My wedding ring contains five diamonds created in a laboratory ["Diamonds on Demand"] by the chemical vapor deposition process, or CVD. Several jewelers have said the stones are flawless and have been surprised to learn they are man-made. When you can have the beauty, sparkle and allure without either the environmental or social disruptions, why wouldn't you opt for a laboratory diamond?
Meghan Connolly Haupt
In listing the progenitors of evolutionary thought, Richard Conniff's "On the Origin of a Theory" fails to include Carolus Linnaeus, who in the mid-1730s foreshadowed Darwin in his belief in a universal struggle for survival. Nor can one ignore the French author-diplomat Benoît de Maillet, who, in a thinly veiled work of fiction published in 1748, outlines what many consider a precursor to the theory of evolution, a view suggested by its subtitle, Discourses Between an Indian Philosopher and a French Missionary, on the Diminution of the Sea, the Formation of the Earth, the Origin of Men and Animals, and Other Curious Subjects Relating to Natural History and Philosophy.
Ronald M. Disalvo
Marina del Rey, California
An evolution expert responds:
Benoît de Maillet did discuss evolutionary ideas, as did scores of other precursors. But it is inappropriate to bring Carolus Linnaeus in line with Darwin. Linnaeus considered species absolutely unchangeable. The reader confuses Linnaeus' concept of struggle with Darwin's concept of struggle for survival that leads to selection of favorable variation. Darwin was the first to present what he aptly referred to as "one long argument" with detailed documentation on and analysis of the role of variation and natural selection.
National Museum of Natural History
His photographs are staged for a Hollywood effect ["Gregory Crewdson's Epic Effects"], which detracts from their beauty. But I am more concerned there are too many minds contributing to the end product. A Hollywood film needs a crew—but an art photograph? Think of a poet who employs a staff of experts in metaphor, meter, alliteration and lineation to commit an idea to paper. Individual creativity lies in execution as well as in concept. Crewdson appears to have forfeited the former.
Anne Harding Woodworth
Wallace Broecker's suggestion [Interview] that we need to build carbon scrubbers to minimize global warming is apocryphal. Carbon scrubbers have been around for millions of years. Most people call them "trees." Trees are cheap, natural and fix large amounts of carbon during photosynthesis. A better solution than building mechanical scrubbers would be to give third-world nations an economic incentive to stop deforestation and to let tropical rain forest biomass fix carbon in a safe, ecologically friendly way.
Los Altos, California
Lunar Lost and Found
The New Mexico State University Lunar Legacy Web site incorrectly listed Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin's spacesuit among the items left on the moon. The article "Space Race II" repeated this error. While life support systems, boots and other personal equipment were indeed left behind, Aldrin's suit came back. In fact, it is currently on display in Gallery 210, "Apollo to the Moon," at the National Air and Space Museum—though not indefinitely, as this fragile artifact will eventually require storage in an environmentally controlled area.
National Air and Space Museum