Letters from the May 14, 2005, issue of Science News

It’s kids’ stuff

Regarding the therapeutic effects of sunflower-seed oil on infants (“Anoint Them with Oil: Cheap-and-easy treatment cuts infection rates in premature infants,” SN: 3/12/05, p. 165), has any research been done as to the health benefits of the oil in any other age group?

Yael Levy
New York, N.Y.

Research to date has focused on newborns, says researcher Gary L. Darmstadt of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. However, a few studies have suggested that oil massage enhances wound healing in older children. Oil massage of children of all ages is practiced extensively in south Asia, he adds.—C. Brownlee

Part-time police state?

“Cops with Six Legs: Law and order among insects” (SN: 3/19/05, p. 184) ends with the remark, “overall, ‘coercion plays a more important role than kinship in favoring cooperation in insect societies.'” But there’s no proof in the article of this being true in the wasps’ activities overall. Only some of their egg handling is mentioned. If the conclusion is true, it overthrows 40 years of careful empirical and theoretical work in sociobiology. Somehow, I doubt it.

Patricia A. Williams
Covesville, Va

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