Letters from the September 30, 2006, issue of Science News

Not a pretty picture

“Deadly Disorder: Imagined-ugliness illness yields high suicide rate” (SN: 7/22/06, p. 52) raises some questions. What about people who are physically unattractive—those whom a majority of the society considers ugly? I suspect that many people treated for body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are unattractive by that definition. The psychiatric profession tends to deny that many of the “illnesses” it treats are the result of realities that can’t be “cured” by denial.

Fred Kohler
Ashland, Ore.

Excuse me? Two out of nine study participants who attempted suicide succeeded, and this is “double” the suicide rate of some other group? What if one of those two successful attempts had failed because the attempt was discovered sooner? Is the suicide rate suddenly “normal”?

Joseph C. Nemeth
Fort Collins, Colo.

Actual ugliness is irrelevant to BDD. Only people who are seriously distressed by their belief that they’re ugly have the disorder. Many people whom others find unattractive are fine with their appearances. The researchers were cautious about the findings because some groups were small.—E. Jaffe

Out of Africa too

What about circumcision in the United States and Europe, not just sub-Saharan Africa, as a means of reducing AIDS? (“Male circumcision could avert millions of HIV infections,” SN: 7/29/06, p. 77) As I recall, the most recent trend among U.S. doctors is to discourage this practice as painful and unnecessary.

James Seeser
St. Louis, Mo.

Slime mold forever

I applaud your coverage of the BioBlitz in the National Capital Area (“30 Hours with Team Slime Mold,” SN: 7/29/06, p. 74). You only touched the surface, however. BioBlitzes are just a part of All Taxa Biodiversity Inventories that are being conducted from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to some protected areas in Europe. Specifically related to slime molds, the National Science Foundation has funded a planetary inventory of all species of slime molds, and a team at the University of Arkansas is using national parks and monuments as representative habitats for the study of slime mold diversity in North America.

Paul E. Super
Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob
Lake Junaluska, N.C.

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