To the Editor

Natural History, December/January 1999 | Go to article overview

To the Editor


In Praise of Gould

I'm sure that the double whammy of "This View of Stephen Jay Gould" and "This View of Life" (November 1999) will happily resonate for the rest of your readers as it has for me. It was good to learn about the man whose column so often has made me twist my thoughts like pretzels to follow his meaning and whose catholic allusions proclaim him a Renaissance man in this age of specialists. Florence B. Woods

Bath, New Hampshire

Although I do not claim a place on the list of wellearned tides of your contributors to Stephen Jay Gould's literary portrait, please add my voice of praise as an appreciative reader. Like many of us in the lay audience, I look forward to his monthly essays and dread the day when the last installment arrives in the mail.

Chip Quadri Wes!field, New York Cosmic Push-ups

In his story on the mechanics of tongues ("Multilingual," October 1999), Carl Zimmer makes a parenthetical remark about push-ups: "When you push against the floor," writes Zimmer, "you go up; the floor doesn't go down. "

While that may be true from the frame of reference of the person doing the push-up, the law of conservation of momentum dictates that when you push against the ground, you and Earth move away from each other. The distance moved is inversely proportional to your respective masses.

Counterintuitive it may be, but all one has to do to move Earth is JUMP. Daniel Finkelstein Brooklyn, New York

Did Testament Tales

What a delight to come across a reference to the E and J texts of the Pentateuch in Stephen Jay Gould's "The Pre-Adamite in a Nutshell" (November 1999). 1 have been studying them on and off since my college days.

In J, thought to be the older text, Old Testament heroes are portrayed as cunning and not exceedingly scrupulous. Jacob tricks his father-inlaw Laban out of his wealth, and Moses' amusing but bad-faith negotiating tactics get him expelled from Pharaoh's palace. …

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