We know that many of our readers like to tinker. You might be the type to run chemistry experiments in the basement or perhaps build a seismograph in the garage. To encourage such pursuits, we offer the monthly column "The Amateur Scientist," by Shawn Carlson. So we were distressed by a letter from James W. Adams of Charlottesville, Va., sent in response to the December 1998 column, "Sorting Molecules with Electricity." Commenting that he found the article too elementary for his taste, Adams wrote that "a serious article on amateur electrophoresis would be in the same realm as some of the more ambitious projects written over 30 years ago, which entailed a fair degree of difficulty as well as a degree of electrical hazard that would require serious precautions." Adams suggested one factor influencing why this shift has occurred, and not just at Scientific American: "Litigation, overzealous regulations and paranoia over drugs, crime and terrorism have all but eliminated most branches of science for the modern amateur beyond computer simulations." We'll keep trying to balance safety, degree of difficulty and appeal in "The Amateur Scientist." And please keep sending us your opinions about all our articles.
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