I’ve read Scientific American since I was in high school. I am now 90 years old and a longtime subscriber. The February 2022 edition is one of the richest so far. I just gave it to my daughter, the mother of a 13-year-old, to read articles to teach children to notice misinformation in the media. [“Schooled in Lies,” by Melinda Wenner Moyer] and how people often (wrongly) jump to conclusions [“Leaps of Confusion,” by Carmen Sanchez and David Dunning]. I enjoyed reading articles on new research on Neanderthal skills [“Neandertals Like Us,” by David W. Frayer and Davorka Radovčić] and how the promise of technological progress can mask high costs and dangers [“Breaking the Techno-Promise,” by Naomi Oreskes; Observatory]. And I ordered two books that you reviewed in Featured.

MARION BUHAGIAR White River Junction, Vt.


“Trained in lies”, Melinda Wenner Moyer’s article on teaching students to distinguish between different types of information to protect them from misinformation, covers a topic that is dear to my heart, although one I do not have much hope for. As part of my high school chemistry class, I had students do a project on the safety of the artificial sweetener aspartame. I understood two things: The first is that assessing the validity of primary information on many topics is beyond the reach of most people. As a doctor of biochemistry, I may be able to do more than some others, but there are many topics that I am not qualified to analyze. The second is that we must therefore choose a source whose analysis we accept. Therefore, I added a part to the assignment, asking why the students chose to accept, trust, one source or another.

I noticed that many of my stronger students chose to accept institutional sources, such as the American Cancer Society or the Food and Drug Administration, while many of my weaker students chose to accept more personal sources and stories. I wish I had collected the data more systematically, but these observations have led me to suggest that those who prosper within a system tend to accept the system as reliable. Those who do not prosper so well tend to be more skeptical of the system, instead choosing to accept their own experience or that of others they know.

The article quotes Seth Ashley, a researcher in journalism and media research, as saying that “the world is confused and that’s good,” but it also makes us choose which point of view to trust so challenging. There will always be a reason to question one source or another. Perhaps the best thing we can do is get students to recognize the confusion and therefore realize that they may be wrong.



On Naomi Oresquez’s claim that nuclear energy cannot help our climate crisis in “Breaking the Techno-Promise” [Observatory], I agree that nuclear power plants have not kept their promise so far. As she notes, they take too long to build and deploy online and are too expensive. And lead to high electricity costs. But I am surprised by the pessimism, given the urgent need to do something. New nuclear technologies are being developed, such as many smaller modular power plants, which do not take much time to build. Renewable energy sources are critical, but will never be enough to replace fossil fuels. Fusion is too expensive and far away. We need political will to set the price of carbon and build smaller and safer reactors. Canceling is not an option.

STEVE MULLER Colorado Springs, Colorado

Although long-term, the development of nuclear energy must be a high priority. As a retired engineer, I understand the significant effort required to complete efficient, cost-effective nuclear power plants. Technological improvements, engineering development and construction time should be planned for and in progress now.

In the short term, we need to use the sustainable technology of wind and photovoltaic farms and eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels. In addition, let’s add a federal tax on gasoline and reduce dependence on Eisenhower-era highway transport by making more use of our public transportation systems.

DON FINAN, SR. Palos Park, Il.


Reading a fascinating article by Adam Becker on The Origins of Space and Time reminded me of when I was a high school student in Los Angeles in 1965 and read about two students from the University of California, Los Angeles who were challenged by their professor. in science to develop a theory of time and space, supplemented by an example.

The two students took folding chairs on a street in nearby downtown Westwood, California, and sat in a vacant parking lot for an hour after depositing the necessary coins in the parking meter. They then wrote a report to their professor about what they had done, concluding: “To take a seat, you must first have time.”



I enjoyed reading The Freedom to Talk [Forum], Kyle Vince’s informative opinion on how Congress should protect the right to repair electronic devices. Readers who are interested in getting involved with a practical right to repair may be interested in checking out the local Fixit clinic ( or Repair Café There are many such organizations around the world with specialized volunteer repair coaches who help others learn how to fix their broken things. And in the last few years, these clinics have been happening virtually, with global players engaging in fun and informative repairs. We try to work together to diagnose and repair appliances, electronics and so on, but we are concerned that manufacturers are making this more difficult, if not impossible or illegal.

Wayne Zeltser
Boulder U-Fix-It Clinic, Boulder, Colorado.


“Inside the American Militia,” by Amy Cutter [January 2022], freezes. The media and academics must stop calling these groups “militias”. This gives them legitimacy that they do not have, and strengthens their irrational belief that they are today’s equivalent of the militias that helped win the War of Independence. A more appropriate label would be “heavily armed political vigilance groups”. Labels are important.

Terence Dunn Vancouver, Wash.


In Annie Sneed’s Smartphone Patrol [Advances; December 2021], there is a lot of talk about the importance of the Amazon rainforest, which serves as a declining but necessary carbon sink and provider of life-giving oxygen. However, less attention is paid to another forested region of our planet: the boreal forests in the northern latitudes, extending to several regions of North America, Russia and Scandinavia.

In terms of carbon dioxide emissions and the contribution of oxygen to our atmosphere, these boreal forests are just as important as tropical forests at lower latitudes. Therefore, close monitoring of activities such as logging, clearing of agricultural land, road construction and especially extraction in these areas, which are often overlooked in discussions on global warming, must be of equal priority.

BARI MALECKI Portland, Ore.

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