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See Inside September 2006

Letters

The May issue underscored the maxim that scientific research typically raises more questions than it answers. For instance, in the cover story "The First Few Microseconds," Michael Riordan and William A. Zajc described collider experiments that slammed gold nuclei together at nearly light-speed to replicate the quark-gluon plasma that existed only in the microseconds-old universe. Pondering the mysteries of those microseconds, readers sent some mind-bending questions.

The biggest mail magnet was "When Slide Rules Ruled," by Cliff Stoll, which brought responses, silly and serious, as well as nostalgic recollections from those who lived and ciphered in the primitive times before electronic calculators. Kevin Dixon-Jackson of Macclesfield, England, observed: "As a user of both a Faber-Castell 2/83N and a Hewlett-Packard HP-35, I believe that the slide rule wasted less lab time, because, unlike a calculator, there was no display to turn upside down to show 'funny' words, nor could you play 'get all the integers using only the top three rows of buttons.' Also, it was a straightedge, a T-square and a reach-extender for flicking distant switches and manipulating live electrical wires!"

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