Letters from the February 12, 2005, issue of Science News

Short end of the chromosome

Since “women with chronically ill children generally reported more stress” and since “there was a very striking connection between stress and telomere length” (“Stressed to Death: Mental tension ages cells,” SN: 12/4/04, p. 355), isn’t it probable that there is a strong connection between telomere length and becoming the parent of a chronically ill child? I would be interested to learn whether the connection between stress and telomere length held for adoptive parents of chronically ill children and for parents of teenagers, compared with parents in general.

Bob Vanasse
Weymouth, Mass

The researchers don’t think the telomere length underlies the chronic illness because they also found a correlation between telomere shortening and perceived stress. Some mothers with chronically ill children weren’t stressed and had long telomeres. A study of adoptive parents would still be interesting but might not be necessary with these data.—C. Brownlee

Pushing a fast one

I was surprised to read in “Swift Lift: Birds may get a rise out of swirling air” (SN: 12/11/04, p. 373) the explanation, “Those low-pressure swirls create suction that pulls the insect upward.” There is no physical force known as “suction.” As the article correctly states, the leading-edge wing vortices create a low-pressure zone above the wings, and the higher-pressure air under the insect’s wings pushes the insect up.

Gary J. Grzebienik
Clawson, Mich

The people’s choice

Reading “Kibble for Thought: Dog diversity prompts new evolution theory” (SN: 12/18 & 25/04, p. 387), I puzzled over the statement that “domestication diverges from a standard model of evolution. . . .” Darwin’s primary evidence for The Origin of Species included observations of domesticated pigeons and other species, and even Mendel worked with garden peas. Yet hybridization and artificial selection have been considered evil or dirty for reasons that I have yet to fathom. Is selection by Homo sapiens for a red, sugary crabapple different from that by a bird?

Arthur O. Tucker
Camden, Del

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