Letters to the Editors, May 2010

Letters to the editor about the January/February 2010 issue of Scientific American MIND

After reading Robert Epstein’s article “How Science Can Help You Fall in Love,” I had to go back to the cover and verify that the word “scientific” was indeed part of the title of your magazine. The “Love-Building Exercises” he recommends are more appropriate to a magazine of fantasy and science fiction:

“Two as One”—feeling that the two of you have merged?
“A Mind-Reading Game”—wordlessly trying to communicate thoughts?
“Love Aura”—feeling “eerie kinds of sparks” when your palm is close to another’s?

Thought transfer? Auras? Come on! Shame on you for publishing such metaphysical pseudoscientific psychobabble!
Harriet Hall
via e-mail

In “Are Social Networks Messing with Your Head?” David DiSalvo rightly pointed out that social networking may affect the quality of our relationships; however, he missed the possibility that it can also affect the quality of our solitude. The reflection, quietude and introspection so vital to self-knowledge and creativity are too easily sapped away when we can be reached at any time, anywhere, by everyone.

The richness of information and accessibility social networks offer is potentially wonderful. But it may also create an environment where people lack the time or willpower to take even a few minutes of solitude. Surely, this aspect also might profoundly affect our psychological well-being.
J. Ramsey Golden
Anchorage, Alaska

I have to take issue with the writing in the article “Daring to Die,” by Karen Springen. The headline and the statement that to commit suicide people “need the guts” to go through with the act are practically egging people on. Are you “daring” enough to pull the trigger? Do you have the “guts” to do it? I think it is good to write openly about suicide, but I feel we should be careful to avoid glamorizing language.
Kathleen Dyson
via e-mail

Springen rightly notes that restricting the means by which people commit suicide can result in fewer deaths. But she also says, “When a net went up under the Golden Gate Bridge, people could not jump to their deaths.” There is no net under the Golden Gate Bridge. It remains the deadliest structure on earth for suicide. Those of us who have lost our loved ones to the bridge (my 17-year-old daughter and only child jumped in January 2008) are fighting to install a net. It has been an uphill battle because of political inertia and public apathy.
John Brooks
Tiburon, Calif.

EDITORS’ NOTE: Many readers wrote to correct this regrettable error. Our thanks to all of them for pointing it out.

I read with interestI Learned It at the Movies,” by Wray Herbert [We’re Only Human]. I have a 12-year-old son who is fascinated by military history. We often watch movies together just for the camaraderie. After we watch films such as Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, The Patriot, Gettysburg, and so on, we both do independent research for a few days and then discuss the accuracy of the movie. My son takes great pleasure in one-upping me during the reality check. I don’t think that without the movies I could get him to research a topic I “assigned.” Debunking is educational!
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