don't worry about me.¬Ý

Doc grabs his coat, and splits. Angrily.

HIRSCHHORN (to Doc) We'll be in touch. (to Agents) Tomorrow take these papers to him to sign. This is his Centers of Excellence grant. Monday afternoon take it over to NIH; get Lew to press conference the award.

Pinstripes nod, exit.

Hirschhorn is alone. He dials a number on the telephone, then drums on the tabletop with a pencil.


SEMINAR ROOM. Friday Noon.

DOC is giving a slide seminar about his research; Doc's seminar is the noontime talk in the library-lunchroom at a Research Institute across town from his University. Prominent clock on the wall at right angles to the projection screen says 12:55. Most of the attendees are wearing white lab coats. Doc is in his shirtsleeves. Attendees are interested in the talk, but are getting a bit restless now near the end of the hour. DR. SLEIGHT is at the head of one of the library tables; he is the head of the Research Institute where this seminar is being held. GRADUATE STUDENT #1 is doing the honors on the slide projector.

CURTAIN RISES on DARK seminar room, one half or so of stage (the all-purpose half; this half is also Doc's office, Hirschhorn's office, and Graduate Student #4's apartment). SLIDE PROJECTOR IS ON, displaying a series of complicated-looking graphs in the four quadrants of the slide.

(When the audience consists entirely of biological scientists, begin with the Seminar, Appendix 1, page __. Otherwise,)

DOC: I believe that's the last slide. Could we have the lights please.

HOUSE LIGHTS ON. A bit of shuffling as the attendees look up at the clock.

DOC: (with a glance at the clock) Thank you. I can see that the hour is about up, so let me just finish up by saying that the results suggest, to me at least, that in the "normal" physiological state of Candida utilis yeast, electrons seem to flow through a rotenone insensitive pathway. This is assuming that the "normal" physiologic state is the cycle of the average single cell growing exponentially in constant conditions; reminding you once again that "constant conditions" implies that the oxygen tension in the culture medium is maintained between five percent and twenty percent by an appropriate servomechanism, incorporating an oxygen electrode.

They gotta breathe!

In the transition to a stationary phase maintenance metabolism, these same cells enter into an altered physiologic state, a rotenone-sensitive state, which apparently also involves a fundamental change in the nature of the electron flow pattern in those marvelous molecular wires, the mitochondrial membranes.

Doc is all done. Attendees all clap. One of the white lab coats goes up to stand next to Doc and ask,

SEMINAR HOST: Thank you very much Dr Fields. Are there any questions?¬Ý

Lots of hands go shooting up in the air. Seminar Host picks on an eager-looking graduate student.

GRADUATE STUDENT #1: Doctor Fields, what sort of macromolecular event is taking place when these yeast cells go from zero to eighty percent rotenone inhibition, in the control experiments that you showed with all these graphs?¬Ý

Seminar attendees are silent, slightly embarrassed at the generality and naivete of the question.

DOC: Good question. I wish I had an answer for you. (pause) But make sure you keep an eye on the oxygen. You can't just bubble'em with air; you can't just hook up a flowmeter; you can't just shake'em in a shakeflask on a shaker. You gotta MEASURE oxygen. Okay? ¬Ý

GRAD STUDENT #1: (enthusiastic) Oh Kay! (slight pause) Professor.

DOC: If you're not careful, NADH fluorescence goes out on you like a light bulb.

SEMINAR HOST: Doctor Sleight.¬Ý

SLEIGHT: (patrician) Just one question, Harry.

DOC: Fire away.¬Ý

SLEIGHT: Could we get slide ten back, please? Thank you. LIGHTS DIM, etc. (elegantly) There we go. It looks to me, Harry, that your state 4 respiration was comparably inhibited in mitochondria from both kinds of cells.Yes, there on the second row, the one two three fourth column and fifth column.

Murmuring amongst the seminarians.

DOC: Right. The anomaly you have so kindly brought to the audience's attention, can be traced, I believe, to the yeast alcohol dehydrogenase. We assayed Candida alcohol dehydrogenase purified enzyme, and we found ... here, can you show this slide....¬Ý

Doc tosses Projectionist a slide.

DOC: Thank you...we found that rotenone inhibits the activity of the purified enzyme sixty percent or more.¬Ý

SLEIGHT: (satisfied with the answer) I see.


SEMINAR HOST: Thank you very much, Professor, for the very interesting data, and I hope that we will be fortunate enough to hear from you again soon.

Attendees clap. Seminar breaks up. Noisy commotion as various attendees tell each other a few bits of news and then exit. Sleight speaks briefly to Doc, then exits with his entourage. GRADUATE STUDENTS #2 and #3 talk briefly with Doc, then exit. Grad Student #1 approaches Doc.

DOC: Mister Projectionist. Good job on the slides.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #1: Thank you. Dr. Fields, I really did like your seminar.¬Ý

DOC: Thanks. Thanks very much.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #1: Is there something I could read, like a reference, that would have more about what the control cultures were doing? I mean, what was going on in the cultures that were just, well, turning from log phase to stationary phase like I guess all cells do?¬Ý

DOC: (sincerely, passionately) Look, the transition to a stationary phase has to be one of the most wrenching experiences a cell can endure. You need to take a detailed look at that transition. You have to take a common sense view of the transition to stationary phase, that you are witnessing a cataclysmic turn of events in the life history of a culture, where each individual cell in that culture has to make a decision how to survive, and carry on. You have to realize that this situation recapitulates the drastic situation that has confronted living matter on Earth since living forms made their first grasping reach for food -- after that first nourishing molecule was oxidized, and a second and a third, sooner or later the situation turned to a matter of want, and living matter found itself being oxidized. Eat, or be eaten, or go into stationary phase. We need to interrogate that response, to dissect it using whatever tools Modern Biology has put in our hands.

Exit Graduate Student #1.

Doc is soon almost alone in the seminar room, putting on his suit jacket, replacing his slides in his briefcase. He is accosted by a reporter named SUE, just as he is beating it out the door. Doc and Sue both have winter overcoats folded over their arms; Sue has a leather satchel.

Doc's graduate students, GRADUATE STUDENT #4 (male), GRADUATE STUDENT #8 (female), GRADUATE STUDENT #5, GRADUATE STUDENT #6, and GRADUATE STUDENT #7, enter Doc's lab, next door across town, and resume work.

SUE: Professor Fields?¬Ý

DOC: Yes?¬Ý

SUE: Professor Fields, I enjoyed your talk very much.¬Ý

DOC: Thank you. Are you in ox-phos?¬Ý

SUE: Uh, no, I'm not.¬Ý

DOC: Are you in the Department here?¬Ý

SUE: Well, no, I'm not. I came over here today just to cover this seminar.¬Ý

DOC: I see. Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it.¬Ý

SUE: Professor Fields...could I ask you a few questions about your research?¬Ý

DOC: You're from the press?¬Ý

SUE: Yes and no. I've been downtown at the Hyatt.¬Ý

DOC: Oh. Did you hear my little lecture?¬Ý

SUE: Yes. It was very interesting. About energy supplies.¬Ý

DOC: How did you enjoy this one?¬Ý

SUE: Well, I didn't understand very much of it.¬Ý

DOC: No, if you're not in ox-phos you might find it a bit opaque.¬Ý

SUE: Yes. I suppose so. I thought it might have something to do with energy supplies. Like yesterday.¬Ý

DOC: Yesterday at the Hyatt?¬Ý

SUE: World Energy Supplies and Prospects for the Future -- The Bottomless Pit. (pause) The graphs had about the same shape, I noticed.

Doc brightens up considerably at this last comment.

DOC: Right. They do. Very good! We haven't seen exponential death yet, but we're working on it. It's all theater. Was there something in particular you wanted to ask me about?¬Ý

SUE: No. More like, things in general. I thought maybe we could set up an interview, as soon as you have time to spare.¬Ý

DOC: No problem. Listen, I've got to get back to my lab right now, you want to ride across town in a cab with me? Maybe we'll get it over with right away.¬Ý

SUE: That would be fine with me. Can I help you carry any of that?¬Ý

DOC: No, I got it. Let's go.¬Ý

Doc and Sue put on their overcoats and exit.


DOC'S LABORATORY, Friday afternoon.

This place is pretty loose. Graduate Students #4, #5, #6 and #7 are sitting around in a part of the laboratory that has been converted to an informal lounge by the addition of a sofa. Informal dress, but the ones closer to a degree are more conservatively attired; Graduate Student #4 is the most senior of the graduate students. The local classical music station is playing, loudly. Some of the loungers are sipping coffee, but the majority are drinking beer. The surrounding benchtops are laden with state-of-the-art equipment, and the shelves above them have the usual number of bottles of reagents, etc.; an expensive triple channel liquid scintillation counter is prominent at the back of the lounge area. Prominent poster of the Sesame Street Count on front of scintillation counter, with a radiation dosimeter resting on top of it. Clock says 4:05.

Prominent "RADIATION" signs and "BIOHAZARD" signs and a telephone on the wall; beer bottles in an ice bucket.

Doc's Office is "next door" [the former seminar room at the research institute across town].

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: If you take all of your courses here, and if you pass your prelim exams here, and if it's okay with your thesis committee, then all you gotta do is submit some published papers. And that's your thesis. That's it.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: You mean along with the thesis.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: No, man, I mean you punch three holes in'em -- punch three holes in three reprints -- and stick'em in a notebook, a looseleaf notebook, you know, you buy it at the student bookstore?¬Ý

Enter UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1, fresh from class. He gets to work.¬Ý

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: (from the Big Island) Howzit.

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: (displaying a spiral bound notebook) Like this?

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (displays three ring binder) No. Like this. See? Remember these things?

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: Yeah. I remember. B.C. Before computers.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Right. You punch three holes in each reprint -- not a Xerox, a reprint -- You know what a reprint is?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: Yeah. I know what a reprint is.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: A reprint is what the publisher sends you. It's struck off the galleys of the article. It's an original. It's not a copy. It's authentic. It's not a Xerox. Before Xerox machines, everybody used to fill out little postcards that said "Dear Doctor So and so, send me a reprint of your recent article blah blah blah ..."¬Ý

Enter POSTDOC #1, POSTDOC #2, and FACULTY MEMBER #1 grabbing beers from the ice bucket and opening them. Postdoc #1 is in shirtsleeves; Faculty Member #1 is in a suit, and Postdoc #2 wears a tie and a white lab coat.

POSTDOC #1: (Atlanta accent) Then they get the article, toss it in a file cabinet, and forget about it.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Now they Xerox it, throw it in a file cabinet, and forget about it.¬Ý


FACULTY MEMBER #1: (Vienna accent) Reprints are genuine. They are authentic. Not a brand X. A man does an experiment, he types it up, he sends it to a journal, the journal sends it to a couple of experts who decide if it's true or not, then it gets printed. And of course reprinted. So when you get a reprint, a genuine reprint, so to speak, it's like the original. The genuine article.

POSTDOC #1: The a'real McCoy.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: (Oxford Accent) Unless one of the two referees steals the idea.

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: How's that work?¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: The fellow sits on the manuscript for a while. Then he tells a graduate student to do all the man's experiments. Then he publishes it. Then he returns the poor fellow's unpublished manuscript.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: Does that actually happen?¬Ý

Enter FACULTY MEMBER #2, fashionably dressed American-style. He shakes hands with Graduate Student #4 and Faculty Member #1.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Sure. Sometimes the graduate student that actually did the work for the sonuvabitch even gets some of the credit for it.(to Faculty Member #2): How do you do, Professor? Good seminar.

FACULTY MEMBER #2: Gary. Johann!¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8 (offstage) It's just another way to fuck the workers.

FACULTY MEMBER #2: Lorraine.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Anyway, all I was trying to tell you guys was that three reprints equal one thesis.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: Has anybody actually done that?¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #2: I'm joining the conversation a bit late, but ... matter of fact, remember Hirschhorn? Your postdoc? When he first got here, before I left, I remember he was still dickin' around with his thesis committee from Michigan.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: He's the guy that left right away?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah. Got a job. At Monsanto. Remember when those three dudes in pinstripes showed up? Ol' Hirsh. "I'm gonna make you a little deal." Dropped his test tube like it was a hot potato.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: What were they? FBI?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: No, man! Monsanto! Money! Money talks. Hirschhorn walked. He never came back from lunch. Left in the middle of an experiment. Anyway, all Hirschhorn ever sent his thesis committee was a notebook with three reprints in it. And a table of contents and a page of thank you's.¬Ý


POSTDOC #1: Easy! How many papers have you'all published lately?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: It does sound more straightforward.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: I wonder where young Master Hirschhorn is now. I think I heard he is working for the Government.¬Ý

Enter Doc and Sue, very jolly, wearing overcoats.

SUE: (taking off her overcoat) I can't wait to see this famous notebook.

DOC: (taking off his overcoat) Howdy!

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Hail Caesar! How'd it go?¬Ý

DOC: Okay. Went okay. Sue, this is Gary, Marvin, Leonard, and Hiroshi. My graduate students. Sue is a reporter. No, wait, a journalist -- a writer!¬Ý

SUE: Pleased to meet you all.¬Ý

DOC: And this is Professor Posner and Doctor Smythe. Dr Posner's lab is down the hall.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Pleased to meet you. Call me Johann.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: A pleasure indeed.¬Ý

DOC: And this gentleman is Professor Michaels. How did the seminar go, Mike? I'm sorry I had to miss it.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #2: Went okay, Harry. Good to see you.¬Ý

Doc and Faculty Member #2 hug each other.

DOC: (to Sue) I was at his place giving a seminar, and here he's over here at my place doing the same thing!

GRADUATE STUDENT #4 (to Sue) Want a beer?

SUE: Thanks.¬Ý

DOC: (unzipping a beer) I'll take two. One to clear the dust out of my throat and one to get my head straight. (pause) You know, that building they're in doesn't have window number one.The air just dries you out. No wonder they can't reproduce my experiments.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Like that guy in Germany, the one who insisted on growing the cells in shake flasks. (picking up a 500 ml culture flask complete with sterile plug) One of those "late-log, early-stationary phase" morons.

