Letters from the February 5, 2005, issue of Science News

Not measuring up

I love Science News. Now and then, however, you write in terms that aren’t understandable to the average reader. I refer in particular to “Snow Blow: Image of Mount Everest from orbit captures enormous plume” (SN: 12/4/04, p. 358). It states that “weather models suggest winds atop the peak exceeded 50 meters per second.” I dare say that to 99 percent of your readers, like myself, that’s a meaningless expression. Much more meaningful would be 180 kilometers per hour or, even better, 112 miles per hour. I’ll continue to do the math, but it would be nice if you’d make all your statements reader friendly.

Walt Faro
Webster, N.Y.

Out of stock

In your “DNA Bar Codes” (SN: 12/4/04, p. 360), it strikes me as strange to project the cost of collecting DNA samples from the “estimated 10 million animal species” on Earth when at least 90 percent of that probable fauna has yet to be discovered and, at current extinction rates, probably never will be.

Kevin Lumney
Porter Township, Ohio

Certainly uncertain

Wasn’t Einstein so irritated at the thought of randomness in the universe that he said, “God does not play dice with the universe”? “Take a Chance: Scientists put randomness to work” (SN: 12/4/04, p. 362) seemed to suggest that Einstein endorsed quantum physics, which I was under the impression he didn’t.

Andrew Alexander
Toronto, Ont

Einstein did loathe the idea that physical processes could be random. The physicist Niels Bohr, one of quantum physics’ strongest proponents, once retorted the quote you mentioned with, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do!” In 1930, Bohr forced Einstein, through a thought experiment, to accept the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics. Einstein tried unsuccessfully for the remaining 25 years of his life to show that the world behaves predictably.—E. Klarreich

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