Letters from the April 24, 2004, issue of Science News

Extreme makeover

The observations in “Wrenching Findings: Homing in on dark energy” (SN: 2/28/04, p. 132: Wrenching Findings: Homing in on dark energy) are of stars and galaxies billions of light-years away and billions of years old. Has anyone ever thought about what the universe out there looks like today?

Earl Rosenwinkel
Duluth, Minn.

People have thought about what the universe looks like now and what it will look like in the distant future, if some ideas about dark energy are correct. Some astronomers predict that the universe will be ripped apart because the repulsive force associated with dark energy is getting stronger and stronger.—R. Cowen

Fat of the land

The genetic link from obesity to macrophage production to inflammation to diseases in “Inflammatory Fat: Unraveling the injurious biology of obesity” (SN: 2/28/04, p. 139: Inflammatory Fat) seems convincing. On an ecological scale, inflammation is an acute response to environmental insult, while fat is a chronic response, through its role in sequestering toxins. Perhaps the new research reveals a genetic program to arm the body’s defenses both short and long term.

Barclay Hudson
Santa Monica, Calif.

Random thoughts

“Toss Out the Toss-Up: Bias in heads-or-tails” (SN: 2/28/04, p. 131: Toss Out the Toss-Up: Bias in heads-or-tails) describes a great theory in a theoretical world. The purpose of a coin toss is to determine an outcome in the real world, however. Did the guys doing the various analyses factor in the effect of the coin bouncing on the ground or being fumbled in an attempted catch?

Ed Eierman
Romney, W.Va.

The study assumes that the toss is caught cleanly in the thrower’s hand. Fumbling the catch or letting the coin bounce on the floor would change the physics drastically (and complicate the relevant equations enormously) and could indeed affect the extent to which the toss is biased.—E. Klarreich

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