For more great stories from the American Spectator and subscription information click here.Tom Bethell is The American Spectator's senior editor.
February 2001 · The American Spectator
Matthew Robinson, 13, has a Colt .45 strapped to his waist as he practices the piano in the living room. He lives on a 350-acre farm in southern Oregon, with his brothers and sisters, and his father, the scientist Art Robinson. Next to the piano is a huge home-made wood-burning stove. Twenty years ago, Art built a 30 kilowatt hydro-electric generator next to the creek near his house, but the Department of Fish and Game has yet to give its approval. The fish may be affected, they say. So the house is heated by burning wood, which of course releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This supposedly contributes to global warming, but it also helps the trees grow.
There are six Robinson children, all of them home-schooled. Matthew's older brother Joshua, 18, has pinned to the wall of his room the skin of a cougar that he trapped. His older brother Noah, 22, was the top chemistry graduate applicant to MIT, but chose instead to go to his father's school, Caltech. He is working for his Ph.D. in chemistry. Noah's older brother, Zachary, 24, is at Iowa State University studying to be a doctor of veterinary medicine, and also working for a chemistry Ph.D. Bethany, 18, is still at home, and her older sister Arynne, 20, has finished two years of college. On the piano Matthew is still on grade 1B, but his math is going well. He will be only 14 by the time he has finished calculus.
The area around Cave Junction, not far from the California border, was developed in the gold-rush days. Miners used hydraulic methods that would terrify today's environmentaliststhe top soil was blasted away with fire-hoses. Today it's farming and tree-growing territory. The Robinson's have hundreds of sheep and lambs, 15 cows, 7 horses, 4 dogs, and 50 wild turkeys. But the economics of farming locally are not good, Art Robinson says. The price of wool is one-third the shearing cost. They may net $10,000 a year from farming, and if they did nothing else and made no mistakes, maybe they could double that figure.
A short distance from the farm house there stand several buildings of steel construction. The largest, with 10,000 square feet of floor space, houses the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, founded by Art Robinson in 1980. Inside there was an electrical hum, but few people. Jane Orient of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, visiting from Tucson, was working alone in the small library. Some of the labs are unused, others contain equipment-vials, bottles, a cryogenic freezer-that was mostly bought at auction. The mass spectrometer cost $150,000 second hand. "It's a miracle in a box," Art says. Mass spectrometers were used at Oak Ridge to help develop the atomic bomb, but this version is many times more powerful. Robinson is using it to work on "molecular clocks" in the body. This could shed light on one of the greatest unsolved problems of biochemistryaging. "It's not understood at all," he says.
Art has no employeesanother triumph of the computer revolution. But his children help out as lab assistants, and recently Noah became a full-fledged co-worker. Before he left for graduate studies, Art and Noah submitted a paper to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Over the years, Art Robinson co-authored scientific papers with many famous men, including his teacher of 40 years ago, Linus Pauling. But this new paper, "Molecular Clocks," based on research mostly done on an Oregon farm with his own son, is "the best scientific paper I have ever had my name on," he says. Some of the work was also done in New York, at the Rockefeller University lab of R. Bruce Merrifield, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1984. Recently they heard that the paper was accepted.
Piled 12 feet high in another building, the mailing room, are the books and home-schooling curricula that the Robinsons have published in recent years and now ship to the public. In a smaller building is the printing press where Robinson's newsletter, Access to Energy, is printed; and next to the main house is a log-cabin structure where all the Robinson children have been home-schooled.
Art Robinson will be 59 in March. He was a chemistry student at Caltech himself, and something of a whiz kid. He was one of the few students ever to be appointed to the faculty of the University of California (in San Diego) immediately after getting his Ph.D. He is not pleased by many developments in America in the last generation, especially at the intersection of science and politics, and his own life has been beset by obstacles and tragedies. But he is a man of steely determination and intensity, and he has achieved a good deal since moving to Oregon 20 years ago.
In the mid 1970's, after a few years at U.C. San Diego, Robinson teamed up with Linus Pauling to form the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Menlo Park, California. Robinson, president and research director, revered Pauling both as a teacher and a chemist, while Pauling had referred to him as "my principal and most valued collaborator." Pauling had won two Nobel Prizes, for Chemistry (1954), and Peace (1962), and by the mid 1970'S had widely publicized the claim that Vitamin C could cure the common cold. In addition, he said, "75 percent of all cancer can be prevented or cured by Vitamin C alone."
