Letters from the July 7, 2007, issue of Science News

Hex sine?

The NASA researchers baffled by the hexagonal shape in Saturn’s soupy atmosphere at its northern pole (“A hexagon on the ringed planet,” SN: 4/28/07, p. 269) should read “As waters part, polygons appear” (SN: 6/3/06, p. 348). It is worth investigating whether there is a similar phenomenon—I still suspect some sort of standing sine wave effect—at work in both cases.

Ellery Frahm
Minneapolis, Minn.

Snore and more

I was surprised that the findings on the brain’s processing of information and discerning of relationships would come as a surprise (“Sleep on It: Time delay plus slumber equals memory boost,” SN: 4/28/07, p. 260). I have long been aware of, and have even come to count on, the fact that a surprising degree of insight and clarity often comes in the morning after having fallen asleep the night before wrestling with a complex mathematics or physics problem. I am certain that many, if not most, mathematicians, physicists, and others dealing with difficult problems are equally aware of this phenomenon.

Warren F. Davis
Newton, Mass.

Oliver Sacks, in his book Uncle Tungsten (2001, Knopf), mentions that the arrangement of the elements in the periodic table came to Dmitri Mendeleyev in a dream. Although I certainly do not consider myself in the same league with Mendeleyev, I remember occasionally waking up in the wee hours of the morning with the solution to a computer-programming problem (not always correct) that had been bugging me.

Bill Bornstein
Mount Sinai, N.Y.

Safety first

A concern I have for a new route algorithm (“Lost in transportation,” SN: 5/5/07, p. 285) to replace algorithms that “may overlook shorter routes for the sake of following major highways” is exemplified by the fact that here in southern Oregon, every winter, people get lost and occasionally die taking the “shorter routes” as suggested by car-navigation systems or online trip plotters. I prefer to know first that the route is safe, second that it’s shortest.

Ed Fisher
Corvallis, Ore.

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