September 27, 2006

From Elise Wade:

Re: Burglars found to be as skilled as pilots (Sept. 27): You can certainly tell this is not from a survey in Texas. Here, I’m sure no sane burglar would prefer their victims to be home. That would carry too much risk of getting shot. And, in fact, I believe most burglaries in Texas (and the US) occur when homes are unoccupied.

September 20, 2006

From Prasanna Rao-Balakrishna:

Re: Can voices in your head be good? (Sept. 13): This is an interesting development and may result in nonpharmacological interventions for people who are distressed by hearing voices. Obviously those who view hearing voices as a positive experience would not be the ones seeking medical attention. More studies in this field are necessary to identify why voices are heard in the first place.

September 13, 2006

From Marek Janas:

Re: Paintings really can be heard, scientist says (Sept. 7): Probably more popular than “hearing” painting (Kandinsky) is “seeing” music. I should like to remark that Polish dramaturgist and painter WITKACY (see, e.g.,, 1885-1939, experimented in painting under hallucinogenic products (peyotl, meskaline) and that resulted, amongs other, in “painting” music, e.g., symphonies as he heard them. I remember these “musical” paintings but, unfortunately, cannot find any electronic version to show here.

Marek Janas, Professor
Inelastic Structures and Materials
Institute of Fundamental Technological Research

September 12, 2006

From Jedidiah Palosaari:

Re: Eye photos might deter crime, police say following research (Sept. 8): Great. This is the kind of research that isn’t necessarily the best these days. As societies get more and more Draconian, I can see some Orwellian fantasies played out with this research, where the government reminds us everywhere that “Big Brother is Watching”—lest we get any ideas of doing anything inappropriate. Because one man’s crime is another man’s freedom, and what is inappropriate can become quite broadly defined.

Jedidiah Palosaari
SeaTac, WA

From Lawrence M. Ward:

Re: Paintings really can be heard, scientist says (Sept. 7): Jamie Ward’s studies of the “music” in Kandinsky’s art may be new, and his approach of getting synesthetes to describe the sounds the art evokes and finding that “normals” appreciate these descriptions more than others, is also novel and interesting. But his conclusion is hardly new at all—check out Lawrence E. Marks’ book “The Unity of the Senses: Interrelations among the modalities” (1978 Academic Press) for many studies showing the same kind of thing: there are natural connections between sounds, lights, etc. that we all can access—especially using cross-modality matching, a psychophysical scaling technique. He even discusses synesthetic metaphors in poetry.

Lawrence M. Ward, Ph.D., Professor
Dept of Psychology and The Brain Research Centre
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Principle Investigator
Down Syndrome Research Foundation
Burnaby, B.C., Canada

September 08, 2006

From John Beckman:

Re: Protest over new planet definition (Sept. 5): The mistake by the IAU was to attempt to define a planet at all. Although the IAU’s role in naming astronomical objects is fully accepted and non controversial, we should not assume that naming and defining are in any way the same type of process. One can give an example which has been used in trying to define “a definition”. Consider the case of a craftsman who starts work on a large cube of wood and eventually carves it into a chair. At the end of the process we can see the chair clearly. The question can then arise: “At what point in the process should we say that the object has become a chair?”

Obviously put like this we can see that this exercise is futile. Nobody can claim that they can draw a line between chair and non-chair with greater authority than anyone else. The attempt is meaningless. The argument about when an object of a certain mass is or is not a planet has many aspects of this kind of futility about it. The definition is sufficiently difficult to make that two groups of “experts” can, and in this case did, come to opposite definitions of Pluto and several other objects in a similar mass range. The definitions were made in such a way as to satisfy the previous requirements of each group, i. e. whether or not they wanted Pluto to remain a planet, so that the criteria adopted were in a very important sense arbitrary. Both groups attempted to put physical parameters to their definitions, but these were not clear cut, in the same sense that one can say that an object which is able to turn hydrogen to helium in its centre is a star, and if it is not massive enough to do this it is not a star. The final name adopted to distinguish objects of around Pluto’s mass from “planets” is also silly. The term “dwarf planet” has a strong sense of ambiguity about it. Dwarf galaxies are galaxies and dwarf stars are stars (the Sun is one of them) so why should dwarf planets not be planets?

The IAU should not have wasted its time on this matter. The scientists who make up the IAU (I am one) have far more relevant contributions to make to the advancement of human knowledge and understanding without getting bogged down in a debate which was sure to be widely publicized, but which has contributed nothing to the science of astronomy.

John Beckman
Research Professor of Astrophysics
Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias

From Larry Harrison:

Re: Protest over new planet definition (Sept. 5): I am in agreement with the new definition of a planet. However, Plutos’ orbit may be closer to the Sun than Neptunes’ for twenty years but it never really crosses it. Does it? If this is the case, then Plutos’ orbit is cleared and it should still be classified as a planet. Also in my opinion, Pluto/Charon is actually a Double Planet. I would like to see all of the differentiated (round) bodies discovered beyond Neptune be given their proper place in the solar system, whether as Planets of Dwarf Planets. I would also like to see this new definition expanded to include Moons. If a Moon isn’t differentiated it shouldn’t be called a moon, just a satellite, natural or captured.

September 07, 2006

From Pay_the_Piper:

Re: Livable worlds abound, simulations find (Sept. 7): That being so, we would predict from “panspermia” that ejecta from planets with living microbes have seeded life, far and wide. In one Apollo expedition, microbes survived the round trip in exterior camera housing. We have many ejecta from Mars and Moon on Earth. God DOES play snooker!

From Viktoras Didziulis:

Re: “Artificial muscles” to liven TV color (Aug. 17): Using diffraction or interference is likely the best approach to record or generate true colors. Though I just wanted to remind some history. Similar approach has been used in method known as Lippmann process developed around 100 years ago. It might be an interesting topic for one of “World-science” issues. The difference is that it relies not on diffraction gratings on a plane, but on Bragg reflection planes in emulsion to make the colors.

The Lippmann process utilized the natural colors of light wavelengths instead of using dyes and pigments. He placed a reflecting coat of mercury ehind the emulsion of a panchromatic plate. The mercury reflected light rays back through the emulsion to interfere with the incident rays, forming a latent image that varied in depth according to each ray’s colour. The development process then reproduced this image, and the result, when viewed, was brilliantly accurate. However direct method of colour photography was slow and tedious because of necessarily long exposure times, and no copies of the original could be made.

Gabriel Jonas Lippmann won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1908 for the creation of the first color photographic process. Today only a few know what was that method. Someone could start adopting the technology for manufacturing “real color displays” or new kind of digital cameras. . .Colors are still preserved in his early photos. . .

More information on this:

September 05, 2006

From Aju Mukhopadhyay:

Re: A trip to cannibal country (Aug. 29): A story to remember; the dying world of cannibals, things of great social value. It proves that humans live at different social layers. Though cannibals kill one and savagely eat, modern civilised men who have force, smash and destroy brutally thousands to keep their ego going strong- both the worlds will vanish in the course of time!