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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Readers Reply to the January 2023 Problem


Claudia Wallis properly summarizes points surrounding bone well being and calcium metabolism in “A Food regimen for Higher Bones” [The Science of Health]. She mentions the seemingly deleterious results of extra alcohol and occasional consumption within the article. To this checklist, I’d add cigarettes—in any amount and at virtually any time in life.

A routine a part of my observe as a neurosurgeon was the analysis of sufferers with osteoporosis and the efficiency of spinal surgical procedure, together with fusion. I quickly noticed that the majority my sufferers with osteoporosis had smoked, though a lot of them would initially deny a historical past of cigarette consumption till particularly requested if they’d smoked as an adolescent. Even a brief historical past of cigarette use throughout the prime interval for bone development and ossification—adolescence and early maturity—was correlated with a major improve within the threat of osteoporotic fractures throughout late maturity.

Equally the speed of profitable spinal surgical procedure—notably discectomy and fusion—amongst lively people who smoke was appreciably decrease than that for nonsmokers, so I’d postpone nonemergent surgical procedure till the affected person had been freed from cigarette smoke for no less than 4—and ideally six—weeks. Over the following a long time quite a few research have validated my anecdotal observations.

As Wallis notes, vitamin D supplementation is probably going of little profit to most individuals who want to keep away from osteoporosis. However smoking cessation—or, higher but, by no means smoking—is definitely of nice profit.



I loved “The Human Engine,” Herman Pontzer’s article on rigorous experiments that decide the age- and lean-mass-adjusted developments of human metabolism. The field “Measuring Metabolism” reveals these knowledge in two graphs, and the big diploma of scatter about their respective regression curves results in much more attention-grabbing questions.

Every scatter level represents a singular human being who’s probably not “common.” Can the scatter clarify why sure people have extra problem reducing weight or why a specific food plan won’t work for everybody? How a lot of it’s linked to genetics versus atmosphere? Is it moral to make well being suggestions primarily based on a pattern imply when these off the regression curve could be harmed? Moreover, new most cancers therapies tailor therapies to a person’s genetics. Are such issues being utilized to research of food plan and metabolism?

MARK G. KUZYK Regents Professor of Physics, Washington State College

I used to be shocked that Pontzer’s article about human metabolism made no point out of the intestine microbiota. Every of us coexists with a posh intestine ecosystem that incorporates extra organisms than there are cells in our physique. Current discoveries have made it clear that the intestine microbiota influences many elements of our physiology, from immune perform to psychological well being, and alterations to it induced by widespread use of antibiotics and extremely processed meals probably play a essential position in explaining the epidemic of weight problems. The intestine microbiota can also be the filter by means of which all of our meals is processed, linking it inextricably with human metabolism. It isn’t simply “us” who use the energy we devour, making the “energy in, energy out” formulation Pontzer cites incomplete.

IRA S. NASH Scarsdale, N.Y.

PONTZER REPLIES: Understanding the appreciable variability we see amongst people of their day by day power expenditure is the following frontier in metabolic analysis. We now have a superb sense for the way physique measurement, fats share, way of life and age have an effect on the energy we burn on daily basis, however as readers Kuzyk and Nash level out, there’s plenty of unexplained variation. The diploma to which these variations replicate genetics or atmosphere is just not nicely understood for the time being. Our microbiome could be a essential piece of the puzzle. The proof on that entrance is at present sparse, nonetheless. Time and extra examine will inform.

We do not sometimes discover {that a} “quick” or “gradual” metabolism (burning kind of power than we would anticipate for an individual’s measurement and age) predicts weight achieve or weight problems. I do suspect that the metabolic variation we see is telling us one thing about total bodily perform and well being, however these potential connections are but to be examined.


“The Universe Is Not Domestically Actual,” by Daniel Garisto, stories on how the Bell check has been used to rule out the existence of hidden variables, unseen components that would clarify quantum-mechanical phenomena whereas preserving native realism. However I am nonetheless puzzled why answering the query of hidden variables has not been declared unsolvable by this system.

Garisto says “any prior bodily connection between elements, irrespective of how distant prior to now [emphasis mine], has the potential of interfering with the validity of a Bell check’s outcomes.” He then describes a “cosmic Bell check” during which researchers used stars that have been “sufficiently far aside” in order that the sunshine from one would not attain the opposite for hundreds of years. However assuming that the massive bang and cosmic inflation are true, would not that imply there’s an unavoidable loophole in each Bell check as a result of the whole lot was bodily related within the distant previous?

GARY RECTOR Cave Creek, Ariz.

GARISTO REPLIES: There have been further cosmic Bell assessments for the reason that one I described in my article, together with one which used mild from quasars which might be separated by billions of light-years. Rector is appropriate that even these assessments return solely thus far. As he suggests, this does suggest that the massive bang stays an unavoidable loophole. It is value contemplating what such a loophole-sized concept would presuppose: that hidden variables have been encoded on the very starting of time and area, deterministically setting the whole lot into movement till spacetime’s finish.

Superdeterminism, as this concept known as, would possibly rescue native realism from quantum mechanics, but it strips the universe of likelihood in favor of a conspiratorial method to experiments. All the pieces that we will measure means that quantum mechanics is appropriate, that native realism is fake. It is worthwhile to concentrate on superdeterminism as a chance. However believing in issues as a result of they’re unimaginable to rule out is a poor technique to method science—or, for that matter, the rest.


Bumblebees apparently “play,” in keeping with the examine reported in “Bee-Ball,” by Grace van Deelen [Advances]. This raises a query: Are bees individually clever? How about ants? Inside a colony these bugs are constantly exchanging data within the type of pheromones and different chemical compounds. A bee or ant colony manifests extra intelligence than could be anticipated by summing the intelligence of the people.

VAN SNYDER La Crescenta, Calif.


In “Primordial Soup,” by Clara Moskowitz [March 2023], the field “Quark Soup” ought to have stated that Brookhaven Nationwide Laboratory’s sPHENIX and STAR detectors every have a strong magnet at their core, not a strong superconducting magnet. Solely sPHENIX’s magnet is superconducting.

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