Letters: Japanese Ears

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I think it was the ex-Kaiser who said he admired above all two things in the United States: the Niagara Falls and Roosevelt. Had it then been his privilege to have read TIME, he would have included your marvelous magazine among his American predilections. . . .

I am a constant reader of at least a dozen European, Spanish-American and North-American magazines and invariably the first one I read is TIME. . . .

Give us a little more about Mexico, and should you at any time decide to send a special correspondent to Yucatan in order to give Americans first-hand information on our prehistoric Ruins, I'll gladly see that he gets a special train for his wanderings in the Peninsula.


Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

TIME will remember well Subscriber Franco's promise of a special train for its Yucatan correspondent.—ED.


In the following letter, Subscriber Presnell corrects TIME's political writer's errors concerning alcohols (TIME Oct. 22):


. . . Grain alcohol has the formula of C2Ho2OH and is prepared by permitting yeast to act upon sugar. The alcohol thus formed is separated from most of the other substances in the solution by distilling. The name—grain alcohol—is due to the fact that some grain is the cheapest and therefore the most usual source of the sugar.

Wood alcohol has the formula CH2OH. It is made by the destructive distillation of wood. Hence the name. It cannot be made by denaturizing grain alcohol, as TIME suggests. The distillation of grain alcohol involves nothing but the isolation of already created grain alcohol. The distillation of wood alcohol involves the creation of the alcohol through the breaking down of more complex compounds.

Denatured alcohol, with which TIME seems to have confused wood alcohol, is made by adding to grain alcohol, to permit it to escape taxation, some substance which renders it unfit to drink. The denaturent is not always a poison. Pyridine, a common denaturent, does nothing worse than emit a vile odor.

TIME mentions, also, that "hearty drinkers of wood alcohol are killed by paralysis of the nervous system." That is not absolutely true. The action of wood alcohol is more extensive, and death may be the result of its action on some other part of the organism.

Incidentally, while methyl and ethyl alcohols are best known, they are not the sole members of the alcohol family, which includes a large number of others. All of these are poisonous. Chemists, unable to account for the fact that ethyl alcohol alone is nonpoisonous, think that this may be due less to its chemical structure than to the fact that it is always present in the intestines, due to natural fermentation. This minute quantity of ethyl alcohol has caused organisms to build up a specific resistance to this one member of the alcohol family.


Chillicothe, Ohio.

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