At the new institute, on Sandhill Road, Robinson devised some mouse experiments to test this amazing theory. By the summer of 1978, he was getting "highly embarrassing" results. At the mouse-equivalent of 10 grams of Vitamin C a dayPauling's recommended dose for humans-the mice were getting more cancer, not less. Pauling responded to the unwelcome news by entering Robinson's office one day and announcing that he had in his breast pocket some damaging personal information. He would overlook it, however, if Robinson were to resign all his positions and turn over his research. When Robinson refused, Pauling locked him out and kept the filing cabinets and computer tapes containing nine years' worth of research. They were never recovered. Pauling also told lab assistants to kill the 400 mice used for the experiments. Pauling's later sworn testimony showed that the story about the damaging information was invented, while experiments by the Mayo Clinic conclusively proved that the theory about cancer and Vitamin C was wrong.
A sharp divergence of political opinion between the two men also became apparent. A few years after he won the Nobel Peace Prize, Pauling also won the Lenin Peace Prize. He told Robinson that he was more proud of the Soviet than the Norwegian award. For his part, in the spring of 1978 Robinson had given a speech at the Cato Institute, then in San Francisco, deploring the government funding of science as harmful to the independence that is essential to scientific inquiry.
|The experimental results were "highly embarrassing." Pauling responded by telling Robinson that he had in his pocket some damaging personal information.|
Pauling died in 1994, at the age of 93, but his peace-prize activities continue to resonate among scientists, and the subject still absorbs Robinson. In 1958, Pauling had engaged in a series of televised debates with the developer of the hydrogen bomb, Edward Teller. The subject was "nuclear fallout," or the residual radiation after an atomic explosion. Pauling won, Robinson says, with the help of an argument that was unsupported by evidence at the time. Since then, however, it has been shown to be wrong. The argument involved a "linear extrapolation to zero," in Robinson's scientific lingo. High levels of radiation will certainly kill you, and lower levels will harm you. Pauling calculated the damage at minuscule levels by extending that graph back in a straight line to zero. Zero radiation, obviously, causes no harm. At low levels, by his calculations, not many would be harmed. But multiplying that harm-rate by the population of the world, as Pauling did, allowed him to claim that continued nuclear testing would kill "millions of children." So it should be stopped. Pauling and his wife Ava Helen organized a petition against testing in the atmosphere, signed by 11,000 scientists and presented to the United Nations. For that he won the Nobel Prize, and the Lenin Prize a few years later.
Now we have the "hormesis" data, gathered in the last 20 years, and that's what interests Robinson. The graph does not go straight back to zero. It goes down to about 700 millirems a day, then heads back up again, like a hook. Low background levels of radiation seem to be good for you. The evidence that the "linear extrapolation to zero" is wrong, accumulated by Bernard L. Cohen, an emeritus professor of physics at the University of Pittsburgh, comes from many sources. Bad for you in large doses, radiation does some good in small doses. It seems to keep the DNA repair mechanisms in good working order. The same principle is observed with alcohol, and a number of other poisons. Very heavy drinking will kill you, but a glass of wine a day is a tonic.
With radiation, nonetheless, the operative principle has been "zero tolerance," permitting environmentalists not just to stop nuclear tests, but to demonize nuclear power and to stymie the disposal of nuclear waste as wellwith little discussion of the evidence. As the recent energy problems on the West Coast suggest, we are going to have to start building nuclear power plants again. Meanwhile, Art ruefully points out, the hormesis data show that Oregon is not a particularly good place to live. Its background radiation levels are below the national average, and its cancer rates are above average. There's less cancer risk in Denver, where the background radiation levels are much higher. That inverse relationship holds all over the country.
When he found himself locked out of his own office, Robinson sued Pauling for breach of contract, slander, and fraud. After many twists and turns, and a lengthy account in Barron's by the perennial Wall Street bear, James Grant, now the publisher of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, the case was settled out of court with Pauling paying Robinson $575,000. Art and his wife Laurelee, and Zachary and Noah, moved to Oregon in 1980. Concerned about the decline of public education, she had already begun to accumulate filing cabinets full of her own instructional material and was home-schooling all the children.
