On the picture in “Galactic bull’s-eye” (SN: 9/24/11, p. 10), I am quite puzzled. Do my eyes deceive me, or is there another bull’s-eye galaxy behind the first, located at the 1 o’clock position?
How is this possible? Are these strange objects magically clustered along some line pointing towards us?
Jeff Brewer, Newton Centre, Mass.
It is peculiar that another ring-galaxy–like object would appear in the background, and in fact the Hubble Heritage Team noted its odd appearance. It’s possible, but not probable, that the object is another Hoag... (p. 31)
Lumpy lunar illusion
Are you folks aware of a phenomenon based on the universal expectation that objects are illuminated by light coming from above? Several startling optical illusions are based on this quirk of the mind. For example, the sharp moon map in “Orbiter delivers sharp moon map” (SN: 7/30/11, p. 12) makes the moon look like it is covered with big bumps! Turn the page upside down, and voila — the bumps turn into craters.
Jeff Brewer, Newton, Mass.
Count on crows to know
Regarding “When birds go to town” (SN: 8/27/11, p. 26), I have observed other corvids... (p. 31)
Lowdown on Earth’s heat
“Science Stats” (SN: 8/27/11, p. 4) understates the power Earth radiates into space and mistakenly suggests that Earth radiates more energy from internal sources than it receives from the sun. The total (44 trillion watts) shown in your diagram must represent only the minuscule percentage (about 0.02 percent) from internal energy sources (radioactivity, tidal, remnant gravitational energy) that cause surface effects like volcanoes and plate tectonics. In fact, Earth receives about 174,000 terawatts from the sun and radiates the same amount. Strictly s... (p. 31)
New light on sunshine vitamin
Regarding the article “The power of D” (SN: 7/16/11, p. 22), I was very surprised that there was no mention of the positive effects of this vitamin on the debilitating effects of depression. I have lived in northern latitudes between upstate New York and now Vermont since my birth in 1954. My mother reminds me how she used to worry about the annual return of my severe depression as a young child, which turned more serious in January. I have childhood memories of colds, bronchitis and pneumonia.
However, after attending a lecture in Lenox, Mass.... (p. 30)
I reviewed this very interesting story (“Seismologists in a rumble over quake clusters,” SN: 5/7/11, p. 5) this morning, and it occurred to me that the connection between all of these very severe earthquakes might possibly be the change in weight distribution throughout the planet, resulting from temperature increases due to climate change with the melting of the glaciers: decreased weight where the glaciers were and increased weight of water on the ocean floors. Also, it seems as though the majority of them are clearly distributed around the rim of the Pac... (p. 31)
It took the Science News editor in chief to recognize the most prescient science “fiction” movie of all time, Forbidden Planet (“Science brings real life to the technologies of fiction,” SN: 7/2/11, p. 2). Beyond civilization without instrumentalities, the film also brought us lasers before there were masers, Robby [the Robot] analyzing molecular structure to duplicate anything and multiple concepts that have come to fruition in my and Tom Siegfried’s lifetime. If only those handsets hadn’t had wires....
Tony Witlin, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Attraction... (p. 31)
Irrational with money
Bruce Bower’s excellent article on “Simple heresy” (SN: 6/4/11, p. 26) showcases the blindness of mainstream economics. Namely, economics is often more like the weather than a game of dice: chaotic — with catastrophes, cycles and all manner of weird behavior. Yet economists continue to use statistical models that work “until they don’t.” So it is not surprising that investment strategies that use simple heuristics may do better than the pseudoscience of economists. Meanwhile, real science is not stymied by chaos, as climate science is now de... (p. 31)
Yawn and open your ears
I read with interest your article on yawning (“Yawn,” SN: 5/7/11, p. 28). Over the years I have formulated a private theory on at least one of the reasons why we yawn and would like to share my speculations with your readership.
My insight essentially began when I noticed that immediately after yawning my hearing acuity noticeably improved (sometimes dramatically so) for at least a short period of time. I have observed this phenomenon in myself on multiple occasions over my life span from adolescence to my current age of 67 years.
I believe the process o... (p. 30)
Your cosmic questions
Regarding the “The vital statistics” in “Cosmic questions, answers pending” (SN: 4/23/11, p. 20), I was puzzled by two values: 13.75 billion years (time since the Big Bang) and 90 billion light-years (diameter of the universe). If light has been streaming away for 13.75 billion years, then shouldn’t the diameter of the universe be 27.5 billion light-years? Or is the outer two-thirds of the universe populated with something moving faster than the speed of light?
Mark Brown, Littleton, Colo.
As the age of the universe is 13.75 billion years, it has ... (p. 30)
NASA budget blunder
My thanks and admiration to Ron Cowen for writing about NASA’s “culture of deception” in his recent article on the James Webb Space Telescope mission (“Star cents,” SN: 4/9/11, p. 22). If the astronomy community (and Congress) had decided years ago that spending $7 billion or $8 billion on JWST would be our best use of funds, then I would be happy to live with that. Instead, we have swallowed the bait of a series of low-ball estimates, and are now held hostage by a project that is “too big to cancel.”
Patrick Broos, University Park, Pa.
Anot... (p. 31)