Letters from the May 6, 2006, issue of Science News

Same old grind

“Ancient Andean Maize Makers: Finds push back farming, trade in highland Peru” (SN: 3/4/06, p. 132) remarks on maize starch granules being “consistent with” stone grinding. The presence of lowland arrowroot on one tool is consistent with trade, but it is equally consistent with a wandering hunter grabbing a root in the midlands and bringing it home.

James Reichle
Quincy, Calif.

It’s my decision

“Do Over: New MS drug may be safe after all” (SN: 3/4/06, p. 131) contained a very disturbing comment: “Neurologist Annette Langer-Gould of Stanford University says that even the 1-in-1,000 risk of PML [leukemia] ‘seems to outweigh the benefits’ that natalizumab would provide many patients.” Having a genetic mutation for which there is no treatment or cure and having (and having had) friends with MS, I am very concerned that some entity would withhold a beneficial treatment because of an identified risk. First and foremost, the choice is that of the recipient, not the administrator. When the risks are high—e.g., greater than 50-50—then sufficient counseling should be made available to help the patient consider the quality of life versus the trade-offs.

David Sweetman
Dyer, Nev.

The party’s over?

Light pollution (“Light All Night,” SN: 3/18/06, p. 170) is a side effect of cheap fossil fuels. As such, we may be closer to the end of this problem than most people think. Electricity is still the best bargain in the civilized world, but blowing it off into the night sky has always been folly. When energy prices reach a high-enough level, streetlights, commercial signage, and private-yard lights will begin to wink out. I eagerly await that day.

Tom Ness
Grants Pass, Ore.

The study by Chad Moore and Dan Duriscoe quantifying light pollution is valuable. However, like most similar studies, it does not address the deleterious effects light pollution is already having on humans. The notion persists that the electric destruction of night is nothing more that a minor nuisance. Nothing could be farther from the truth. One has only to survey a few people to see how abysmally ignorant they are about the stars in the night sky—which they have basically never seen—to understand the pernicious effects of light pollution on our very nature as intelligent beings.

Patrick L. Lilly
Colorado Springs, Colo.

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