Web edition: May 24, 2008
A little gravity “Britain’s biggest meteorite strike” (SN: 4/12/08, p. 238) states that “gravitational anomalies” make an offshore area a prime candidate as the possible impact site of a meteorite. Wouldn’t that be magnetic anomalies instead? If it is a gravitational anomaly, I would sure like an article on that alone! Thanks for the great magazine. PETER LINDSAY, SEATTLE, WASH. The craters from extraterrestrial impacts can create measurable gravitational as well as magnetic anomalies (SN: 6/15/02, p. 378), albeit exceedingly small ones. For the area off the Scottish coast, the local gravitational field is only 0.0013 percent lower than it is over nearby, presumably undisturbed, rocks, the researchers tell Science News. —SID PERKINS Good food for thought I really enjoyed the article “What’s Cookin’” on molecular gastronomy (SN: 3/29/08, p. 202). I am a chowhound and cook, so there was honestly little in the article that I didn’t already know, but it was a very well written, concise and comprehensive feature article—just what I look to Science News for. I can refer my friends to it—many have had trouble understanding the molecular gastronomy movement and think of it as some sort of popular fad. This article should help them out. DAVID APPLEMAN, TEWKSBURY, MASS. Worst of both Regarding “Shifting priorities at the wheel” (SN: 5/10/08, p. 7): For a number of years I have listened to (tried to listen to) lectures on CDs while driving. I quickly discovered that I would have to backtrack a CD when I was in a situation where I had to truly focus on my driving. I realized it was wisest to try to listen to spoken messages only when driving on major highways when traffic was not congested. The evidence keeps building that we are fooling ourselves if we think we can multitask without sacrificing attention, information acquisition or understanding. CLINTON BROOKS, GLEN MILL, PA. Another gas-fill We still cling to that very human invention, the dump, this time for carbon dioxide. Every solution discussed in “Down with Carbon” (SN: 5/10/08, p. 18) is a sequestration, a deep-sixing or other burial in an open-loop dump. Glaringly absent was any mention of a sustainable close-the-loop REUSE of carbon dioxide, such as algal biofuel. P.S. We do like the new SN! TOM BINDRIM, PISGAH FOREST, N.C. Tangled web The new Science News format is delightful, but please don’t attempt to extend the reformatting to biological taxonomy. “Spiders boost mercury levels” (SN 5/10/08, p. 14) discusses “spiders and other insects living near a mercury-contaminated river.” Spiders are no more insects than humans are birds. J.C. MCLOUGHLIN, TAOS, N.M. What gull You can add seagulls to the list of thieving birds (“Hatch a Thief: Brains incline birds toward life of crime,” SN: 12/15/07, p. 372)—unless you already have. My grandson was the victim of seagull thievery at the San Diego Zoo, where seagulls move far enough inland to stalk folks carrying open bags of popcorn. They approach from behind or from the side and actually collide with the bag, causing some or all of the popcorn to be spilled on the ground, resulting in a swarm of waiting gulls that immediately clean up the entire mess. ROBERT L. COONEY, RIO RANCHO, N.M. Cheers “Hairy Forensics” (SN: 3/1/08, p. 131) describes finding a person’s origin and movements using isotopic signatures in peoples’ hair, which match those in the water people consume, which mainly comes from near where people live. While an interesting theory, chances are that using the technique would lead a researcher to conclude that I have spent the past 20 years or so living in or near a brewery in New Castle, England. JAN PAYNE, JULIAN, CALIF. More comments on the new Science News: I use Science News in my high school every week. We put the magazine out in the media center and the kids are avid readers. Problem: The advertising in this first edition of the new format (SN: 5/10/08) makes the magazine useless in education. I am not asking you to restrict your advertisers, but you need to know that teachers can no longer use Science News if that kind of advertising is going to be emphasized. Thank you for the best science articles I have found, and I hope my students will continue to be able to use them. If it is going to be adults only, then I will have to look for something else after all these years. ANN MARIE WELLHOUSE, CAMPO, CALIF. Science News will no longer accept such ads. As a science hobbyist, I have subscribed to Science News since 1975. Regarding the new format, I like the low glare paper. Comparing the May 10 issue to the March 29 issue, I see that, yes, there are more pages, but not all that many when you factor out the extra full-page advertising and gratuitous full-page artwork. Overall, I could live with smaller pictures and more content. I am not entranced by the easy-to-read format with sidebars reminiscent of high school textbooks. Unfortunately you are still the best read on the block, so I continue my subscription in hopes I can adapt to this brave new world. ERIC W. GREENE, BINGEN, WASH.