The article “Chemists pin down poppy’s
tricks for producing narcotic painkiller” (SN: 4/10/10, p. 5) may presage
geopolitical changes in Afghanistan,
regardless of whether there are engineered virus attacks or alternative crop
programs. A technological advance like
this one will eventually be used in the
United States and Europe. Even if governments continue to treat morphine
as a controlled substance, producing it
domestically will trump the costs and
difficulties of smuggling.
Terry Franklin, Amherst, Mass.
I’ve been vindicated (“Stomach’s sweet
tooth,” SN: 3/27/10, p. 22). Ever since
I first read about the links between
diabetes and diet soda consumption,
I have thought: “Artificial sweeteners
were designed to be noncaloric and to
taste sweet. They were not designed
(nor tested) for glycemic responses in
the digestive system, so perhaps there
is good reason to expect them to affect
insulin responses just as sugars do.”
As one who abhors the aftertaste from
artificial sweeteners, I have no trouble
suggesting that they should be avoided
or reduced in diets just as much as natu-
ral sugars should. Our bodies are not
evolved to regularly digest pure sugar
nor to be challenged by sugar mimics.
David Adams, Garnet Valley, Pa.
If the stomach and other organs can
taste sweetness, how valid are tests
using sugar pills as an “inert” placebo?
William Davis, Seattle, Wash.
Feathery escape for dinos
Sid Perkins’ article “Feathered dino-
saurs, bold and in living color” (SN:
2/27/10, p. 9), in which he discusses
why dinosaurs developed feathers,
gives reasons such as “sending visual
signals” to “startle an attacking preda-
tor” or to signal “come here, cutie.”
Watching predators such as foxes and
dogs try to catch chickens, it’s easy to
see a reason why feathers may have
developed: When the bird escapes, it
leaves a mouthful or paw full of feath-
ers behind. My theory is that feathers
are scales that became detachable.
Fluffy features make it more difficult
for an attacking animal to grab its prey.
This is probably something the world
has already thought of, but if not, could
you pass the idea along?
Glynn Willett, Potomac, Md.
After reading Secretary of Energy
Steven Chu’s comment in Scientific
Observations (SN: 1/2/10, p. 4), I
concluded that he has never heard of
Terrell Perry, Los Alamos, N.M.
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May 22, 2010 | science news | 31