Letters from the September 18, 2004, issue of Science News

A Pauling oversight

I was surprised to find no mention of Linus Pauling’s theory of anesthesia in “Comfortably Numb” (SN: 7/3/04, p. 8: Comfortably Numb). In 1961, Pauling provided detailed arguments that interactions between anesthetic agents and water, rather than lipids, form hydrate microcrystals in the brain that entrap side chains of proteins and interfere with electrical oscillations.

Stephen Lawson

Linus Pauling Institute

Corvallis, Ore.

Teardrop eyewash?

The teardrop shape of Venus away from the centermost part of the sun (“Heavenly Passage,” SN: 7/10/04, p. 24: Heavenly Passage) simply is caused by the photographic surface being planar, rather than spherical. The image can never be represented without distortion for the same reason that the globe can’t be represented without distortion on a flat map.

Robert P. Kelso

San Marcos, Texas

The origins of this teardrop shape are still being investigated.—R. Cowen

Into the groove

In the close-up from the Cassini spacecraft, some of Saturn’s rings look rather like grooves in a phonograph record (“Titanic Images, Groovy Shots: Cassini arrives at Saturn,” SN: 7/10/04, p. 22: Titanic Images, Groovy Shots: Cassini arrives at Saturn). I wonder if anyone has tried mapping those grooves to see if they can be played using the method described in “Groovy Pictures: Extracting sound from images of old audio recordings” (SN: 5/29/04, p. 339: Groovy Pictures: Extracting sound from images of old audio recordings). Obviously, some artistic license would need to be taken, but what a challenge to create true music of the spheres.

RuthAnn Nichols

Champaign, Ill.

Who needs ’em?

Not to detract from this project’s accomplishments or its potential (“Outer space on the cheap,” SN: 7/17/04, p. 46: Outer space on the cheap), but does space really need tourists? It’s not a sideshow. It will still be dangerous and expensive. Assuming that space travel will be like today’s airline travel is mistaken, especially in the near term. Let’s remember that this project’s success so far also rests on the lessons learned from the past.

Dennis Blanchard

San Jose, Calif.

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