Big mistake

“Whales of Distinction: Old specimens now declared a new species” (SN: 11/22/03, p. 326: Whales of Distinction: Old specimens now declared a new species) refers to “Japanese research-whaling ships” that “capture” whales. Reputable scientists and environmentalists agree that the Japanese whaling industry operates primarily for slaughter, not research, in violation of antiwhaling treaties respected by virtually all nations. Science News shouldn’t use the propaganda terms favored by those who would drive cetaceans to extinction.

Ken Paff
Detroit, Mich.

All over the place

Nice to know that someone is scanning kids’ skulls for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (“ADHD’s Brain Trail: Cerebral clues emerge for attention disorder,” SN: 11/29/03, p. 339: ADHD’s Brain Trail: Cerebral clues emerge for attention disorder). The essential problem with this sort of thing is that psychology and psychiatry are descriptive endeavors and particularly flexible when it comes to describing ADHD. It’s unlikely that all the behaviors associated with the syndrome have a common physiologic structure. This is especially true when the behaviors categorized under ADHD keep expanding. Basically, at this point, you just need to upset people in authority to have ADHD. This is becoming a bit like Soviet psychiatry. Unfortunately, long-term use of prescription stimulants is likely to have detectable and predictable physiologic results.

Charles Warren
San Francisco, Calif.

Alternative fuel

“Fill ‘er up. . . with a few tons of wheat” (SN: 11/29/03, p. 349: Fill ‘er up . . . with a few tons of wheat) states, “There are about 4.14 kilograms of carbon in a gallon of gasoline, says Dukes.” If he actually said that, this would seem to qualify this gasoline as an “alternative fuel,” since a gallon of ordinary gasoline is only about 2.5 kilograms in mass. Perhaps Dukes meant 4.14 pounds of carbon per gallon. Should we be concerned about the whole chain of calculations he used to arrive at a wheat-field equivalent for a gallon of gas?

Bob Masta
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Better stated, there are 4.14 kilograms of carbon in the oil used to manufacture 1 gallon of gasoline. Only about 55 percent of that carbon is in the gas. The remainder ends up in other petroleum products. Researcher Jeffrey S. Dukes’ calculations, as described in the story, are correct.–S. Perkins


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