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Our look back to the era between the Big Bang and the birth of stars provoked skepticism and awe. Some readers said scientists reached beyond their data, while others found an affirmation of God’s work

I’m so glad that your astronomy cover story about the first stars [Sept. 4] dealt with what we astronomers really do rather than the mere semantic debate over whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet. Michael Lemonick wonderfully conveyed the feel of using a big telescope and showed how astronomers work together, observing in different parts of the spectrum to gain a complete picture of that early stage of our universe.
Jay M. Pasachoff
Director, Hopkins Observatory
Williams College
Williamstown, Massachusetts, U.S.

The article on the birth of stars was a breath of fresh air at a time when too many people are busy counting planets on the head of a pin. The ongoing scientific discovery of the unfolding of our early universe is far more important for people to understand than how to divide the solar system into sheep and goats. Our connection to those early epochs is not just academic. Many of the oxygen atoms we inhale were forged in those very first stars.
James Sweitzer, Ph.D.
Science Communications Consultants
Oak Park, Illinois, U.S.

Your story explained that even though light was created at the Big Bang, there was darkness before stars formed. Likewise, the first chapter of Genesis states that God created light before he created the stars, and separated light from darkness in the interim. Not too many years ago, some people said the Bible’s account of the beginning could not be true because light comes from stars, which could not have been created after light was. Now your article has shown how it could be true. Science has once again caught up with the Bible.
Sara Borden
Maple Valley, Washington, U.S.

Thanks for the reminder that earth is but a small grain of sand on the beach when compared with the size of the known universe. I don’t think people give much thought to how insignificant we are in that respect. I was intrigued by the scientific community’s fascinating discoveries of what happened after the Big Bang. I’m staying tuned.
Vincent M. Carini
Lyndhurst, New Jersey, U.S.

The evolution of the universe from a random distribution of elementary particles into elements, compounds, stars, planets, galaxies and complex life forms seems to fly in the face of the laws of physics, which call for constantly increasing entropy and disorder. There is apparently a force in the universe working toward order rather than disorder. Could we call that force intelligent design?
Bruce Herbert
McLean, Virginia, U.S.

Having a basic understanding of Albert Einstein’s work with light waves, physics and quantum mechanics, I find it difficult to believe that we really can tell the distance light has traveled when we perceive it. I don’t believe in the Big Bang any more than I buy the parting of the Red Sea. The supposed noise from the Big Bang could just be noise from everyday creation and destruction occurring in the universe. Unfortunately, a lot of science and religion has evolved into fantasies that provide grandiose explanations for questions that might never be answered.
Richard Thomas
Rowlett, Texas, U.S.

Imperial Influence
Re “Japan’s Mystery of Majesty” [Sept. 4]: It is ridiculous to cast the Imperial Household Agency as a shadowy and mighty institution that dictates the behavior of the Japanese royal family. It is only a minor government department. The royal family is more reserved than its European counterparts because Japan does not want a colorful monarchy like the one the British have. Moreover, the bond between the Emperor and the people of Japan is far stronger and more deeply rooted than your story suggested. The imperial house lost political power to the warrior class centuries ago, but it has always been the center of Japan’s cultural traditions. Japan’s literature and history are intertwined with the Emperor and his court, and the educated class has always revered the imperial house as a symbol of Japanese culture. The present status of the imperial house is in accord with that tradition, while the modern political and military role of the Emperor is rather an anomaly. Shunichi Watanabe
Sendai, Japan

The Toughness Test
“The End of Invincibility” [Sept. 4] illustrated the difficulty of achieving peace in the Middle East. Once again a leader has failed the toughness test, and his people are ready to make him pay a political price. But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert cannot destroy Hizballah any more than U.S. President George W. Bush can destroy all terrorists. Here in the U.S. we criticize the President for leading us into a quagmire in Iraq, but if he had not responded to the 9/11 attacks as strongly as he did, perhaps we would have reacted as Israel’s army reservists did and demanded that he step down. Peace in the Middle East will come only when each side develops the ability to empathize with its leaders as well as its hated enemies. Hwun-Yee Chen
San Francisco

Your report referred to a Palestinian minister who took Israel to task for not recognizing Arabs as equals and for seeking military solutions instead of political ones. What political solutions did he have in mind? The Palestinians elected Hamas to lead them, and the heroes of the Lebanese are their Hizballah warlords. Both Hamas and Hizballah are loudly and proudly dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
Steve David
Richboro, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Ripples of Change in China
Sorrow and rage grew in equal measure as I read Hannah Beech’s unsettling account of the Chinese government’s persecution of legal activist Chen Guangcheng [Sept. 4]. Disgust threatened to turn to despair. What hope is there for individuals like Chen, outgunned and outnumbered? But then I recalled the words that novelist Lu Xun wrote 85 years ago at the end of his short story My Old Home: “Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made.” A pebble cast in the water may seem insignificant, but it creates ripples. Some ripples become waves, and some waves become tsunamis. Paul Lai
Longwood, Florida, U.S.

Pluto Farewell
Being a big fan of lighthearted commentary, I took great pleasure in reading Jeffrey Kluger’s Essay “Get Pluto out of Here!” [Aug. 28]. It has been quite a while since something as serious as the size of our solar system brought a smile to my face. His Essay was a wonderfully simple explanation of the problem surrounding Pluto’s definition as the ninth planet, as well as a warning of the dangers of overthinking that and other, less important issues. Albert Aukema
Pretoria, South Africa

The Other Two-Wheeler
I read with interest your recent report about the innovative Segway scooter [Aug. 21]. It is without a doubt an elegant and stylish invention, but I do not understand why I should spend nearly $5,000 on something that has no advantage over a good bicycle, which is inexpensive and environmentally friendly and provides good exercise, with no battery to charge. Alberto Fumagalli
Carugate, Italy

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em
“Operation: Kill Kermit” [Aug. 28] reported that the French park service is killing North American bullfrogs that have become an ecological menace. Although China and France are rivals in creating fabulous cuisine, as an ordinary Chinese, I have a humble suggestion to the suffering French: Why use armed hunters to kill thousands of troublesome bullfrogs? It is not half as effective as whetting the appetite of the community and showing people how lucky they are to be living among so many exotic delicacies. Jim Hsia

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