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  • Smoking bans

    From Anna Gilmore, Michelle Sims, Ken Judge and Linda Bauld, University of Bath; and Bobbie Jacobson, London Health ObservatoryDavid Robsons article discussing the mud-slinging aimed at those who do not accept the anti-smoking lobbys views on passive smoking ( 4 April, p 34) should remind us that policy debates involving the tobacco industry have always been contentious. The key issue is always to get the science right.

    This will be helped by the rigorous evaluation now under way of the health effects of legislation in England banning smoking in many locations. Until this has been analysed and published, it is inappropriate to describe the English data as a body blow to the side who say bans cause a fall in rates of cardiovascular disease.

    Two further, systematic reviews on the impact of smoking bans on cardiovascular disease are due to be published later this year, which will provide an overview of peer-reviewed research in this area. Hopefully,

    this should finally put an end to the sort of mud-slinging Robson describes .Bath, Somerset, UK

    From Anthea Fraser Gupta On your Smoking clampdown map, Singapore and Malaysia showed no information.

    In fact, Singapore was one of the first countries to introduce national bans on smoking, albeit gradually. The process began in 1970, but it wasnt until 1989 that the first major legislation banned smoking in most public indoor spaces. Ten subsequent acts extended the ban to further public spaces, indoor and outdoor.

    The latest legislation, in 2008, bans smoking in virtually all indoor and outdoor public spaces. So Singapore should have been shown as having the highest level of ban. In 2004, Malaysia introduced a ban similar to the one Singapore had in 1989.

    In both countries the initial legislation covered only air-conditioned locations, but most public buildings have air conditioning; due to the climate any buildings without it are open and airy, so that the distinction between indoors

    and outdoors is even harder to define than it is in the UK.Leeds, UK

    From Runhild GammelsterNorway, labelled as having smoking bans in some indoor public spaces, usually excepting bars and restaurants, actually banned smoking in absolutely all indoor public spaces in 2006. This included bars.

    We also have bans on smoking in a lot of outside spaces, for example, outside hospitals.Oslo, Norway

    Lets talk about sex

    From Jon Gregory Avis Pearson criticises New Scientist for asking the next head of ATLAS what she thinks about becoming the first woman to head a particle physics experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and asks what has her sex got to do with anything? ( 28 March, p 24).

    The answer must surely be quite a lot. The importance of role models is well recognised, and women are still under-represented in senior positions so much so that many organisations specifically are trying to increase their numbers.

    Women should be proud of their achievements, rather than be made to feel guilty for observations on their gender. Criticisms like that made by Pearson only hamper the progress of women everywhere.Barcombe Mills, Sussex, UK

    Arctic erosion

    From Carol Stevenson The consequences of an Arctic meltdown reach further than carbon release ( 28 March, p 32).

    Much of the land surrounding the Arctic Ocean resists erosion only because it is frozen. Once the thawed wetland edges are exposed to storm waves and currents, they will rapidly be eroded, increasing the amount of sediment entering the ocean.

    The effect on the oceanic and seabed biota will undoubtedly be detrimental. Erosion could also produce sharp cliff edges where there were once shallow slopes. Such slopes favour ice formation at the coast: their loss would impede its re-growth.

    One must ask, how will Russia, Canada, the US and Scandinavia react when their territories start to wash away?London, UK

    From Peter BursztynFred Pearces article on warming in the Arctic concentrated on methane leaks from melting permafrost. However, warming would also release any deposits of methane clathrates that may be present under the Arctic Ocean. That burp could be both sudden and unexpected, injecting a large amount of methane into our atmosphere .

    Instead of wasting money on nuclear power stations, we should be funding research into how to collect and use methane clathrates to fuel electricity generation. Burning methane to produce carbon dioxide would dramatically reduce its global warming potential, decreasing its impact on our planet .Barrie, Ontario, Canada

    How science works

    From Thomas Shipp Although the atheist majority in science will no doubt agree with Amanda Gefter ( 21 March, p 23),

    Enigma Number 1543

    24 | NewScientist | 2 May 2009


    WIN 15 will be awarded to the sender of the first correct answer

    opened on Wednesday 3 June. The Editors decision is final.

    Please send entries to Enigma 1543, New Scientist, Lacon House,

    84 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8NS, or to enigma@newscientist.com

    (please include your postal address).

    Answer to 1537 A name game: Pauls magic square did not contain

    the letters of his name

    The winner John Woolhouse of Sheffield, UK


    From a point inside a pentagon I have drawn lines (all of different lengths

    of less than 25 centimetres) to its five corners. The lines and the sides

    of the pentagon are all whole numbers of centimetres long. Furthermore,

    all five angles at the point are whole numbers of degrees, and none is a

    right angle.

    How long is the perimeter of the pentagon?


    Lets talk about sex