By 1988, the six Robinson children ranged in age from 12 to one and a half. One day in November all the children had stomach flu. Laurelee felt ill too, with a bad stomach ache. Art asked if she wanted to go to the emergency room but she said no. She slept in the living room to be closer to the electric heaters. The next morning Arynne and Bethany, aged 8 and 6, came running into his room. "We can't wake mommy up." He ran in. "She wasn't dead yet, but her heart had almost stopped." She died before reaching the hospital. It was a rare disease called acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis. Enzymes released by the pancreas, instead of going down the proper duct to the digestive system, had latched onto an artery and eaten a hole in it. "All her blood was in her peritoneal cavity." Even if she had been in the hospital, it is not likely that she could have been saved. "The sutures would never have held," a doctor told Art. It had all taken less than 24 hours. Laurelee was 43.
Now Art had to find a way to keep going on his own. "For most of my life," Robinson says, "I had found education to be a boring subject. I enjoyed teaching chemistry because I enjoyed chemistrynot education. When Laurelee died I continued our home school, but I let the children teach themselves."
Since then, with many intervening adventures, Art Robinson has mostly been home alone with the kids. His formula"let the children teach themselves"sounds as though it came from the progressive play-book. There are four keys to learning, he believes"study environment, study habits, course of study, and high-quality books"but he may not realize the extent to which his own discipline, determination and watchfulness have made the first two a given in his own household. He permits no television, which "promotes passive, vicarious brain development rather than active thought." Sweets aren't allowed either"sugar diminishes mental function and increases irritability."
|Ted Robinson was "in love with chemical plants." He is buried in an Alpine glacier near the top of Mont Blanc.|
As for the guns, they are not entirely for show. Out there in the woods are cougars and black bears, and earlier this year Joshua shot a cougar that appeared in a tree just above him. Cap guns, war toys and violent video games were never permitted in the Robinson household. Real guns were also unthinkable, until Art felt the children were old enough. Two years ago, agreeing with the title of his close friend Jeff Cooper's book, To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth, firearms training was added to their home school.
Their training was conducted under Cooper himself at the NRA Competition Center at Raton, New Mexico, and under Clint Smith, Cooper's associate in Texas. Matthew was considered to be too young, but he went along on the trips. He proved to be such a favorite with the instructors that they sought Art's permission to teach him, too. In this, the family has reverted to earlier times in America when children were taught self-reliance, good judgment and practical skillsincluding the use of firearmsat an early age.
Art is a Christian of no specific denomination and irregular church attendance. The family gets together for Bible-readings every night and the children say grace before meals (in nearly inaudible whispers). Art says of his own parents: "They were, I think, Methodist." His approach to religious instruction parallels the teach-yourself philosophy he applies to education generally. "No one in our family ever questions the truth of the Lord's Word as provided to us in the Old and New Testaments of the King James Bible," he wrote in Practical Home Schooling. "We only seek to understand these truths by repeated reading. That is rarely accompanied by interpretive comment. Each of us must understand these things for himself and build his own relationship with God."
Art's father, Ted Robinson, lived in Houston and designed and constructed petrochemical plants for Union Carbide in various parts of the world. In his newsletter, Art said his father was "simply head over heels in love with chemical plants." He added this jolting postscript: "He is buried in an alpine glacier near the top of Mont Blanc on the border between France and Italy, which contains the remains of the Air India Boeing 707 that crashed there on January 24, 1966. The cause of this crash is not known for certain. It is believed to have been the work of assassins that killed the Indian physicist Bhaba, who was then head of the nuclear energy program and was also on the plane." A year later, Art's mother found that she could not live without her husband and she committed suicide. Art, an only child, was in graduate school in San Diego at the time.
Remarkably, Art has managed to convert the education of his children from a financial drain into a thriving business. Among them, the family members have developed a home school curriculum consisting of over 250 books-among them the 30,000-page 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannicawhich the youngsters took turns scanning into computers. The curriculum was transferred to 22 compact discs, which are sold in a box for $195. Over four years, 20,000 sets have been sold. More recently, with typical single-mindedness, Robinson tracked down all 99 historical novels by the Edwardian writer G. A. Henty, and they in turn were optically scanned. Three thousand Henty sets (6 CD'S) were shipped in the first year. They retail for $99.
Suffice it to say that Art Robinson has recovered his financial independence. He no longer needs government grants to pursue the unresolved scientific questions that were put on hold over 20 years ago. In fact, his independence as a scientist is now greater than it would be if he were still at a large research institution. Whether the institution is nominally private, or publicly funded, he points out, most scientific research is held captive by heavy infusions of federal money.
Around the time he heard that the Proceedings of the National Academy would publish the article, Art said: "If we just had a few thousand scientists pursuing their own goals, we'd really be able to get some new research done in this country. As it is, most of them are trapped."
