Letters from the June 10, 2006, issue of Science News

Know the drill

Could it be that the ancient teeth discovered with drill marks but no signs of fillings (“Mystery Drilling: Ancient teeth endured dental procedures,” SN: 4/8/06, p. 213) were drilled to relieve abscesses? On a long holiday weekend years ago, a dentist opened and drained an abscess for me until I could get back home to my regular dentist. It relieved the pain almost instantly.

David Watt
Glasgow, Scotland

What smells?

Although I love finding out about how traits supposedly unique to humans are shared by animals, I don’t see how the experiment in “Hummingbirds can clock flower refills” (SN: 4/15/06, p. 237) demonstrates episodic memory in hummingbirds. How is this not the simple sensing (smelling) of the sugar drink in the syringes?

Yvonne Lyerla
Sonoma, Calif.

Researcher T. Andrew Hurly says that his team has tested the birds on arrays of fake flowers, only half of which hold nectar. The animals at first do no better than chance at finding the rewards. “This indicates that they are not detecting the presence or absence of nectar until they probe with their bills,” he concludes.—S. Milius

Moon shot

It seems that each of the moons of all of the planets within our solar system—and even some moons outside of our solar system—are named (“Brilliant! Tenth planet turns out to be a shiner,” SN: 4/15/06, p. 230). However, it strikes me as remarkable and ironic that our own moon is the only moon that is unnamed. I think we should have a naming contest for our moon.

Rick Howell
Stowe, Vt.

Get ready, here it comes

A great earthquake occurs on average every 130 years in the southern part of the San Andreas fault (“Region at Risk,” SN: 4/15/06, p. 234), so Los Angeles is long overdue. Make no mistake, loss of life, injuries, and damage will be on an apocalyptic scale. The government may take days or weeks to bring in help. You must take responsibility for yourself and your family. Have enough water, food, and basic essentials to last 7 to 10 days or longer.

Rick Schreiner
San Marino, Calif.

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