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
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.
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
Andrew Cirel’s dog had a pawsitive (sorry!) response to our feature on wolves
BELOW: Music helped Kate Jewel heal from a brain injury