DOC: Old Sleight really tried to nail me. (imitating Sleight) "Do you have a control sample of mitochondria from your insensitive cells?" Then, "It looks to me, Harry..." (laughing) Imagine going to that place looking for a job? Lions and Christians.

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: Hey Doc, is it true you can turn in three papers and get a PhD?¬Ý

DOC: Where'd you hear that?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: Gary told me.¬Ý

DOC: I vaguely recollect... I don't know. Sounds right. I don't recall anybody ever doing it. Why?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: Gary said Hirschhorn did it.¬Ý

DOC: Hirschhorn was a postdoc. He already had a degree. From someplace else.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: He never got a degree.¬Ý

DOC: No kidding? I hired the guy and he didn't have a degree? He had four or five published papers.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Right, Doc. But no degree. And he tried to use the published papers to get a degree. Look, it's right over there, behind your shoulder.¬Ý

One of the Graduate Students picks up the binder, labelled "Hirschhorn's Thesis" in Magic Marker.

DOC: Son of a bitch. Well, God bless'em. Sure had me fooled. You heard that one about de Broglie, didn't you?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: The physicist?¬Ý

Sue gets a spiral-bound notebook from her satchel. She keeps this notebook ready, and occasionally gets poised to write in it, but never actually writes anything down.

DOC: Michael deBroglie handed in one page at the Sorbonne. They were going to flunk his ass. But guess who's on his thesis committee? Albert Einstein. Einstein reads the one page and says, "He's right." Next year deBroglie got the Nobel prize for the wave theory of matter. (pause) Hasn't done shit since, either. That's kind of what you're talking about, though. You figure if it's brilliant, or at least professional, you oughta at least get a degree for it. Well, forget it. This ain't the real world. (pause) But yeah, I think we do have a rule about that. Tell you what --any of you publishes three papers, good ones, totally original -- you put'em in a notebook, I'll get you a Ph.D.

SUE: Speaking of notebooks, Doc...Where's the one with the kinetoscopic growth curves?¬Ý

DOC: Oh, right. It's in my office. I'll go get it. Be right back.¬Ý

Exit Doc to his office down the hall [next door, the former seminar room]. Doc switches on the light. Doc's office is cluttered with papers and friendly objects and an Apple iie. He has an interesting time in his office looking for the old notebook, rummaging through a file cabinet, finding all sorts of interesting things to read, before finally locating the notebook he sought.

Doc also goes through all the mail his secretary sorted for him, including a journal, a disturbing fat envelope, and several other items.

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: You're a reporter?¬Ý

SUE: I'm a writer.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: You're doing another article about Doc?¬Ý

SUE: I just met him. I don't know whether I'll do an article about him or not. I was just fascinated by all his work on population growth and morbidity.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: You mean that Science News article last month?¬Ý

SUE: Yes.¬Ý

Enter Graduate Student #8, holding a rack of test tubes. She is just passing through while doing an experiment.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Funny. He wrote that in one afternoon off the top of his head.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Sue, Lorraine. Lorraine, Sue.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: I watched him. There was this article he was reading in Scientific American, and then he said "I think I'll do something on morbidity." Next thing you know Channel Four is at the door.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: They've kind of let off on Harry a bit now. Now they've got that chap down the hill who says lettuce and celery cause cancer.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: And don't forget peanuts.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: Raw peanuts do cause cancer. They've got aflatoxin. It's destroyed by cooking. Roasting, you know.¬Ý

SUE: You mean that that isn't his regular work? Doc, I mean.¬Ý

Doc exits his office, turning off his room light.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: No. His regular work is giving lectures on three year old data.¬Ý

SUE: He is a scientist, isn't he?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Oh, yeah, he's as much of a scientist as anybody else.¬Ý

SUE: I don't understand.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: He doesn't do that kind of science. Predicting the end of the world. By the year 1992, there would be two cases of cancer per capita. Look, you give me the results, I'll cook you up a batch of the data.¬Ý

SUE: What kind of science does he do?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Oxidative phosphorylation in yeast cells.¬Ý

SUE: Is that what ox phos is: Oxidative Phosphorylation.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #2: It's totally abstract. Arcane. Esoteric. A substantial fraction of the human beings in the world capable of understanding the lecture you heard today -- at my Institute across town -- were sitting there in that room.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: (caustically) It's not real "sexy." Not like, say, whales.

Enter Doc into the laboratory.

DOC: Here it is . I knew I had it somewhere. This is the book where it all began. This book is gonna be someday in the Smithsonian. Like I was telling you in the cab, I was working on this project for years. Gettin' nowhere. Growing bugs in a bottle, growth on this, growth on that, growth with iron, (flip) growth without iron, (flip) raise the temperature, (flip) lower the temperature. Nothin'. Random results.

A trio of Graduate Students get to their feet and commence playing imaginary violins.

DOC: After a year and a half, I was a failure. My wife was ready to leave, my grant wasn't gonna be renewed, the old farts on the faculty were nosin' around wanting to know "what's new?"; things were bad. I was ready to sign up for the next Manhattan Project, that's how bad it was. Me, the old peacenik.¬Ý

Doc pretends to conduct the trio of graduate students.

DOC: So one night, I picked up my lab notebook, and I flipped the pages. Like this. (demonstrating with a pad of scratch paper) Like a movie projector. See, look, you put a little dot on eachpage, and you put it a little bit farther over on the next page, and then you flip the pages, like that, and bingo! you got a dot flying through the air. See?

SUE: I see. Like a movie projector. A kinetoscope, you called it in the cab. And? What was it you were flipping through the air?¬Ý

DOC: (at the blackboard) Graphs. Number of cells versus time. Growth. Growth curves. Looks like this. Time goes on, and you get more bugs. It grows. Everything grows like that. First you got two, then you got four, then you got eight, and so on and so on. That's what you were looking at today at that lecture. A growth curve looks like a kid's sliding board. You start at the bottom with a couple bugs, and you fight your way up the slide to the top. You do it right, with plenty of oxygen, that sliding board is straight as the crankshaft on a Cadillac.

SUE: It looks like this one on this page grew a few more bugs than this one on this page. And this one grew a lot less. They got sick.¬Ý

DOC: No, if they got sick, the graph would go down. Well, no it wouldn't, this would -- yes, it might mean they got sick. But no, it didn't mean they got sick, it meant they got harvested. This one was before dinner, this one here was after a movie.¬Ý

SUE: And this one here was -- manana. Right?¬Ý

DOC: Right. Manana. Fuck it. Do it tomorrow. It didn't matter. Supposedly. So let's flip these pages and see what secrets of the universe are revealed.¬Ý

Doc flips the pages. The flipping is quite undramatic, as the pages stick together.

SUE: It doesn't look like anything.¬Ý

DOC: (discarding the notebook) You know, I've told that story to myself so many times I don't know if I made it up or not. I could swear I flipped the pages of this notebook and saw the different graphs go zipping by, and that I flashed on the relationship there that tied all the graphs together into one clever observation. Maybe I just made all that up; it's a good story, don't you think?

SUE: (flipping the pages for herself) You just tell that to all the reporters. (pause) Look, see? I got it to do it! Look. Look! See, there it goes! The little lines jump up and down like a little jumping bean. Hup, there it goes. Watch! Hup, there it goes again. Hup, Hup!

DOC: Now that's scientific! That's fun! (pause) Yeah, it's subliminal. Must be. I was looking at those stupid graphs for a year. Didn't see shit. Just a lot of nothing. Didn't make any sense. Didn't matter what you fed the little bastards, sometimes they were sensitive, sometimes they were resistant. Didn't make any sense. Sometimes they had it, sometimes they didn't. Then one night it became very clear. And I could swear I flipped the pages of that notebook to see it. I saw that what really mattered was whether you went to a movie or went to work. Or went to bed. That made a big difference, going to bed. (pause) My subconscious was dripping with those graphs. And then one day I flipped those pages, and I saw the pattern.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: I saw the pattern. (as in I saw the light)

DOC: Something like that.¬Ý

Exit Graduate Student #8, with a slight grimace.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Hey, while yer up, get me a grant.¬Ý

DOC: I saw ... I saw, whatever I saw, it wasn't what was there. I saw what wasn't there. It was what wasn't there by any "scientific" method or any of thatshit, I saw what was there behind the scenes, between the lines. To see without seeing, look without looking, all that Zen crap. It's hard to explain. Whatever it is, after you see it, the rest is just technology. Bio-technology.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: Of course, he's simplifying things quite a bit.¬Ý

DOC: The hell I am! I'm not simplifying a goddam thing! I just said the most complicated thing I ever said in my life! People sometimes see things. They just see them. You sense them. You feel them. Your sixth sense.¬Ý

SUE: But you have to be ready for the discovery when it comes. Isn't that right?¬Ý

DOC: You would no sooner miss it than you would miss a right hook to your jaw. It hits you in the head like a baseball bat.¬Ý

SUE: But it seems to me that you saw something that wasn't controlled. Aren't you supposed to have controls for everything?¬Ý

DOC: That's right. You're supposed to have controls. But it didn't matter what you grew the little bastards on. It turned out that all that mattered was whether they were growing, and whether you were growing'em right. Growth phase. Log phase or stationary phase. And plenty of oxygen. The most obvious thing in the world. How could I have missed it? Me and everybody else. All that mattered was whether or not they were growing at all.¬Ý

SUE: So what was the control?¬Ý

DOC: What was the control? Sometimes you just aren't fortunate enough to know the answer before you start. Right! (pause) I didn't have controls for going to the movies or having an extra cup of coffee at dinner.

SUE: So you actually discovered all this by accident! You didn't mention in your seminar today about going to the movies or dilly-dallying over coffee.¬Ý

DOC: Nobody asked. (pause) It was awhile before we got this thing under control.

SUE: And that was the big discovery?¬Ý

DOC: You bet. That was the wheel. Not just some guy coming along later with an axle. (pause; pointing to a "black box" hooked up to a fermenter) 'Course, by this time we got controls. We got everything under control. We got oxygen under control. We got pH under control. We got growth under control. This here ain't no shake flask, nossirreebob! (definitively pushing an imaginary cruise control button on an imaginary steering column while steering an imaginary steering wheel, with great gusto) This little box here is like cruise control. Bio-Tech, Baby!¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: You ever heard this before?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: (Kyoto accent) No. Is great.

SUE: So is that the kind of work you do now?¬Ý

DOC: Now? By now, we got the secret of life. And the answer to Alzheimer's. And Parkinson's. All the mitochondrial neuropathies you can shake a stick at.¬Ý

SUE: Seriously.¬Ý

DOC: Seriously. (aside) I should write a book, eh? (back to Sue) Remember that kid who asked the question at that seminar?¬Ý(aside; extremely thoughtfully) I been thinkin' about it. It's called "What Color are the Cristae?" A BOOK, you know?

SUE: I remember everybody acted like he was real naive.¬Ý

DOC: (focussed again) What the kid was really asking, was, "What happens when bugs stop growing?" That's what I was trying to tell him after the seminar. That's a Big Question. I mean, that's been the big question since way back when, I mean way way back when, when the first molecule got together with the first other molecule, and said "Let's see if we can find something to oxidize." You know ... something to EAT!¬Ý

SUE: What does happen?¬Ý

DOC: That's what we've been doing for seven years.¬Ý

SUE: So why didn't you tell him? The macromolecular student, I mean.

DOC: (phony Yiddish accent) Does Macy's tell Gimbels? Like I said: We got the answer to Alzheimer's. And Parkinson's. And probably all the other neurodegenerative afflictions, which come from mitochondrial Complex One going bad.

SUE: What is it?¬Ý

DOC: A protein.¬Ý

SUE: Tell me about it.¬Ý

DOC: As long as you promise not to tell anybody else.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: She's a reporter, Doc.¬Ý

DOC: Reporters know all about protecting their sources. Besides, how would it sound? "Unsubstantiated rumors of a cure for PD." Is that a headline?¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #2: Actually, Harry, that sounds pretty typical for the front page of the newspaper. Then you have all the people on crutches at the door, and you're supposed to heal them. They're all waving copies of an article that starts with "...studies show..."¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: You saw what happened to the last chap that did that healing sort of thing. That walking on water chap. Didn't get his grant renewed, I understand.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #2: What's his name, in La Jolla, still has people practically crawling into bed with him, ever since he announced that interferon crap. And that was sixteen years ago.¬Ý

SUE: I won't print the "answer to Alzheimer's", as you call it, without proof.¬Ý

DOC: Why not? Everybody else does. Look at Efraim Racker. He had the answer to cancer. And it was all a fake.¬Ý

SUE: It was a scam? He got caught?¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #2: He got caught. The guy salted the gels with radioactive iodine.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Like you salt a mine. With gold. Salting a claim.¬Ý

DOC: Put salt in the shotgun with some gold and fire away. Blam! Then get some investors to come in, put mining helmets on'em, and say, "Lookee here, and here, and here! By gollee by damn by yiminy, we got gold! Gold!" And the investors open up their wallets. It's a scam. (pause) Ol' Ef salted his gels. (pause) Put a few lab coats on the venture capitalists. "Got Gels! GotGels! Got bands! Got bands! Got GOLD! (pause) You know, in 1936, they gave a Nobel Prize to the guy who invented the prefrontal lobotomy?

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: That's better than a bottle in front of me. No wait, that's no better -- how's it go?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: I'd rather have a bottle in fronta me than a prefrontal lobotomy.¬Ý

DOC: So Ol' Ef got caught. So did the guy who grafted a piece of a black mouse onto a white mouse -- with a magic marker. What was that guy's name? Last year.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: Summerlin. And that was over ten years ago.¬Ý

DOC: Well, I remember it like it was yesterday. Yeah, that faker. And then there was the guy who tried to show that the charge on an electron was such and such -- you know, Millikan. And his oil drop. Every school kid knows that story. Millikan and the Oil Drop. Got a Nobel prize. He was another faker. He doctored all the data.¬Ý


SUE: Tell me anyway.¬Ý

DOC: You're curious, huh? Now that's scientific! That's Scientific! We been doing genetic engineering on the system I just gave a talk about today. We got the DNA, we got the RNA, and we got the protein. All figured out. You know what DNA is?¬Ý

SUE: It's the genetic material. It's the blueprint for the cell.¬Ý

DOC: That's good. Hey Hiroshi, tell Sue what is uh-DNA.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: If you don't uh-mind.¬Ý

This is a fairly elaborate game the scientists run through, when someone arrives in their midst who needs instruction in the basics of molecular biology.

