Building a Brainier Mouse; April 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Tsien, sidebar by Ezzell; 7 Page(s)
When I decided to become a scientist, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my work would provide fodder for CBS's Late Show with David Letterman. But last September, after my colleagues and I announced that we had doctored the genes of some mice to enhance their learning and memory skills, I turned on my television to find that my creations were the topic of one of Letterman's infamous Top Ten Lists. As I watched, the comedian counted down his roster of the Top Ten Term Paper Topics Written by Genius Mice. (My personal favorites are "Our Pearl Harbor: The Day Glue Traps Were Invented" and "Outsmarting the Mousetrap: Just Take the Cheese Off Really, Really Fast.")
My furry research subjects had become overnight celebrities. I received mail by the bagful and was forwarded dozens of jokes in which "smart" mice outwitted duller humans and their feeble traps. It seemed that the idea of a more intelligent mouse was something that everyone could identify with and find humorous.