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Discover Magazine > Letters > December 2004



Matter Over Mind


The main theme of John Horgans article [The Myth of Mind Control, October], that the complexity of memory continues to mystify and inspire neuroscientists, is at serious odds with his statement that this wrinkled lump of jelly in our skulls generates a unique, conscious self with a sense of personal identity and autonomy. When brain scientists such as Wilder Penfield have asserted that the mind is not localizable in the same way as motor functions, for example, is it indeed scientific to make this reductionistic assumption? In this issue it was also reported that widely separated atoms have enough mutual awareness to imprint their properties on one another (One Step Closer to Teleportation, R&D). If single atoms can demonstrate such capacities, how dare we assume how (or where) such a complex phenomenon as consciousness originates? Considering our ignorance of how to evaluate this mystery, it would be just as valid to consider concepts about the mind and the self from such ancient traditions as yoga or Buddhism as it would be to rely on such simplistic formulations.


Jeff Tomboulian

via e-mail




I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Myth of Mind Control. Your look at a brain-chip era reminded me of two books I read recently: Feed by M.T. Anderson (about implanting a super-advertising bug in future youth) and Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini, in which a pill-size supercomputer tells your brain how to be cool all the time. A tech-savvy cure for social desires is a line science hasnt crossed yet, and I wonder if it ever will.


Piper Henriques

Richmond, Virginia




John Horgan has written a respectable article outlining the problems and issues surrounding mind control and what has generally been accomplished in that area of research. However, his point was that the dynamics of the brain and the uniqueness of individuals represent a fundamental barrier to true mind control, which remains insurmountable despite our best technological efforts. I disagree. Horgan based his whole premise on current conventional technology and protocols. By all accounts, government-classified technology that can come uncannily close to duplicating precision mind control by remote means undeniably exists, shielded by the Office of Homeland Security. This technology is being used today on unwitting human beingshere, and in other developed countries.


Bob G. Dunlap

Fort Smith, Arkansas





The Real Peoples Diet


I cant tell you how delighted I was with The Inuit Paradox [October]. It is one of the very best articles on Inuit food I have ever seenand there have been so many. It was unbelievable, actually, how the spirit was captured. Congratulations on a job very well done. There are too many political issues around aboriginal people for an academic like meI avoid the conflicts and prefer the people themselves to tell the stories. But now here is a first-rate scientific article, well researched among the experts, and you had the credibility to get Patricia Cochran, an Inupiat, to open and close the story. Couldnt have been better! I will use this as required reading for my senior nutrition students from now on.


Harriet Kuhnlein

Professor of Human Nutrition

Founding Director, Centre for Indigenous Peoples Nutrition

and Environment (CINE)

Macdonald Campus of McGill University

Quebec City, Canada






Science on the Campaign Trail


The Bush policy on energy speaks of hydrogen power [Bush vs. Kerry on Science, October]. The Kerry policy on energy speaks of a hydrogen-based energy economy. Both the candidates appear to have the misconception that hydrogen is a source of energy. Discounting, of course, the chronically future hope of successful fusion power, it takes more energy to free up hydrogen for use as fuel than is recovered when the hydrogen is used, irrespective of whether it is burned in an engine or used in a fuel cell. All things considered, the best method for generating new electricity without producing carbon dioxide appears to be wind turbinesnot the toy units of a few kilowatts extant in California but the megawatt-size units such as at the wind farm near Joice, Iowa, or the 1.5 megawatt General Electric units near Adams, Minnesota. These large wind turbines have a capital cost for generated power that is somewhat higher than nuclear plants (the cheapest source of nonpolluting energy), but they do not incur the knee-jerk antagonism that some people have toward nuclear power. The total life cycle cost for large wind turbines may well be comparable to that of nuclear plants.


Dan Pangburn

Fullerton, California




The piece contrasting Bush and Kerry stated that Bush opposed the Kyoto Protocol despite presenting no hard evidence that compliance to the treaty would have a serious impact on the U.S. economy. Oh? Is Discover suggesting that there is an inexpensive solution to reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced during the combustion of fuels such as coal and natural gas? If so, Id sure like to hear it. Apart from exotic or distant solutions such as carbon sequestering, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced by burning is impossible except by reducing the amount of fuel being burned. Bush avoided promising something he knew the United States could not deliver yet, as opposed to countries such as China that have no intention of slowing their economy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions but  signed anyway. The real solution involves overcoming the vast ignorance and fear about nuclear power and expanding this option. But this option has been blocked at every turn by the wacko fringe of the environmentalist movement as well as John Kerry. Nuclear power has many problems, but it is the lesser evil among all the other practical, large-scale power generation options. Further, we should have been dumping much larger resources into fusion research all along. Diversions such as hydrogen power, really just an energy storage medium, just distract us from what is really needed. Your magazine increasingly sounds like the mainstream media, offering bias, idealism, and criticism without real and practical solutions.


Todd Thuss

Taft, Tennessee






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