Numerous Readers responded to "Mindful of Symbols," by Judy S. DeLoache, in the August issue, which described the difficulties children encounter as they learn to think symbolically. Geoff Baldwin of Portola Valley, Calif., recalled his own childhood experience: "I saw drawings of airplanes and thought I could cut them out to get small model planes. I remember being baffled and frustrated when they did not pop into three dimensions."
Even curiouser is when adults respond to symbols rather than what they represent: an illustration of an orchestra in "Is the Universe Out of Tune?" by Glenn D. Starkman and Dominik J. Schwarz, showed discordance in the "symphony" of the cosmic microwave background emanating from the tuba. Carl Dershem chimed in: "Sure, blame us tuba players! The tuba is the Rodney Dangerfield of instruments--it gets no respect!" But there was nothing abstract about an e-mailed reality check that challenged the statement made in the story's cover headline, "Bad Harmonies in the Microwave Music Defy Theory." Wrote Duane Bonvallet: "Really. I'm betting the universe is right and the theory is wrong. How are you betting?"