Letters from the August 7, 2004, issue of Science News

Pot shots

Regarding “Pot on the Spot: Marijuana’s risks become blurrier” (SN: 5/22/04,

p. 323: Pot on the Spot: Marijuana’s risks become blurrier), it seems to me that the stronger the social pressure against using marijuana in a culture, the more likely it will be that those who use it will be troubled, antisocial, or unusually independent. Hence, any increase in the incidence of mental problems after using marijuana could be attributed to an increased likelihood that those prone to having mental problems would be among those who use it.

Elizabeth Oscanyan
Philomont, Va.

People’s brains aren’t fully developed until they’re in their twenties. Pot is well documented as an antimotivational drug used for escapist fantasy. Teens need to first operate in the real world and let their brains develop to deal with reality. The same argument goes for alcohol.

Tom Owens
Midland, Texas

Bowwow wow

“Breeds Apart: Purebred dogs defined by DNA differences” (SN: 5/22/04, p. 324: Breeds Apart: Purebred dogs defined by DNA differences) failed to include in the list of oldest dogs the Shiba Inu. This is the most popular dog in Japan today, and many of its qualities make it a much better pet than the other dogs listed in your “oldest breeds” category.

Deborah Katz Hunt
Madison, Wis.

The genetic analysis included the Shiba Inu, and the dog indeed falls into the oldest-breeds category.—J. Travis

Common hippo sense

The Japanese researchers who dubbed a pachyderm secretion to be “hipposudoric acid” seem to know more about biochemistry than about etymology (“Red Sweat: Hippo skin oozes antibiotic sunscreen,” SN: 5/29/04, p. 341: Red Sweat: Hippo skin oozes antibiotic sunscreen). The word hippopotamus is a synthesis of Latin hippo (horse) and potamus (river), apparently because of the resemblance of the face of a submerged hippopotamus to the head of a horse. Hipposudoric implies a connection to horses, which is obviously not the case.

Harry Pottol
Sunnyvale, Calif.

Painful lesson

“Sexing Brains Down and Up: Early aspirin dose hits male rats below the belt” (SN: 5/29/04, p. 340: Sexing Brains Down and Up: Early aspirin dose hits male rats below the belt) seems to use “aspirin” and “acetaminophen” interchangeably. Aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid, not acetaminophen (better known as Tylenol).

Tom Warm
Mustang, Okla.

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