Sexism and Science
I really enjoyed "Why Science Must Adapt to Women" [November], which described Elizabeth Blackburn's experiences of being a woman in the academic sciences. As the article says, it is easy for a woman to feel it is her own fault if she does not succeed easily or at all, when in fact her difficulties are due to gender bias. Your article can change this by showing that even a prominent woman like Dr. Blackburn has experienced the same difficulties the rest of us face and yet has accomplished great things. Wouldn't it be great to live in a world where everyone could do what they do best, regardless of sex, religion, color, or any other characteristic that sets them apart from the reigning majority?
President, Rice Systems Inc.
— Huntington Beach, California
Under the heading "Fame Passed Them By" [November, page 57], your photo caption reads, in part, "History has not always been kind to women scientists." This sentence contains two obvious errors: It was and often still is male scientists, not "history," who have denied women scientists their proper acknowledgement and credit. Second, the words "not been kind" in this context are wanting: The proper word is cruel.
— Vancouver, British Columbia
In attempting to gain sympathy for a largely neglected group of dedicated and worthy scientists (women), you are guilty of the same partisanship and bias that you so vocally condemn: Your list of the 50 most important women in science [November] ignores the existence of scientists, women or otherwise, outside the United States. You could have omitted the pair of token non-Americans and simply—and more truthfully—called the article "The 48 Most Important Women in Science in the United States." And could it have only been a coincidence that the women listed under "Fame Passed Them By" are almost exclusively non-American? The truth is, although women are underrepresented in the sciences, they generally fare much better outside America.
Michael Barry Wolf
The Berlin University of the Arts
— Berlin, Germany Editor's note: You're correct. We should have carefully labeled the article as "U.S.-based women scientists," which obviously was our intended focus. Two of the researchers listed have spent much of their time working in the United States but chose to list their European affiliations instead. We are pleased to hear that women scientists in other nations have an easier time of it and hope you are right.
I write to express my pleasure with the roundtable discussion ["Does Math Matter Anymore?
" October]. I am an amateur logician, having had a lifelong fascination with foundations, logic, and set theory. The math situation in New Zealand, where I live, is not a happy one. The curriculum is a shambles; students enter university having never heard of set union and intersection. Math is no longer about quantity but rather order and pattern in human experience. However, young people have no inkling of this fact before entering university. Should children learn long division? Probably, but they should not spend more than, say, 10 weeks on it. What do the young need to learn? Less calculus and more linear algebra. More exponential function and natural logarithms and less trigonometry. Math as careful definitions and shrewd axioms instead of elaborate proofs.
University of Canterbury
— Christchurch, New Zealand
Message in a Bottle
I'm honored and delighted to find my Klein Bottles in Discover
[November]. However, although I may have made the first Klein Stein, I wasn't the first to shape a glass Klein Bottle; this honor belongs to other glassblowers, perhaps as far back as the 1930s. Indeed, in 1968, while in freshman chemistry lab, I burned my fingers trying to shape a Klein Bottle, inspired by a photo in a mathematics book.
Acme Klein Bottle
— Oakland, California
In Future Tech (November), we erroneously stated that Thomas Edison invented the telegraph and the stock ticker. Samuel Morse greatly improved upon existing telegraph technology, and E. A. Callahan invented the stock ticker. Edison invented the automatic telegraph system and the Edison Universal Stock Ticker, an improvement on Callahan's device.
In "The Real Big Bang" (December), the word million was mistakenly edited out of the fourth sentence in the first paragraph. The sentence should read, "For 100 million years after time began . . ."