Letters from the March 11, 2006, issue of Science News

Seasonal effect?

Might your article, “Bright Lights, Big Cancer” (SN: 1/7/06, p. 8), on breast cancer have missed something? If the daily light-dark cycle affects melatonin, is there a seasonal change in cancer rates in the Northern (and Southern) Hemispheres? If so or not, that might give a clue to any latency period.

Alan MacGregor
Salmon Arm, B.C.

Bad fit?

The picture of the new cochlear implant (“Hearing implant knows where it goes,” SN: 1/14/06, p. 29) shows a square piece that is to be implanted deeply into the inner ear. “Square peg in a round hole” was my response. Why doesn’t the probe have a more rounded shape?

Yvonne Lyerla
Sonoma, Calif.

Only the slender shaft attached to the square piece goes into the inner ear.—P. Weiss

All together

I experienced something very interesting after Sept. 11, 2001 (“Masters of Disaster: Survey taps resilience of post-9/11 New York,” SN: 1/14/06, p. 19). Rather than post-traumatic stress disorder, there seemed to be a togetherness exhibited. I found people to be more courteous, thoughtful, compassionate, and polite in general. I’m sure that people can say they experienced this same type of oneness in past experiences.

J. Dawson
Folsom, Calif.

Correlation, not cause

The conclusion drawn by pediatrician Julie C. Lumeng in “Fattening fears” (SN: 1/14/06, p. 30) is that parents’ safety concerns lead to kids being cooped up indoors where the opportunity for exercise is limited and food is easily accessible. While the study apparently shows a correlation between parental fears and overweight children, correlation does not equal causation.

I would hazard a guess that parents who live in neighborhoods that create fear live there because they can’t afford to live anywhere else. Such families may not be able to afford nutritious food, may lack the education to understand the benefit of a balanced diet, or may be working single parents and simply unable to manage their children’s eating habits.

Skip Simonds
Saugus, Calif.

In this study, fear of crime correlated with weight, even taking into account family income.—J. Raloff

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