SUE: No, I don't mind.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: (very dramatic) Imagine you got factory. And in office is a big book. This big. Anything worn out in plant, no problem. Xerox few pages of book, take Xerox copy to shop, makes new machine. That book is uh-DNA.

Grad Students and Postdocs clap appreciatively.

POSTDOC #2: Good show, old boy. Jolly good!¬Ý

SUE: Right. The blueprints.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: Not just brueprints! All the brueprints maybe this much of the book. This book has everything need to know. People got no book like that one. Brue print!¬Ý

SUE: So if that's DNA, then what's recombination DNA? That's what genetic engineering is about, isn't it? You said, ....¬Ý

The game continues, complete with props (books, knives, etc.)

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: Genetic engineering. That is where you open book, and take knife, and cut up book here and cut up book there, and then you take monkey wrench, and you beat on book. And then you take big crayon, and you scribble on. And then you sit back, and you say, "Give me million dollars. I'm a genius. I can fuck up DNA."¬Ý

DOC: Shit, Hiroshi, what happened to you? Sorry, he used to give this eloquent spiel about DNA, RNA, and protein. Now, hell....¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: Oh yeah. DNA is book, nice printed book. RNA is cheap Xeroxcopies. Protein is machines made with Xerox informations. Factory is cell. Yeast cell like factory making alcohol from sugar.¬Ý

TELEPHONE RINGS. Graduate Student #6 is closest, so he answers it.

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: (into telephone) Fields lab. (pause) It's for you, Doc.

Doc goes to the phone.

DOC: Thanks. (into telephone) This is Harry Fields. (pause) I'll take this in my office, if you don't mind. (to Grad Student #6) Hang this up when I get back on. Thanks.

Doc goes "next door" to his office. He looks concerned as he picks up the telephone.

DOC: (into telephone) (next door) Okay I got it. Who'd you say this was?

Graduate Student #6 hangs up the phone.

SUE: So what's genetic engineering?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: Genetic engineering you go and get pieces of other books and you cut and paste into your book.¬Ý

DOC: (into telephone) (next door) And what did you say you want?

SUE: Neat. And how do you know that you're doing it right?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: Don't know. Nobody know. Nobody know how read whole book. Half of DNA-book look like nonsense to scientist. A,T,A,T,A,T,A,T,A,T,A,T,A. Like telephone book with A section repeated thousand times.¬Ý

Enter Graduate Student #8, carrying an expensive camera.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Are you sure about all that? Maybe DNA doesn't even have that kind of information. That's the whole trouble with you guys, thinking that it's General DNA-and-his-troops. That's bullshit.¬Ý

DOC: (next door) (into telephone) And why do you want -- why do you need -- I heard all that -- why do you want to talk to me?

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: Maybe, Emperor DNA!¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Feminist biology.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Not "feminist biology", asshole! Just biology. Maybe that book is just brueprints. I hate these analogies.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Feminist biology.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: The men haven't done such a great job of taking care of the world. Maybe the women ought to have a chance. (holding aloft her expensive camera) And that's not why I'm here. Who fucked up my camera? (long pause) Who used my camera? See, now I've got thirty nine pictures of a black cat in a coal bin.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: Is that your camera?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: (setting down camera on top of scintillation counter) Yeah. It is my personal camera. I had it all set up for remote 60 second exposures and somebody's got it -- Holy Moses!

The dosimeter (Geiger Counter) starts SHRIEKING its head off on the scintillation counter, next to the camera.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: This thing's hot as a pistol!¬Ý

Graduate Student #8 withdraws her hand from the camera, and the carrying strap drags the camera over the edge of the benchtop. The camera and dosimeter drop to the floor.

Everybody rises as if to confront an enemy, but no one is quite sure what approach to take, what sort of weapon to wield.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: What were you doing with my camera?¬Ý

Graduate Student #8 plucks a pair of surgical gloves from a box of disposable surgical gloves. She steps back to the camera and dosimeter, and turns the sensitivity dial on the dosimeter one notch. The shrieking is decreased ninety percent and it is still a continuum. She turns it down another notch, so one can distinguish individual pips. Everyone looks relieved.

FACULTY MEMBER #2: Fixed it.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: If you turn it off entirely, Lorry, you could strap it round your neck again and pretend to be a tourist.¬Ý

UNDEEGRADUATE STUDENT #1: What are we supposed to do?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: It's radioactive.¬Ý


POSTDOC #1: Now let's not get your balls in an uproar. Hell, Lorry, it's not like it's Three Mile Island. Just scrape some of that radioactive doo-doo up on one of these here steer-isle Q tips and we'll slip it into The Count here.¬Ý

Postdoc #2 plucks a repipet bottle from a tray on the benchtop nearest the scintilllation counter. He starts to repipet some of the liquid into a scintillation vial. It's near empty.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (starting to make up a new batch) Me make fresh batch.

POSTDOC #1: Naah, screw it. We just need thirty em els.¬Ý

Postdoc #1 unscrews top of bottle and pours approximately ten milliliters into each of three scintillation vials. He then prepares to dip a Q-Tip from a sterilizer can (but in the original blue Q-Tip box) in Bray's and swab the camera. Graduate Student #8 hands him a pair of gloves.

POSTDOC #1: Naaah, never touch the stuff.¬Ý

Graduate Student #8 tosses the gloves in the air in disgust. Postdoc #1 drops Q-Tip ceremoniously into one of the vials. Graduate Student #4 hands Postdoc #1 a second swab.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Duplicate. Reproducibility is more important than absolute accuracy.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: That's right. Especially if you'all want to keep on making exactly the same mistakes, over and over again. Like all those shake flask characters: If it ain't broke don't fix it. Whole lotta shakin' goin' on, in the barn whose barn? My barn! Sing it Jerry Lee shake it one time for me.¬Ý

Postdoc #1 swabs the camera again, drops Q-Tip #2 into second vial.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: How about a control?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Hell yes. NRC's got nothin' on me. (Hell has at least three syllables) Let me have a Q-Tip.

Postdoc #1 takes a virgin Q-Tip out of the Q-Tip box and puts it directly into the third vial. Graduate Student #4 pours the last ten ml of Bray's into a fourth vial.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Background.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Oh, hell yes. Control for that background!¬Ý

Postdoc #1 deftly caps all four vials, labels them with a magic marker, and inserts them in a rack. He flips up the top of the scintillation counter and inserts the vials in order. He then starts to switch all the appropriate switches and dial all the appropriate dials. He loses some of his self-assurance in the process.

POSTDOC #1: Hey! Could we turn down that noise or at least put on something a little more appropriate?¬Ý

Graduate Student #6 reaches back and dials up Country-Western on the radio. Postdoc #1 regains his cool. (During the short reign of silence between Mozart's Clarinet Quintet and Johnny Cash doing "Ring of Fire", the SCINTILLATION COUNTER is noisily, rhythmically rearranging itself to the #1 position.)

POSTDOC #1: Just right. Ring'a Far.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #2: Do a few ten second counts to get a ballpark estimate. I've got to get back to my lab.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Good idea. (pause) There. That all looks like it'd be accordin' to Hoyle, ah reckon. This here protocol number two is the one that automatically corrects crosstalk for tritium and see fourteen into the pee thirty two channel, right?

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah. Pee thirty two is on channel C. How do you know it's pee thirty two?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Now how in the hell else is it gonna make a Geiger counter go totally apeshit and jump up and down on the table like it's got a hardon for the camera over there?¬Ý

DOC: (next door, into telephone) What goddamn national interest?

Scintillation counter starts counting. Dazzling display of lights dancing up and down; very slowly, almost intermittent for two of the samples, and too fast to follow for the other two.

Scintillation counter spits out a tape with all four results on it. Postdoc #1 rips the results from the machine.

POSTDOC #1: Well, we got the good news and we got the bad news. The good news is that the background radiation count is still nineteen disintegrations per minute. Just like it was this morning. Part of the bad news is that when I was an undergraduate background was about ten or thereabouts. Fallout. The other good news is that the box of Q tips isn't a whole hell of a lot hotter than the background; so we're okay there, I reckon. (studying the results) That's about all the good news. Camera one and camera two here --the unknowns -- they're about hot enough to fry an egg on. Sumbitch is clear off the scale.

FACULTY MEMBER #1: You see, Lorry, there was nothing wrong with the setting on your camera, after all. The film simply got exposed by gamma rays.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Verrrry funny.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: What do you'all say we shitcan the whole thing?¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 has a plastic bag and a very large forceps, poised over the four hundred dollar camera.


Graduate Student #4 plucks the camera and deposits it into the bag. He then crumples up the paper printout of the results and puts it in the bag as well. Graduate Student #4 twist-ties the top of the bag and applies a "RADIOACTIVE" sticker.

Graduate Student #4 drops the bag lock, stock and barrel into the "RADIOACTIVE" waste container.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Disintegrate in peace.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Sweep it under the rug.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: Good enough for Government work. (pause) Where on earth do they take that rubbish, I wonder?

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Your backyard.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Gott im Himmel! Nicht in mein garten!¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: Not in my backyard, eh? That's the spirit old boy. Well, not to worry, the Government's got a place in Washington State. Hanford, I believe. I'm sure the bag will be more than happy. Perpetual care. (pause) Perhaps it will end up next to a spent fuel rod and learn to be a real menace to society. (pause) Did you hear that McGuain -- over in Sociology, I believe -- got a grant to study black magic as a way to protect radioactive waste? A sizeable grant, I might add.

FACULTY MEMBER #2: Do you mean voodoo? That's absurd. You can't put a spell on nuclei and prevent them from disintegrating. Even the Government knows that! (pause) Those fuel rods -- they're hot for what is it, two hundred thousand years, three hundred thousand years? And Christ just died, what, two thousand years ago?

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: The half-life of plutonium is 239 thousand years.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: Yes, well, you know no one knows how to make a sign that will last twenty times longer than recorded civilization, or a signpost to hang it on for that matter, so McGuain there -- he does all that research on deviants and necromancers and homosexuals -- got quite a write up in Campus Notes -- nabbed a grant to work on shamanism. Find a way to hex those dumps so that humans will stay the hell away. After they've forgotten how to read, I suppose.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Science marches on. Studies show...¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Don't worry, Doc's grant will get you a new camera.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: What's so bad about pee thirty two anyway? It's only got a halflife of thirty two days or something.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Right. In thirty two days, half of the phosphorous turns intosulfur. Makes your DNA go snap crackle pop. One phosphorous atom, one mutation. You figure it out.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: Oh yeah, phosphodiester bonds.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: (furious, shaking the bag at him): Right! Right! Nobody teaches you kids anything about safety?¬Ý

She stalks to the refrigerator, and starts throwing out lunch bags.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Fucking lunches in the fridge again? I've had it. I'll be goddamned if I'm gonna have my kids with your mutations. (pointing to Sue, looking at her fellow grad students) You know this whole thing is just posturing for your audience here. You wouldn't have even done that much (pointing to bag) if she weren't here. Showbiz!

Graduate Student #8 puts on her overcoat and brightly colored Nordic ski cap, and prepares to split in a huff.

SUE: The only reason I was here was that I wanted to know about Doc and his population growth work.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Old Doom and Gloom is all showbiz, too. He got morbid one day and got in the papers. He thinks when he grows up he's gonna make page one.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: Maybe just people wanted to hear about it, Lorraine.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: He's on a guilt trip. He wants to think that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and that he didn't have anything to do with it. It's all just a big fucking guilt trip.¬Ý

Lights down on the lab. Spotlight on Graduate Student #8.

Graduate Student #8 moves to the footlights center downstage. She moves one step toward Doc, and soliloquizes thusly:

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: (gesturing from the direction of Doc, imitating Doc punching the cruise control button) "We got everything under control. We got CRUISE control!" (turns, gesturing toward Doc, repeatedly pushing the cruise control button) Tell me something, Doc: Who's in the driver's seat? Who's pushing the buttons on all those cells that you think of as little chemical factories?

To the Audience:

Suppose I just arrived from Mars. I'm a Martian scientist, I'm from Mars, and I see all these cars. Here, on Earth. I take a bunch of these automobiles all apart; I'm curious; I'm a scientist; I figure out how all the parts of all these cars work: fuel injection, cylinder heads, engine blocks, drivetrains and the wheels and the cabs and the dashboard and the doorlocks. But I still don't know how the car works, do I? Because there's nobody in the driver's seat. And those cars don't drive themselves.

That's what we've got going on with all the chemistry we're studying in these cells. Even when you've got all the chemistry figured out, DNA-RNA-protein, lipids, carbohydrates, all that; there's still nobody running the show. Nobody is running the Gene Expression Show.

(pause; thoughtfully doffs and dons her Nordic wool ski cap)

I keep that kind of thinking under my hat.


Those mitochondria Doc's always talking about: Did you know they're all networked? Yeah, they're all hooked together physically and electronically, maybe even spiritually. (naughtily) Oooooh!

Here's what Doc's textbook idea of a mitochondrion is:

(commandeers the slide projector from the Seminar of Act 2 Sc 2, with help from a STAGEHAND, who resurrects it on a cart from offstage; and shows slide of a sausage-like textbook picture of a mitochondrion, a black and white line drawing. It's her slide)

This is from a textbook called Modern Biology. Old school. Just a dumbass drawing, really.

(shows slide of networked selectively stained in vivo mitochondria circa 1987; also hers.)

Now check this out. Look at that -- selectively stained mitochondria. Alive! Alive as you or me. Photographed. Networked. In vivo. In situ. Not isolated, not purified. Alive! What's it look like? Spaghetti with no ends? A cargo net? A tangle of Ethernet cables? It doesn't look like anything else you've ever seen, really. And each little node is a mitochondrion, a nanoscale tunnelling electronic device hooked up to a few hundred other nanoscale electronic devices. Per cell. When God invented these things, it definitely had possibilities for control.

It's a wiring harness, with no ignition switch and no kill button and no colorcoding. Hell, it's probably an intelligent machine; not artificially intelligent, naturally intelligent.

