September 24, 2008

From Abhas Mitra:

Re: Something beyond visible universe detected? (Sept. 23): It may be seen that the explanation for this mysterious flow in terms of inflation is unlikely to be correct: Inflation is supposed to have occurred at t~0, immediately after the big-bang. Then two patches already separated at the time of inflation must be atleast at a mutual separation of ct ~c/H, otherwise the two patches would be part of the same “visible universe”. Since effect of gravitation (or anything else) cannot propagate at a speed further than c, the speed of light, the two distinct patches cannot feel each other’s gravitation. Hence the “Dark Flow” may not be due to gravitational tug of something outside the visible universe.

On the other hand, it is more likely that the flow points out that the visible universe is not really homogeneous and isotropic, on the other hand, it might have a inhomogeneous fractal structrure.

From Jane Richards:

Re: World’s largest study of near-death experiences to start (Sept. 11): While in the recovery room after a triple bypass surgery, I experienced ‘something’... it involved being met on a pathway by the late great uncle of my husband, [who is now also deceased]. I was told by this great uncle, whom I knew, but was not close to, and whom professed being an agnostic, what “it isn’t time yet, go back”. I have had my doubts since, but my husband, mother and daughter were at my bedside and heard me tell them this. I have a college education in archaeology and anthropology and am not overly religious in practice...

Jane Richards

From Herbert Gintis:

Re: Spider sex cannibalism: it may come down to size (Sept. 15): Your headline, Demystifying spider sex cannibalism: There’s no deep, com­plex rea­son why fem­ales eat the males—they’re just hung­ry, two re­search­ers say” is quite misleading. There is not a single “theory” of the phenomenon that doesn’t accept that females eat males because they are hungry. The debate is about why male “allow themselves” to be eaten. This fine study strengthens the traditional story, but does not simplify it.

The question is: why do males evolve so that they can be eaten, rather than so that they can escape and have further inseminations? There is only one answer I know of: copulations in the species are so rare that the male supplies more to its offspring by being eaten than it does by having a chance at more offspring.

Herbert Gintis
Santa Fe Institute and
Central European University
Northampton, MA 01060

From Eve Curtis:

Re: Sensitivity to sudden noises may predict your politics (Sept. 18): According to this article, “Those with ‘mea­surably low­er phys­i­cal sen­si­ti­vi­ties to sud­den noises and threat­en­ing vis­u­al im­ages were more likely to sup­port for­eign aid, lib­er­al im­migra­t­ion poli­cies, pac­i­fism and gun con­trol,’ the team wrote.

“On the oth­er hand, ‘in­di­vid­u­als dis­play­ing mea­surably high­er physiolog­ical re­ac­tions to those same stim­u­li were more likely to fa­vor de fense spend­ing, cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, pat­ri­ot­ism and the Iraq War. ’“

This doesn’t make sense to me because I think that physiological reactions to these stimuli could mean that someone is more sensitive and empathetic. Personally, I am very sensitive to violence in the media, so much so that I cannot sit through a violent onscreen scene and have to either close my eyes or leave the room if one is shown, and I definitely jump when I hear a sudden noise, but I am politically left of center. I favor gun control, abortion rights, gay marriage, liberal immigration policies, and I am a peace activist.

Other people I know who hold similar political beliefs as I do have also expressed their discomfort with violent images to me. I am really curious about how this study was conducted.

From Zena (spiti nhoru sseye@ ya

Re: The evolution of drug abuse (March 21): Indeed. Scientists has discovered long ago that the brain has a ‘key’ specifically designed to use these intoxicants. If it were not true, the ingestion of them would simply kill us, not make us ‘high’. People use drugs for many reasons. First and foremost is pain. And alot of it is psychic pain. But also for other physical pain. Some for consciousness raising or ‘religious’ purposes. Such as Shamans and others. Then there are others who use for recreational purposes. I find it suspicious when people ‘simplify’ the reasons for anything. Life is much more complicated than that. In fact, I would call it ‘democratic’.

From Zena:

Re: A surprising new way to discourage risky behaviors? (Aug. 25): Sounds just like another way to ‘conform’ people. This is science?

From Sarah Kay:

Re: Science gives beauty some of its mystery back (Dec. 22): Many important parts of this story are missing. For instance, what was the distribution of face shapes of the subjects.

In a very small undergraduate study I did, I found a strong correlation between face shapes and a attractedness. Subjects were more attracted to those of the opposite sex with the same countenance.

I also discovered different descriptions of attractedness - such as cute, pretty, beautiful, lovely, etc. Subjects might assign these descriptions to a sample while also stating that they themselves were not attracted to it but others might be. There also seemed to be a bias associated with the quality and quantity of experiences with the opposite sex.

While additional information may be absent due to publishing constraints, the story lacks credibility without more basic information.

