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

The Carolinas to New Jersey

“Bad-News Beauties: Poison-spined fish from Asia have invaded U.S. waters” (SN: 9/9/06, p. 168) cites evidence of a severe genetic bottleneck, suggesting that perhaps no more than three pregnant females launched the expanding western Atlantic red lionfish population. How can there be “pregnant females” in an animal with the external fertilization described in the article? Do you mean a founder population of as few as three individuals? Please clarify.

Lynn Lozier
Fairfax, Calif.

Three females, which release their eggs, could be the maternal ancestors of the red lionfish now breeding in the west Atlantic. There would also have had to be at least one fertilizing male present in that ancestral brood stock.—J. Raloff

I just wanted to report catching a 1 1/2-inch lionfish behind Strathmere near Corson Inlet off New Jersey. I have been catching fish for my aquariums since 1961, and this is my first-ever lionfish. I read about some being caught near Long Island and Rhode Island and many living off the Carolinas. I thought I might capture one some day in the future but was much surprised to see this one in my trap.

Bob Seabrook
Absecon, N.J.


If your cell phone battery is depleted for no obvious reason (“Cyber attack depletes cell phone batteries,” SN: 9/16/06, p. 190), another possibility is an attack by law enforcement. Special firmware may have been surreptitiously downloaded into your phone, turning it into a bug that operates even if the phone appears to be off.

Steven R. Newcomb
Blacksburg, Va.

Bright idea

“Enigmatic Eruptions: Gamma-ray bursts lack supernova fireworks” (SN: 9/23/06, p. 196) states that gamma-ray bursts are “a million trillion times as bright as the sun.” The sun is so bright that humans can’t look directly at it from 93 million miles away. How can we possibly wrap our minds around something a million trillion times brighter? Astronomy is great.

Donald Kaufmann
Philadelphia, Pa.


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