Trapped by government money. Filling out grant requests, politicking to be well-liked, serving on grant review boards, going to the meetings to be seen by others, will take half your time. The project itself had better be popular. "You're only going to get the money for something that everyone has heard of and thinks is the coming thing," he said. As for politically sensitive areas such as global warming, "your research had better come up with the results they want." At private research institutions, where half the money may come from private endowments, the research is nonetheless still held hostage. "Professors in these universities who are candid with you will say, Well, we can't really do what we want here because half of our money comes from the government so we can't afford to put it at risk." A better system, Art thinks, would be to give one-time grants to a couple of thousand scientists a year, with no further oversight or reports.
Art took over Access to Energy in 1993, at the request of its ailing proprietor Petr Beckmann, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado. Beckmann had printed the newsletter on his own press for 20 years. A defector from Communist Czechoslovakia, he valued the First Amendment highlyand exercised it through a printing press in the basement. Until recently, Noah continued to print the newsletter on the same press, which was hauled from Boulder to Oregon. The letter was always a lively read, and Robinson has preserved that quality. It is something you gladly reach for in the mailbox. A subscription costs $35 for individuals, $150 for tax-subsidized organizations (one or two do pay full freight).
Petr Beckmann saw in Art a kindred spiriteven though Petr was an atheist and Art is a believer. Robinson shared Beckmann's concerns about a number of issues. One was the rising power of "green" fanatics, whose bad science, or indifference to it, was no impediment to their influence. Another was the lesson that Robinson had learned from Pauling. Bad science had managed to demonize nuclear power and the testing of nuclear weapons.
For a while, Art Robinson tried to revive interest in civil defense. He put out a newsletter called Fighting Chance, and published a paperback of that name with Gary North (half a million copies were distributed). He even built demonstration shelters for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which installed them at FEMA centers in Arizona, Idaho, Pennsylvania and Utah. But with the end of the Cold War this doomed cause was lost totally.
On one issueglobal warmingArt has made a real difference. After he wrote about it for Access to Energy, an editor at the Wall Street Journal called and asked for an op-ed piece. Art and Zachary Robinson had it on his desk the next day. "Then the enviros made an error," Art recalled. They started to tell lies about him. A physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists told radio listeners in New York that the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine was not qualified to comment because it has "no mainframe computers," and its "secret sources of funding" were "undoubtedly" oil-industry related.
CREATIVE DESTRUCTIONRecycled paper is of poorer quality and higher cost than unrecycled paper. But most of us are being forced to use it, since the Clinton Administration declared that all government agencies must use it exclusively. Many paper mills found it too costly to maintain two production facilities, so to meet government specifications they switched entirely to recycled paper-and raised their prices.
Paper recycling has also destroyed the market for forest undergrowth. It was previously economical to make wood chips of undergrowth, which were used for paper. Now this undergrowth is accumulating in the forests, where it increases the dangers of forest fires.
The paper recycling craze has also helped convince the public that industries were not socially responsible until the enviros forced them to be. Why were they not recycling before?
The answer is that industrial recycling has always been importantin those commodities for which it was economically sensible. Automobile scrap has been recycled for almost as long as there has been an automobile industry.
Today astonishing machinesa fifth of a mile long and weighing several hundred tonsshred cars and separate them into reusable pieces and are able to process an automobile every minute. There are 200 such machines in the United States, which convert 13 million automobiles per year into reusable metallic "corn flakes."
Moreover, the "mini mills," with which the steel industry has been partially resuscitatedfrom a near death brought on by technological change, foreign competition, and debilitating taxation and regulationhave benefited from these automobile homogenizers. They provide valuable feedstocks for the mills.
Auto recycling could not, of course, become an enviro cause. Industry
has been doing it for more than 70 yearsand it benefits two politically
incorrect technologies, steel and automobiles.
Art once summarized his approach to cultural warfare as follows: "It is fine to complain about those who would do evil. It is better to take some noticeable action to interfere with them. It is self-satisfying to take action strong enough to elicit praise. An enemy is not beaten, however, unless he is, in fact, beaten. It is best to win, even if this requires actions outside one's field of specialization." Something from Vince Lombardi's play-book, perhaps. Art is a scientist, but he is also a warrior.
