Letters from the April 3, 2004, issue of Science News

Lack of data?

Something jumped out at me from “Telltale Charts: Is anticipating heart disease as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4?” (SN: 1/31/04, p. 72: Telltale Charts). It’s that there were no published data supporting the 50 percent rule taught for years in medical schools. I think this speaks volumes about science and medicine in this country.

Charlie Welch
Brighton, Mass.

I’m confused. “Wine Surprise: Heart-protective effect is independent of antioxidants” (SN: 1/31/04, p. 68: Wine Surprise: Heart-protective effect is independent of antioxidants) says that “atherosclerosis isn’t linked to oxidation of bad cholesterol.” If not, why does the article “Telltale Charts” name cholesterol as one of the traditional risk factors? What is really going on with cholesterol?

Sandor Frecska
Lancaster, Pa.

Good question. While epidemiological studies offer compelling evidence that blood-cholesterol concentrations influence heart disease risk, scientists continue to wrestle with exactly how the lipids contribute to the disease.—B. Harder

Data of lack?

The statement by Kyeongjae Cho that “we don’t have enough platinum” for a hydrogen economy based on fuel cells is simply wrong (“Virtual Nanotech: Modeling materials one atom at a time,” SN: 2/7/04, p. 87: Virtual Nanotech). Anyone who is working in the fuel cell industry expects the amount of platinum used in fuel cells to drop by the time this technology will be available for a mass market. If future cars are using platinum-based fuel cells, they won’t need today’s catalytic converters, which also use a fair amount of the precious metal.

Stefan Geiger
London, England

The beast within

Of course animals think, I’d say (“Unsure Minds,” SN: 2/7/04, p. 90: Unsure Minds). But you say, “Many [scientists] theorized that nonhuman animals react to their surroundings without actually thinking.” My observation over the decades has been that most humans do the same, most of the time.

George Blender
San Diego, Calif.

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