Web edition: July 20, 2004
Print edition: July 24, 2004; Vol.166 #4 (p. 63)
I can pretty easily tell what was going through the kiddo's mind while trying "in vain to scoot down a miniature slide" ("Toddlers' Supersize Mistakes: At times, children play with the impossible," SN: 5/15/04, p. 308: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040515/fob4.asp). 1. "Slides are fun. Why not pretend to slide on a toy slide to get the feeling you get from the real one?" 2. "Wow, I'm big now. I'll prove it." So, perhaps the words in vain are not appropriate.
Maple Valley, Wash.
To say that an infant attempting to slide down a 6-inch-tall slide is making a "mistake" is like saying scientists who smash atoms are "destructive." It misses the entire point of the activity. Toddlers are not in the business of correct slide usage. They are in the business of making sense of their surroundings by, for instance, discovering the importance of scale and kinetics through whatever experiments are available to them. The child who does not experiment is the one to worry about.
Anyone who has watched a city council discuss a budget knows that toddlers are not the only ones who have trouble with an "incomplete ability" to integrate scale.
Little Rock, Ark.
The article on the spread of Bt pollen ("Rethinking Refuges? Drifting pollen may bring earlier pest resistance to bioengineered crops," SN: 5/15/04, p. 310: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040515/fob7.asp) ended with the question, "Is this a big deal or a small effect?" The fact that this phenomenon has gone missing from bioengineering papers for 20 years makes one wonder what else hasn't appeared. Bioengineers saying "we know what we're doing" should now be humbled. The article is a wakeup call.