Letters from the Feb. 21, 2004, issue of Science News

Thin skin

I find the language of “Thin Skin” (SN: 1/3/04, p.11: Thin Skin) to be judgmental and unscientific. For example, “desert pavement and their biota are wounded by human activity” is neither artistic nor scientific. Such narrow, biased views of ecology have no place in a scientific journal.

Boone Mora
Garden Valley, Calif.

Out with the bad air

In “My Own Private Bad-Air Day: Outdoor data underrate pollutant exposure” (SN: 1/3/04, p. 4: My Own Private Bad-Air Day: Outdoor data underrate pollutant exposure), the statement is made that personal environmental exposures to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are easily solved. The implication is that if you have a long commute and are thereby exposed to high concentrations of VOCs, you should just quit your job to avoid exposure. I find that completely absurd.

Mark Palmer
Richland, Wash.

Perhaps the high reported pollutant concentrations are actually good news. If many of the predictions regarding the risk from “bad air” have been determined using concentrations that are far lower than in real life, maybe humans are much more robust than contemporary science believes.

Todd Fiedler
Independence, Mo.

Got the feeling

I do not know about the rest of your readers, but I do “hear” at least some low frequency sounds (“Infrasonic Symphony,” SN: 1/10/04, p. 26: Infrasonic Symphony), but not with my ears. The nerves in my feet feel these vibrations and my brain parses the sounds to my flight-or-fright processor before I can process any conscious perception.

Ray Bryan
St. Paul, Minn.

Minimal to whom?

The contrast between the first and last sentences of “Novel drug fights leukemia” (SN: 01/10/04, p. 30: Novel drug fights leukemia) is puzzling. The introduction states that the experimental drug “causes minimal side effects.” The piece ends with an observation, “Seven percent of volunteers died” and specifies drug-related complications as the cause. This would hardly qualify as a minimal side effect and should certainly discourage further studies with tipifarnib.

Lee Wilkerson
Rock Hill, S.C.

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