How water can flow in Mars's colder climate

Regarding Peter Spotts's Dec. 7 article, "Mars photo evidence shows recently running water": So now there's flowing water on Mars, huh? And recently at that! Come on. In order for water to flow anywhere, it cannot be frozen, and it has to be under some kind of atmospheric pressure. The average temperature of Mars is roughly equivalent to the temperature in Antarctica on a bad day. And there is virtually no atmosphere on Mars.

Whether or not water has flowed on Mars, at a time when our budget is dangerously bloated and our national debt is nearly out of control, NASA seems to feel the need to convince congressmen and others that it is still relevant to the needs of the US. Enough already. Like SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), it's time for NASA to go private and spare us the tax burden of their sci-fi fantasies.
Robert Bezold
Pearl City, Hawaii

Peter Spotts responds: Mars has a chilly average temperature at the surface of -64 degrees F., NASA says. But the average masks wide swings – from a balmy 80 degrees F. near the equator in the Martian summer to -199 degrees F. at the poles in winter. And Mars has a thin atmosphere, mostly carbon dioxide. Winds can reach speeds of up to 80 miles an hour and trigger local and regional dust storms – readily seen through telescopes on Earth. Water would have no problem flowing downhill when it's 80 degrees outside. And when water is underground, and thus probably under pressure, it can still flow for some distance downhill in subzero temperatures before it freezes.

Message is as important as experience

I understand and appreciate the desire to be realistic about Sen. Barack Obama in your Dec. 15 editorial, "Taking 'Obama-mania' in stride." But given the mess the US is now in, it's clear that a long political track record and substantial legislative experience do not guarantee qualified leadership.

What many people are looking for now are leaders who are open, inclusive, farsighted, and who hold a well-educated world-view. The proof is always in the pudding, but the words must first be spoken. I, for one, have not heard the sort of substantial message we hear from Senator Obama coming from much more experienced politicians, and I might be suspicious if I started hearing similar words from them at this point.
Prentiss Cole
Bellingham, Wash.

Gratitude for Carnegie libraries

I read the Dec. 12 book review, "Giants of the Gilded Age," which examined the new biographies, "Mellon: An American Life," by David Cannadine, and "Andrew Carnegie," by David Nasaw. As one of the many around the world whose childhood was enriched by an Andrew Carnegie public library, I remain grateful that Mr. Carnegie used his money to bless the world.

Growing up in what was then British Guiana, in South America, I benefited not only from the Carnegie library, but also from the Carnegie School of Home Economics. It was from the Carnegie public library that I was sent to England to be trained as a librarian. Today, I am able to enrich my story time presentations with costumes and whimsical hats that I learned to make during those evening classes I took as a teenager at the school of home economics. I would love to know more about the person or group of persons who advised Carnegie in his outstanding choice of philanthropic endeavor.
Daphne E. Santosa
Wilmington, Del.

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