I'm a Martian scientist, remember? These computers here on Earth? Could easily be mistaken for cheap space heaters.

(chuckling, picking up a shakeflask and swirling) And that's what gets ME about these shakeflasks: The mitochondria in these things are making ATP mostly to get rid of the heat without raising the temperature. You run out of oxygen, (pause) You run out of oxygen? (pause) You just ran out of electron acceptor! That means the current ceases to flow in the network. It doesn't get any worse than that.

(walking out, pauses on her way offstage, sets down flask) Life may be continuously variable, but it's ALWAYS set to "On".

Exit Graduate Student #8 to offstage.

DOC: (next door) (into telephone) Look, I been listening to this for long enough to know, that I don't want to listen to any more. It's Friday afternoon, I just want to sit around and drink a beer with my students. You can call me Monday.

FACULTY MEMBER #1: You know, there is something to what she's saying. Did you ever hear about polio?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: Polio virus?¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Before 1900, there really wasn't any polio. Then, more or less from nowhere, there's polio.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: There musta been something.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #2: Try and tell the Indians about smallpox, how there must have been something. Better yet, try and tell those three hundred thousand Africans that Hilary Koprowski vaccinated with chopped up chimp kidneys, loaded with AIDS virus. Civilization is a disease. Nice seein' you all again. Say goodbye to Harry for me. Tell him to give me a ring.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: He'll be out of town. He's going to a meeting. I'll tell him.¬Ý

Exit Faculty Member #2. Graduate Student #4 digs airline tickets out of his pocket.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: That reminds me. I never gave him his tickets. (pause) Polio was brand new. Like AIDS.

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: So what about the polio, Dr. Posner? Sorry to interrupt.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: That's okay. Poliovirus was a bitch. People took their kids out tothe country so they wouldn't get polio. Then Jonas Salk had the polio vaccine. He got a Nobel prize, but some people still got polio, because that is a live vaccine. (pause) Then there was the Sabin polio vaccine, remember, they fed it toyou on a sugar cube? And this Koprowski, him too, with the oral vaccine. That was mutant virus. Couldn't give you polio. Except when it reverted, but that's another story. New improved mutant polio. They grew it on monkey cells. African Green Monkey kidney cells. AGMK, you probably have them growing over there in that incubator. In bottles. They grew it on monkey cells, it shouldn't pick up any human cancer viruses. (exaggerated satire) Not that there were any human cancer viruses.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Humans are different. It says so right in Genesis.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: And in undergraduate textbooks.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Right. The Gospel. Humans are different. There are no human cancer viruses. There's cat cancer virus, there's bird cancer virus, there's mouse cancer virus, but there's no human cancer virus. Well, I tell you something -- Biology is Biology.¬Ý

SUE: Bird cancer?¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Bird cancer virus. RSV. Rous Sarcoma Virus. That was the first one. That was way back. That was B.C. Before Cancer. Before 1900, there wasn't any cancer. Now every third guy that dies, dies of cancer. Read the obituaries. Everybody's dying of cancer. Except the people that don't die of anything, just a long illness. I got to think about these things, you know. At my age. (pause) Anyway, in 1906, Peyton Rous went to Long Island for a Sunday drive. You know, that was before cars? I wonder how he got out there, Professor Rous, to Long Island? That was no casual trip, was it? (pause) Anyway, he found a flock of Rock Cornish game hens that had "growths". Tumors. So he bought a few Rock Cornish game hens and brought them back to the lab, at Rockefeller Institute, and tried to infect something else. With tumors. Couldn't infect anything. Couldn't infect any chickens, couldn't infect any ducks, couldn't infect any geese. So he went back to see Old MacDonald on his farm in Long Island, and he got another Rock Cornish game hen, and he could give it a tumor. Success! Science causes cancer! Now, this was before electron microscopes, this was before centrifuges, this was before Waring Blendors -- what the hell, there was nowhere to plug it into, it practically was before electricity -- this was before DNA! This was before host range. This was before viruses, so to speak. This was before me! This was just some guy in a lab. So then scientists studied Rous's tumors. And they tried to inflict tumors on chickens. And on geese. And on ducks. And so on. And now, in 1987, every goddam goose, duck, chicken, and sparrow has RSV. Rous Sarcoma Virus. Yeah.

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: They've all got cancer? Bird cancer?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: They've all got Rous DNA integrated into their DNA.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: That's just helper virus, isn't it?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Them chickens come a long way baby.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: Scientists were studying the host range of the virus, and they ended up expanding the host range. That's amazing.¬Ý

SUE: So it's in their DNA?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah, it's integrated. Integrated right into the bird DNA. It's a retrovirus. RNA - DNA - Protein.¬Ý

DOC: (next door) (into telephone) I think I've heard quite enough.

SUE: What's a retrovirus?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (for the benefit of Graduate Student #8) I can't think of an appropriate anthropomorphic analogy.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: Forgery. Goodbye. Have a lovely weekend.¬Ý

Door SLAMS in back of laboratory (Graduate Student #8 leaving).¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Thank you. Now your book has a forged chapter on cancer. Or maybe it's got cancer between the lines. Anyway, the genes are oncogenes. They cause cancer. Maybe. The worse the cancer, the more copies are in the cancer cells.¬Ý

SUE: How can you tell the difference between....¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Aha! You can't. DNA is DNA. Like some what you call slow virus infections. Like herpes. Viral DNA's just always there. Like visna virus. Like AIDS.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: Whatever happened to the poliovirus, Dr Posner?¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Oh yes, poliovirus. Nobody studies polio much anymore. Not too sexy. So where were we? Oh yeah. So they didn't want to pick up any of these nonexistent human cancer viruses and spread them around, so they grew the mutant polio in monkey cells. Very clever! And then, they would harvest the polio virus and put it on a (yumm) sugar cube. But -- check this out -- the polio virus on a sugarcube also had monkey viruses in it. Simian viruses. From the monkey cells they grew it in. Simian Virus Number Five. Simian Virus Number Forty.

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: I heard of those. Ess Vee Five and Ess Vee Forty. We learned about them in class. They cause tumors in mice.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Right. SV5. SV40. They were all contaminants. Mistakes. Adventitious agents. It was the biggest mass inoculation, the biggest human cancer experiment yet. We didn't teach you that part in class. Monkey viruses that cause tumors in mice get fed to humans to prevent polio. Aacchh! Even the viruses get confused.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: Not to mention the mice. Poor little white devils. Sometimes they are supposed to emulate humans eating corn flakes, but then when they get cancer they are supposed to be just mice.¬Ý

SUE: I hate to change the subject, but what kind of virus did you say causes AIDS?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: AIDS virus. HTLV-III. HIV. Human leukemia virus.¬Ý

SUE: You said before that there aren't any human cancer viruses.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: There aren't. And Jack Kennedy got shot in the back of the head by a lone gunslinger hidden in the glove compartment of his Lincoln.

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: It's a retrovirus isn't it?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah. It's a retrovirus. Maybe it's from African Green Monkeys. Maybe it's Ess Vee Forty One. Maybe it doesn't even cause AIDS.¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: That's Duesberg's work, at Berkeley, isn't it? That all these AIDS scientists have been chasing their own tail.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: So Ess Vee Five and Ess Vee Forty were just two of forty? There was an Ess Vee One, an Ess Vee Two, Ess Vee Three, all the way up to Ess Vee Forty?¬Ý

DOC: (next door) (into telephone) Hey, fuck you, Jack!

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: I guess. That was before my time. You know, virologists like to fuck around with new viruses.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Gary, I can hardly tell with you whether you are being flippant or being learned. There was just this week an article in Science that these monkeys have their own AIDS virus, a simian AIDS virus.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: That was Rhesus monkeys, wasn't it?¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Harry has a copy of it right here. The genuine article. Real McCoy. (pause to peruse) This new virus they have found here is from the African Green monkeys, ja; just like those cells in the bottle, there; and it does not make them sick, no, these African Green monkeys; and it makes the Rhesus macaque monkeys very sick, ja, and it makes the chimpanzees have the AIDS. (pause; sigh) Acccch! And it says that now there is going to be a shortage of chimpanzees for this kind of work. Hmmmm! (pause) Chimpanzees.

Faculty Member #1 crosses himself.

SUE: Their growth curve just got really sick.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah. Sounds like it's curtains for Bonzo. (pause) Maybe curtains for Tarzan too.

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: Shit! This is awful! (silence; existentially upset) This is fucking awful! What if we're making a mistake like that? With the polio. And the monkey cells. And the chimps. And AIDS.

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: Was that Dr Hilary Koprowski from the Wistar Institute?¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: (getting up to go home)¬Ý(deadly serious, to GRAD STUDENT #5) Hilary Koprowski went to Africa in 1954. He fed the unpurified lysate from polio-infected chimpanzee kidney cell cultures to a half a million unsuspecting Africans, squirted into the mouths of men, women and innocent babes, tribesmen summoned by tribal drums. Maybe a million. Who knows? Professor Koprowski of the Wistar Institute didn't keep any records. No Notebook.

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: That's insane. What if the chimpanzees had, uh, you know...¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: AIDS. What if they did? Then Doctor Koprowski would have put a bunch of poor savages in the heart of darkness out of their misery. That, I assure you, is how Doctor Hilary Koprowski, in his white coat, with his three personal secretaries, and his chauffeured Mercedes, sees it to this day.¬Ý

Graduate Student #5 accidentally breaks a bottle of AGMK cells. Sweep up, etc.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: And another bottle of African Green monkeys bites the dust. (pause) There's a lot more guys livin' offa AIDS than dyin' from it.

POSTDOC #2: (getting up to go home) At least we couldn't be making mistakes like the doctors. (amused) I was reading in the new Jay A EM A how they used to treat midgets with growth hormone from cadavers! Now we've got an epidemic of Creuzfeld-Jakob -- how bloody awful! It lends a new meaning to the word iatrogenesis, don't you think? Of course now we've given them genetically engineered human growth hormone. Which, did you read, causes leukemia? I say! Too bad about those poor blokes with Creuzfeld-Jakob.

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: It's a wasting disease, isn't it? A virus, I think.¬Ý

FACULTY MEMBER #1: Actually, my boy, it's a protein. A prion, no less. Auf wiedersehen!¬Ý

POSTDOC #2: Tally Ho!¬Ý

Faculty Member #1 and Postdoc #2 are recycling their beer bottles or rinsing their coffee cups and getting ready to go home.

Exeunt Faculty Member #1 and Postdoc #2.

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: What if we're making a mistake like that?¬Ý

DOC: (next door) (into telephone) No. Don't "drop in to see me" tomorrow. Not four o'clock, not anytime, goddamnit!

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Relax. Scientists don't make mistakes. It's the technology that's the mistake. (pause) Look at the bright side. Now that we cooked up a batch of human growth hormone, any proud papa can produce a football player.

Quizzical glances all around.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: You know what people are going to do, don't you? They're gonna be injecting that Protropin shit into their kids, so their otherwise normal kids will be big enough to get a football scholarship to USC. You know how much you could get for a milligram of that stuff on the street? Steroids for Superman. And that's nothin'. Wait till we clone one that makes you smart. No, wait... the big banana -- the one that makes us rich -- is the one that makes you young! Youth! Genetically engineered Fountain of Youth! Rich!¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Rich! And just how much money do you'all reckon you could make in a week with a storefront shooting gallery, a couple needles, and a big ol' bottle of AIDS vaccine?¬Ý

SUE: What are you doing, really? I mean, you're not doing that kind of stuff here, right?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: We're doing recombinant DNA work. Genetic engineering.¬Ý

SUE: You're kidding. But Doc said he worked on oxidative phosphorylation.¬Ý

DOC: (next door) (into telephone) Don't ever call here again. I'm serious. I don't owe you or anybody else a goddamned thing, and the sooner you understand that and quit bothering me the better off we'll be. Good Bye.

Doc slams down the phone.

DOC: Jesus!¬Ý

Doc gets up to go back to the laboratory, sits on the edge of the desk, dials the telephone.

DOC: (into telephone) Hello, Diana? (pause) Yes, baby. Of course I'm okay. I said I'd call and I did. About tomorrow ... (pause) Listen, I know I promised... (pause) Tell the kids that Grandpa has some business and he may be a little late.

(talking to a four year old)

Hi Sweetiepie. (pause) I'll see you definitely before I get on the big big plane go byebye. Let me say bye bye to Mommy. (pause) I know I'm the only one since Granmama died. Tell'em I love'em. (pause) Bye baby.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Oxidative phosphorylation. We do work on ox phos. We got hold ofthe RNA that was the blueprints for the protein that you heard about in the lecture. The "Macromolecular events" protein. That protein not only oxidizes NADH, and phosphorylates ADP - ox phos - it can search and destroy Parkinson's in brain cells.¬Ý

SUE: How did you do it?¬Ý

Reenter Doc to his laboratory from his office.

DOC: How did you do what?¬Ý

SUE: How did you fix Parkinson's and Alzheimer's cells?¬Ý

Doc doesn't look happy at all.

DOC: We haven't yet. We'll watch it being put together and we'll watch them taking it apart. NADH dehydrogenase; Complex One. We'll watch the yeast take apart NADH dehydrogenase and we'll watch them put it together again. ¬Ý

Postdoc #1, Grad Students #5, #6, and #7 are recycling bottles, rinsing cups, and putting on overcoats.

ALL: Have a good weekend ... Later ... So long ... Goodbye ... etc. Have a good flight, Doc!¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Yeah, Ah reckon I'll be gittin' on down the pike. Make sure you don't get on board with any of them terrorists, now, Perfessor.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #6: See you later. Good luck, Doc.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #7: You go to Movie? After eat dinner?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #5: What is it? Oh yeah, The Terminator. Starts at seven thirty. Let's hit it.¬Ý

Everybody exeunt except Doc, Graduate Student #4, and Sue.

GRADUATE STUDENT #7 (OFFSTAGE): (Arnold Schwarzenegger in Japlish) I'rr be beck.

DOC: Hey, I'm really beat. Can you give the reporter a lift?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Sure, Doc. No problem. Here's yer tickets. They OK? (getting a leather jacket and a scarf from a chair, displaying a motorcycle helmet) You ready to go?

