The Info Mesa: Science, Business, and New Age Alchemy on the Santa Fe Plateau

Edward Regis, Jr., Author
Edward Regis, Jr., Author W. W. Norton & Company $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-02123-3
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-0-393-34157-7
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Regis (Who Got Einstein's Office?) here explores the desert community of scientist-cum-entrepreneurs besotted with""intellectual excitement and chaos and seriousness and joy."" Unlike Silicon Valley, Santa Fe's Info Mesa consists largely of academics channeling pure scientific ideas to business ends. Computer simulations and ever-increasing amounts of processing power help them tackle questions on an unprecedented scale. Take, for example, Stu Kauffman's BiosGroup, which used""fitness landscapes"" to contemplate thousands of potential variations on an airline baggage-handling system in just a few days. The book's core is the immensely important transfer from""wet"" (i.e. laboratory) chemistry to""virtual"" (i.e. computerized) chemistry, which would yield enormous benefits to the pharmaceutical industry. Regis traces a few seemingly unrelated stories that eventually knit together, and seems to not be able to make up his mind on whether the book is primarily about the ideas or the personalities. But this is not a huge drawback, since his brisk account of important recent movements in science and business is highly entertaining and informative.
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