Can Data Make Life Better? And Other Letters to the Editor

Make Some Noise

To the Editor:

In discussing the larynx, the subject of “This Is the Voice” (March 7), both the reviewer, Mary Roach, and the author, John Colapinto, miss a major point. They skirt the underlying anatomy and overlook the contribution of the hyoid bone entirely. This horseshoe-shaped structure resides immediately under the jawbone and attaches to muscles that help in swallowing and vocalizing. It is our only bone out of roughly 206 that does not contact any others.

The howler monkey represents the epitome of the hyoid’s development, where the bone is about the general shape of a round-bottomed cup. The hyoid is instrumental in the howler’s ability to project its voice about two miles. Given the relative numbers of howlers and humans, it’s good that we are not so well voiced.

Roy A. Meals
Los Angeles

Bill Gates

To the Editor:

I have followed Bill McKibben’s writings for 30 years with unflagging admiration, but I was disappointed by his review of Bill Gates’s “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” (March 7).

It is unfair to criticize an author for staying within the limits of his competence. As Gates acknowledges, he thinks like an engineer and accordingly presents an engineer’s evaluation of the available options to forestall the looming climate crisis. Within that focus, his analysis is well informed, authoritative and desperately needed.

Michael Murphy
San Francisco

To the Editor:

In his By the Book interview (Feb. 14), Bill Gates writes about how Google searches can be used to “make life better.” I would rather that people could search without being tracked. The acceptance of the “end user” as a nobody to manipulate and collect information on is increasingly sophisticated and increasingly inappropriate, and I look forward to a growing resistance to it.

It’s great that Gates is against climate change. However, having worked vainly as of late to keep Microsoft from telling me what I’m typing — all in my best interest, of course — while being informed that my “data makes ads more meaningful” as if I wanted more meaningful ads, I’m less and less interested in hearing tech moguls opine on much of anything.

Christina Albers
New Orleans

Rust and Disgust

To the Editor:

In her essay “Witness for the Defense” (March 7), Emily Mortimer makes a wonderful and perceptive witness for the defense of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita.” She does her father proud.

Reading her essay, however, reminded me of a much less inspiring witness: Adolf Eichmann, who (according to Hannah Arendt) said to his jailer guard that he found “Lolita” to be “quite an unwholesome book.” There is more irony in the world than there is iron.

Louis Phillips
New York

To the Editor:

I will spare your readers the details of what was done to me by an older man at a young age in the name of love (it lacks hilarity and does not lend itself to brilliant prose), and I will spare them the precise number of women I am personally acquainted with who experienced similar degradations.

But I will tell you that Emily Mortimer’s giddy praise for “Lolita” made me literally sick. I’m too old now, but someone must write a comparably “exhilarating and paradoxically cleansing” novel that will allow us all to “relinquish concern with right and wrong and just to feel things as another person feels them.”

The dissolution of one’s very self is an experience perhaps impossible to portray, unfortunately, but that’s the only novel that would shake the degeneracy and callousness that marks our engagement with “Lolita.” This is not a moralistic condemnation. It is a pure human expression of truth.

Susan Mullendore
Tucson, Ariz.

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