He studied the Union of Concerned Scientists' manual on handling the media. He had seen in print claims of a "consensus" among scientists about the cause of global warming. He knew this wasn't true, although something resembling a consensus had been confected by such journals as Science, which Art calls "highly politicized," and Scientific American (whose deterioration has been sad to behold).
Art decided to circulate a petition among the "silent majority" of scientists. This involved raising money, writing a summary paper, obtaining mailing lists, printing the mailing. The petition called for a rejection of the Kyoto treaty, signed by the U.S. but not yet ratified, and it added that "there is no convincing scientific evidence" that the human release of green house gases has significantly warmed the Earth's atmosphere. He obtained over 17,000 signaturesthis in contrast to the "2,000 scientists" who were said to accept man-made climate change as a reality. (Many of them were not scientists at all, and only 382 were Americans.)
The "greens" have not sat back. One person who submitted her signature by fax, claiming to be a Ph. D in Boston, gave the name Jerry Halliwell. As soon as it was published on the Website, Ozone Action announced at a congressional hearing that the petition was fraudulent: "Halliwell" was the real name of a rock group member. The false identity had been supplied deliberately, in an attempt to delegitimize the entire list. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a reliable shill for the environmental industry, wrote a sarcastic op-ed for the Boston Globe denouncing the petition on the basis of the one false name. In addition, unscrupulous people are trying to manufacture the evidence for oil industry connections. Robinson has begun to receive crates of mail subscriptions, and merchandise, addressed to Arthur B. Robinson of the Oregon Petroleum Institute in Cave Junction. Unknown people are filling in this false information on mail-in cards from magazines. All of it is being returned unopened.
"We are frequently confronted with our alleged oil industry associations," Robinson wrote in Access to Energy. "We reply that we have none. Now, however, the enviros will be able to support their side of this issue with data-base information showing my 'oil industry' connections-fabricated with fraudulent mailings. These are not college pranks. This is the real world, and these people are trying to shut off half of humanity's energy supplies. Anyone who opposes them can expect to be attacked in all sorts of underhanded ways. For this reason, many decent people avoid this controversy." As to those who signed his petition, Art says, "We got quite a few famous names, but many of them are near retirement." They are no longer seeking grants.
In private, he disparages the enviros as "warmed over college radicals who have found a way to make radicalism pay," by attaching themselves to the richly funded environmentalist industry. They "don't have much for brains," he considers. And the difference between truth and falsehood in matters of science is not something that concerns them at all.
Art's warrior instincts also came to the fore after his daughter Arynne enrolled at Southern Oregon University. To graduate, she was told, she had to take a course called "colloquium," an exercise "specifically designed to destroy her faith, her innocence, her self-respect, and her happiness in her way of life," Art says. Advance placement had allowed the boys to skip this insult. So why not remove her from the school? As it happened, the science faculty was excellent, the university's proximity was convenient, and his tax dollars were paying for this travesty. "What can a student do if the science, engineering and mathematics courses are held hostage by the 'humanities' departments?"
Art informed the university administration that they faced law suits, adverse publicity, and "an ever increasing telephone, fax, and letter campaign." The first two did not worry them, Art says-they had the lawyers and the media. But the third did. It would have involved many thousands of inquiries, and they would be needing extra telephone lines and secretaries. The president backed down at the last minute. "We won this fight without firing a shot," Art told his friends, "but only because we were prepared to shoot." And they were able to do so only because a large number of his subscribers and home-schooling friends "were available to help.
|Robinson's response to the Union of Concerned Scientists might have been taken from the playbook of Vince Lombardi.|
He has more battle-plans up his sleeve. One is to tackle the DDT ban, driven by U.S. environmentalists since the 1970's. Art calls this genocide, as it now causes the deaths, from malaria, of about three million children a year. Another is to educate the public about hormesis, which will be needed to get nuclear power back on track. Weapons testing must also be resumed. No U.S. nuclear weapon has been tested for a decade, and their reliability is becoming uncertain.
But all of these things are ultimately detours and distractions. At graduate school, Art hoped that he would one day do path-breaking work in science. Home-schooling his own children, sheltering them from corrupted universities, and fighting environmentalists are so time-consuming that they would have derailed the scientific aspirations of almost anyone. Yet in recent years he has been able to resume that work. And that, in the end, is why his story is inspiring.
