Blair T. Johnson
Linda S. Pescatello
University of Connecticut
One of the possible new treatments discussed in the article targets inflammation. Immune system–modulating products of this type can have the unwanted side effect of allowing latent infections to resume activity. And not just latent infections but unsuspected active infections producing inflammation might be involved, so interfering with the immune system will have consequences. Some investigators are looking at the connection between microbes and mental illness. Syphilis is well known as an agent of psychiatric symptoms, and a number of other germs may be as well. In those cases, you would want to recognize and treat the infection, too.
“A Neglect of Mental Illness,” by the Editors [Science Agenda], states that “all of us should get over the stigma we still tend to attach to” conditions of mental illness.
Was this an intentionally ironic play on words? Isn't the typical, uneducated and frustrating response to mental illnesses, such as depression, to believe sufferers should just “get over it”? Mental illness is not something one can just get over, nor can intolerance, misunderstanding and fear be overcome that way.
Acceptance and a positive, proactive approach to mental illness can be achieved through education. This article not only missed a teachable moment but did so by opting for a phrase that is universally unappreciated by those suffering mental illness.
In “Time to Kill Off Captchas” [TechnoFiles], David Pogue argues that variants of the Captcha system used to filter out hacker and spammer programs (bots) from Web sites, including the newer reCaptcha, waste too much of users' time.
ReCaptcha successfully blocks hundreds of spambot attacks on my guest book page daily. No legitimate visitor to the site has ever complained to me about it. I am also 63 years old, wear bifocals and usually surf the Internet on an eight-year-old laptop with a 1,280- by 800-pixel screen. It is very rare that I encounter a Captcha image I cannot decipher, and I almost never have to refresh the image more than once to get one. This leaves me puzzled at the complaints of younger Web surfers who have, presumably, better eyes and better equipment.
So far the only countering move the spammers have come up with I am aware of is to hire Bangladeshis to sit at terminals all day solving Captchas. Because that costs them money, it removes the main incentive for spamming. The problem is thus much smaller and manageable with simple filtering. Further, if anyone ever did come up with an automated solution for Captchas, they could file for a patent on their algorithm and generate more income by licensing it for legitimate optical character recognition use than their spamming activities could hope to gain them.
It would be nice if there was another, better, less bothersome solution to the problem of spambots, but for now there isn't. We use Captchas because they work. They are not the only solution against spambots, but they are the most effective one. Until a way is found to block spam messages or identify them by their source (which would require a major revision of the Internet protocols), we are going to be seeing Captchas. At this time, the alternative is much worse.