I arrive at the vast, noisy dining room of the Tartine Manufactory a couple of minutes early, but Laura Deming is already there, bent over a book. Bathed in the light streaming through the giant windows of the former factory in San Francisco’s hipster Mission district, the venture capitalist is managing to concentrate despite the buzz of conversation.

Greeting me with an open smile, Deming closes her copy of Encounters with Einstein by Werner Heisenberg. Girlish in a green, 1970s-style sundress, her youthful face masks a whirring brain that eats, drinks and sleeps science. “I think science is the most joyful experience ever. It’s the ultimate state of flow,” she says when I remark on her reading material...

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