JANUARY| FEBRUARY 2013
NATURE / CULTURE / PLACE
JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2013
Thanks to Rebecca Sol
nit for her essay in the
issue of Orion (“Cyclope
dia of an Expedition
Around Svalbard”). I read
it under weird circum
stances: I was in hospital
bedclothes, cold and
anxious, waiting for a
medical procedure in a room full of
other cold and anxious patients. My pro
cedure was delayed, and, luckily, I had
Orion with me. Solnit’s description of her
Arctic journey was like poetry—I felt I
had been given the gift of time to read it
in almost one sitting.
ART l PETER ALLEN
Meet the Nanoparticle
Nanoparticles are in our toothpaste, shampoo, and chewing gum, but few of
us really understand what they are, what they do, or what their biological and
ecological ramifications could be. Open this issue of Orion for a revealing look at
this miniscule but powerful new technology — and its vast unknowns.
Cover 1-4 studs.indd 1
only when it has been
phrases that occur in the song in se
quence (call them A, B, C, D, and E), as
well as four other phrases at random (call
them F, G, H, and I).
Paste together five sequences: ABCDE,
ABCDF, ABCDG, ABCDH, and ABCDI.
Then present these five “songs” to care
ful listeners who are not familiar with the
mockingbird’s song and ask them which
is most pleasing, musically. If the listen
ers prefer ABCDE more than 20 percent
of the time, your human subjects and
mockingbirds may have similar criteria
for evaluating musical structure, the ba
sis of composition.
Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences
Texas Tech University
As Heather Millar mentions in “Pan
dora’s Boxes” (January/February 2013),
nanoparticles, by their nature, can enter
the body and bypass the bloodbrain
barrier—and yet industry regularly adds
them to food, clothing, and consumer
products. Why is it okay for a corporation
to profit from producing possible poisons?
And how can we call our society “demo
cratic” when the public has zero say in the
matter? Nanotechnology is a potent and
potentially dangerous materials science in
its infancy and, as such, should be used
Do birds compose music at levels even
more subtle than what’s explored by Eric
Wagner in “The Piccolo and the Pocket
Grouse” (January/February 2013)? Read
ers of Wagner’s piece may find the follow
ing experiment of interest.
First, record a mockingbird’s song,
which consists of a vast repertoire of
phrases strung together seemingly (but
not quite) at random. Then select five
Kudos to John T. Price for including
triops in his “ 7 Animals That Should
Never Be Allowed to Go Feral” (January/
February 2013)—it’s an organism that
is more voracious than most suspect. It
isn’t often we find invertebrates at the top
of the food chain, but in Valentine, Ne
braska, these little beasts ravaged a fish
ery pond full of baby trout. Even more
insidious are the other things that hatch
when triops is submerged in water: my
microscope revealed one sample that was
crawling with Naegleria fowleri, the brain
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