I was surprised that the article “Dances with robots,” while mentioning Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959, Putnam), should speak of “master-slave telerobotic devices.” As any fan of the dean of science fiction knows, these devices are most properly called Waldos.
Spring Shadow, Conn. I am reading Science News on this anniversary of our independence, and I am startled by an irony: The Minutemen, who sent the British troops packing, were armed only with muskets that weren’t supplied by the government. Now, we’re spending $50 million to develop robot suits for our soldiers? I am saddened to learn that our leaders think that this is an appropriate expenditure of research dollars. I can’t help but wonder how much further along the condor-recovery program or Alzheimer’s research, which are both described in this issue, might be if that same monetary and intellectual commitment were made to those programs rather than to the development of far-fetched, inappropriate human-killing tools. Such a waste. Paul G. Beaulieu
Granby, Mass. “Dances with robots” was a nice article about battle-suit developments. However, one assertion needs to be corrected. The Marvel Comics character Iron Man never fired “lethal radiation” from his hands. He actually fired “repulsar rays,” which were most closely akin to a reverse-tractor beam. Paul D. Addis
San Francisco, Calif. I was disturbed by the emphasis on military applications. I am wondering against whom the U.S. military is planning on using these things. With the return of capitalism to both Russia and China, who is the enemy? John Jaros
Quakertown, Pa. In your article on powered exoskeleton development, you mention the one-person flying machine being developed by Millennium Jet to fly at more than 70 miles per hour, at altitudes of 2,400 meters (7,900 feet), and for a “maximum load of 200 kilograms” (440 pounds). This project is an attempt to recreate a solution provided more elegantly 20 years ago by Williams Research Corp. with their demonstrated flight capability of the Williams Aerial Systems Platform (WASP) II, which was capable of 65-miles-per-hour level flight, altitude of 10,000 feet, and a combined load of pilot, fuel, and payload of 518 pounds. Why are the taxpayers paying good money to reinvent the wheel? Michael J. Dunn
Auburn, Wash. The jet-engine-powered WASP could fly only for a few minutes on a tank of fuel, had control problems, and was as noisy as a jet plane, according to Michael Moshier, who heads Millennium Jet in Sunnyvale, Calif. In contrast, the flying platform his company has been developing is expected to cruise stably for hours per tank using relatively quiet fan engines, he says.–P. Weiss