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No fun with chemistry

Regarding the quantum computer ("Computation takes a quantum leap," SN: 8/26/00, p. 132), the figure shows a rather amazing structure, ([CH.sub.5]) ([CO.sub.2]). If some chemist has convinced one carbon to bind to five hydrogens, that really is news. Thanks to the link from your online version, I was able to get to the original paper and find that you swapped subscripts and closing parenthesis--make that [(CH).sub.5] [(CO).sub.2].

Timothy Rolfe Spokane, Wash.

Judging immanent justice

"Older isn't wiser in moral reasoning" (SN: 8/19/00, p. 120) presumes that immanent-justice judgments are irrational. However, poor self-image and other psychosomatic stressors are already suspected of suppressing immunity.

Many suspect that momentary emotional flare-ups precede cold and flu symptoms by a couple of days. An elaborate series of experiments might determine whether guilt over past crimes (or crime-motivating rage) made wrongdoers more vulnerable to disease than less-guilty-feeling controls are.

Mark Mulligan Seattle, Wash.

Strange is the assumption that immanent justice is an irrational idea, bred of socialization. As far as I know, there is no scientific basis to claim that immanent justice doesn't accurately correspond to reality, particularly in the daily experience of college students. I wager that octogenarians accept immanent justice even more strongly.

John Day Santa Barbara, Calif.

Mountain grown

Measuring G continues to be important ("Gravity gets measured to greater certainty," SN: 5/13/00, p. 311, and Letters, SN: 8/12/00, p. 99), and it is interesting to realize how far back the study goes. I recently visited the site in the Scottish Highlands where astronomer Nevil Maskelyne measured G in 1774. A plaque set up by the Royal Society deep into the mountains near the peak of Schiehallion describes how this symmetric mountain was used to test the difference in a plumbline from one side to another and so determine "the attraction of mountains." As, part of the task, Charles Hutton invented the idea of surface-contour lines.

Jay Pasachoff Williams College Williamstown, Mass.

Film review

"Answer blows in wind, swirls in soap" (SN: 8/19/00, p. 125) addresses how much energy is given up in the viscous processes of a thin sheet of turbulent fluid. The technique used to stir the soap film grabbed my attention.

Is it possible that the electromagnetic emissions from the sun influence Earth's winds in an analogous manner by acting on the naturally occurring ions in the atmosphere? This experiment, designed to study how winds exhaust their force, may give some insight into a possible input of energy that by its stirring nature could influence wind patterns. Of course, I could be all wet.

Francis E. Kent Four Lakes, Wash.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 21, 2000
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