Letters from the November 18, 2006, issue of Science News
Sunny side heads up
“Rare Uranian eclipse” (SN: 9/9/06, p. 166) tells us, “Because the moons of Uranus orbit at the planet’s equator, the sun seldom illuminates them directly.” I think what you mean is that the moons seldom pass directly between Uranus and the sun. But surely the sun still illuminates them, even when they’re not casting shadows on the planet.
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“Mood disorder cuts work performance” (SN: 9/23/06, p. 206) said that people with bipolar disorder tend to have more lost workdays than those with major depression do. The data shows this is true. However, the authors point out that in the sample of 3,378 workers, 1 percent suffered from bipolar disorder while 6 percent experienced major depression. Clearly, the greater impact on employers is depression.
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You call that tourism?
I was extremely disappointed to read the definition of ecotourism as being “the practice of visiting sites where exotic landscapes and rare animals are the main attractions” (“Good Gone Wild,” SN: 9/30/06, p. 218). Ecotourism was founded with the specific goal of countering the overuse of the kind of travel described in the article. A better definition would be one used by the Ecotourism Society since 1990: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” The word responsible would not describe much of the travel described in the article.
Good trip, bad trip
The “mystical journey” described in “Chemical Enlightenment” (SN: 9/30/06, p. 216) has long been available drug free and under carefully controlled conditions via biofeedback. The results of these sessions are very similar to those described by people who received psilocybin. In the rare circumstances when clients become uncomfortable in their altered states, a session can be terminated immediately.
Doreen E. McMahon
My experience cries for researchers to reconsider giving psilocybin to volunteers. I ate drug-containing mushrooms in 1978, and what started out as interesting sensory changes devolved into massive depression that mentally altered me for years.