The Weekly Newsmagazine of Science
Volume 155, Number 17 (April 24, 1999)
Go slow on antiaddiction drugs
I encourage a "proceed with caution" approach to the clinical
use of gamma vinyl-GABA ("Nicotine addiction curbed by new drug,"
SN: 1/2/99, p. 11). I have been involved in the study, prevention,
and treatment of addictions for nearly 20 years.
An increased awareness of the genetic and neurobiological factors
involved in the abuse (misuse) of, dependency on, and addiction
to psychoactive drugs is the result of only the past 30 years
of scientific research. These understandings are thus quite new
and require much more research to better clarify our understanding
and treatment of addiction.
Dan R. Gray
Too hot to handle
You quote workers as saying that microbes are living "maybe at
temperatures of 200oC or more"
in the Pacific near the Juan de Fuca Ridge ("Life gets extreme
in seafloor chimneys," SN: 1/2/99, p. 15).
Unless these microbes are constituted of something other than
water, I find it very hard to credit this report because water
boils at 100oC. Do we have any
idea how life survives in water that hot?
Water boils at 100oC only at sea level air pressure. Deep in the
ocean, water boils at a much higher temperature because the pressure
is much greater. R. Monastersky
A cheater never tells
Kids quickly learn the "shortcut" method of doing exercises like
8 + 10 ≠ 10 and 8 + 10 ≠ 8 ("Math discoveries catch kids unawares,"
SN: 1/2/99, p. 5), especially when given concentrated practice
in problems of this type. But the kids tell the researchers that
they use calculation rather than shortcuts. From this, the researchers
apparently infer that children use such shortcuts without realizing
it. In my experience, kids realize they're using shortcuts but
won't admit it to an adult because they view such shortcuts as
Jamesine E. Friend
Truth as strange
As a person
who grew up reading science fiction, I am not much surprised at
what can be done with increased memory, speed, and sophisticated
software ("Agents of cooperation,"
SN: 1/2/99, p. 12). Perhaps the programmers and researchers working
with the "mobile agents" should consider the precautions displayed
by the scientists who installed Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics
in the positronic brains of their robots.
agents also bring to mind a story by Harlan Ellison, "I Have No
Mouth, and I Must Scream!"
Port Charlotte, Fla.
The dye is past
A "new" fabric-dyeing
process ("Metal grains dye fabrics in muted hues," SN: 1/2/99,
p. 11)? Obviously, William Todd hasn't heard of the concept of
mordanting, the soaking of fibers in metal-ion solutions as a
precursor to dyeing with natural dyes. Iron, copper, and aluminum
salts have been used as mordants for centuries (in the case of
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