Like all of Erdös's friends, [fellow mathematician Ronald Graham] was concerned about his drug-taking. In 1979, Graham bet Erdös $500 that he couldn't stop taking amphetamines for a month. Erdös accepted the challenge, and went cold turkey for thirty days. After Graham paid up — and wrote the $500 off as a business expense — Erdös said, "You've showed me I'm not an addict. But I didn't get any work done. I'd get up in the morning and stare at a blank piece of paper. I'd have no ideas, just like an ordinary person. You've set mathematics back a month." He promptly resumed taking pills, and mathematics was the better for it.
GATES: My errant youth ended a long time ago.
PLAYBOY: What does that mean?
GATES: That means there were things I did under the age of 25 that I ended up not doing subsequently.
PLAYBOY: One LSD story involved you staring at a table and thinking the corner was going to plunge into your eye.
PLAYBOY: Ah, a glimmer of recognition.
GATES: That was on the other side of that boundary. The young mind can deal with certain kinds of gooping around that I don't think at this age I could. I don't think you're as capable of handling lack of sleep or whatever challenges you throw at your body as you get older. However, I never missed a day of work.
The secret to Mullis' breakthrough? In a September, 1994 issue of California Monthly, Mullis says that he "took plenty of LSD" In the sixties and seventies, going so far as to call his "mind-opening" experimentation with psychedelics "much more important than any courses [he] ever took." A few years later, in an interview for BBC's Psychedelic Sciencedocumentary, Mullis mused aloud: "What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR?" To which he replied, "I don't know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it."