Another cell phone annoyance
In response to “Why cell phone talkers are annoying” (SN: 10/9/10, p. 13), I contend that these researchers are only addressing half of the problem with their “halfalogue” hypothesis. Years ago, I was struck by how irritating it was to walk near people talking on cell phones and wondered if I was simply biased against this new technology. I concluded that, no, they really are far more annoying than people talking face-to-face because cell phone users speak so much more loudly. A halfalogue delivered at twice the volume of a face-to-face conversat... (p. 31)
Thank you for great reporting. I’m a longtime subscriber to Science News (since the 1970s) and want to compliment your reporters, writers and editors on the high quality of your articles, which often involve material that is difficult to explain. They make the news of science understandable, informative and entertaining. Hopefully, publications like yours, together with good science education in our schools, will inspire our youth and combat the politicized science and the pseudoscience now prevalent in our society.
Leon R. Pacifici, Underhill, Vt.
Viral infection and obe... (p. 35)
Receipt of BPA risk news
Thank you so much for your recent article (“Receipts a large and little-known source of BPA,” SN: 8/28/10, p. 5) on the possible dangers of touching cash register receipts! One group you may have overlooked as being at risk was accountants and bookkeepers. I own a small tax and accounting shop where we handle literally thousands of clients’ receipts every year. Sometimes we wear latex gloves, just because the receipts are dirty (such as from a machine shop or auto repair), but now I will insist my employees do so more often, especially any young women... (p. 30)
I’m confused. A little. I thought that a Bose-Einstein condensate occurred only in a gas and that the first time it was achieved was in 1995 using rubidium atoms. “A matter of solidity” (SN: 9/11/10, p. 22) states, “Superfluidity arises when the atoms in superfluid helium join up in a quantum state called a Bose-Einstein condensate.” Further reading leads me to believe that the quoted statement may not be accurate. Are the helium atoms just behaving similar to a Bose-Einstein condensate?
By the way, just so you can add me to any demographic data,... (p. 33)
Underground particle hunts
The dark matter experiments described in “Mining for missing matter” (SN: 8/28/10, p. 22) sound almost identical to those looking for neutrinos. Both are placed deep underground to help screen out background radiation, especially neutrons. How do particle hunters differentiate between neutrino hits and those by the putative dark matter particles? Also, the article makes it sound like investigators think there is only one type of [exotic] dark matter particle. Why is that when there is an entire zoo of normal matter particles and forces?
James Smit... (p. 31)
Music on the mind
Common experience confirms that music serves language (“A mind for music,” SN: 8/14/10, p. 17). A person unfamiliar with, say, the musical South Pacific has only to listen to its songs a few times to sing the lyrics from memory. Another who tries to memorize the lyrics by just hearing them recited a few times will not succeed nearly as well. Now, why?
H. Charles Romesburg, Logan, Utah
Thanks for the special issue on music. Does music soothe the savage breast? I can’t say, but I’m pretty sure it has played a large role in keeping me (a lifelong musici... (p. 30)
In the article “Birth of the beat” (SN: 8/14/10, p. 18), Sandra Trehub says that music’s evolutionary origins remain unknown. Evolution is the sum of many acts of natural selection, so the question is, what survival advantage did music provide? The mother teaching her infant musical skills wouldn’t be so prevalent if survival of musical genes wasn’t an advantage.
This was an excellent set of articles. Please keep up the good work, as you have over the 40 years that I’ve been reading Science News.
Bill Hawkins, Bloomington, Minn.
“Birth of... (p. 31)
New views of enzymes
“Enzymes exposed” (SN: 7/17/10, p. 22) was an interesting read, but is there more to the story? When biologists consider the lock-and-key model for enzymes, I wonder if they are stuck in the static stick-and-ball mentality of traditional chemistry. Is biochemistry really static or is it dictated by the vibrational mode of molecules? Maybe enzymes are even more complicated, and their functionality is based on oscillations, resonances and vibrations.
Frederick Thurber, South Dartmouth, Mass.
Too resilient to fail
“Safety in numbers” (SN: 7/17/1... (p. 30)
Designing for chance
The science in “Life from scratch” (SN: 7/3/10, p. 22) is extremely interesting, and I look forward to hearing further results. However, a few comments in the article play into a common Intelligent Design error. The stated aim is “to show how unguided natural events might have led to life...”; the reference to “higgledy-piggledy chance” is in a similar vein. Both the atheistic attempts to infer lack of design from science and the Design advocate’s attempts to claim holes in scientific explanation are based on the erroneous assumption that natural c... (p. 31)
I grew up on a farm, and it was not uncommon for male horses, male goats and even male deer to let out a snort whenever anxiety surfaced in them — whether it be from a predator in the area, the removal of food from their eating area or the wandering off of a female that the male had his eyes on. Maybe the topi antelope in “Deceptive cads of the savanna” (SN: 6/19/10, p. 14) is the same. Maybe he is not trying to trick the female into thinking a lion is near, but simply expressing the anxiety that surfaces when a potential imminent loss is sensed — in ... (p. 29)