Readers react to the historical past of plate tectonics, pandas rolling in poop and extra

Shaking up reminiscences

A submit–World Struggle II information increase clinched the unifying idea of plate tectonics after a long time of debate over whether or not Earth’s crust was static or cellular, Carolyn Gramling reported in “Shaking up Earth” (SN: 1/16/21, p. 16).

The story reminded some readers about their experiences across the time of the speculation’s beginning within the 1960s.

Reader Jane Smiley recounted her expertise as a pupil at Harvard College when plate tectonics was being hotly debated. “My professor was Bernhard Kummel … and we had to make use of his textbook. I used to be current at a fantastic symposium on plate tectonics, which was attended by geologists from all over the world,” Smiley wrote. “There was a cacophony of vociferous arguments flying backwards and forwards concerning the validity of plate tectonics. Everybody introduced their papers utilizing the overhead projector and a few of the Europeans mentioned Alfred Wegener’s idea [of continental drift], and so they bought rebuffed by my professor in addition to many others within the subject,” she wrote. “I used to be a ‘drifter,’ however I sat quietly whereas I listened attentively to the arguments. Professor Kummel was not a drifter and after I needed to write papers in his class, I needed to swallow my beliefs and write what he needed to listen to. It was a really thrilling time to be a pupil there, and I discovered to be an impartial thinker in lots of disciplines.”

Reader Mark Wilson recalled attending a lecture within the late 1960s by geophysicist J. Tuzo Wilson who, Gramling reported, in contrast the affect of the speculation of plate tectonics to that of Einstein’s common idea of relativity. The geophysicist shared “his concepts regarding oceanic sizzling spot island chains corresponding to Hawaii, and what he known as rework faults within the ocean ground,” Wilson wrote. “I additionally labored for the summer time of 1968 aboard a Canadian geophysical analysis ship on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, surveying the ocean ground stripes of magnetism and gravity measurements, and conducting seismic checks. I ended up changing into a vertebrate paleontologist and biology professor, however all the time get pleasure from science writing that mixes geology and biology.”

Wilson wrote that he plans to include Gramling’s story in his instructing. “I’ve loved [her] science writing for a number of years and have gathered quite a few her articles as assets for my college students. They’re all the time clearly written, fascinating and thought-provoking,” he wrote. “Once I subsequent educate my course, the scholars may have a number of writing assignments, and one in all them shall be to provide a s­cience information essay, hopefully fascinating, like Gramling’s work.”

What stinks?

Wild big pandas that coat themselves in horse manure could also be looking for out two chemical compounds within the poop that inhibit a cold-sensing protein, Jonathan Lambert reported in “Pandas might roll in poop to remain heat” (SN: 1/16/21, p. 14).

“Recent horse dung has a signature aroma to it, very tangy,” reader Pat Rapp wrote. “Are these two volatiles … accountable for that edge to the aroma?” he requested. Rapp additionally questioned if the compounds are current within the dung of different species corresponding to donkeys and zebras. “If reminiscence serves, donkey dung doesn’t broadcast itself with something just like the power of horse dung.”

The compounds would possibly contribute to horse manure’s sturdy odor, says Lambert, however he doesn’t assume they’re solely accountable for the stench. “The researchers are at the moment investigating whether or not these compounds are current within the dung of comparable species,” he says.


“Suspended schooling” (SN: 1/16/21, p. 24) reported {that a} examine taking a look at a color-blind strategy to decreasing the self-discipline hole between white and Black college students confirmed that the hole grew from a threefold distinction to greater than fivefold. That is incorrect. The hole grew to virtually fivefold.

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