Letters from the January 15, 2005, issue of Science News

Maybe a smoky card game

I’m a veterinarian, and, here in west Texas, we see a high occurrence of parvovirus infection in young dogs. It destroys the intestinal villi, allowing gastrointestinal bacteria and their toxins to enter the bloodstream (“Nicotine’s Good Side: Substance curbs sepsis in mice,” SN: 11/6/04, p. 291). I would be very interested in learning whether or not small doses of nicotine would have a beneficial effect.

Tom McCabe
El Paso, Texas

Cellular sensationalism?

I’m no fan of cell phones, but “Electronics Detox: Leadfree material for ecofriendly gadgetry,” (SN: 11/6/04, p. 293) seems to be an article about a solution looking for a problem. Presumably, cell phones would be disposed of in landfills and, therefore, not exactly “released” into the environment, as the article states.

In any case, the 312,000 pounds of lead in all cell phones owned in 2005 should be put into the context of the estimated 350 million pounds of lead released in 2002 by the coal and metal mining industries, or the 8.8 million pounds released by the electric-power-generation industry. Also, federal agencies estimate that about 6,000 million pounds of lead remain in 57 million houses in the United States.

John Coleman
Madison, Wis

Moon boom doom?

What will happen to the Huygens probe when it plunges through Titan’s atmosphere (“A Titan of a Mission,” SN: 11/20/04, p. 328)? Will we have a PHHT or a BOOM? My late father, a chemist, always admonished me to beware of acetylene, propane, and ethane, as they were highly volatile.

Caroline L.C. Goldsmith
Hackettstown, N.J

There is no molecular oxygen on Titan,” responds Jonathan I. Lunine of the University of Arizona in Tucson, “and therefore ethane and propane will not ignite or explode. . . . Acetylene is a bit different—it spontaneously forms a polymer, releasing heat, but explosive polymerization requires oxygen.”—R. Cowen

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