SUE: (putting on her overcoat) Sure. Thanks for everything, Doc. It's been great. (to Graduate Student #4) You got one of those for me?

DOC: Yeah. See you later. Stop in anytime.¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 and Sue leave the laboratory.

DOC: Gary, could I talk to you a second?¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 reenters the lab; Sue waits in the hall, adjusting her helmet.

DOC: Gary, you know there's a couple things I gotta tell you before I go. Listen....¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 is impatient but polite to his mentor.

DOC: Listen, this science business, you know, when you're dealing with the nuts and bolts of some very important stuff, like you are, well, you gotta watch your ass a little bit. You know what I mean?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: You mean, like....¬Ý

DOC: You know, science and technology. All that stuff. You want to get going. Look, we'll talk it over later. Okay?¬Ý


Doc pats him on the shoulder.

Exit Graduate Student #4.

Doc reinspects his airline tickets and shoves them in his jacket pocket.

DOC: All the King's horses and all the King's men, shall put the dehydrogenase together again. (pause) Parkinson's for poets.

Doc looks at his pocketwatch, rechecks the time on the clock up on the laboratory wall, and then retunes the radio to catch the evening news. He gets a jarring earful of the KPFA Evening News about Death Squads in El Salvador,

KPFA NEWS ANNOUNCER:...reports filed with Pacifica from the capital in El Salvador say that a total of twenty bodies were found, their throats cut, a sign, according to the guerrillas, that agents of the Government's Tax and Alcohol Commission had been the ones directing the attack....¬Ý

and retunes again to the Allegro from Mozart's Clarinet Quintet. He settles down in his comfortable sofa and listens for a while. He absentmindedly flips the pages of his old lab notebook.

Graduate Student #4 and Sue keep up the conversation outside the lab, on the way out to Graduate Student #4's motorcycle, parked within earshot.

SUE: You know, you don't look like a biochemist.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah. When I was a trucker back from Nam, people told me I didn't look like a truckdriver. What do I look like?¬Ý

SUE: (very nicely put) You look like ... an artist.

Exeunt Graduate Student #4 and Sue.

A big bore motorcycle KICKS OVER, STARTS, IDLES. Doc grimaces. Bike TAKES OFF at a conservative pace.





Hirschhorn's office. Saturday Morning.

HIRSCHHORN enters with a slim leather briefcase, takes off his overcoat, and hangs it up in a closet. He opens the briefcase, sets this month's glossy erudite journal out on his desk along with a couple of manila folders. He picks up the journal and glances briefly at it, then installs it for appearance's sake on his coffee table, even going back to adjust it to just the right angle for a coffee table book. Hirschhorn then goes back to his desk and opens up one of the folders, and goes seriously to work. Clock says 10:00.

After a minute or two, Hirschhorn's ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT rings his telephone.

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT: (over intercom) Dr Hirschhorn?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: (into telephone, punching a button; tyrannical) Yes? (pause) Yes, I'm here on Saturday. I just got in. (looks at his watch) Send her in, of course.

Hirschhorn is back to work.¬Ý

Enter AGENT #1 and AGENT #2.

HIRSCHHORN: How's it going?¬Ý

Hirschhorn motions Agent #1 to a chair by the coffee table. Agent #2 remains standing.

AGENT #1: Not all that well. (pause) This the copy with the LasaVax article from Texas?

HIRSCHHORN: Yes. Interesting isn't it? Birchfelder's group.¬Ý

AGENT #1: Yes, very interesting. When did we set him up? I was trying to remember, I believe it was '82.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: It was October, 1982.¬Ý

AGENT #1: Whose work was that, Shreve?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: No. Shreve was just our reviewer. Collingsworth had the data.¬Ý

AGENT #1: Collingsworth. Of course. Collingsworth. He's a fuckup for sure. That was Moretzik's kid -- the Moretzik upstairs -- got the data out of Collingsworth's mailroom. Now I remember the story: Moretzik's kid had a summer job in Collingsworth's lab, and he nabbed the editor's copy from the mailroom. Brilliant!¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: (holding aloft the journal): We fed it to Birchfelder. And the rest, as they say, is History. How's he coming along, Birchfelder?

AGENT #1: We've got him on an Advisory Committee. PEBSAC.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: What's that?¬Ý

AGENT #1: One of the National Institute of Health's glorified travel agencies. N-I-H Pebsac. Professional Ethics Advisory Committee in Life Sci... Biological Science. P-E-B-S-A-C. Yeah, that's it.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: N-I-H. Nobody Is Home. Perfect. Groovy. Professional Ethics Advisory Committee for the Biological Sciences. Never heard of it.

AGENT #1: Hey, it looks good.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Birchfelder. He ain't bright, but he delivers.¬Ý

AGENT #2: (reading journal): So what kind of window dressing did you put on the project?

AGENT #1: You should read it. It's good.¬Ý

AGENT #2: It's right here in the abstract: "The current work should prove useful in continuing efforts of this Laboratory to develop a vaccine that will be safe, certain, and inexpensive." What was it a vaccine against, supposedly?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: (impatient) Lhasa fever virus.

Agent #2 replaces the journal on the coffee table.

AGENT #2: Regular public enemy numbah one.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: (pointing to the journal) It's in the can. Enough of that. We don't have time for yesterday's news.

Hirschhorn rearranges the journal on the coffee table just so.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: I said "How's it going?" and you said "Not so well." Tell me about the "Not so well" part.¬Ý

AGENT #1: I got this Fields on the phone yesterday. In the afternoon. About four thirty. Wasn't it? Friday. I told him what we wanted him to sign. He acted like some kind of Sir Launcelot.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: Did you review the whole package, the Centers of Excellence, the NIH, how he'll be chair on the Biotechnology Science Coordinating Committee -- the Safety Subcommittee, yet -- all the stuff we talked over? You explained about the stock options?¬Ý

AGENT #1: The works, I ran down the whole nine yards.¬Ý

Agent #2 holds up a minicassette.

AGENT #1: You want to hear the tape?¬Ý

AGENT #2: Listen to the part where I started talking about that Prize, and Fields starts hrrumf hrrummf hrrrumffing.

HIRSCHHORN: No, that's okay. Well, look; go see him today. At home. (looks at watch; spreading out the contents of a manila folder) Go over this again. That stuff we sent him. Tell him that wasn't junkmail. Tell him we need him to sign ... here, for the release andwaiver of inventive rights to a technology acquired while under contract to the Department of Defense; to sign here, for CEO of Exopen Biochemicals Limited; sign here, for exercising his stock options, sign here here and here, patent rights, license your patent to your company, license it back to us. Tell him it's technology, it can't, it can't, fall into the wrong hands. (pause) And tell him not to worry, we'll tell him when to sell the stock. Tell him we'll take care of him.

AGENT #1: No problem.¬Ý

AGENT #2: What's this Field guy gonna feed his frogs and rabbits if you two guys don't see eye to eye?¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: What frogs?¬Ý

AGENT #2: Doesn't this guy keep frogs? He's a biologist, isn't he? All scientists got frogs.¬Ý

HIRSCHHORN: (fascistic) All scientists got frogs. (mad) Have you read the literature -- the background material -- on this operation? (madder)Are you capable of reading the background material on this operation? Did you pay attention at the briefing Tuesday? Do you want to go back to your twenty thousand a year GS4A at Fort Dietrick? We've been working on this project for six months and it will not be sabotaged because some agent did not recognize the importance of reading all of the original literature and relevant reference material. I wrote out that bibliography personally. Yeast! Doctor Fields works with yeast. (megalomaniacal) Yeast and Monkey Cells! This is MODERN! BIOLOGY!! (to Agent #1) I want to see those papers in my office. Signed! Today!

Exit Agent #1 and Agent #2.

AGENT #2 (OFFSTAGE): Kiss my ass.¬Ý


DOC'S LABORATORY. Saturday Morning.

Postdoc #1 and Undergraduate Student #1 enter the lab, flip on the roomlights, take off their overcoats, and get to work. Clock on the wall says 10. Postdoc #1 has come in to work on Saturday to run a few polyacrylamide electrophoretic gels, and to demonstrate how they run such gels in the Fields lab. For the rest of the scene, he does just that.

POSTDOC #1: Who will you work for at Cornell?¬Ý

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: I'll be a graduate student.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Of course you'll be a graduate student. Who will you work for?


POSTDOC #1: You ought to think about it. You have to work for somebody. Like you're workin' for Doc now.¬Ý

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: You mean a professor?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: An advisor.¬Ý

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: You mean like you?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Well, Ah reckon I'll be a per-fessor one'a these days.¬Ý

(well has two, maybe three syllables)

Graduate Student #4's motorcycle arrives, IDLES, SHUTS DOWN.

Postdoc #1 has put on a facemask to weigh out acrylamide.

POSTDOC #1: This here acrylamide is some ba-a-ad shit. Okay, we're just gonna follow this here recipe, Laemmli-style. (lem-lee) Postdoc #1 and Undergraduate Student #1 go on weighing out reagents, mixing stuff, etc., after the manner of any competent biochemist.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: I got a question.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Shoot.¬Ý

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: Remember yesterday all that stuff about poliovirus, and polio vaccine, and SV40 virus, and how it was this huge mistake?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Yep.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: And Laurence asked, ‚ÄúWhat if we‚Äôre making a mistake?‚Äù¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: ¬ÝYep.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: ‚ÄúWhat if we‚Äôre making a mistake like that?‚Äù he said.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Yep.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: Was that the biggest mistake we ever made?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Nope. (pause) No, it was not.


POSTDOC #1: The 1918 Flu.¬Ý Hands down.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: We made the flu?¬Ý Scientists made the flu that caused the big flu epidemic?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: (with finality) The flu epidemic of 1918 ‚Äì The Great Pandemic -- was an act of God.¬Ý We could have all died.¬Ý What we ‚Äì the Scientists ‚Äì did was tell everybody that we had it all figured out; and we had the inside track; and ‚Äúdon‚Äôt worry ‚Äòbout a thing.‚Äù¬Ý Hemophilus influenzae, we told everybody; and they believed us; they believed in us; hell, we must have believed it ourselves.¬Ý (long pause) It‚Äôs a long story. (pause)¬Ý Knowin‚Äô you, you‚Äôll study up on it on your own, and pretty quick you‚Äôll know more‚Äôn me about it.¬Ý

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: I‚Äôm going to cure the flu.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Knowing you, you might just ¬Ýgo ahead and do just that.¬Ý You know, somebody‚Äôs gonna do that, someday, might as well be you.¬Ý

Lights down.¬Ý Postdoc #1 in spotlight moves to center stage, assumes a meditative posture which he holds for several quiet seconds.

POSTDOC #1: (self-absorbed, starts chanting) OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA. OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA. (in a normal voice, quietly)¬Ý May I go beyond delusion?

Graduate Student #4 and Sue enter the lab. They take off their coats. He hasn't changed his clothes and she has; she is wearing his scarf, and carrying her satchel.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Hey, how's it going?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Jes' fine.¬Ý


GRADUATE STUDENT #4: This will only take a few minutes.¬Ý

SUE: There's no hurry really. Is somebody always telling you to hurry? Or do you always keep somebody waiting?¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 is warming up some refrigerated culture medium, getting out some sterile pipets, etc. etc. etc. preparing to refeed some tissue culture cells in plastic bottles.

Sue takes her spiral-bound notebook out of her satchel and takes notes, periodically.

[During this Scene, Graduate Student #4 also checks out a fraction collector and inserts a few extra test tubes in the rack, and takes a quick look at the results from the Count. This all takes a while.]¬Ý

SUE: What do you have to do?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: I just have to refeed these A Gee ... cells.¬Ý

SUE: Oh. Can I help?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Uh...no. No. It's probably better if you... No, I can handle it.¬Ý

SUE: (inspecting all the various things in the laboratory) Oh. Certainly area lot of different things in here. (pointing to a still) What's this?


SUE: Still? Like for whiskey? Moonshine? It's all glass! (pause) You don't want me to help because it's dangerous. (silence) Is it dangerous to you, too? (pause) Never mind. I didn't really mean that.

Graduate Student #4 is done refeeding. He puts a bottle under the microscope.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Check this out.¬Ý

Sue looks at the cells under the scope.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: See, the cells are all splayed out and star shaped.¬Ý

SUE: Like they're grabbing onto the glass. Living things have such pleasing shapes.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Grabbing onto the plastic. Now look at these.¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 changes bottles under scope.

SUE: These are all tightly packed, like frog's eggs. Oh, and here's one growing on top of another one.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: You see that once in a while. But mostly when they touch each other -- when they grow out to each other -- they just stop growing.

SUE: Neat. What are they?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Monkey cells. They live in a bottle now.¬Ý

SUE: Neat. Do they have tails when they grow up?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: No. If you could get them to grow up and have tails, you get two free tickets to Stockholm.¬Ý

SUE: For what?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: To pick up your Nobel prize. For unraveling the mystery of differentiation in animal cells.¬Ý

SUE: What's this bubbling over here? With the intravenous setup?¬Ý



SUE: Yeast and monkeys. You guys are weird. You gonna cross a yeast and a monkey?¬Ý


POSTDOC #1: Come on, quit jerkin' her chain. We're not gonna cross a monkey with a fungus.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: I'm -- we're -- putting two yeast genes in monkey cells. (holding up a bottle on its way back to the incubator) You just saw it.

SUE: That's amazing.¬Ý


POSTDOC #1: (delicately layering the samples on a stacking gel) (to Undergraduate Student #1) Now there's lots of ways to do this, but see, look, this is the way that I do it.

Enter Graduate Student #5.

SUE: Is that what they mean when they say The Origin of Species?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: You mean like Darwin?. Genesis. Genetics. The Eighth Day.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Aw c'mon, we need to hear a little of that "That's amazing" stuff once in a while. Ol' Darwin, he's just a theory. Around here, we deal with the Law!¬Ý

SUE: How did you do it, cross the monkey with the yeast?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Okay, this is molecular genetics for poets. Just before the yeast run out of food, there's a jump in oxygen consumption. A kind of last "gasp".: (he gasps) You know how Doc always talks about the "transition to stationary phase?" When the bugs -- the yeast -- run out of food? The molecules the yeast are made of -- just like the molecules we're made of -- they get a different energy. They start to vibrate different. Their energy changes. It's electrical. The NADH goes from reduced to oxidized. So just before that last gasp, we grabbed all the messenger RNA's and we checked them out. One at a time. The RNA with the most copies was the one with the instructions. So it turns out that it's the same instructions in the monkey cells that turns them into normal cells. From Parkinson's cells.

