Letters from the July 1, 2006, issue of Science News

Looking into the future

Your article states that farsightedness will be treated with these new electric lenses (“Switch-a-Vision: Electric spectacles could aid aging eyes,” SN: 4/22/06, p. 243). With some tweaking, could nearsightedness and astigmatism be treated as well? Could binoculars, telescopes, and microscopes use this technology?

Roger Curnow
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Yes and yes, says Dwight P. Duston of PixelOptics in Roanoke, Va. However, he notes that it’s instant switching between focus settings that distinguishes the new, liquid crystal lenses from standard lenses, not better vision correction.—P. Weiss

Gut feeling?

The article “Hot-pepper ingredient slows cancer in mice” (SN: 4/22/06, p. 254) raises a couple of questions for me. Recently, I drank some clam-tomato juice that contained jalapeño puree. It seemed to alleviate some of my internal ailments. So, I wonder if jalapeño peppers also contain capsaicin.

Norman Moore
Boca Raton, Fla.

Jalapeño peppers do contain capsaicin, but it’s impossible to say whether the substance delivers the salutary effects. Research shows a connection between nerve cell receptors implicated in inflammatory bowel disease and capsaicin’s signal to the brain.—N. Seppa

Blundering hordes

Something mystified me in your story “Buried Treasures: Constructing—and deconstructing—cave formations” (SN: 4/29/06, p. 266). Apparently, preservation experts are concerned that microorganisms could wipe out Stone Age cave paintings, as if this were an urgent threat. Has something altered the caves in which these paintings appear that has invited intensified bacterial growth?

Don McMillan
Modesto, Calif.

What threatens the paintings is a modern scourge: tourists. People’s exhalations and body heat affect a cave’s temperature and humidity, and, as mentioned in the article, cells and hair that people shed can nourish microbes.—S. Perkins

More Stories from Science News on Humans