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Insights and opinions from our readers

Bold Geezer Innovators

I raved over your piece “The 100 Bold Young Innovators You Need to Know” (TR October 2003). The ideas are first-rate, the innovators indeed bold and, I have to say it, stunningly attractive. However, I just looked in the mirror, took a look around my workplace, conjured up the images of some of my colleagues, and now have a request for you: would you also please put together a piece on “The Boldest Old Geezer Innovators”?

Ashley R. Heath
The Woodlands, TX

The Technology Death List

While heartily agreeing with most of Bruce Sterling’s “Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die” (TR October 2003), we question his wish to do away with manned spaceflight. Something in the human spirit needs hands-on effort-not in every individual being, but in the collective soul. If we cannot explore in person, the space program will die even more surely and swiftly than it appears to be dying now. Without the hope of someday colonizing other points in space or at least studying free-fall environments, the whole effort will have lost its point. True, going to the moon, leaving a flag, and retreating makes little sense, but the trouble was in the failure to follow up.

Clifton A. Hoyt and Phyllis Ann Karr
Barnes, WI

I know sterling’s article was supposed to be humorous, but too many people think those points were realistic. I have grown fond of the lifestyle that permits me to travel, to find fresh nonlocal fruit and vegetables in the market year round, to have a refrigerator so I don’t have to go to the store every day. If it weren’t for our highly effective agricultural segment (those disgusting internal-combustion tractors) and the means to distribute produce throughout our land (those hateful tractor-trailers), we would be nothing but a huge Third World nation, with each person eking out her own living from the local soil.

John Peters
Fremont, MI

One technology that certainly deserves to be on your list is genetic engineering. Responding to no real discernible human need, genetically engineered crops and genetically modified foods are being foisted on the public in a stealth fashion (no labeling) with no consumer benefit and taking advantage of cross-contamination to eliminate organic and good conventional produce. The medical technologies are largely hype. The existing products are largely designed to make lots of profits while catering to human conditions that have become “medicalized,” such as shortness, for which human growth hormone is being sold.

Phil Bereano
University of Washington
Seattle, WA

Instead of doing away with manned spaceflight and prisons, why don’t we just combine the two into one simple solution? “What are you out for?”

Larry D. Helwig
Las Vegas, NV

Internet Already Reborn

The October 2003 issue included a description of Ian Clarke as one of the “100 Bold Young Innovators.” But an article in the same issue, “The Internet Reborn,” by Wade Roush, made no mention of Clarke’s contributions. Clarke’s Freenet project, running smoothly on thousands of volunteer nodes, has many of the features mentioned in Roush’s piece. Freenet also uses unique encryption technology that provides secrecy, authenticity and anonymity-an increasingly scarce commodity on the Internet.

Adam C. Powell IV
Cambridge, MA

Clean-Coal Contradiction

Regardless of how combustion products are filtered, coal can’t be oxidized without producing carbon dioxide (“Cleaning Up Coal,” TR October 2003). Contrary to your article’s assertion, there’s no way to pipe cubic kilometers of carbon dioxide off to underground repositories. The metal-ceramic filter described may have some useful applications, but coal gasification isn’t one of them. Clearer minds seem to prevail elsewhere in the same issue: in his list of “Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die,” science fiction writer Bruce Sterling ranks coal-based power at number two.

John Schaefer
Arcata, CA

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