Re­ply

Focus-Science and Technology - - CONTENTS - Daniel Ben­nett, edi­tor Daniel Ben­nett, edi­tor

Your let­ters and emails.

I was ex­cited to read Michael Mosely’s col­umn about beat­ing air pol­lu­tion by bike in the Septem­ber is­sue. I cy­cle to work every day, and worry about the air qual­ity in Lon­don, but I find masks un­com­fort­able and in­ef­fec­tive. My route takes me along mainly back roads, so I was pre­dis­posed to like Michael’s con­clu­sion that a back streets cy­cle route is the best way to avoid as much pol­lu­tion as pos­si­ble. How­ever, I’m afraid the method of ‘ex­per­i­ment’ was too prob­lem­atic, even for me. Michael’s test in­cluded the fol­low­ing: a walk­ing route on main roads, a cy­cle route on back roads, and a taxi route on main roads. He then con­cluded that cy­cling on back routes was the least pol­luted jour­ney.

I sup­pose if those are your only choices, then yes, that would be a fair, if not rig­or­ously sci­en­tific, con­clu­sion (fac­tors like the time of day and di­rec­tion of the jour­ney would prefer­ably have been con­trolled for). But it was an ap­ples to or­anges com­par­i­son! What about walk­ing or tak­ing a taxi on back routes? Cy­cling on main routes? Many cy­cling su­per­high­ways are built along main roads. Given the stakes in­volved (Michael men­tions that 40,000 peo­ple are dy­ing early every year in the UK be­cause of pol­lu­tion), this is an ur­gent ques­tion.

Karen Lawler, Lon­don

You make a good point and you are right that my ad­vice was more anec­do­tal than ev­i­dence-based. The peo­ple I did the ex­per­i­ment with at King’s Col­lege have done proper re­search and, at least for Lon­don, pro­duced this in­ter­ac­tive map (bit.ly/clean_air_route). I hope you find it use­ful. – Dr Michael Mosely, BBC Fo­cus colum­nist

Bugged out

BBC Fo­cus has been my favourite magazine for a long time, I love the mix of ar­ti­cles and the bal­ance of photos to writ­ing. Re­cently, a few peo­ple I know have had KPHGEVKQPU VYQ|QH YJKEJ YGTG after op­er­a­tions. They needed a load of an­tibi­otics to cure them.

When­ever I hear about these sto­ries, I end up wor­ry­ing about an­tibi­oti­cre­sis­tant su­per­bugs. It’s prob­a­bly be­cause I’ve read too many ar­ti­cles from dif­fer­ent mag­a­zines about bac­te­rial nat­u­ral se­lec­tion, an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance and in­cur­able su­per­bugs. Could we cre­ate a ‘su­per an­tibi­otic’ that at­tacks a bac­te­ria in so many ways that bac­te­rial nat­u­ral se­lec­tion can’t make the jump to re­sis­tance, even if you used it a lot?

Brian Bliss, via email

At the mo­ment doc­tors use an­tibi­otic cock­tails to re­duce the chance that in­fec­tious bac­te­ria be­come re­sis­tant to one drug. Look­ing fur­ther ahead, sci­en­tists are in­ves­ti­gat­ing medicines that in­ter­fere with in­fec­tious bac­te­ria with­out nec­es­sar­ily killing them, cir­cum­vent­ing the process of nat­u­ral se­lec­tion. For ex­am­ple, in is­sue 318 (Fe­bru­ary) we pro­filed Dr Cas­san­dra

Quave who’s work­ing on a treat­ment that pre­vents bac­te­ria from talk­ing to each other, and there­fore stops them from in­fect­ing the host.

Dog-friendly mag­a­zines

I en­joyed the ar­ti­cle on wolf com­mu­ni­ca­tion (Novem­ber), see­ing many par­al­lels be­tween VJGO CPF O[ QYP VYQ FQIU |

I read with par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est that only wolves, not dogs, were able to find a treat by look­ing where a hu­man looked. One of my dogs, who is a work­ing cocker spaniel, is able to re­spond to me look­ing in the di­rec­tion of his train­ing dummy.

Most in­ter­est­ingly, my other dog, a bor­der ter­rier who is ut­terly ob­sessed with na­ture doc­u­men­taries on both tele­vi­sion and YouTube, jumped onto my knee as I was read­ing the ar­ti­cle on my iPad. I showed him the nine faces of the wolf sec­tion, and four times in a row he nosed the ‘friend­li­ness’ im­age and was drawn to that fa­cial ex­pres­sion over any other. So I guess you could say that the re­search has been peer re­viewed and ap­proved! An­drew Cirel, via email

Glad to hear the magazine hasn’t gone to the dogs yet. –

Mu­si­cian, heal thy­self

On your web­site, your ar­ti­cle on the power of mu­sic gave me joy [sci­ence­fo­cus.com/the-hu­man­body/the-power-of-mu­sic-forhealth/ ].

Check out Mu­si­cophilia by Oliver Sacks. I be­gan stream­ing my own mu­sic fol­low­ing a brain in­jury and it has healed me more than any­thing else.

Kate Jewel, via email

Where’s the best place to ride to avoid air pol­lu­tion, asks Karen Lawler

MRSA bac­te­ria

An­drew Cirel’s dog had a pawsi­tive (sorry!) re­sponse to our fea­ture on wolves

BE­LOW: Mu­sic helped Kate Jewel heal from a brain in­jury

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