I was drinking at a Cambridge, Mass., bar called Miracle of Science when the guy next to me slipped an index card marked with a highlighter-yellow dot. “Try it,” said the guy with scruffy hair wearing a black and red flannel shirt and thick black glasses.
“OK, I will,” I replied. Every time I’ve seen this guy, Mackensie Cowell, over the years, he’s offered me a bizarre gift. The first time, he put a strip of paper laced with the chemical PTC on my tongue to see if I had the gene to taste its bitter flavor. Another time, he offered me a lamp that ran on electricity produced by soil bacteria. And now this: Embedded within the dot was a microscopic swatch of DNA, a set of genetic blueprints.