Letters from the April 2, 2005, issue of Science News

Zoom in, drop out

On reading the interesting research on droplets (“Dial-a-Splash: Thin air quells liquid splatter,” SN: 2/12/05, p. 99), I noticed that the two droplets shown in the photos at the moment of first contact have different shapes. In air at normal pressure, the droplet has the characteristic hamburger-bun shape. In contrast, the droplet at reduced pressure is spherical, or nearly so. Can this difference be responsible for all or most of the difference in the splatter patterns?

Daniel Lipp
Fort Collins, Colo

The nonsplash in thin air occurs even in tests in which only “hamburger-bun” droplets hit the surface, says Sidney R. Nagel of the University of Chicago.—P. Weiss

Ethnic differences

The work relating differences in intelligence scores to the “honing of spatial sensibilities” in Chinese readers sounds worthy of continued study (“Asian Kids’ IQ Lift: Reading system may boost Chinese scores,” SN: 2/12/05, p. 99). J. Philippe Rushton’s studies, on the other hand, sound fallacious. His claim that Chinese children adopted by U.S. parents also tend to score higher ignores the fact that such families tend overwhelmingly to be of well-above-average means. Thus, environmental factors again get in the way of a theory of racial superiority.

Karen Faulkner
Philadelphia, Pa

Japanese kids learn the simpler hiragana and katakana characters, which represent sounds, before learning Kanji (the Chinese pictorial characters). It would be interesting to see if they fall between the East and the West kids in IQ.

Robert N. Rader
Moore Haven, Fla

Built like a tank

Many years ago, I heard about one clever wind-energy–storage system (“Long-winded benefits,” SN: 2/12/05, p. 110). A fellow in Pennsylvania purchased a surplus railroad tank car and buried it on his farm. A nearby windmill-powered compressor pumped air into the tank, which could store an enormous amount of compressed air. The fellow used it to power air tools in his carpenter shop. Smart fellow, that carpenter.

Lou Hitchcock
Wake Island, Hawaii

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