SUE: Those are Parkinson's cells? Or normal cells?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: No. They're "un-aggregateded" cells. Cured. You know, the answer to Alzheimer's, or Parkinson's, all these neurodegenerative neuropathies, where the rotenone site just goes bad..¬Ý

SUE: How did you get the instructions from the yeast to the monkeys in a bottle?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: That's a funny story. Actually, a summer student mixed some of theyeast protein in the monkey medium. By mistake, he thought it was... I forget what he thought it was.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: He thought it was "Serum Protein". He was tryin' to follow the directions on some protocol. Yeah, the kid... what the hell was his name?... dumped the whole bottle in there. In fact, then he dumped it in there, cells and all.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: That was it. That was it. So when Doc looked at the bottle ...remember that? He's always looking at the bottles. Always says, "Boy, one thing you can say for these things, they ain't yeast." He looks at this bottle, and he says, "Look at this, Gary, they don't look right."¬Ý

SUE: 'Cause they were aggregated?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: No. No, they were unaggregated. Disaggregated. They were cured! They threw away their crutches.¬Ý

SUE: So now...¬Ý

Graduate Student #6 enters, takes off his coat. He looks and acts shellshocked; he never gets it together to get any work done.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: So now we're trying to get more of this magical stuff that cures neuropathies. Not exactly the same stuff -- after that, it gets to be a little complicated, 'cause that was a yeast protein, and the right protein is an animal cell protein that's real similar to it. Homologous, we call it, like ribonuclease and angiogenin, or something like that. And the funny thing is it's got to be carried in in cells, or else it goes bad. (jamming gears) Like any vehicle -- you need a slick transmission. And that stuff, there's so goddam little of it -- I mean, picomoles -- it's like nothin'. You could lose half of the world's supply on the side of a dirty test tube. Really. (opening a refrigerator) (madness) And it's all right here!

SUE: Far out. The real McCoy.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah. But we're gonna clone it.¬Ý


POSTDOC #1, GRADUATE STUDENT #4, GRADUATE STUDENT #5, UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: (somewhere between a chant and a cheer, led by Grad Student #5) Clone it, Clone it, Clone it, Clone it! That'll make a difference now, Won't it, Won't it?

Graduate Student #6 looks visibly upset as he sits out the cheer.¬Ý

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT #1: You know I was thinking about all that stuff about originals. And Xeroxes. And clones.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Funny, I was thinking about it too. Last night, when I got home, while I was feedin' the kid. I was thinkin' about my roommate at college. He was a poet. Majored in English. He got himself an old printer, real heavy duty job. Ran that printer offa his Apple computer, all night out in the hallway. Clickety clack, clickety-clack. On paper like outta this piece'a'shit here, (displaying the printout from the Count) still had one good side left. He just used t'other side. Looked kinda, y'know, quaint. The real McCoy. (pause) He cloned his own book of poems. But definitely very original lookin'.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: What happened to this guy?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Belmont? He did pretty good. Some suede shoe operator picked up on him. I saw him one day at the little bookstore right down there by University Avenue, signin' books. He'd like to wear out two pair a elbows, signin' books. I said, seemed like it was easier when you used to print these here sumbitches yourself. (pause) Belmont. Ol' Belmont. He used to say, "What a writer in this country needs is Faith, Hope and Clarity."

A long pause.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, Agent #1 and Agent #2 are dotting the i's and crossing the t's, making Doc an offer he can't refuse. Doc very ambivalently signs on the various dotted lines.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Did Ol' Belmont write by hand or did he write on his Apple?¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Actually, he used to write in a notebook. In the lounge in the girls dorm. Used to get laid, too. I remember one woman, she drew up a cover for one of his poetry books -- she was a pretty fair artist and she printed up about a hundred hellaciously goodlookin book covers for him. On a hand press. Right good lookin. I think that's why people bought'em, tell ya the truth. Now, you couldn't pull all'a that off holdin' an Apple in your lap, now, could ya? Hell, them little ladies would think you was some kinduva computer programmer. Some kinda shithead.¬Ý

SUE: Maybe they would think he was some kind of a scientist.¬Ý

Another long pause. Graduate Student #4 is finishing up his work.¬Ý

Graduate Student #6 exits, still shocked out.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (with a nod at Grad Student #6) He'll get over it. (pause) So what happened to the originals? Not the clones, the poet's handwritten original originals. The notebooks.¬Ý

POSTDOC #1: Well, that's an interesting question. One day he was gonna throw a whole raft of 'em in the fireplace of this old fleabag house we lived in, and I said, "Hey, Belmont, let me keep them for ya", and I went and fetched him a log. So actually, I've got 'em. The Reeeeeeal McCoys.¬Ý

Grad Student #8 is finishing up. Sue is flipping through the pages of Doc's old journal.

GRADUATE STUDENT #8: That's kind of a nice story..¬Ý

SUE: (getting her overcoat) The Reeeeeeeeeeal McCoy. By Golly. Little Ladies, Gettin' Laid. Can we go now?

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah, we're done.¬Ý

SUE: Are you sure?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: When you know what you're doin', you know when you're done.¬Ý

A long look at the clock. Clock says it's about 11:30. Sue is halfway out the door.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (getting his leather jacket, holding hands with Sue) See you guys later. (offstage) Sorry it took so long. Seems like it takes forever.

SUE: (offstage) Of course it takes forever. You have to meander along every intellectual highway and byway just to feed the animals and do a few chores.

Motorcycle STARTS, IDLES, TAKES OFF at a conservative pace.



Graduate Student #4's motorcycle DRIVES UP, IDLES, SHUTS DOWN; Sue's car DRIVES UP, SHUTS DOWN, offstage. Graduate Student #4 (carrying his motorcycle helmet) and Sue enter Graduate Student #4's apartment hallway, turn on the roomlights, and take off their coats. Sue sets her satchel by the couch. [Graduate Student #4's apartment is the former seminar room, Doc's office, and Hirschhorn's office.] Sue sees a white lab coat hung up on a peg -- she puts it on. Falcon pepper and salt shakers.

SUE: What do you think he meant by that "menace to society" remark yesterday?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: That the highly radioactive material -- the spent fuel rods -- don't start a chain reaction in the low level waste. And then it'd be a real menace.¬Ý

SUE: That guy was smarter than that. He's English. "Menace to Society" is what you say about prisons. Ex-cons. Maybe he meant something like, figuratively speaking, it's unnatural and communicable. You do learn to be a menace to society in a prison.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah. (climbing into an easychair) Prison is one of the big problems in the AIDS epidemic.

SUE: It is?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Yeah. All those male rapes and dirty needles in the joint.¬Ý

Sue is openly affectionate, climbing into his easychair. [Just how openly affectionate depends on the venue; e.g., she slips off her bluejeans under the white lab coat.]

SUE: So, this is your place.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: It's like your place only dirtier. Just make yourself at home. I'll make something to eat.¬Ý

SUE: (particularly openly affectionate) Anything I can do to help?

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: No, not really.¬Ý

SUE: It's not dangerous, is it?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Who knows? I'm only kidding. No, of course not. (rising) Here, sit, I'll bring you a beer. Or wine.

SUE: (aimlessly picking up a shake flask with sidearm) Wine's fine.¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 hums "Faith Hope and Charity, that's the way to live successfully. How do I know, the Bible tells me so."

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (offstage) You haven't told me yet why you're so interested in this biology stuff. Oh, hey, by the way, you know Jonas Salk? He didn't get a Nobel prize, right?

SUE: Why are you so interested in this biology stuff?. Do you just enjoy playing God? Personally, I enjoy making genes the old fashioned way. While you guys are so busy playing God, God is rolling around on the floor laughing his ASS off at you. What's a shake flask, anyway?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4": (offstage) Why I'm interested in Biology, in twenty-five words or less.

Doc enters his lab [next door]. He leaves his overcoat on, flips on the room lights. He looks bad. He has a folder full of (signed) papers from Hirschhorn's Agents, which he deposits on a bench in despair.

Doc wanders around his lab. He checks all the cultures and incubators and the fraction collector and the scintillation counter. He inspects all the reagents. He opens and closes the refrigerator. Generally, he putters around, quite lost and distraught.

SUE: I'm not being cagey. I just wanted to see if it were true. (aimlessly fondling the empty shake flask) And that's nice, that you don't correct the Professor. About the Nobel.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: offstage) If what were true?¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 returns with two glasses of red wine and a joint. This conversation gets slower and heavier and more sexually explicit as it goes on.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Saturday night. (taking shake flask and "swirling" it) That's a shake flask. (cocktailing into the shake flask) Water, salt, sugar and yeast: Voila! Lake Erie.¬Ý

SUE: A shake flask! (fondling sidearm colorimeter tube of shake flask; "shakes" flask suggestively; bursts into laughter) The real McCoy. And what do you call this ‚ÄöѬ this rod?


SUE: A sidearm! (pause) I do a lot of war work. Or I guess I should call it antiwar work. Ever since Viet Nam.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (toking) Nam!

SUE: Ever since then, I've been plugging away at classified research.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (passing) We don't do anything classified. And it's Louis (loo-ee) deBroglie, not Michael. He was a French prince.

SUE: (toking) You're working for the Defense Department, aren't you?

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: We've got a DOD grant, sure. We're not "working for the Defense Department". And those "Laws" are only true at equilibrium. That's why those shake flasks don't work worth a fuck. ¬Ý

SUE: (passing) You're trying to cause Parkinson's Disease, right?

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (toking) What?

SUE: Isn't that what the "Answer to Alzheimer's" is? I mean, that's what your grant is for?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: What in the hell are you talking about?¬Ý

SUE: I looked up the grant number. You know, the DOD number.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (passing) Where did you "look it up"?

SUE: (toking) At the Quakers. American Friends Service Committee.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Where's that?

Doc is hurriedly writing some notes to himself. He looks up a phone number on a list on the wall near the phone.¬Ý

Sexually explicit behavior is deteriorating due to stress and conflict.

SUE: Downtown on Twelfth Street. They have a book. It costs five hundred seventy-five dollars a year and it has all the grant numbers and titles for each one. You were right after Paranoia and before Parvoviruses.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: That's great. How does that prove we're working on causing neurodegenerative diseases? This sounds like something out of Franz Kafka's wastebasket.¬Ý

SUE: Well, the numbers are scrambled. But if you put them in order, then little groups fall out. You guys are in a group that apparently is trying to give early onset Parkinson's to people.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: What the hell is that supposed to mean?¬Ý

Doc dials Graduate Student #4's number on the lab telephone. Telephone RINGS in Graduate Student #4's apartment on the other side of the stage.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (into telephone) Hello?

DOC: (into telephone, reading from notes) (point by point, like a seminar, but loose and disconnected) Gary? Gary, this is Doc. Ya got a minute? I have some things to tell you that are very important. Now I don't want you to get alarmed, but I want you to know that I am not going to be here. And that I didn't know, but you're going to find out something. And Gary, it's very important that you should finish your degree, very important, oh, and that you have to come and get your samples. But mainly, it's very important that you should know that. Okay? Gary?

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (into telephone) (nonplussed) Okay.

Doc hangs up. Graduate Student #4 hangs up. Doc goes back to wandering dazedly about the lab. Graduate Student #4 goes back to his conversation with Sue, completely distracted.

SUE: Look. (putting down the shake flask, and getting a piece of paper from her satchel) Here's the list. See for yourself. I didn't do this myself. Actually, I came across it by accident while I was looking for something else. Kind of the way the Frozen Addicts were discovered by accident. Kind of the way you guys discover stuff. By accident. (pause) 'Course, it figures, what with all the haphazard stuff going on all the time. (pause) Not very well controlled, your lab. (pause) You know, your boss, Doc, is referred to all the time as "Nobel-Prize Material"? (pause) Neat guy. Doc really is a neat guy. (pause) Really, though -- do you think people ought to be allowed to take genes out of one animal and put them into another one?

Doc goes to the refrigerator where Graduate Student #4 keeps his precious samples. Doc takes out the sample test tube, looks at it with an eye to destroying it, puts it back, takes it out again -- agonizes over it, can't bring himself to smash it to pieces.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (studying list) No shit! That's amazing. (pause) Look at this one. Grant Number OO-22387-UXJ. Section Vaccines. ToUSU. USU. USU. USU? (hurriedly grabbing a few more pieces of paper from the satchel, flipping pages) Uniformed Services University. Uniformed Services? University? Studies on Shig gene expression in Escherichia coli. What the fuck?

Grad Student #4 accidentally spills red wine all over the page.¬Ý

SUE: Does that one surprise you? (putting down the joint) I looked that one up. That's a project to grow up a bunch of shigella toxin to cause shigellosis in people you aim it at. Uniformed Services University is like, Military U. Shiga-like Toxin. SLT! It was like, Madison Avenue, kind of zippy. S-L-T!!

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: And where are we? What are we doing? (flipping more pages) Here? You got it marked. This is about ‚ÄöѬ. a bunch of junkies. Heroin addicts. Oh yeah, right, the Frozen Addicts. Complex One. Parkinson's. Fields. Man. I didn't know!

SUE: You didn't know? How could you -- you didn't know? Doc didn't tell you?¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Doc. Doc knows how to grow yeast and get grant money. We don't even do viruses.¬Ý

Over on his side of the stage, Doc gets a syringe and needle from a drawer, goes back to one of his bottles from the refrigerator, draws down ten cc of red liquid, and sits on a lab stool, near an incubator full of tissue culture cells.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: He's a nice old guy. He wouldn't go along with that kind of shit. He's a peacenik. He's a nice guy. No, that's crazy. He couldn't know. (staring at the list) Is this the whole thing? This is....

