Web edition: August 14, 2006
Print edition: August 19, 2006; Vol.170 #8 (p. 127)
Math isn't the only science that makes it into The Simpsons ("Springfield Theory," SN: 6/10/06, p. 360). In one episode a few years ago, a meteorite landed near Bart. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. Although most people are under the impression that meteorites are extremely hot, they're not. Bart got it right!
I think the article should have included something on the CBS drama NUMB3RS, which not only offers real mathematics but also explains how it works and how it might be applied in investigative work. The mathematical references on The Simpsons are not likely to draw any of the watchers into careers in mathematics or the sciences.
Tiktaalik may not have left the water by choice, to avoid predators, or to get more oxygen. Instead, it might have found itself left behind on a muddy floodplain each time waters receded with the tide ("Amphibious Ancestors," SN: 6/17/06, p. 379). Tiktaalik's "limbs" were probably first developed to survive in an environment that required bracing and stabilizing against currents, rather than maneuvering around rocks, plant limbs, or the water's edges.
Huntington Beach, Calif.
"It's more likely that such creatures, not wanting to become a meal themselves, were escaping aquatic predators. . . ." Even paleontologists slip into teleological language sometimes, don't they? Or has the theory of natural selection been revised to permit fish the thought processes of reason and foresight?
David S. Coffman
I learned that there are three types of birds: eagles, ducks, and tweety birds. To claim that all modern birds evolved from aquatic ancestors based on a 110-million-year-old fossil seems presumptuous ("Ancient webbed masters," SN: 6/17/06, p. 373).
John St. Claire