From the Editors
Our story about how Smithsonian archivists used optical technology to resurrect the voice of Alexander Graham Bell from an unplayable wax and cardboard disc [“Clear as a Bell”] drew a huge response, with the online version tweeted more than 1,000 times by readers who listened in. “I wonder how many other voices of the past will be revealed using this new technology,” Connie Murray marveled on Facebook. Our coverage of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education prompted wide-ranging debate about the nation’s school priorities. “This will not get better until there is an overhaul of basic elementary education,” wrote Mary Richards of Liège, Belgium. Allen Samuels of Ann Arbor, Michigan, urged putting art in the equation, to yield STEAM, because art “is about creating what does not yet exist.”
As a former high-school science teacher, I can say the biggest issues in my classes were that students perceived science as hard and didn’t think they could learn it [“America by the Numbers”]. The first issue stems from the fact that science is presented to kids as a difficult subject rather than just an explanation of how the universe works. The second issue is squarely on parents who stress their children’s limitations instead of their potential. I had to work diligently to convince many students they were more than capable of learning science.
I find it annoying that everyone’s talking about the need to put more emphasis on math and science in schools. That assumes there is plenty of teaching of reading and writing, but from what I’ve seen, in correspondence and on store signs, more English teaching would be a good thing. How can scientists and mathematicians communicate if they can’t write?
Manchester, New Hampshire
The Perils of Germaphobia
I see our approach to bacteria in and on our bodies [“The Body Eclectic”] as identical to the way we treat the rest of our environment: We seek to eliminate that which we do not understand, to replace complex biological systems with simplistic monoculture, wielding deadly toxins to eradicate a few “pests,” while exterminating scores of beneficial species. Too many of us have embraced “hygienic” culture without investigating its premises.
It’s hard to imagine a world in which many of our essential goods are created at home using additive manufacturing. Yet as “The Printed World” so intriguingly describes, 3-D printing is already transforming products. It will be especially interesting to see how the technology reshapes our shopping experience and revolutionizes commerce and trade in developing nations. In the end, like any technology, it’s only limited by the creativity of the human mind.
Michael Aaron Gallagher
Syracuse, New York
Our profile of Mona Eltahawy [“The Next Revolution”], the Egyptian-American activist, misstated the target of protesters during her 2011 Cairo attack. They were marching against the military junta then ruling Egypt, not Mohamed Morsi, who became president in 2012. The opening essay in our Phenomenon section misstated how the United States acquired the territory that would become Oklahoma. Only the panhandle was acquired after the war with Mexico.