October 2008: Reader Feedback

Comments. Letters. Gripes.

In the Fast Lane


By the time our July/August issue arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes, cover girl Katie Hoff had broken the world record in the women’s 400-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic trials, shaving 0.34 of a second off the time Stephanie Rice set at Australia’s trials. Both were wearing Speedo’s LZR Racer swimsuits. In Beijing, the LZR Racer continued to be a winner. At the Water Cube, 29 of the 32 gold medals — including Rice’s three and Michael Phelps’s headline-grabbing eight — went to Olympians in the Speedo suits. But as our correspondents note, some fans see high-tech sports gear as a mixed blessing.

Root for the Home Team

As I thought about companies introducing their innovations in Beijing (“Innovation of Olympic Proportions,” July/August), I had to wonder whether nationalism plays a part. Is it okay for an English company (Speedo) to help an American beat a swimmer from Wales, or for an American company (Nike ) to help China go for the gold in basketball? At what point is a company considered unpatriotic if its technology gives an advantage to the competition? I guess I’m just old-fashioned enough to believe that national pride still counts.


Brett Williams
Wichita, Kansas

With so many resources dedicated to making the equipment necessary for sporting success, it makes one suspect that the ancient Greeks had the right idea. None of Milo’s opponents found themselves “sinking into mediocrity” because they chose the wrong gear, and runners who sought to break the records of Acanthus had to do so without lighter, more-efficient shoes.

Alan Johnson
Monrovia, California


Carbon Craze

With all due respect to the Yale forestry grads (“Carbon Boom,” July/August), the idea of carbon offsets is fundamentally flawed because the concept at its core fosters hypocrisy. Individuals, companies, and countries can continue their planet-destroying consumption, feeling justified that the effects of their lifestyles will somehow be offset by buying carbon credits.

Barry Rempel
Glennallen, Alaska


Your article on carbon credits is the best examination of the topic I’ve seen. You explain how the Kyoto-style credits are generated, give specific information on the new markets that are developing to exploit the credit trades, and even provide a short critical analysis of some of the problems with these “markets.”

Jeff Holcombe
South Windsor, Connecticut

Selling carbon credits clearly mimics the medieval practice of selling indulgences. There was no evidence they helped anybody get to heaven, but there was plenty of money to be made helping everybody feel better.


Ken MacDonald
Seattle, Washington

Play Ball

Change is difficult for such an institution as Major League Baseball, which has become more of an entertainment business than a sport (“Li’l Slugger,” July/August). Perhaps what this young “spit dribbling” MLB general manager is interested in has more to do with refining the game and engaging players in their own professional development than “branding,” “marketing,” or “selling” the team to the public.


Jay Tatum
Orlando, Florida

The Power of Green

I live on the corporate side of sustainable-energy innovation. Even though we may have different perspectives on details, I have long admired Vinod Khosla precisely for the essence you captured so nicely (“A Devilish Green Angel,” July/August). As a fellow “technology optimist,” I absolutely believe he is on the right track. The problems we face are fundamentally about technology, not resources.


Russ Conser
Houston, Texas

Everyone wants to go green! I work in 20-megawatt data centers, and the buzz phrase of the day is certainly “going green.” The articles in your July/August issue play that up very effectively. From Jack Johnson (Fast Talk) to Vinod Khosla, everyone is looking for ways to cut back on their energy consumption or to make money becoming more energy efficient. Except the guys at Obscura (“Lights, Obscura, Action!“) — 60,000 Lumen projectors spewing advertisements on Manhattan buildings. What’s the energy bill for that party?

Brian Olsen
Marlboro, Massachusetts


I’m ordinarily opposed to blanket statements, on the premise that one size never does fit all (“The Eco-Home of Tomorrow,” July/August). But smaller has always been better — and always will be — when we’re talking about buildings. The days of cheap fuel and building materials are gone and with them, the freedom to be irresponsible.

Carel Two-Eagle
Mandan, North Dakota

Where Are the Women?


Your chart (“Convene: Donkeys & Elephants,” July/August) compares Denver’s and St. Paul’s “favorite sons.” Surely, there have been some prominent women from those cities.

David Allyn
New York, New York

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Fast Fix

In “Carbon Boom” (July/August), the negative attitude about the environment that John Forgach said he observed — “This is ninny business” — should have been attributed to conventional commodities traders.

In “Innovation of Olympic Proportions” (July/August), the strength of the NASA-developed polyurethane in the panels of Speedo’s LZR Racer swimsuit was not described clearly. The amount of downward force required to stretch the polyurethane — a standard test for performance fabrics — is 70 kilograms versus 100 grams to stretch common nylon elastane.


Also in July/August, in “The Eco-Home of Tomorrow,” Matthew Berman and Andrew Kotchen both hold master’s degrees in architecture but are not licensed to practice in New York State.