Letters

Friday, October 01, 2004

Opposites Matter

When asking why our universe contains virtually no antimatter [“Antimatter,” August] we must consider multiple big bangs. Based on current theory, there is a high probability that a single big bang would produce essentially the same amount of matter and antimatter, which should obliterate each other after a fraction of a second. A probabilistic process, however, can produce other outcomes as well. The single-attempt probability for producing a preponderance of matter may be infinitesimal. But if the probability is not identical to zero, then a sufficient number of big-bang attempts will produce at least one universe that contains an imperceptible amount of antimatter. And our type of life would need to occur in a universe that possessed this attribute.

RON MINARIK
Lutherville, Maryland

The charge-parity symmetry rule—which says that the laws of physics must be fair and balanced—doesn’t need to be broken to explain the amount of matter in the universe. If you assume that antimatter emits the antigravity, then according to Einstein, the antigravity field around antimatter would cause time to speed up for them, just as normal gravity causes time to slow down. If you have a matter particle that decays in 4 seconds, the antimatter particle would also decay in 4 seconds. However, to us they would appear to decay in 4.0001 seconds and 3.9999 seconds, respectively. This could explain the matter-dominated universe without the need for new theories.

MICHAEL SCHWEBS
Keller, Texas

A fascinating idea—but so far there is no reason to think that antimatter emits antigravity. Einstein’s general theory of relativity treats matter and antimatter the same. Indirect experiments also offer strong evidence against the existence of antigravity; it is not yet possible to perform direct tests to settle the matter conclusively.                                                                 

The editors

Banned From the Lab

The ugly, distorted picture of truckers, prostitutes, and AIDS in August’s “Forbidden Science” contained no facts to substantiate its conclusions. What should have been forbidden were the false assumptions and innuendo. The major carriers of AIDS are either homosexual men or careless drug users. While there are certainly homosexual truckers, the reported percentage, according to a 2003 survey by the Independent Truckers Association, is much smaller than that of homosexuals in the general population. Truckers are randomly checked for drugs, which, if found, can cost them their livelihood. Many truck stops employ security guards who eliminate prostitutes. Virtually no real truck stop is connected to a bar, adult bookstore, or strip club as the misleading illustration indicated.

                                          MIKE PARKHURST
 Editor/Publisher, Roadmasters Magazine
Half Moon Bay, California

I’d like to comment on your article “Forbidden Science.” I am a truck driver and I feel sick to my stomach every time I get near a truck stop and hear the “lot lizards”  [prostitutes] on the CB radio asking if any drivers want “commercial company.” A real bad area for this is Lake Station, Indiana. There are four truck stops within spitting distance of the interstate, and the lot lizards and the “good buddies” (male prostitutes) run wild with little or no police interference. In cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, they are a major problem for drivers. We all get a bad name from the ones who frequent prostitutes and bring sexually transmitted diseases back to the family. Representative John Doolittle and the Traditional Values Coalition should keep their noses out of the researchers’ business and let them do their jobs. These studies discover how these groups of people are interacting and spreading diseases that are potentially fatal.

JAMES ROBINSON
via e-mail

The Persistence of Memory

There is an omission in the August article “Are Recovered Memories Real?”—namely, that Freud himself described and helped explain the unreliability of memory and its potential consequences. In his early practice, Freud had noted that a large number of his patients described having had childhood sexual experiences, and he postulated that such traumas were responsible for their adult symptoms. With additional clinical experience, introspection, and intuition, Freud came to realize that his patients’ reports were often not reliable memories but rather resulted from fantasies that had taken on the cloak of reality. Fortunately, scientific evidence confirming Freud’s intuition is increasingly available, and the biological basis of false memories is beginning to be understood. None of this should obscure the fact that childhood sexual abuse does occur all too frequently and that memories of it are often valid. The clinical problem is sorting out real from false memories in each individual situation without bias in either direction.

ALLEN FRANCES
Professor of Psychiatry
Duke University Medical Center

Durham, North Carolina

Intelligence of the Beastly Kind

I’ve noticed that evolutionists love to throw around the “99 percent DNA similarity” between humans and chimps [“Are Animals Smarter Than We Think?” Reviews, August]. In reality, the figure is meaningless. If we’re so close to chimps, would it be ethical to have sexual relations with them? Human consciousness is unique on this planet. Only human beings have a concept of death, infinity, and God, to name but a few examples that point to a vast, unbridgeable chasm between us and animals. If evolutionists don’t think our unique mind warrants the “sharp division” label that separates us from the rest of nature, then they are the ones with a dogmatic view—of Darwinism.

SANDRA TWEEN
Los Angeles, California

Are we to assume that our kind suddenly became thinkers from nonthinkers in one miraculous moment? Perhaps psychologist Clive Wynne might even wish to suggest divine intervention as the reason why only humans have cognitive abilities and other animals do not. His premise smells of the fundamentalists and religious zealots’ attempt to separate humans from other animals. Wynne’s speculation suggests that there is no intermediary ground between thinkers and nonthinkers, only us thinkers and the rest of the animal kingdom. If there is no middle ground, are we to assume that no other animals are on their way to becoming thinkers? How anthropocentric can one be?

ROBERT BRANSTRATOR
Prescott, Arizona

Erratum

Due to a production error in our September issue, our photo credits box on page 91 credits Einstein photographs to Bettman/Corbis. The correct spelling is Bettmann/Corbis.

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