Letters from the December 9, 2006, issue of Science News

War is not the answer

“U.S. Population to surpass 300 million” (SN: 10/7/06, p. 238) concludes with the interesting fact that the only annual drop in U.S. population during the past century “occurred between July 1917 and July 1918, when the country was at war,” implying a military cause for the decline. Indeed, the honored dead of the First World War did total 116,708. However, you missed the far-more-serious cause of death responsible for the population anomaly: the great influenza, which killed 675,000 Americans, mostly in 1918.

John Bernhart
New Tripoli, Pa.

Both events certainly contributed to the population decline during the year ending July 1, 1918. However, the flu caused most of its mortality in the United States during the fall of 1918 and the spring of 1919. Interestingly, the U.S. population rose by 1.3 million between July 1, 1918, and July 1, 1919.—B. Harder

Father-son event

It is ironic that the father of the current recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry won the prize in medicine (“Nobel prizes recognize things great and small,” SN: 10/7/06, p. 229; “Details of molecular machinery gain Nobel,” SN: 10/14/06, p. 246). Looking at the research of 2006 winner Roger D. Kornberg, his prize should have been awarded in medicine. For his father, Arthur Kornberg, the prize in 1959 should have been in chemistry. The good news is that they both deserved this prestigious award.

Nelson Marans
Silver Spring, Md.

Fever pitch

Reading “Warming Up to Hyperthermia” (SN: 10/14/06, p. 250) prompted me to consider the biological significance of fever and our impulse to reduce it when given the choice. Isn’t it possible that an increase in cancer incidence could be related to the prevalence of fever-reducing medications or the overall reduction in illnesses that cause fever?

Wendy Gordon
Austin, Texas

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