Letters from the March 18, 2006, issue of Science News

Comfort zones

Just because living organisms were found in extreme conditions does not necessarily mean they were created in these localities (“Is Anybody out There?” SN: 1/21/06, p. 42). Another possibility is that the creation of life took place under more amenable conditions and that these organisms, through evolution, gradually adapted as the conditions changed. We shouldn’t assume that just because bacteria were found on Earth surviving under very hostile conditions that they are being created under the same or worse conditions on other planets or moons of our solar system.

Theodore Blinder
Havertown, Pa.

Sand bagging

“In Pixels and in Health” (SN: 1/21/06, p. 40) illustrates one of the fascinating ways in which cellular automata have evolved into a truly useful analytical tool. However, would it not be more linguistically consistent, not to mention more accurate, to refer to the methodology as “in virtuo” rather than “in silico”? In another 50 years, the use of silicon as a computing medium may well be an historical curiosity. And to split hairs, isn’t “in silico” really “in vitro”? After all, they’re made of the same thing.

Michael L. Wright
Tallahassee, Fla.

Red alert for scientists

“Red Alert for Red Apes: DNA shows big losses for Borneo orangutans” (SN: 1/28/06, p. 51) details logging and poaching practices that have decimated the orangutan population on Borneo. These practices are not only sad, they’re criminal. It’s time for scientists to become as politically active as the religious right and start fighting for actions known to be needed. In this case, it’s protecting orangutans from extinction. Scientists must begin to do much more than just collect, present, and interpret data.

Bruce Barnbaum
Granite Falls, Wash.

More Stories from Science News on Humans