I remember discussing cold fusion (regarding your review of Gary Taubes' "Bad Science" by James Gleick, Book Review, Aug. 22) with my colleagues shortly after the initial press announcements. We all were highly skeptical for many reasons. For one, if successful, the investigators should have died from neutron irradiation.
The story was given credence only because it was put forward by reputable scientists, Fleischmann and Pons. The "If True" aspect cannot be as easily dismissed. The portent of practical cold fusion is so great, that even a 1% probability of achieving cold fusion is worth following up. Without economic and scientific significance, no one would have paid much attention until much more evidence was presented. It is safe to say that any discovery of an extremely valuable process is likely to be very cagey when revealing detail.
It is hard for me to believe that cold fusion was a hoax. Self-deception as outlined by Denis L. Rousseau in an article "Case Studies in Pathological Science," published in the American Scientist (January, 1992) is much more likely. The proposed process was so important and iconoclastic that it was sure to receive careful peer review. To be taken seriously, the report depended upon the reputation of the scientists.
For cold fusion, the chemical energies of a few electron volts would have to be manipulated to do the things that require the tens of thousands of electron volts necessary for fusion. The history of technology, however, is full of anecdotes of inventors finding a way around "impossibilities." For example, long-distance short wave communication was impossible because of the curvature of the earth--at least until the ionosphere was considered.
Science, in contrast to other fields of endeavor such as theology or economics, is self-correcting. If an experiment cannot be reproduced, the work gets thrown upon the trash heap. Although fraud does exist in science, cold fusion is of such high profile, that the fraud is certain to be quickly exposed.
WILLIAM BUCHMAN, LOS ANGELES
AN AKST TO GRIND
Daniel Akst's short piece on "remaindered" books (Book Review, July 18) noted Trillin's comment, "the average shelf life of a trade book is somewhere between milk and yogurt." My wayward eye (and surely that of many of your readers) delivered up "and plenty of good books are somewhere between milk and yogurt." One wonders, Akst/Trillins, would not Brie and Cheddar have produced a far more telling figure?
R. I. HIRSCHBERG, ESCONDIDO
VERDI'S EVIL TWIN?
The fellow in the picture accompanying Roger Welsch's review of "Verdi at the Golden Gate" by Geoge Martin (Oct. 10) sure looks like Ulysses S. Grant! Could the Book Review editors have made an error? Or were Grant and Giuseppe Verdi identical twins separated at birth?
DEBORAH O'KEEFFE, LOS ANGELES
Reviewer Michael Dorris' comment on Ivan Doig's "Heart Earth" (Book Review, Aug. 29): "Doig . . . refuses to idealize the \o7 hard-scrapple\f7 struggle of his parents' existence."
\o7 Scrapple\f7 (dim of scraps) is considered by some "as an article of food consisting of minced meats, usually scraps of pork and herbs stewed with flour or corn meal, pressed into cakes, sliced and fried."
\o7 Scrabble\f7 (from Dutch "schrabbchen") means to scrape or to struggle. An example: They had a hard-scrabble farm.
I'm for edible scrapple and no-scrabble farms.
PATRICIA G. WRIGHT, LOS ANGELES
THE DIFFERENT DRUMMERS
In response to "Don't Isolate the Artist" (Letters, Oct. 13).
I don't feel the life depicted in "Goldie the Dollmaker" discourages emulation because for the little artist in the tale it wasn't a matter of emulation, her vocation was something she was born to.
Inherent creativity is not merely "A child's joyful prerogative," it is an individual, compulsive, \o7 perspective\f7 . For the artist this perspective carries with it both the joys and the turmoil of a highly personal, sometimes isolating process.
Children who know this perspective are often extraordinarily sensitive and imaginative; not much of a "blessing" when they are processed through an educational system which encourages mental "discipline" and comformity. The pressure to think alike and fit into group behavior is very strong among children. It fuels a capacity for bigotry, intolerance and self-doubt that can follow them into adulthood.
"Goldie the Dollmaker" offers children a way to understand and identify with someone who marches to their own drum. For those who recognize Goldie's motivations within themselves, it assures them that they are not alone, and should not be intimidated into ignoring their own heart.
TERI KARSHNER, LOS ANGELES
THE MISSING PETER PAN
In your review of Bruce K. Hanson's "The Peter Pan Chronicles" (Book Review, Sept. 12), you list the various people who have played Peter Pan. However, Eva Le Galliene, who played that role in New York City in the 1930s, was omitted.