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Is phonics the answer?

That six college students in London should require more brain activity than Italian students in decoding words ("Readers' brains go native," SN: 1/22/00, p. 58) is consistent with the use of whole-language methods favored in London classrooms when these respondents were young. For people not trained in phonics, word decoding is more difficult. A more complete study would include students from Scotland, where phonics instruction was more likely.

Kevin C. Killion Kenilworth, Ill.

NO news? Not quite

As stated in the article "NO news" (SN: 1/29/00, p. 78), nitric oxide is a recognized and commonly monitored pollutant. It would be of interest to see the incidence of sicklecell disease plotted against NO pollution levels for similar populations. Sufficient data are probably already available.

Ken Martwick Fall Creek, Ore.

Pump up the research

Your article on microbial-efflux-pump research ("Keeping bugs from pumping drugs," SN: 2/12/00, p. 110) immediately caused me to relate the phenominum to immune system response. Have the researchers considered the possibility of such a response triggering the formation of efflux pumps, either specific to the triggering "foreign" body or to a group of bodies similar to the cow pox-small pox link?

Robert E. Hubbard Winter Haven, Fla.

The subject is a good one for future research, says Paul M. Tulkens of the Catholic University of Louvan in Brussels, Belgium. He is unaware of any current research on the topic, although last year researchers showed that antibodies could inhibit an efflux pump found in cancer cells that have multidrug resistance.

-- D. Christensen

Take the short view, too

"As globe warms, atmosphere keeps its cool" (SN: 1/22/00, p. 53) fails to point out interesting aspects of the land and ocean temperature data shown in the article. During the period from about 1918 until 1943, land and ocean temperatures rose at a rate of about 18 [degrees] C per millennium. From 1943 until about 1975, the temperature was constant or declined slightly. A period of constant or slightly declining temperature also occurred prior to 1918. A theory of global temperature change should account for both the long-term trend in the data (about 6 [degrees] C per millennium) and the short-term trends.

Joe De Maio Mountain View, Calif.

A fair assessment

I'm glad to see that other mathematicians are working on the fair-division problem ("A fair deal for housemates," SN: 2/26/00, p. 141). The challenge is not so much with the optimizing-allocating procedures or algorithms but with how to explain the process and results in a way that is satisfying, understandable, and binding to the participants without seeming to benefit some distant party, like the landlord or the market.

Mike Chambreau Los Altos, Calif.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 29, 2000
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