If you combined Harper’s Index with its Findings section and dramatically lowered the research quality of both, you would get my mind after a good Internet k-hole. Here are all the things I learned this week.
On February 15, 2013, a 10-ton meteor entered the atmosphere at 33,000 miles per hour and exploded in the sky over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk with a force 20 times more powerful than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. The explosion, brighter than the sun, shattered 100,000 square meters of window glass; the temperature in Chelyabinsk was -6°C. On the same day, an asteroid named DA14 came within 17,000 miles of Earth, as close as a DirecTV satellite. The odds of these two events occurring on the same day is estimated to be 1 in 100 million, almost the same as the odds of being crushed to death by a vending machine and better than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot.
A space object made of rock or metal is an asteroid. A space object made of dirt or ice is a comet. When a part breaks off from an asteroid or a comet and enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s a meteor—a shooting star. In 2007, the publishing company that owns “When You Wish Upon a Star” sued the distributors behind “Family Guy” for spoofing the song in an episode called “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein,” but the lawsuit was thrown out two years later, the judge citing parody as separate from copyright infringement. If a shooting star makes it to Earth without burning up, it’s a meteorite; found meteorites are worth up to $1,000 per gram, although meteorite researchers often charge 20% of the specimen’s price in exchange for analysis and confirmation.
The largest asteroid is the dwarf planet Ceres, which is named after the classical goddess of agriculture, known in Greek myth as Demeter. In Demeter’s legend, her daughter Persephone is kidnapped by Pluto and taken to hell; the grief-stricken goddess wanders the earth, forgetting her duties, until the world begins to wither as “excessive rain destroys, the winds destroy, the constellations harm.” Around 66 million years ago, something similar happened after an asteroid 6 miles in diameter hit Earth near the Yucatan Peninsula, creating a dust cloud that blocked the sun for a year and killed off 75% of plant and animal species, including all the dinosaurs.
Some astrologers associate Ceres with the sign of Virgo, which is the most common zodiac sign among the super-wealthy (12% of billionaires, including Warren Buffett, are Virgos). The least common sign among billionaires is Sagittarius (6%). The celebrity astrologer Susan Miller says that around 73 percent of her readers went to college or graduate school, and 38 percent earn above $150,000, which is what 88% of Americans say they’d need to make to feel financially secure. “In the end,” Miller told a reporter from Interview magazine, “the outcome will be up to you. It is important to know that astrology is not fortune telling. Never underestimate the power of your personality and your determination.”
A TMZ reporter recently asked Warren Buffett, “When you go to the club, do you make it rain?” He didn’t answer. In 2007, NFL cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones infamously made it rain at the Minxx strip club in Las Vegas, then attempted to collect his strewn money to make it rain again; when a dancer tried to keep the cash, he slammed her against the stage and started a brawl that led to two shootings and a victim settlement of $11.6 million. In the early twentieth century, America saw a proliferation of “rainmakers” who claimed they could induce precipitation to stave off drought. The San Diego city council hired a rainmaker named Charles M. Hatfield to fill the Morena Dam reservoir, offering a fee of $1,000 per inch. After Hatfield accepted, rain started to fall on San Diego and continued with little respite for two weeks, at which point 20 people were dead and the county’s infrastructure was nearly destroyed. Hatfield successfully avoided the lawsuit and continued working as a rainmaker until the Great Depression forced him to resume his previous career selling sewing machines.