Letters from the September 17, 2005, issue of Science News

Just Feynman

A lot of people ask how someone like Richard Feynman, who played the bongo drums, loved practical jokes, and was an amateur safecracker and a bon vivant, could also win a Nobel Prize in Physics (“Dr. Feynman’s Doodles: How one scientist’s simple sketches transformed physics,” SN: 7/16/05, p. 40). Actually, all of Feynman’s disparate characteristics are entirely in keeping with each other. In psychiatrist Carl Jung’s terms, Feynman was an extraverted (Jung’s spelling), intuitive type. These are people who can make leaps of understanding that seem to have no logical connection. These types seem rather off-the-wall in their personal, as well as their professional, lives.

Robert G. Chester
Tumwater, Wash.

The sidebar titled “Van Go” in the article on Richard Feynman states: “On May 11, 1998, Feynman diagrams were briefly in the public eye when a post office in Lake Worth, Fla., used one of them as its stamp cancellation to honor Richard Feynman, who had died in February of that year….” Richard Feynman died in 1988, not 1998.

Jon L. Nauert
Mount Vernon, Wash.

A late change in the article indeed introduced the error. Feynman died 10 years before the stamp cancellations.—Editors

Green peeves

I have some problems with “Mommy Greenest: Evidence grows for parental care in plants” (SN: 7/23/05, p. 59). The section regarding alpine thistles seems to ignore the huge moisture-collecting effect of aboveground matter, such as dead plant remains, that results from condensation of dew. Experiments need to be done that control for this and for the increased amount of organic matter found at the “mother’s” site versus another site. Also, the article reeks of excessive anthropomorphism.

Elizabeth Oscanyan
Philomont, Va.

Aboveground plant debris does collect moisture, and that process is considered one of the mechanisms by which offspring plants get extra water near a fallen parent plant. In the experiment described, the plots were similar, if not for the presence of the fallen plant.—S. Milius

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