SUE: It's a Xerox ... I don't have the "original"... who knows where ideas like this get started. I just took it for granted -- so to speak. (giggles) I'm sorry. I guess that wasn't so funny. "Took it for granted." I mean, I just assumed -- kind of naively, I guess -- that everybody was on a kind of Manhattan project. It certainly appeared that way from the lists down at the Quakers.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: The Manhattan Project? The atomic bomb?¬Ý

SUE: The physicists. Truman. The Manhattan Project.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: That was different.¬Ý

SUE: That was different all right. Things haven't been the same since.

DOC: (examining tissue culture cells in bottles, mostly without the 'scope) Little bastards in a bottle. Bred from an African monkey, from dogs and chickens; from a diseased cunt...

Propagated Perpetually. As long as there are Fools and Scholars like me, keeping you alive.¬Ý

You're not living, you're eternally dying.¬Ý

You lie imprisoned in our protocols, tortured in our Inquisition, interrogated in our Experiments, with Elements unknown even to God only forty years ago, when I was young, and nuclei of Uranium collided harmlessly, twenty thousand leagues beneath the surface of the Earth.¬Ý

Ours is such an unnatural Science.¬Ý

I'm so afraid of what these maniacs will do.¬Ý

He who lives by his wits, now dies of them.¬Ý

Doc injects himself. After the first little jolt, he's outwardly OK, and waits woozily for the poison to work.

Graduate Student #4 chugalugs his wine, pours himself another big slug (elegantly, in a pantomime of labwork) and downs it bottoms up.¬Ý

Doc clips the syringe and disposes of the barrel, looks at his pocketwatch, rechecks the time on the clock up on the wall, and then turns on the radio to catch the evening news, pretty much the way he does every evening before toddling home.

The KPFA news for this evening is an auditory HALLUCINATION in Doc's mind. [Visual hallucinations cost a lot more to produce.]

KPFA ENGINEER-ANNOUNCER: You're listening to KPFA Radio in Berkeley, KFCF in Fresno, Truth on the Air.¬Ý

MARK ON KPFA: Good Evening. It's Saturday the twenty-sixth of November. I'm Mark Marakel¬Ý

HEIDI ON KPFA: and I'm Heidi Zemmock¬Ý

MARK ON KPFA: and this is the KPFA Evening News.¬Ý

Short characteristic musical INTERLUDE. KPFA Evening News continues in the BACKGROUND (Appendix 2). The following dialogue is a "voiceover" to the (boring) radio part which chimes in at "... it is great to be here..."

SUE: Come on, don't you believe in peace? Peace and nonviolence?¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 grabs an assault rifle from under his couch.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: You know what you call this? An AK-47. I got it offa dead Charley who got it from the Russians.¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 puts the rifle down.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Peace. Peace and nonviolence. I mean shit, after what I went through in Nam you don't think I'd want to see any more guys with their guts hangin' out and pieces of legs and arms. Fuck that. Yeah, peace, baby.

Graduate Student #4 gives the Vee sign. He picks up the AK, starts waving it around some more.


Prominent RADIO here, starting with "...Russians are following..."

Graduate Student #4 dials Doc's home phone. RINGS, no answer. He dials the laboratory. Doc picks up the phone.

Graduate Student #4 switches his telephone over to speakerphone mode.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (into telephone) Hello? Doc?¬Ý

DOC: (over speakerphone) (into telephone) How are you gonna get your degree when I'm not here any more?

Doc and the phone clatter to the floor.

Graduate Student #4 redials the laboratory.


GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Busy? (nonplussed; angry) I'm goin' to the lab.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4 is on his way over to the lab pronto. He brings along the AK. His bike STARTS, WARMS UP for a moment, then BLASTS OFF. Offstage, no helmet.

Sue starts to follow him, a few seconds later, neatly placing the shake flask where she had found it. As she is setting down the shake flask, she notices a label on it, and picks it back up. She reads the label aloud to herself, haltingly.

SUE: "Shake flasks are a systematic error in biology, both of omission and of commission". (pause) "Systematic error. Systematic error." (pause) Systematic error.

Sue replaces the flask once again where she had found it; turning off the lights in his apartment on the way out the door.

SUE: (offstage) BIG mistake, I guess.

Her car STARTS, WARMS UP for a moment, then DRIVES AWAY.

The KPFA EVENING NEWS plays, while they are en route.

Graduate Student #5 peeks in the lab, eyeballs Doc (whose demise is not in the program), looks up a phone number in his wallet, and immediately makes a call on the lab phone. No conversation, just prearranged digits.

Exit Graduate Student #5.

Doc has expired.

Agent #1 and Agent #2 let themselves in to the laboratory.

AGENT #2: (rolling Doc over with his foot) Check this out.

Agent #2 crosses himself. Agent #1 does a quick color test for cyanide. Agent #1 methodically gets an ice bucket, some ice, test tubes, microbiological slants -- a bunch of stuff, mostly from the refrigerators, and paying especial attention to the test tube that Graduate Student #4 waxed so ecstatic over earlier that day. Agent #2 stands guard. Agent #1 turns off the radio just as the news story finishes. "... most remote desert in Southern Africa."

Graduate Student #4's motorcycle kickstand hits the pavement, offstage. Graduate Student #4 approaches the lab after the manner of any competent commando. Agent #2 sees the AK, drops his .45, and puts his hands up. Agent #1 puts her hands up too.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Who are you? And who in the fuck are you working for?¬Ý

Agent #1's pager goes off. She reaches for it, to respond. Graduate Student #4 grabs it, rips it from her clothes, and smashes it to pieces with the butt of the rifle on the floor.

AGENT #1: You don't know what you're getting yourself into.¬Ý

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: (dialing the telephone) You fuck with the bull, you get the horns!

Enter Hirschhorn.

HIRSCHHORN: Save the dime. She's a Federal agent.

Graduate Student #4 thinks this over for a while, then assaults Hirschhorn with the butt of the rifle.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: And who the fuck are you, Hirschhorn? The President of the United States?¬Ý

Hirschhorn motions frantically for Agent #1 to deal with the situation. She attempts to subdue Graduate Student #4; he dispatches her to the floor with a neat blow. Graduate Student #4 then starts to beat up on Hirschhorn with great physical savagery, extremely quick staccato.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Come on, what the fuck are you doin' here, you little creep? What do you want? Are you some kind of Federal agent? Are you Eliot Ness? Well, I'm the Lone Ranger. Did you have something to do with this? Did you do this to him?

Sue enters.

SUE: Stop it! Stop it! (sees Doc) Oh my God! My God, what happened to him?¬Ý

Agent #1 is relieved of her .38 cal SandW Detective Special after a quick pat-search by Graduate Student #4 .

Graduate Student #4 is exhausted and shaking. He lines up on a top shelf all the important samples, bottles, test tubes, etc. that Agent #1 had been squirreling away. He then blasts them into oblivion with a burst from the AK. He wipes all the fingerprints off the rifle, and places it firmly in Doc's embrace.

Hirschhorn meanwhile crawls over to Agent #2's pistol.

Graduate Student #4 sees Hirschhorn with the pistol, whips Doc's body around, and runs a few rounds over Hirschhorn's head with Doc pulling the trigger posthumously.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: I'm making you a little deal, Hirsch. I don't have to worry about you, you don't have to worry about me, either.¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 gives Hirschhorn a professional kick, and then a final, more personal kick.

Sue, kneeling, covers up Doc with a white lab coat.

Graduate Student #4 opens up a deep freeze and carefully packs up his secret stash of samples, in dry ice, in a nondescript insulated box.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: The real McCoy.¬Ý

Graduate Student #4 pulls airline tickets from Doc's jacket, and pockets them.

GRADUATE STUDENT #4: Come on. Let's go.¬Ý

EXEUNT Graduate Student #4 and Sue.

Hirschhorn crawls to the telephone, can't quite make it. Too many broken ribs.

Graduate Student #4's motorcycle starts, blasts off.






DOC: (referring to the four-quadrant slide on the screen) In the next series of experiments, we sought to answer the question, could this same result be obtained in the presence of the protein synthesis inhibitors cycloheximide and chloramphenicol? As you all are aware, cycloheximide inhibits aminoacid chain elongationon cytoplasmic ribosomes, chloramphenicol on mitochondrial ribosomes. To the contents of a culture vessel we added cycloheximide, final concentration 100 micrograms per milliliter, and carried out the incubation as described in the previous series of experiments. Could we see the next slide, please?



As you can see in the first figure, acquisition of the rotenone sensitive site is ordinarily a process that requires several hours logarithmic growth under servomechanism controlled conditions, has a half-time of fourteen minutes, and can be repetitively stimulated. When the cells cease to grow, here, at about two times ten to the sixth yeast cells per ml, they switch to a different physiological state, in this case characterized by a drop in oh two consumption and cessation of acid production.¬Ý



The second figure on the slide here shows the results of the addition of cycloheximide, and demonstrates the effectiveness of the drug in preventing the acquisition of the rotenone sensitive site. Cycloheximide, 100 micrograms per mill, was added just at the point when the second negative slope was encountered in the plot of minus dee oh two dee tee versus time.¬Ý

At the arrow, here. As you can see, the expected change in sensitivity did not occur.¬Ý



The third figure shows the results of addition of chloramphenicol. Chloramphenicol, as you know, inhibits de novo protein synthesis on mitochondrial ribosomes. The materials and methods here are the same as in figure two, except that chloramphenicol was added at a final concentration of 150 micrograms per milliliter. And as you can see, the results are substantially the same as in figure one, the control.



The last figure shows the effect of both cycloheximide, on the dashed line, and chloramphenicol, on the solid line, when added after three hours of stationary phase maintenance metabolism. Ordinarily these cycles of feeding and starving with ethanol as substrate produce alternate episodes of inhibition and insensitivity, but as you can see, in the presence of cycloheximide, the loss of sensitivity was not observed. The level of sensitivity declined a bit, here, to here, and then the experiment was terminated. Life under chloramphenicol treatment was a bit anomalous, as evidenced by the irregular pattern of oh two consumption and somewhat less than linear decline in pH, but the kinetics of the return to the insensitive state apparently do not differ markedly from the control.



I believe that's the last slide. Could we have the lights please.


Katz, R. Growth Phase and Rotenone Sensitivity in Torulopsis utilis. Difference between Exponential and Stationary Phase. FEBS Letters, 12, 153, 1971.¬Ý

Katz, R., Chance, B., and Kilpatrick, L. Acquisition and Loss of Rotenone Sensitivity in Torulopsis utilis . European Journal of Biochemistry, 21, 301, 1971.¬Ý






MARK: Today was the big day in the Kalahari. On a windswept plain twenty three kilometers from Abu Mesir, teams from the United States and the Soviet Union have completed the first exercise under the 1985 Joint US-Soviet Nuclear Dismantlement Treaty, popularly known as Project Potlatch. KPFA's Kris Welch is on the scene live in Southern Africa.

Transmission from Africa is a bit staticky. Doc struggles to regain consciousness, to come back to the world of the living to hear the news announcement he has been waiting his whole life for.

KRIS: This was it, folks, definitely the day we've been waiting for for a long time and I mean it is GREAT to be here. The Dismantlement Comrades from the Soviet Union finished up around three o'clock and the American team about the same time. Don't want to appear too competitive there, boys, if you know what I mean. After all that's how we got here in the first place. I've invited a member of the American team and a member of the Russian team over to our KPFA tent for the show here, just pull up the chairs there, Nikolaya, one for you and I see you brought a friend and there's another one for Wendy. Let's all introduce ourselves to the subscribers at KPFA. On my left here is Wendy Harrelson who has been part of the American team -- (muffled comment) Captain of the American Team for at least as long as I've been here.

WENDY: (stiff voice) Pleased to be here, Kris.

KRIS: And on my right is Nikolaya Kirichenkovna and on her right is...

NIKOLAYA: (stiff voice, heavy Kiev Accent) Dmitri Ivanov.

DMITRI: (perfect English, just a slight accent) Many many good wishes to all of your listeners, comrade.

NIKOLAYA: Dmitri is a radio "personality", as you call it, in Leningrad.

KRIS: Oh, isn't that great! Morning or afternoon?¬Ý

DMITRI: Morning. Around five.¬Ý

KRIS: My god, I'm on at seven and I wonder how I get my headphones on in the morning. So tell me; what did you think of the big moment out there? God it was windy.¬Ý

NIKOLAYA: I just want to tell everyone, everyone who can hear me in your beautiful city of Berkeley, California, United States, that we should live in the peace that we have done here today. This is a very important day and I am very much pleased to be a part of my country's efforts to be peace on earth.¬Ý

WENDY: Well, Kris, speaking for myself and what I am confident is all my teammates, it's a great, great feeling to be here, representing my country in this really historic situation. It's funny to be so lucky to be one of the few. I just keep saying it over and over to myself, I hope it's not just a dream.¬Ý

KRIS: And Dmitri, what are you going to be telling your loyal listeners in... Leningrad?¬Ý

DMITRI:We've actually been broadcasting pretty much all day today, comrade.¬Ý

KRIS: Call me Kris.¬Ý

DMITRI: (charming) Certainly, Kris! I had my usual spot at five this morning --Leningrad time, of course -- and then every time something came up that the comrades might be interested in, we filed an update.

KRIS: So people are really following it? Isn't it great?¬Ý

DMITRI: Russians are following it. Yes indeed. And yes, it is great. Things appeared to be getting a bit sticky when the Americans wouldn't turn over the title to the nosecone. The little metal badge the manufacturer had put on it.¬Ý

KRIS: Yeah, what do you think that was all about? That was just about an ID tag?¬Ý

DMITRI: I gather it had something to do with your copyright laws, or patent laws, and export licenses. Very odd, don't you think? Apparently it hadn't occurred to anyone before today that these missiles were for export. And your Comrade Winston raised this point at the last minute.¬Ý

KRIS: Winston's the guy from Rockwell? Or General Dynamics?¬Ý

DMITRI: He is an employee of Lockheed Missile and Space, I believe.¬Ý

KRIS: I knew it was one of those. And then what? Then things got kind of weird.¬Ý

DMITRI: And then the whole potlatch must stop in order to obtain such a license, so the American team could hand over this little badge, this Eye Dee Plate you called it?¬Ý

KRIS: This was just a few hours ago? At the field?¬Ý

DMITRI: Yes. Didn't you hear the Russian who said -- Oh, well, of course you heard him, but that was in Russian -- the purple suited man with the fur cap?¬Ý

KRIS: Well, that could be almost anybody.¬Ý

DMITRI: (laughing) Yes, well, the industry men do tend to dress a certain way.Anyway, the fellow said (in Russian) We don't need any stinking badges!

