Letters: Oil Spill And 'The Invisible Gorilla'

Listeners comment on past Talk of the Nation show topics, and opine on where blame should be assigned for the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Also, after our conversation with the authors of The Invisible Gorilla, listeners share their inaccurate memories.

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It's Tuesday, and time to read from your emails and Web comments.

It's now five weeks and counting since the oil rig explosion on the Gulf of Mexico sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into Gulf waters. As BP traded blame with the rig's owners, we talked about who's responsible for the spill and the cleanup.

Sandy in Oakland, California, emailed to ask: Why does the general public care about how responsibility for paying is divided? The leaseholder, BP, has a responsibility to the public, period. They should pay all the damages, and they can sort out their down-the-line responsibility by themselves.

Brian in Iowa City argued: There's plenty of blame to share. With a $75 million cap on liability, it seems to me that Congress has just as much responsibility in this disaster as anyone. With a cap of such an unsubstantial amount, why wouldn't the companies in the industry not take chances with their drilling and get as much profit as possible?

During that conversation, one of our callers suggested that the military fire a torpedo at the well to collapse it. He argued the technique could be borrowed from the Gulf War, where some wells were detonated to stop the fires set by retreating Iraqi troops.

Jason Holly(ph), emailed from Houston, Texas to refute the argument. The reason this was done in Kuwait was to deprive the fires of oxygen. The detonation essentially sucks all the oxygen away from the fire. The detonations stopped the fire. They did not stop the flow of oil by collapsing the well. Torpedoing the undersea well would only worsen the situation by destroying the failed flow-restricting devices which are offering slower flow.

Many of you also took issue with Ayaan Hirsi Ali's view of Islam. We talked with her last week about her latest book, "Nomad: From Islam to America, a Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations."

Elias(ph) wrote to complain: Ms. Hirsi Ali believes in a strange version of the widely debunked and denounced clash of civilizations. The idea that the monolithic, unchangeable essence of Islam is responsible for every evil -especially terrorism - that Islam is a violent political ideology, that Islam is incompatible with the West, that Islam is backwards, irrational, fanatical. Her views are tantamount to anti-Arab racism. For these reasons, her views, while protected by free speech, should be - most certainly be challenged.

Another listener took a very different view. As a father of four daughters who are all beautiful, strong individuals, I applaud your work. Continue to be a powerful voice of reason and logic. That from Riley Campbell(ph).

Finally, we talked about the Invisible Gorilla, the famous experiment where viewers are told to count the number of times a basketball is passed in a video, and many completely missed the big, hairy gorilla that walks right across the court.

Psychologist Chris Chabris and Dan Simons devised the experiment to demonstrate that our intuition and our memories can't always be trusted, something Karen Boggett(ph) in Ames, Iowa knows all too well. I went through a year's long process of shortening my life story for social occasions, not wanting to be boring. The day came when I listened to myself and found that my story was no longer truthful. I felt awful about it, and now have some sympathy for politicians called out for their shortened-for-primetime life stories.

Obviously, the secret - or the gorilla - is out of the bag. But if you'd like to take that invisible gorilla test yourself, we've posted a link to the video at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

While you're there, go the extra click and sign up for our email newsletter. We'll send you a preview of what's coming up every day on the program and how you can get into the conversation.

And for those of you on Twitter, you could follow me there, as well, @nealconan - all one word.

If you have comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by email. The address: talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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