Francis Crick Discovers DNA Thanks to LSD
For the few Cracked readers not versed in the history of human genetics, Francis Crick is the closest that field gets to a rock star, which is pretty fucking close as it turns out. In 1953 in Cambridge, Crick burst through the front door of his home spouting what his wife Odile originally thought was crazy jibberish about two spirals twisting in opposite directions from one another. Like all great rock star's wives, Odile was an artist, and drew exactly what her husband described. Then the pair and research partner James Watson all went out to a pub and got drunk.
LSD. Yes, when not discovering the key to life, and winning the Nobel Prize for it, Crick spent the 50s and 60s throwing all night parties famous for featuring that era's favorite party favors: LSD and nudity. Crick never made it a secret that he experimented with the drug, and in 2006, the London paper The Mail on Sunday reported that Crick had told many colleagues that he was experimenting with LSD when he figured out the double helix structure.
Drugs? This guy? No way.
The double helix is essentially the Sgt. Peppers of scientific models, a ladder that's been melted and twirled by a pasta fork, or the two snakes from the caduceus if one of them was fucking the other with 100 dicks (depending on whether the artist ate the good or bad acid).
Now obviously scientists don't arrive at models by doodling on their trapper keeper and picking out the shape that looks the coolest. To do what Crick did required an insane amount of analytical, theoretical, and spatial thinking. It's not like Crick dropped out of high school and then used acid to turn himself into a supergenius.
Huxley wrote that the sober mind has a series of filters on it that basically prevent abstract thought (evolution put them there for the sake of survival, since having daydreams about the nature of the universe while driving can cause you to plow into a semi). But Huxley and Crick thought drugs like mescaline and LSD could temporarily remove those filters.
So rather than melting his mind into a lava lamp of trippy shapes, Crick probably used LSD to get unfiltered access to a part of his brain most normal people rarely use.
"It's so fucking beautiful."
The long term effects of acid aren't so great. While Crick never officially rocked a tinfoil hat, he was known to argue that life was seeded on Earth by a race of prehistoric aliens, a theory that has yet to gain widespread acceptance among the scientific community, or really anyone who isn't a character on the X Files or L Ron Hubbard.
Freud and Cocaine Invent Psychoanalysis
Freudian psychoanalysis is one of the most influential and controversial theories of the 20th Century. While you can argue its merits all day (though we wouldn't recommend it) you can't deny that it created an entire branch of medicine, and more importantly, gave us the two best seasons of The Sopranos.
Cocaine. The first ten years of Sigmund Freud's career were like a roving cocaine pep rally. He prescribed cocaine to his friends for headaches, nasal ailments or just to "give (their) cheeks a red color." After all, why whore yourself up with makeup when you can get the same effect with a little cocaine?
After one of his friends died from the drug, Freud quietly folded up his cocaine pom-poms and sweater skirt combo, and went on to found the theory that was named after him. But a respected Freud biographer seems to think the drug played a huge role in the less embarrassing, second act of his career.
Why It Makes Sense:
In those letters to his wife bragging that he was a cocaine fueled sex machine, the man who created the talking cure said he most relied on the drug to untie his tongue. Louise Breger, who is something called a professor emeritus of Psychoanalytics Studies at the California Institute of Technology, suggests that before Freud experimented with the drug, he was an emotionally sterile, socially awkward guy in a lab coat. Cocaine not only untied his tongue, it turned him into the chatty Cathy that wanted to discuss how you felt about your mother.
"I think I'll write about cocaine again."
Berger specifically points to a series of all night cocaine benders in which Freud and his friend Fleischel discussed their "profoundest despair," as he referred to it. From those sessions Freud came up with the whole idea of the patient pouring out his feelings on a couch while the therapist nodded and took notes.
Fleischel, the friend who sent Freud on the path toward psychoanalysis was the same guy the drug ended up killing.
Dock Ellis Trips His Way to a No-Hitter
In the hundreds of thousands of games in MLB history, there have been only 247 in which the starting pitcher records every out without giving up a hit. Pedro Martinez, like most pitchers, has gone his entire career without throwing one. In fact his team, the Mets, who've been sending a pitcher out to the mound 162 times every season for 46 years, have never had a pitcher throw one. Dock Ellis became one of the few to ever do it on June 20, 1970, though he barely remembers it.
Acid. The day of the no-hitter, Dock Ellis woke up around noon on what he thought was Friday and ate three tabs of acid, presumably because he was tired of Wheaties. But when his girlfriend arrived she was carrying Saturday's newspaper, which meant he'd slept through Friday or that his girlfriend's was a time traveler. The sports page had more bad news, he was scheduled to pitch in San Diego in six hours. Not only was the day that was beginning to swim around him the wrong one, the city his day was swimming in was Los Angeles.
"Not one thing about today makes sense to me."
Unfazed despite being on enough acid to melt Jimi Hendrix's guitar, Ellis hopped a flight to San Diego, and faced down a lineup that had woken up knowing what day it was, and also had the upper hand in the "not on acid" category. Not a single one got a hit.
Why It Makes Sense:
Writing in the New Yorker, Oliver Sacks describes a state of mind known as "the zone" in which "A baseball ... approaching at close to a hundred miles per hours ... may seem to be almost immobile in the air, its very seams strikingly visible... in a suddenly enlarged and spacious timescape." The zone is typically brought on by confidence, adrenaline and being fucking awesome at baseball. Ellis was all of those things, and LSD's affects include increased heart rate and the slowing down of time. So it's conceivable that Ellis tripped his way into the zone.
What Ellis saw the day of his no-hitter.
But baseball history was the last thing on Ellis' mind, keeping his shit together while a bunch of giant lizards fucked in the on-deck circle being the first.
Ellis had the career trajectory of Darryl Strawberry, never reaching his potential because of drug addiction. Instead of being a household name, Dock Ellis is just that guy who threw a no-hitter on acid.
A Coke Addict Makes a Coke-Flavored Cola and Calls it Coke
The invention of Coca-Cola might not seem to belong on a list next to things like DNA. After all, way more people drink Coke than have heard of the double helix.
Coca-Cola is simply the most well known brand in the history of the world. Sure, it's mostly just soda water and sugar. But they sell about 400 billion cans of the stuff a year to about 200 countries, an average of more than 60 cans to every single human being on the planet.
Pretty impressive for a drink that routinely gets beat in taste tests by Pepsi.
John Pemberton, the Atlanta pharmacist that invented Coca Cola, claimed that the ingredient it was named after, the Coca leaf, cured everything from depression and nervousness to morphine addiction. If those purported effects sound familiar, congratulations, you could beat a chimpanzee in a game of memory. Coca is the leaf that produces cocaine, and like Freud, John Pemberton was incredibly enthusiastic about its "health benefits."
But surely he wouldn't go so far as to stake the claim of his fledgling business on an unproven drug, right?
Why It Makes Sense:
Like Freud, Pemberton practiced what he preached. In fact, when he said he was convinced from "actual experiments that coca is the very best substitute for opium addicts," he was speaking from personal experience, since he was a himself a morphine addict. But whereas Freud retired his cocaine megaphone once doctors sounded the "shit kills you" alarm, Pemberton chose to put it in his soda, plug his ears, and hum loudly.
So it's not surprising that by the time cocaine was removed from the drink in the early 20th century, people were ordering Cokes by asking for "a dope."
Before You Go Trying It...
If that story makes you think cocaine is cool, you should check out the Russell Crowe smoking commercial The Insider.