I'll think about it

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  • 8 June 2013 | NewScientist | 31

    Communications, doi.org/mpm). If they prove that matter and antimatter repulse each other, then we may finally have a plausible explanation for the accelerated expansion of our universe that doesnt actually require dark energy.Akersloot, The Netherlands

    From Paul BaronStephen Battersby said that one thing we know about dark energy is that it pushes (11 May, p 32). But couldnt it simply be that dark energy is the result of an attractive force acting on our observable universe?Auckland, New Zealand

    Smart moneyFrom Roger TaylorIn his letter on corporate responsibility, Ian Hill asks: what qualifications do the people at the top have? (18 May, p 29). The main one is cleverness. In the financial sector, unfortunately, it is the kind of cleverness that gives it a bad name, having been used to con the rest of us into believing that moving our money about is both profoundly important and worthy of absurd rewards.

    Like astrologers, they think the future is foreseeable, and like alchemists, they search for

    a philosophers stone ever more complex software that will turn the leaden present into a golden future. Clever indeed to finagle us all with two dead sciences.Wirral, Merseyside, UK

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    Letters should be sent to: Letters to the Editor, New Scientist, 84 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8NS Fax: +44 (0) 20 7611 1280 Email: letters@newscientist.com

    Include your full postal address and telephone number, and a reference (issue, page number, title) to articles. We reserve the right to edit letters. Reed Business Information reserves the right to use any submissions sent to the letters column of New Scientist magazine, in any other format.

    For the recordn Our look at attempts to put a figure on potential sea level rise due to climate change (25 May, p 26) should have said there is less than a 1 in 20 chance that the melting of ice sheets will contribute more than 84 centimetres to sea level rise by 2100.n Leap Motions box that can track ultra-fine hand and finger movements will cost $80, not $70 as we reported (25 May, p 40).

    Paranoid android?From John HobsonOne thing I felt was missing from your look at consciousness was the role of emotion and empathy (18 May, p 30). A zombie eats when it is hungry and puts on extra clothes when it is cold, but it is not aware. A human is happy after eating and knows that when hungry in the future, eating is likely to bring happiness. This leads to planning, one of the functions of consciousness.

    Whats more, a human also knows that others are likely to do what makes them feel happy. Empathy is an extremely important part of consciousness, and there can be no empathy without emotion.

    Consciousness is unlikely to develop in isolation why would it? It has developed to enable us to interact with others. So it is unlikely we will ever make a conscious machine without including emotion.Devizes, Wiltshire, UK

    Torture rayFrom Les HearnThe point about the Active Denial pain ray weapon, which, when fired causes pain in the victim without leaving a mark, is that it is not designed to subdue, as claimed in your article (11 May, p 44). In this it differs from tasers, water cannon and projectiles. Potential victims would do anything to avoid the pain, which in crowded situations could lead to injury in others fighting to get away, or even a stampede. Similarly, if fired at close quarters, the wielder of the weapon would be at risk from defensive violence, rendering its use in prison disturbances unwise.

    If, however, one was going to design the perfect method of torture, this would come close. The psychological damage would be greatly compounded by the complete lack of physical

    evidence. Survivors would be unable to successfully seek asylum in countries where even gross physical signs are often discounted as self-inflicted.

    If these weapons become available they will inevitably be used to torture, which is why they must not be made.London, UK

    Sign this wayFrom Clive Neal-Sturgess, professor of clinical biomechanics, University of Birmingham

    Your article on gestural control of computers talks about a number of possible systems (25 May, p 40), but sign language is not mentioned. Surely this is well recognised and, if adopted, could be a useful extra communication tool for deaf people.Alcester, Warwickshire, UK

    Ill think about itFrom Leslie WantWe have been told that when a person imagines they are playing tennis, the parts of the brain associated with actually playing the game light up. We are also told that when a person makes a decision, the part of the brain associated with the decision lights up before the person is conscious of making the decision (18 May, p 37).

    Surely this is to be expected? An important part of the decision-making process is to mentally

    rehearse the consequences. Thus the part of the brain involved is active before the decision is made. Are we not observing the decision-making process rather than the actual decision?Swansea, UK

    Cosmic verseFrom Tim BoardmanI was interested in your editorial extolling the poetic lament for NASAs Kepler satellite (25 May, p 3). Another scientist who turned to poetry is the 18th-century polymath Erasmus Darwin, member of the Birmingham Lunar Society and Charless grandfather, after whom my place of work Erasmus Darwin Academy is named.

    Among other topics, his verses feature a proto-theory of evolution, which doubtless would have influenced his grandson. Even more prescient was his suggestion of something not unlike the big bang theory (albeit preceded by a big crunch) in his short poem To the Stars.Stafford, UK

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    Ill think about it


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