four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
47-July-Aug-2010
user_rating: 
0

A-101 Theory Drive.epsAward-winning journalist Terry McDermott, a former reporter for both the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Times, is the author of Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers--Who They Were, Why They Did It (2005).

The Topic: In a small trailer located at 101 Theory Drive, on the campus of the University of California at Irvine, Gary Lynch, a former psychologist and self-taught neuroscientist, hunts for the physical and biochemical mechanisms that create and control memories. Between 2005 and 2007, he granted unprecedented access to his research, his experiments, and his diverse band of graduate students and postdocs to journalist Terry McDermott, who chronicles the fantastic successes, the gut-wrenching failures, and the intervening drudgery of Lynch's lab. McDermott also explores the evolution and inner workings of the brain and the history of neuroscience. As he marvels at the complexity of the human mind, McDermott describes one brilliant man's quest to unlock its secrets.
Pantheon. 288 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780375425387

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Blunt, temperamental, raucous, divisive, hard-partying, Corvette-driving--Lynch is to neuroscience what Anthony Bourdain is to the kitchen. ... Even with a personality as prolix and profane as Lynch's, however, the story itself is still about science, which, despite what you see on CSI, can move mighty slowly. Thankfully, McDermott knows how to drive a tale." B. T. Shaw

Providence Journal 4 of 5 Stars
"Equally adept at describing what occurs inside a brain cell and what happens in the bars and apartments where the motley crew of researchers goes to unwind, McDermott makes Lynch's lifework a real adventure. ... 101 Theory Drive is about the science, of course, but what makes this study enjoyable is McDermott's profile of Gary Lynch." Tony Lewis

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The access Lynch, a high-level researcher, granted McDermott, a journalist, is highly unusual, and maybe unprecedented in the scientific realm. McDermott has used that access wisely by writing a sometimes technical but always fascinating book." Steve Weinberg

Critical Summary

Though 101 Theory Drive covers a significantly different terrain from that in McDermott's 2005 account of the 9/11 hijackers, the critics proclaimed his latest book a riveting "joy ride" (Oregonian)--a rollicking behind-the-scenes tour of modern science, including its egos, contentious debates, funding disasters, and extraordinary advancements. The story centers on science, and McDermott, with his crisp prose and clear explanations, skillfully guides readers through this technical but always enjoyable tale. However, the true star of 101 Theory Drive is the hard-drinking, foul-mouthed Lynch, whom McDermott clearly admires. Lynch's enthusiasm for his work is infectious, and readers will find much to admire in this riveting, thought-provoking testament to science and its devotees. n