Web edition: August 29, 2008
Disturbing numbers I found the “Sizing up science” Science Stat (SN: 8/2/08, p. 4) somewhat disconcerting with regard to the opinion about medicine. Basic medical research, in which ties to pharmaceutical companies and the like are not limited, may be “scientific” in the usual sense, but once you enter the arena of clinical research, the “scientific” is scarcely applicable. Objectivity and truth in reporting are not exactly encouraged in the current clinical medical research climate. It should be unsettling that a paper reporting an important negative result — one that neither the industry nor the “opinion leaders” wish to see or address — has little chance of being published in a major journal, especially if the entity potentially affected by the result is a supporter of the journal. The results of such research rarely reach practicing physicians. Fortunately, over time such information usually comes to the fore, but it can take decades. Harry A. Kiesel, Philadelphia, Pa. Seeing within I was confused by the article on the use of Raman spectroscopy to detect tumors (“Insightful light,” SN: 8/2/08, p. 22). The article implied that the tumors were internal, but unless the tumor is on or near the surface so the laser light can penetrate it, I do not see how this can work. Chester Gabriel, Cupertino, Calif. In addition to developing nanoparticles that attach to tumor cells, researchers are also designing microendoscopic probes to look for diseased tissue inside the body. Nanoparticles attached to this tissue will release a signal when the probe delivers laser light to the region. — Ashley Yeager It’s in the timing I enjoyed reading “Decoding the quantum mystery” (SN: 8/2/08, p. 26), but two things struck me as unusual. Both were timely comments that showed the article was not written last December, edited in February, approved in April and printed in July. It is the timeliness of Science News that I look for. And when you quietly remind us of the timeliness, it is appreciated. The two comments were: “a cosmic horse race in which Big Brown usually wins” and “more reliably victorious even than Tiger Woods on good knees.” You couldn’t have known in December. Paul Ebel, Aiken, S.C.