From Kay Sarah:

Re: “Extreme” rain follows global warming (Aug. 7):

CAUSALITY? Global temperature has declined since 1998. CO2 has risen since 1998. Sunspots have been declining. Global warming corresponds with sunspot/solar magnetic storm activity. Global warming correlates with multiyear oceanic currents.

So just what does extreme rain correspond with? Is it: Global cooling, CO2 increase, Sunspot decline, Ocean current change?

September 12, 2008

From Pete Perry:

Re: “Historic” collider operation begins (Sept. 10): Isn’t the use of the new particle smasher, The Large Hadron Collider, taking scientific experimentation a step too far? Trying to recreate the ‘Big Bang’ could produce anti-matter, which in turn could possibly give rise to black holes.

Even the smallest black hole could devour not only our own planet, but also the Solar System and beyond, We are but children experimenting with things we do not know about. Kids playing with matches.

Pete Perry
MOTF Enterprises

From Tom Henderson Smith:

Re: “Historic” collider operation begins (Sept. 10): Will someone please explain to me what is to be celebrated about what is surely the most expensive (and thus the most costly in energy and resources) experiment starting up at a time when economic gloom shrouds the world and environmental degradation and impending disaster are so often reported? What possible benefit to humanity or to the planet as a whole will acrue from the particle accelerator? I really want to know.

I heard that in India a teenage girl committed suicide today because she had been given to understand that a “black hole” would occur as a result of the experiment and that this would mean the end of everything. That may have been naive but unless representatives of the scientific community give us some rationale for this vast squandering of energy, resources and expertees that is more than purely the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, then widespread despair about our future is certainly going to be aggravated by todays “historic” scientific events.

From jrc_s kyexp ress@ya hoo.

Re: “Historic” collider operation begins (Sept. 10): A fantastic step for pure Physics research. Looking forward to results! Being a Dr in Engineering, and well aware of Physics, I have always been flabbergasted by multiple “teamed actions” by totally ignorant people making the front pages of the news.

I have seen perfectly safe and profitable projects being scrapped because of the fear of the word “atom”.

If you want to make a petition against research in physics, make sure those who oppose it have, ALSO, a PhD in Physics. Give a “licence to vote” to the people who know!

From Barry Goldman:

Re: “Junk DNA” key to human evolution? (Sept. 4): That was a great article on junk DNA and implication for human evolution.

I think one of the more important lessons however is that it demonstrates the problem we have with much of modern science whereby researchers claim that “there is no effect” when they really mean that they cannot ‘statistically’ demonstrate an effect. In most cases they have not posited an alternative hypothesis and thus there is way of measuring type II errors. Not that this is easy in genetics, but, to bring the point home, the very act of calling this material ‘junk DNA’ is prejudging the issue and should not be tolerated.

From Matt Mann:

Re: “Junk DNA” key to human evolution? (Sept. 4): My $64 question “why did this “JUNK DNA” make the changes/mutate to begin with? What was going on at the time that caused these genes to mutate? “Mother Nature” sounds like more like a “KID” with a new chemistry kid instead of some responsible adult.

From CHRISTIN ECiss y@a

Re: “Historic” collider operation begins (Sept. 10): I find it most peculiar that all that I have been hearing of the Large Hadron Collider’s historic operational debut is one sided and obtuse. Basically it has been some mindless repetition of what some scientist associated with the CERN has to say about assuring us that nothing cataclysmic will occur now or later. Imagine my horror at seeing Stephen Hawking positioned like some bureaucratic puppet on BBC America yesterday, commenting on how “collisions” have been occurring in our atmosphere regularly and nothing has ever happened to be concerned about. What kind of collisions is he speaking of? You cannot compare apples to oranges. I do not recall any baby big bangs taking place in close proximity to our planet or underground, in my lifetime, or in recent recorded history. Not to mention that Hawking’s theory of black holes was later refuted by no less than Stephen Hawking himself, does not say much for airing him as the one and only voice of consolation on the BBC America newscast. There are at least two sides to every story. Isn’t it about time we hear from the scientists who are against the Large Hadron Collider experiment and their reasoning, as well as the status of all of the lawsuits to prevent its operation?!

September 10, 2008

From Max K. Wallis and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe:

Re: Report: cells “from space” have unusual makeup (Sept. 8): The Princeton group’s study (Astrophysical J. Lett. ) ignores the solution we have found for the delivery problem – delivering solar system meteorites and life-bearing dust to other planetary systems and vice versa. The delivery problem is important for lithopanspermia (transfer of life within rocks) because meteorites hurtling at typically tens km per second into another system have an insignificant chance to be caught by direct impact or planets’ gravitational kicks.

The Princeton authors attempt to solve the problem when the solar system was part of a stellar cluster, before it separated from its birth cloud, in its first 10 million years or so. The terrestrial planets had hardly condensed and, even if seeded with life from the start, species and genetic evolution would not have progressed. Any seeds it generated would be hardly different from the starting forms already distributed within the cloud from which its neighbouring systems were condensing.

