Letters from the April 7, 2007, issue of Science News

Winter wonders

The theory of “nuclear winter” was originally put forward by an Eastern European mathematician in the 1980s (“Sudden Chill,” SN: 2/3/07, p. 72). Some months later, it was shown that an error in his original calculations so vastly exaggerated “nuclear winter” as to make it meaningless. Still, the dramatic concept of a “nuclear winter” obviously lives on in the public’s mind and now has been taken up, I see, for climate-change advocacy. You do no service to science, nor to the public, by touting such misinformation once again.

J. Striegel
Tofino, British Columbia

Any nuclear attack anywhere in the world would result in the end of life as we know it. I would like to reiterate a quote from Albert Einstein: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Dorothy Higson
New Orleans, La.

The article compared nuclear winter to the chilling effect of volcanoes and the little ice age. It didn’t talk about the effects of two volcanoes that were particularly chilling. Laki in Iceland and Tambora in Indonesia each immediately killed about 10,000 people but starved many more. Indirect evidence suggests that global chilling by another Indonesian volcano, at Lake Toba, nearly wiped out Homo sapiens around 75,000 years ago.

Raymond C. Bryan
St. Paul, Minn.

Could the global-cooling mechanism of nuclear winter and volcanoes be intentionally used to combat global warming? A solar-powered excavator on the lunar surface could send tons of dust at the stratosphere.

Dennis Bicker
San Ramon, Calif.

The thought that counts

“Well-Tooled Primates” (SN: 2/10/07, p. 88) states that as a result of an internal representation of their bodies and parts, macaques “gradually come to mentally regard their hands and arms, and then their entire bodies, from a third-person perspective.” Isn’t that a good definition of self-awareness, one of the supposed differences between humans and other animals and between humans and machines? Have the authors of the study not just shown a major advance in our understanding of intelligence?

Wayne Harris-Wyrick
Oklahoma City, Okla.

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