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Monsoon hunters

I read with some amusement the article ``Planned sale of US computer to India points up snags in relations,'' Dec. 29, concerning the tentative sale of a supercomputer to India for the ostensible purpose of predicting the monsoons. As a research meteorologist who is studying India's monsoon problem, it is clear to me that forecasting the monsoons is far more challenging than the Indians think.

The lack of detailed weather observations over the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, combined with serious shortcomings in understanding the various meteorological processes that produce monsoon rains, suggests that acquisition of a Cray or Cyber supercomputer might not solve the problem.

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A far more effective and economical approach would be for the governments of India and the US to further fund the current research that Indian and American scientists are pursuing.

At the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., for instance, meteorologists already have access to the fastest computers, and also have the necessary software for analyzing the monsoons; whereas India, upon acquisition of a supercomputer, could expect significant delays as it develops the software and system expertise needed to begin forecasting. Dean Churchill Univ. of Washington


`The great debate' The subjective-objective review of SDI books, ``The great debate on SDI,'' Dec. 23, is one of those distressing pieces that purports to be objective while pushing a particular point of view.

The review raises the old ploy about the morality of defensive weapons. The simple question to ask is ``How moral is a shield when the other hand wields a sword?'' It really doesn't matter who uses the ploy: The Soviet ABM work led to MIRVed missiles, perhaps the single most destabilizing development in the history of the nuclear arms race.

The review also raises the point that the President's directive had not set a time limit, implying that SDI might appear impossible today. What about tomorrow? A.M. Khan Arlington, Texas

Teaching tips Columnist Rushworth Kidder quotes from the National Assessment of Educational Progress report, ``Students having difficulty organizing their thoughts coherently in writing suggests that they need much further guidance in how to think about what they write'' [``Teaching writing, and training teachers to teach writing,'' Dec. 15]. This requires that the teacher read each assignment, and meet with the writer. Emma A. Hunt Charlestown, N.H.