From our readers

From the Editors Cornel West’s essay about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. sparked a lively discussion about the two revolutionary leaders. As Ali Abdulkhaaliq says on Facebook, “I agree, you can’t talk about one without talking about the other. However, I believe they were yin and yang.” Amanda Foreman’s column about Chinese foot-binding received hundreds of shares on Facebook and moved some readers to express disgust at the practice. It might seem shocking, Jo Farrell, the photographer, said on Facebook, but even today cultures engage in radical “body modification,” including the so-called toe tuck, or Cinderella procedure—cosmetic surgery to alter the shape of a woman’s foot so she “can wear pointy shoes.” Other readers objected to the Marquis de Sade article, saying that such a “depraved character” did not deserve space in the magazine. Overall, Wayne Davis wrote of the issue, “Each and every article opens unique doors of exploration.”

Different Doodles?

I’d never contemplated the existence of the Marquis de Sade [“Crimes of Passion”]. In my mind he represented erotic torture. I did not realize that he was actually much more. Imprisonment without criminal charge and conviction for insulting the pious sensibilities of an aristocratic regime create an avalanche of societal issues that are as prevalent today as they were in his time. Thank you for expanding my knowledge. (Barry Watson, Baltimore, Maryland)

I enjoyed the article about the doodles [“Annals of Doodlology”] found in the margins of medieval manuscripts, but noticed that the author stuck with male nouns and pronouns when referring to the scribes. In fact, copying and illuminating texts was an industry for nuns as well as monks, and was one way they supported themselves and their convents. I wonder if their doodles were different from those of the gentlemen? (Katherine Roddy, Redwood City, California)

Captive Tigers

As beautiful as they are [“America’s Tiger Problem”], I would rather know they are safe, preserved and wild. I don’t feel the necessity to see them in person; they need to be left as natural creatures. (Liza Anderson-Melcher, on Facebook)

It’s wonderful to preserve in captivity animals that are essentially extinct in the wild. Why this is castigated or widely considered problematic is puzzling to me. (Chad Whitney, on Facebook)

Do Not Pass Go

Readers of the secret history of Monopoly should know that the mis-transcribed “Marvin Gardens” property was not a “neighborhood in Atlantic City,” as stated in “Game Changer” [January 2015]. The real Marven Gardens is a section of nearby Margate that borders Ventor, hence the originally intended MarVen Gardens. It’s also the only Monopoly property that did not have a physical presence in Atlantic City, at least in the 1930s. (Alan Schindler, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Searching for Earhart

Your article [“The Lady Vanishes,” January 2015] portrayed our thousand-plus-member nonprofit organization The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery as a one-man-show. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am the spokesperson for a team of historians, archaeologists and forensic experts who have delivered real progress in the search for a solution to the mystery. I invite your readers to judge the evidence for themselves by reviewing the wealth of material on our website, www.tighar.org. (Richard Gillespie, Executive Director, TIGHAR)


In our January Ask Smithsonian column, we stated that the amount of water on earth is finite. In fact, the amount of water does vary somewhat; for example, the burning of hydrocarbons generates water, while the growth of green plants can consume it. A more complete answer would have mentioned such processes. However, they don’t have much impact on the global total water content, because the amount of water involved is a tiny fraction of the volume of earth’s oceans.

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