Letters from the January 6, 2007, issue of Science News

Gone with the heat?

“Feeling the heat of an extrasolar planet” (SN: 10/28/06, p. 285) made me wonder how long a gas planet is expected to survive when one of its faces is more than 1,000°C. The conventional model of our solar system assumes that gas planets can form and survive only in a cold region of space. This implies that Upsilon Andromedae b moved to its present position after it had formed and that it is now evaporating rapidly.

Donald Shernoff
White Plains, N.Y.

Reflecting on a problem

One solution to global warming suggested in “A Swarm of Umbrellas vs. Global Warming: Astronomer thinks small to save Earth” (SN: 11/4/06, p. 291) is stretching Mylar across the ground. How about designing reflective concrete to aid in this endeavor? We are already covering a large amount of Earth with pavement.

Tom E. Klassen
Indianapolis, Ind.

Some ‘No’ votes

As a computer scientist, I appreciate that increased layers of hidden complexity only increase vulnerability to both innocent error and fraudulent manipulation (“Ballot Roulette,” SN: 11/4/06, p. 298). As a voter, I thoroughly understand how to indelibly mark a paper ballot. The ballot can be machine read and tabulated even before I leave the precinct. It is as nearly perfect a vote-recording technology as I can imagine.

Leandra Vicci
Silk Hope, N.C.

I’m quite sure that the source of the reliability and security problems in software controlled voting devices is the same that pervades all other software: hasty, sloppy systems engineering and programming, not any inherent difficulty of the problem.

Bruce Zuidema
Robbinsville, N.J.

Oregon has no voting equipment, new or old, having changed to 100 percent vote-by-mail in 1998. Your article might have mentioned this sensible system as an alternative to the expensive, complicated, and vulnerable electronic systems that have plagued the country since the 2000 election debacle.

Tom Hoeber
Gold Hill, Ore.

Although Oregon voters mail in their ballots, all counties in the state tally votes with optical scanners. The article’s graphic shows, by means of colors, which were the last Oregon counties to switch from punch-card readers to scanners for ballot counting.—P. Weiss

More Stories from Science News on Humans