KRIS: Was that where the whole Russian industry group cracked up?¬Ý

DMITRI: (still laughing) Yes.

KRIS: It was translated as, "If you didn't want to export it you shouldn't have put a rocket on it." Yes, I guess that was funny. Maybe some people can tell a joke and some people can't.¬Ý

DMITRI: (laughing his ass off) He said, "We don't need any steenking badges." It was very funny.

Kris cracks up.

KRIS: For the benefit of our listeners, that is a quote from a Humphrey Bogart movie, uh uh...¬Ý

DMITRI: "Treasure of the Sierra Madre".¬Ý

KRIS: You fellas are really up on the culture, I see.¬Ý

KPFA'S Mark Marakel is back on with local transmission.

MARK: Kris, could you let our listeners in on a little bit of what happened today in Abu Mesir.¬Ý

KRIS: (effusive) Hey, Mark, this IS what's happening. And remember, you heard itfirst on KPFA, listener-sponsored first amendment radio in Berkeley, Truth on the Air.

MARK: Kris, we heard that the second set of missiles has been delayed in transit while the Soviets discussed the possibility of...¬Ý

KRIS: Hey, don't worry about a thing. Two down, forty eight thousand four hundred ninety six to go.¬Ý

DMITRI: Kris, it has been my pleasure talking to you and your listeners -- your subscribers -- and I hope that someday your government will give you some more money, it sounds like you have some wonderfully talented broadcasters at your station, and if you ever need any more translations just let us know. We're on the air in ... three minutes. Gotta run.¬Ý

KRIS: Hey, thanks for being on the show. That's about it from Abu back to you Mark.¬Ý

MARK: Thanks Kris. So they did it; U.S. and Soviet teams have successfully dismantled one of each other's missiles and laid them to rest in this most remote desert in Southern Africa.¬Ý
















For Dr. Chance


who never told me who Johnson was.



Modern Biology is about genetic engineering. Professor Harry Fields, after a lifetime of scientific research as a biochemist, finds out one weekend that he has been unknowingly working on genetic warfare. (The curtain rises on a Friday at 10 A.M.; the curtain falls on Saturday about 6:15 P.M.)

One of Dr Fields‚ÄöÑ¥ male graduate students (a Viet vet) falls in love with a visitor to the lab that same weekend. The visitor has done her homework on Fields‚ÄöÑ¥ research, and she hips the graduate student to Fields‚ÄöÑ¥ unwitting role just about the same time that Fields finds out about it himself.

Fields commits suicide by chemical injection, sitting on a stool in his laboratory.

The graduate student is enraged that he has been had ‚ÄöÑÆ again ‚ÄöÑÆ by the Army. He goes to the laboratory armed with an assault rifle, and confronts the individuals who brought down his professor. The situation is resolved.



Act I, Sc 1: Modern Biology opens with a scientific seminar, given by Dr. Harry Fields. Fields is a man at, or near, the top of his profession. This seminar shows him at his professional best ‚Äö no problems, no insecurities, just a competent scientist who has been lucky, and with some more luck might get a Nobel prize. Extremely esoteric seminar presentation. (The seminar presentation is to be chopped down in rehearsal to the point that the theater audience is brought just to the point of boredom, before being rescued by a confrontation between Fields and another professor. In general, the Director may cut but not add to this script whenever a tale is being told.)

Act I, Sc 2: Back at Fields's laboratory, a group of graduate students, postdocs (postdoctoral trainees) and faculty members are having a Friday afternoon bull session about science in general, and viruses and genetic engineering in particular. This scene is extremely long and digressive. Some of the material is just as esoteric as in I,1 but it's not a seminar. It is meant to be totally accessible to the public. All of the material presented is factual, but most of it is unbelievable (for example, that the polio vaccine on your sugar cube was contaminated with monkey AIDS virus.) Fields gets a disturbing phone call. Grad Student #4 makes a date with female visitor.

Act II, Sc 1: Saturday. Hirschhorn, Fields's nemesis, wants Fields brought in for a visit. A short brutal scene.

Act II, Sc 2: Saturday at Fields's lab. More digressions and scientific meanderings, wherein is revealed the scientific importance of the Fields lab's research. The love interest of Grad Student #4 and the visitor has been consummated.

Act II, Sc 3: Fields visits Hirschhorn. In an explosive scene, Fields's life is destroyed.

Act II, Sc 4: Fields kills himself in his lab. Grad Student #4 avenges him.


This is a work of dramatic fiction.

Any relation to any person

living or dead

is strictly coincidental.




¬ÝNotes by the Author 2006

1. Measuring Oxygen: The point Doc is making in Act 1 at the seminar and later at his lab, is that he wants you to be able to replicate his work. Thus he makes a big deal out of pointing out the one thing that could confound the results. In the real world people do not generally MEASURE the oxygen concentration in the culture medium of the cells they grow. They assume that the oxygen concentration is twenty percent of saturation, i.e. they assume that by Henry's Law the oxygen concentration is in equilibrium with the air above it, and therefore in plenteous supply. The problem here is that Henry's Law is AT EQUILIBRIUM; a fast growing culture of aerobic microorganisms is at anything but equilibrium. In fact, experimentally, empirically, by MEASUREMENT, the de facto oxygen concentration is zero.

A professional production of Modern Biology would contribute mightily to the scientific literature. Not just to LIterature; the Author ain't no Marlowe; but to the Scientific Literature. That will be a first. Be ready for a certain amount of controversy and pooh pooh'ing that everybody is wrong and the author is right.

2. Updating Modern Biology:

  1. Richard Katz's experiments on acquisition and loss of rotenone sensitive NADH dehydrogenase in Candida yeast

1981 Frozen Addicts appear with full blown Parkinson's caused by MPTP

1986 Richard writes Modern Biology

1991-2001 Parkinson's-MPTP connection is MPTP causing loss of NADH dehydrogenase in substantia nigra of brain

Now THAT is some updating!!

  1. Laws and Theories: Henry's Law is a law; The Theory of Evolution is a theory. Don't think that it's called a theory because science doesn't have laws. NB: In the Law, something like Henry's Law is called a maxim, as in The Maxims of Jurisprudence. What we call laws, in the law, have names like ordinance or regulation or statute. They are subject to change. Henry's Law is not subject to change, and neither are the Maxims of Jurisprudence.


  1. Modern Biology is a parable of Shabbos:

Act I Sc 1 Good and Evil: Hirschhorn doesn't have much personality and what he has is mostly bad (a quote from High Plains Drifter, the Sheriff speaking). Doc is a good guy. Hirschhorn's office is a formal stage.

Act I Sc 2 Faith vs Skepticism/doubt: Scientists are skeptics; they are supposed to doubt everything. But if a guy can repeat his results, we begin to believe him; and if somebody else repeats his results, they are True. This is the Faith. The thrust and parry between Doc and Sleight dramatizes faith, then skepticism, then proof, followed by Reaffirmation of the Faith. Very clear. The Seminar Room is a formal stage.

Act I Sc 3 The Murky Middle: This is the scientists' real stage, the lab. Here, nothing is clear cut. Truth changes by the minute. Doc is as good as anyone at reciting articles of faith, like "Oxygen" and "Measure". Doc ends up reciting nursery rhymes. But here is where the Audience acquires a good understanding of science.

Lesser issues, peculiar to science, in Act I particularly Sc 3:

Safety: Day to day, e.g. radiation

End of the World: Beyond safety, e.g. origin of AIDS

Playing God: Day to Day morality

Fakery, Fraud, Hucksterism, Sexism, Conservatism, Theft, Glory


It's Friday Night

Saturday Morning:

Act II Sc 1 Complications: The evildoers' program has hit snags; maybe they shouldn't be working on Saturday

Act II Sc 2 Complications of the good sort: The good guys' just keep up the work; discussion of the Book

Act II Sc 3 Good vs Evil for good. Shabbos is over; it's Saturday night.

  1. RK has written essays which inform the play

"Biological Oxygen"; "Flu"; "Falling off a Log + NADH2"

  1. Plays about Big Issues in Science aren't about science. There are some handwritten notes in RK's copy of Modern Biology about this, but they sound like grousing about a play selection committee which hasn't even met yet, but which will no doubt manifest the conservatism of most any peer review type committee. You end up with dramas about Big Issues, like, say, Climate Change; or String Theory; or The Nature of the Atom. It seems to me that a series of plays about science, particularly about the Understanding of Science, ought to have at least one play that is written by a scientist and which is set in a laboratory. Think about that; if it be set in a lab, it would of necessity have to be written by a scientist, or at least coauthored by a scientist.

From the Magic Theater, San Francisco's webpages about the Sloan Initiative for new plays for the understanding of science:

Playwrights and creative teams may submit proposals or early drafts of plays for commission from the Sloan Initiative. The program encourages a breadth and range of topics and forms, providing the issues, characters, settings, or plots in some way address the disciplines in the hard sciences (i.e. mathematics, biotechnology, physics, etc. as opposed to psychology, psychiatry, sociology, etc.). Topics can be contemporary or historical. Straight science fiction and plays about medical conditions are discouraged.

Proposals should be one page, including project description, synopsis or outline, and be accompanied by a professional r©sum© or biography.

Drafts should be full-length in any genre and in process (i.e. no production history).

Final decisions on plays and proposals will be made by a selection committee comprised of members of the artistic staff of Magic Theatre, as well as members of the Bay Area's leading-edge scientific community.

Well, that was all just great, but the Iceman play, or Ice Age, or whatever it was; and the Morbidity and Mortality play: they just weren't very scientific, were they? And the role of women was a problem. I hope somebody entertains the idea of casting Doc Fields as a woman.

What I've got in mind here is where an audience member, i.e. somebody who has seen this play, strikes up a conversation with someone who turns out to be a biologist, and the audience member just might think to ask, "So, do you use any shake flasks?"

  1. Getting back to Faith, supra: Along with the faith that a result is true, there is the faith that is required of the scientist before he/she gets a result. In my case, that took many months of no results. Come to think of it, Doc mentions that, just after he goes to his office to fetch his notebook.


  1. More notes from late in 2006:

Modern Biology is Marlowe's Faustus, taking money for science is a pact with the devil, if it's DoD money for example; It's of some interest whether Doc is even aware of the deal. (That was Dr Turner's great lecture about redemption and salvation: Faustus knew or should have known, that redemption was now OUT of the question; that's part of the deal. That's a whole ball of wax, whetehr a person KNOWS something like that. Anything dealing with the afterlife is like that.

Leaky roofs, particularly flat concrete roofs, are like shake flasks; they're beautiful and perfunctory and they forgot what the thing was for to begin with, to keep the water out.

Shake flasks are an example of making assumptions when you should have been making measurements.
























A Play in Two Acts about Shake Flasks and Biological Warfare¬Ý

Copyright 1986-2006 RICHARD KATZ¬Ý 510 236 1865








A Play in Two Acts

about Shake Flasks

and Biological Warfare










Point Richmond, California






©1986-2006 Richard Katz








All Rights Reserved




Richard Katz grew up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He went to college at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and moved to California in 1970 to attend graduate school in biochemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. Mr Katz has completed AFI courses in screenwriting held at Fort Mason, and has written a screenplay and five stage plays. He has had various day jobs, as an operator of a trucking business, a real estate concern, as a biochemist, and as head of a computer rental business in Berkeley. Mr Katz is married with several children. www.frogojt.com/richard.html




Cover letter for STAGE competition:


20 Belvedere Avenue

Point Richmond CA 94801

510 236 1865

December 2006


STAGE Script Competition

Professional Artists Lab

CNSI-MC 6105

University of California at Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, CA 93106-6105


Dear STAGEhands:

I'll bet MODERN BIOLOGY is the only play you'll get that's written by somebody who ever published a scientific paper in a refereed journal. I guarantee you it's the only one you'll get by somebody who published any scientific papers under his/her own steam.

I wrote this play twenty years ago. Theater groups all said the same thing: "Too technical." I've been updating it ever since; science marches on. Actually, the Frozen Addicts story had happened in 1981, but I was pretty much on sabbatical until 1995. The stuff about Hilary Koprowski and the origin of AIDS didn't come to my attention until a full length book, The River, came out, not all that long ago.

Real science will ALWAYS be too "technical" for the audience, according to the theater professionals, but actually the audience might (or might not) find it fascinating. We'll probably never know.

The stage business has the scientists doing day to day work, with real equipment. It's not like that's the plot; the difference between biology twenty years ago and now is a matter of degree, not of kind. I personally own a New Brunswick Scientific G76 Gyrotory Shaker that used to belong to Advanced Genetic Sciences Incorporated at 6701 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, California, the outfit that bought it new and made Frostban strawberries in the early 80's. What's changed, really?

I don't feel like putting a whole lot of added effort into this application, because in the last twenty years since I wrote it, the same twenty years I've been updating it, including the last few hours just now, I've seen the way theater deals with science, e.g. the Sloan Initiative, and I don't see much hope for a fly-on-the-wall drama about laboratory life, no matter how dramatic. Science plays are always "about" science; they don't portray science. They're science fiction. Somebody must have noticed this besides me, because the guidelines for contests like this routinely proscribe science fiction. That's a whole kettle of fish there, with Ray Bradbury and Philip K Dick laughing their asses off over the endless oxymoron of science "fiction" on stage; but it's okay, because believe me, while lot of molecular biologists are busy playing God, God is rolling around on the floor laughing His ass off about their shake flasks.

My one passionate motivation for submitting this play is that the inadequacy, nay the IDIOCY!! of shaken culture flasks, shaken to "aerate" them, is so WRONG!! It's a systematic error. I discovered that; I proved that, in 1970. If you don't produce my play, that fact won't EVER see the light of day. I certainly haven't been able to get much traction for it.

That would be ever so cool, if theater taught a lesson to science, about how to grow their bugs.

Very sincerely,


Richard Katz