Letters to the editor

Seeing ice
In the photo series shown in “Taking Antarctica’s temperature”
(SN: 7/27/13, p. 18), the ice appears to be increasing from January to April as one would expect in the Southern Hemisphere. How does this demonstrate the rapid collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf?
William Meadows, Dripping Springs, Texas

The satellite images show a large area of the Antarctic Peninsula; the Larsen B Ice Shelf is a small area near the center. A closer view of Larsen B (above) from March 7, 2002, reveals that what looks like a solid sheet of ice in the wider view is actually composed of thousands of icebergs that have broken free. — Editors

Musical minds
When contemplating Erich Jarvis’ research on the roots of speech (“Finding the brain’s common language,” (SN: 7/27/13, p. 32), the existence of nonspeaking deaf humans with Ph.D.s brings me up short. It might make sense to separate the concept of vocal/aural learning from that of detailed social signaling. Perhaps what Jarvis is discovering is part of the biological roots not of language but of music, and spoken language might arise as a confluence of musical ability with complex social signaling and culture. This might fit with accidental experiments such as 19th century Martha’s Vineyard, where sign language was roughly equal with speech for over a century.
Matthew H. Fields, via e-mail

Mammoth meat-eating
“Siberians rarely ate mammoths” (SN: 7/27/13, p. 10) fails to live up to its premise that Stone Age Siberians killed mammoths only for their tusks (for toolmaking). The article says that “meaty parts of the animals were probably consumed.” As the saying goes, there’s a lot of meat on the hoof. Subsistence hunters, today as in the past, use almost every part of the animals they harvest.
John Smelcer, Kirksville, Mo.

Mineral mix-up
“Atomic ant sand” (SN: 8/10/13, p. 32) referred to Trinitite as a mineral, but the composition of Trinitite is feldspar, quartz and clay; those are minerals. Trinitite is a fused glass mixture. Also, there are plenty of samples of Trinitite in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution; all the researcher has to do is write to us.
Paul W. Pohwat, via e-mail
The reader is the collection manager for minerals at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

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