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From Issue #18 June 6, 2013

Letters to the Editor

On red-light cameras, soapy tastes, PDFs, and more.

By The Editor Twitter icon 

We get letters

You can tap the Share button in iOS at the top of any article and then tap Write Letter to Editor. Or email us with your thoughts, noting any article to which it applies. We also read comments and questions on Facebook, Twitter and App.net. (While we see iTunes reviews, we cannot respond there; please contact us directly with any issues that need a response.)

On “Cunning Old Fox

Beth:

Just curious about the “Beckettian brawl” text in the footnote: does Judge A like cilantro? What tastes fresh and grassy to one judge may taste like soap β€” lemon soap, even β€” to another due to genetic differences. For more on soapy cilantro genetics, see this article in Nature.

The author, Sandra Allen, replies via email that the genetics relating to how cilantro tastes likely don’t apply here. The taste that reminds a judge of cilantro in a bottle of wine isn’t the herb itself, but some sort of analog.

On “Red Light, Green Light

Bryan:

The Federal Highway Administration study and Virginia report were wise to consider the economic benefit resulting from the severity of the crashes rather than just the number. However, how do you calculate the economic value of a human life? If the RLCs saved even one life in exchange for hundreds of fender benders, wouldn’t that be considered a net benefit?

The Virginia report found a net negative economic impact of RLCs. From a purely utilitarian view, that seems to suggest that fewer, more severe crashes are preferable. The non-economic aspects are clearly hard to quantify and may have little place in academic research, but they certainly have a large place in the analysis and implementation of the study’s findings. Because of this, these issues may have deserved more than a short paragraph in the article.

Tim:

It is important to note even being rearended is dangerous for motorcycle riders such as myself. We may even need to hit the throttle to get through an intersection simply to avoid being hit. Though there may be increases in safety for those in a vehicle, a net increase on accidents of any severity is a negative outcome as long as there are motorcycles on the road.

On “6 a.m. Bars

Long:

Recently, whenever faced with a decision whether or not to do something that involves facing people and potential embarrassment (such as dropping by my girlfriend’s morning algorithm class to give her a gift to make up for ignoring Valentine’s Day), I always choose to do the thing if it’s the right thing to do, if it will lead to new and enriching experiences, disregarding the imagined embarrassment. As the article suggests, push boundaries, both personal and social. The results are always worth it.

On “A Ribbon Runs Through It

Brandon:

My wife has recently been on a huge sewing kick. She just got a new machine and is actually in the process of making her first dress. When she tried sharing her new fabric purchases and homemade crafts, I would just stare blankly in return. (In retrospect, probably not the best thing to do any time to your wife.)

Immediately after reading this article though, it all just clicked. I understood her passion for sewing much more β€” and look forward to seeing how her first dress turns out.

On “Phish Scales

Stephen:

What a great article, and a unique take on the music business. It is easy to get caught up in the trap of conducting business in accordance with the “perceived wisdom,” or the orthodox path to success in any particular field of endeavour.

Success can just as easily come from metaphorically swimming up river, or turning the perceived wisdom on its head, provided you work hard at it, believe in the business model and stick to what makes your proposition unique. Phish are certainly a good example of that, and well worth studying. Thanks for bringing them to my attention!

On PDF links

Many of you wrote about “Red Light, Green Light,” which had an unusual number of links to PDFs. Because tapping a PDF link in our app opens the preview in Safari, this was a frustrating round-trip. We’ll work to both signal that a link is a PDF and see if it makes sense to incorporate the preview in the app in a future release.

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You can purchase our complete archives, almost 300 articles, as a DRM-free ebook in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats. We ceased publication of new work on December 18, 2014.
You can purchase our complete archives, almost 300 articles, as a DRM-free ebook in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats.
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