Readers Respond to the October 2021 Issue

Your feedback on sake, astrophysicist Avi Loeb and diphtheria

For Sake’s Sake 

I read “Sake in the USA” (October 2021) with pride to be an American. An entrepreneur named Atsuo Sakurai was discouraged in his home country because of unnecessary and unproductive government regulations. He legally immigrated to the U.S. and worked hard to achieve his dream. The Holbrook, Arizona, City Council supported him, and even though the residents of his new home don’t look like him, and may not partake of his product, they are happy for his success. Even the governor of Arizona gave congratulations. This is the America I know.

—Paul Johnson | Orlando, Florida

Aliens and Astronomy

Avi Loeb truly is a wonder—a scientist with pedigree who is not fearful of voicing views that run contrary to orthodoxy (“The Wonder of Avi Loeb,” October 2021). By boldly verbalizing the improbable, fantastic and “out of the box” possibilities of his observations, he is providing world leaders with a template for solving many of societies’ problems, which presently seem unsolvable with conventional thinking.

—John Cunningham | Hatboro, Pennsylvania

As an amateur astronomer, I enjoyed very much reading about Avi Loeb. I find it very encouraging that a serious scientist can still keep an open mind and advocate for the search for alien life using technology in new ways. As the article notes, many scientific discoveries have had to break through the commonly held beliefs at the time. Kudos to Loeb in his efforts to find evidence of alien life.

—Robert Starr | Ephrata, Pennsylvania

Fighting Diphtheria

Thank you for Perri Klass’ “The Plague Among Children” (October 2021). As a little girl, I remember my grandmother telling me about her best friend, the mother of twin infants and a daughter almost old enough for school. When diphtheria tore through their small Kansas town, all three children choked to death as an entire generation was virtually wiped out. Following their funerals, the young woman jumped to her death off a bridge over a railroad track. Grandma pointed out her grave, located next to three small headstones at the local cemetery. Most old cemeteries have numerous headstones that share common death dates, the heartbreaking evidence of what happens to many unvaccinated children.

—Kris Aaron | Cambridge, Wisconsin

The Heart of the Problem

Sending all data collected on the gorilla’s heart to the Great Ape Heart Project is a very controlled way to give valuable information to more zoos (“Ask Smithsonian,” October 2021) and help gorillas everywhere. Rethinking their diet to match more closely their wild diet is important, especially when data suggest added protein doesn’t enhance their hearts and life.

—Sheron Mehl | La Jolla, California

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This article is a selection from the November issue of Smithsonian magazine