Web edition: May 18, 2005
Print edition: May 21, 2005; Vol.167 #21 (p. 335)
Evidence of animals sensing where people are looking and what they're seeing is interesting yet hardly new ("Monkey See, Monkey Think: Grape thefts instigate debate on primate's mind," SN: 3/12/05, p. 163). For years, I have observed that wild rabbits will remain motionless as long as I stare in their direction. But as soon as I avert my eyes or turn my head, the rabbit is gone. Clearly, they correctly interpret that they no longer will be seen if they move, and they act on that knowledge.
Regarding "Possible Worlds: Imagination gets its due as a real-world thinking tool" (SN: 3/26/05, p. 200), might I suggest that, rather than being a tool of thinking, imagination is just another word for thinking?
I usually tend to downplay worries about research in genetics, but I was quite concerned after reading "Expanding the genetic code" (SN: 4/2/05, p. 222). The researchers surely have plans to keep whatever they create contained. But adding a fifth base to the DNA of bacteria with a genetic mutation rate 10,000 times that of normal bacteria seems unnecessarily dangerous. I guess my concerns were primed by "Quick Fix: How invasive seaweed repairs its wounds" (SN: 4/2/05, p. 214), which discusses an "alien green alga that's currently wreaking havoc in the Mediterranean Sea."
The concerns connect in your articles about man-made seaweed and scientists creating a fifth base for DNA in bacteria. These human-modified species get loose, and bad things happen.
It's unlikely that a bacterium would survive with such a high mutation rate. What's more, should such modified organisms make their way into the environment, they would need a constant supply of 3-fluorobenzene, and there's none of that chemical in the environment. Furthermore, the seaweed wasn't genetically modified.A. Goho