Silly Season at the New York Times

by John Delach

Every so often for no apparent reason the usual gang of editors at the Grey Lady must skedaddle out-of-town or just get blottoed leaving the content of their newspaper to the control of  inmates from some upscale prison for the creative yet mentally insane. Such was the case on Thursday, November 7, 2013.

The first instance of this silliness was not difficult to locate. There, on the lower fold of the first page, was this color photograph of a factory in Valencia, Venezuela showing a stack of mannequins shaped like voluptuous women that the copy described as, “…with a bulging bosom and cantilevered buttocks, a wasp waist and long legs, a fiberglass fantasy…”

Good God Almighty, bulging bosom and cantilevered buttocks! Has Fifty Shades of Grey been reproduced on the front page of the Paper of Record? Not quite, but somehow the NY Times did feel the need to place this story on Page One, a story about the latest trend in Venezuelan mannequins designed to reflect the national trend of implant surgery. Page One material indeed!

But there is more silliness. On Page A12, we find two opportunities to worry about coming disasters. First off, any day now, GOCE, (pronounced Go-chay), a one-ton satellite used to map Earth’s gravitational field will come tumbling down from the heavens. Notes the NY Times: “Where and when it will crash no one knows. It could be almost anywhere on the globe.”

And when it comes crashing down, 25 to 45 pieces of GOCE will survive to strike something or someone. No big deal? Ah, but one may weigh as much as 200 pounds. Rune Floberghagen, (can’t make this stuff up), the mission manager for the European Space Agency (ESA) who own GOCE, thought it would come down last Sunday or Monday and the closest fix the ESA would come to pinpointing where it would impact would be on the day before it hits and then to some point during its last three orbits! (Early on Monday, November 11, GOCE met a watery end in the South Atlantic between Antarctica and South America. Whew, that was a close one if you live on the Falkands)

But, even though it turned out that we ducked that bullet, opposite the GOCE piece is one about future strikes by large asteroids, 450-feet-wide  . Once thought to be a one in 100 to 200 years occurrence, new data suggests they will happen, “…as often as every decade or two.”

To counter this or at least let us have some forewarning of a strike by a 450-foot-wide asteroid, Dr. Edward T. Lu, a former astronaut and now director of the B612 Foundation proposes placing a space telescope called Sentinel above us to watch for these monsters. Dr Lu notes, “A 450-foot-wide asteroid would be the equivalent to 150 million tons of TNT. You’re not going to wipe out humanity, but if you get unlucky, you could kill 50 million people or you could collapse the world’s economy for a century or two centuries.”

Good grief, no matter how you slice it, this is heavy stuff to digest. One thing surely for certain, the thought of one of these monsters falling from the heavens makes the shenanigans involving the Miami Dolphins lineman, Ritchie Incognito pale in comparison.