In the late 1960's, Robinson was working as a young professor at U.C. San Diego with Martin Kamen, the discoverer of Carbon-14 and later the winner of the Enrico Fermi Award. A graduate student in the same lab, Torgeir Flatmark (today a professor of biochemistry in Norway), proved, contrary to what was believed at the time, that two of the 20 amino acids that are strung together in various sequences to form all known proteins, are in fact unstable. That is, when mixed with water, they turn into two different amino acids. Flatmark didn't pursue it, and Robinson had time to ponder this odd discovery. "It didn't make sense to me that two of the 20 fundamental building blocks of proteins would be unstable in the body," he said. There seemed to be nothing special about them. Other amino acids could have been substituted for them.
"So my reasoning went this way," Robinson said. "The instability itself must be the function. Otherwise those two amino acids wouldn't be used. They are too disadvantageous."
A possible explanation for their presence was that the "instability" within the protein could be functioning as a timer for bodily functions. There are tens of thousands of different kinds of proteins in the body, each participating in different activities, and the discovery that two of the amino acids in these proteins were "hydrolyzing," or changing structurally when combined with water, suggested that a fundamental mechanism of living organisms was at work.
Robinson theorized that the rate at which this turnover occurred was the bodily equivalent of a clock. The clock-rate varies, he proposed, depending on the identities of the amino acids on either side of the two unstable ones in the protein chain. As any one of the 20 amino acids could be on one side, and any one of 20 could be on the other side, there were 800 possibilities in all. He began to explore this theory with his students in San Diego in the early 1970's. They had tested 80 of these possibilities in peptides (miniature proteins) and showed that the order in which they were positioned could dramatically change the "half-life" of the turnover, from days to decades. "So this could be timing the biological function of the protein," Robinson said. "It may be something that is wanted for a long time, like the lens of the eye; or something that you want to function only briefly, like a hormone, and then to disappear."
The work was difficult to do in those days, even with the help of graduate students. More recently, he and Noah developed faster and better methods. Last summer they made all 800 sequences, doing some of the work at Bruce Merrifield's lab at Rockefeller University in New York. They have now timed the turnover rates of about half of these, having measured 9,000 samples. The results are "elegant," he says, in a moment of unguarded enthusiasm. "It's world class work."
As to aging, "it's reasonable to predict that there is a clock that determines lifespan," Art said. Fruit flies live for a few weeks, mice for about two years, man for 80 or 90 years. "But they all have about the same biochemistry," Art pointed out. "So it's evident that there are timers in them. We don't know what those timers are, but when we find that the basic building blocks of life have clocks built into them, and we find that they are used to time short term processes, it is reasonable to predict that there are also clocks that time aging itself." Independent evidence for an aging clock is provided by progeric children with the rare Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome. For them, the clock is running much too fast and the interval between childhood and old age shrinks to just over a decade. Most die of a heart attack or stroke, wizened in their late teens.
Robinson recalled the "total immersion" that he and Noah experienced during the last months of their work. "We only ate, slept, and workedcalling upon our associates only when we needed additional hands and otherwise ignoring entirely the world outside. There are few institutions where scientists are able to work, for many months at a time, essentially without interruption. Yet this is the best way in which to make progress. One must become so totally immersed in one's work that eating is an imposition and sleeping an inconvenience. As to other distractions, they are just not tolerated."
In New York, however, they did experience one big distraction. Art and Noah worked in 12-hour shifts, sleeping in a friend's apartment nearby and rotating at 3 a.m. One night Noah was nearly mugged. He narrowly escaped two thugs, one with a knife, by dodging around corners, arriving at the apartment just ahead of his pursuers. Art draws the obvious conclusion. New York's draconian gun laws make the streets unsafe. Obeying the law, Noah had "left his .45 at home." The muggers could feel confident that any law-abiding target would be unarmed. It's a good thing they didn't meet the Robinson boys down on the farm! After that, they started sleeping in a conference room near the lab.
There will be at least two more years' work on molecular timers. He allowed that it was "unusual to be doing it on an Oregon farm with your kids." Without the computer technology, the home-schooling profits and generous donors it wouldn't have been possible. Despite the many difficulties, he has not only kept alive his youthful dream of doing great things in science, but he may be in the midst of doing it.
"We didn't do as much as we perhaps could have done, if we had stayed in academia," he said, "but I am very happy with what we are doing. I think the work we are doing is important. The seminal discoveries in science are few and far between. And you can't tell what will happen when you set a man free. It doesn't mean that that freedom will be used to save the world. But the chances are a little better. We have been free. That may mean that we will do something remarkable that we wouldn't have done. But no one knows."
Additional information can be found at www.oism.org, and at www.robinsoncurriculum.com.