Oh dear, Julia! (You haven't killed anyone recently, have you?) But I know what you're saying. I don't think it's just scientists, although it's probably more noticeable in that profession; I know too many people who are so wrapped up in their own little worlds they simply don't see
anything else that's going on. But that's what simple absent-mindedness is, isn't it? We're all guilty of that at some time or other...such as the time I found myself standing in the kitchen, putting ice cubes into my cereal bowl. Carry that to extremes and you get someone like King, who just isn't plugged in at all.
I'm glad the book made you giggle; not everyone likes that kind of humor.