Ken Morse is correct: spending enough money on security technology is bound to spawn many useful innovations (“World-Changing Ideas: United States,” April 2005). But why not put that money directly into R&D on health care or the environment, and see what technologies emerge for security applications?
What’s up with the picture of the elephant and giraffe in your article about South African technology? South Africa isn’t a wildlife park; we don’t step out of our back doors and see lions and eagles. This illustration is like using a picture of a Native American to sum up the United States.
Cape Town, South Africa
The debate about race and medicine is more about political correctness than good medical practice (“Race and Medicine,” April 2005). No competent doctor would rely on race alone in prescribing drugs; race would just be an indicator as to which drug to try first. Until more progress is made in testing for individual susceptibilities, why shouldn’t the doctor use all the information available in determining a course of treatment?
Clay W. Crites
West Chester, PA
In assessing the ecological impact of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Bryant Urstadt does not weigh the expected benefits, which are temporary, against the potential losses, which would be permanent (“Wild Profits,” April 2005). Factoring this into the equation clearly argues against drilling. Imagine if our predecessors had gambled Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon in this way. The brief bonanza of minerals or lumber long forgotten, how much poorer as a people would we be today?
The story about laying an electric-power transmission line across Long Island Sound (“TransEnergie: Playing Two Power Games,” April 2005) reminds me of a conversation I had in 1969 with the head of Finland’s power company. For a number of reasons, the Finns were buying electric power from the Russians, whose grid had major fluctuations in voltage and frequency. This was causing serious problems with matching the AC power lines. The Finns had therefore installed DC transmission lines as buffers between the two grids. This allowed conversion between AC and DC, eliminating the problems caused by variations in the Russian system. It was a neat solution to a serious engineering problem–a benefit that will also accrue from systems such as the Cross Sound Cable.
William L. R. Rice
There is really no puzzle as to why The Polar Express didn’t work (“Freeze Frame,” April 2005). First, expanding the charming short story into a feature-length film required an amazing amount of padding, and the result was that the plot felt–well, padded. Second, while obvious caricatures in an animated film can be charming (think Shrek), characters that look almost, but not quite, human are simply creepy. A padded holiday movie full of creepy characters is not very likely to be a box office hit.
Cheerleading for the Military?
The photo essay “Online at Centcom” (April 2005) continues Technology Review’s pattern of cheerleading for military technology by showcasing glowing visions and remarkable achievements but omitting the thoughtful analysis that the magazine gives to other technologies. Has Technology Review downsized to summarizing military technologies rather than “analyz[ing] their commercial, economic, social, and political impact,” as it purports to do on the table-of-contents page?
IP or not IP
Simson Garfinkel’s review of books about hacking mispresents my views (“Hack License,” March 2005). For example, Garfinkel’s description of the Free Software Foundation’s list of frequently misused terms (a set of suggestions that he wrongly equates to forcibly imposed censorship) implies that we entirely reject words such as “consumer” and “commercial.” In fact, we don’t object to the word “consumer,” but we urge people not to assume that software users are just consumers. Neither do we object to “commercial,” but rather correct the misconception that free-software advocates oppose “commercial software” (see www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html). Garfinkel also errs in referring to a “Wark-Stallman view” of “intellectual property.” I don’t know where author McKenzie Wark stands, but I have no view about “intellectual property,” because the term lumps together laws covering copyright, patents, and trademarks, which have little in common.
President, Free Software Foundation
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