The solution we found (Interstellar transfer of planetary microbiota [here] Mon. Not. Roy. Astron. Soc. 348, 52-61) works for evolved planetary systems that send major impact debris like the Martian meteorites at hypervelocities through neighbouring systems, particularly to systems in their planet-forming phase that contain large amounts of solid grains. Impacts with mm-sized grains can then sputter off 10 000 times their mass in fragments or, on cm-sized debris, fragment it explosively.

The new protoplanets readily capture of some of this life bearing material, containing viable spores, without the losses such as experienced by the Martian meteorites when landing on Earth. Delivery of seeds of evolved terrestrial life to extra-solar planets at their formation stage is the key problem for panspermia. The Princeton group’s mechanism does not solve this problem.

Max K. Wallis
N. Chandra Wickramasinghe
Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, Cardiff University, Wales UK

September 03, 2008

From Mr L Prior:

Re: Why are flies so hard to swat? Chalk it up to good planning (Aug. 28): Fascinating study you published into the take-off procedure of flies. I was surprised and amused by the omission in this article of any mention of the Fly’s blind spot.

Approaching a fly from almost any angle with a hand primed to flick the fly into the middle of next week, will always result in the fly taking flight before you have got within six inches of it; But if you approach the fly from a position approximately 45 degrees above the front of its head, and swooping centrally between its eyes, the fly has a blind spot between the two domed multiple-angle eyes and can’t see you - either that or it becomes mesmerized by not understanding what is happening.

You can get within flicking distance (ie an inch or so) of the fly and if you don’t mind a mess on your finger, you can swat it the natural way like a Chameleon’s tongue ! I’ve demonstrated this a few times, not that I like killing insects but flies do need controlling in the height of summer and sometimes when you haven’t got a swat to hand, you can use the blind spot technique and another one bites the dust.

Clearly the fly doesn’t prepare itself for take off when you use the 45 degree effect - it remains grounded and leg-chocks firmly applied!

Mr L Prior
SW England

From Savely Savva:

Re: New collider promises to transform physics (Aug. 21, 2008): It would be very surprising if anything substantial comes out of the collider experiment except for proving inaptness of current particle physics.

Biological nuclear reactions, that are well proven but ignored, indicate that current particle physics is on a wrong truck - see

From Dale Allen Wood:

Re: Washington’s doctors absolved (Aug. 19): I think that your article “beat around the bush” and omitting a serious problem that people need to know about.

Washington had a serious throat infection that involved his trachea, too.

Back then, neither antibiotics nor sulfa drugs had been discovered, and they wouldn’t be for well over a century into the future! Why didn’t you say anything about this? Not one word was given.

There was no possible treatment for Washington’s throat infection back then, and it was going to kill him anyway, by suffocation, if nothing else.

They also didn’t have good trachea tubes back then, or anything else to keep him breathing.

Washington was also 67 years old, which was well-above the life expectancy back then.

Lots of wounded soldiers died during WW I simply because there weren’t any sulfa drugs or antibiotics back then.

In the next decade a son of the President of the United States died because he had been playing tennis on a court on the White House grounds, got a blister on his foot, and died from the infection that resulted.

In about 1928, my own grandmother’s 18-month-old first born child, her only daughter, died of an abdominal infection that I am convinced could have been treated and cured with antibiotics in about 1943. My grandmother was lucky that she gave birth to four more children, all sons, and they all lived to their late 50s or early 60s, and two of them, in their mid-70s, are still alive now.

Your failure to mention that the lack of any anti-bacterial drug back then caused Washington’s death by strangulation then.

It is interesting that I have also seen a painting of an ancient Egyptian doctor treating a patient with tetanus (lockjaw). He had inserted a tube (maybe wooden or bamboo) into the patients mouth, and he was feeding and watering the patient through this tube. That gave the patient a chance to fight off the tetanus himself in a matter of weeks. However, if the patient had had an infection that was closing his trachea, the doctor would have had no way to treat that. Back then, they didn’t have any kind of tough rubber or plastic that could have been made into a trachea tube.

Dale Allen Wood, M.S. & M.A.

From Sharon Ellis:

Re: New collider promises to transform physics (Aug. 21): am interested in the possibility of evidence for new forces of nature or hidden extra dimensions of space and time.

Also why not look at the influence of thought on particles of matter as both are frequencies of energy and in my opinion one has influence over the other. Remember the old saying “Mind over Matter” I believe this is quite possible. One can use the mind to influence health in the body, suppression of pain, mood control and much more.

Sharon Ellis

From whi terav endc 7278@yaho

Re: A surprising new way to discourage risky behaviors? (Aug. 25): I am always amused when scientists first demonstrate what everyone (well, maybe not everyone) already knows! To quote Leviticus, “Do not do as they do” [emphasis my own]. Still, someone has to experimentally prove the theories.