No. 281: "Sign Here"

No. 281: "Sign Here"

No. 281: "Sign Here"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
July 27 1999 3:15 AM

No. 281: "Sign Here"

Five years ago, at a cost of $1,200, Vicksburg, Miss., erected two identical signs. Now one has been spray-painted with the word "hypocrite," and the other has been smashed to pieces. What do the signs say?

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Send your answer by noon ET Tuesday to newsquiz@slate.com.

Thursday's Question (No. 280)--"Perturbed":
According to the Times of London, around the first of the year, something will happen on Long Island that scientists believe has a small but genuine chance of causing "perturbations of the universe" that could destroy the world. What will happen?

(Question courtesy of Jennifer Miller.)

"Hey! Lay off Bernadette Peters. She's settled down now."--Al Petrosky

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"According to Pierre Salinger, the U.S. Navy will resume testing of the same missiles that brought down TWA Flight 800."--Chris Thomas

"The Gimelsteins, of Lawrence, will order tastefully understated invitations to their daughter's bat mitzvah."--Jordan Kroop

"Peggy Siegel will list Mort Zuckerman as a 'confirmed arrival' even though he hasn't RSVP'd."--Hendrik Hertzberg

"A trumpet will sound and John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. will rise out of the Sound, clothed in pure white, shining like the sun, surrounded by the hosts of heaven."--Richard A. DeCamp

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Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

One reason Long Island epitomizes boredom is because of its ur-suburb, Levittown, tedium expressed as architecture. For one thing, it's relentless--80,000 houses. (In 1949, you could get a four-room Cape Cod cottage for under $8,000.) For another, you can't walk anywhere, and even if you could, you wouldn't be any place once you got there--no civic center, no parks, no shopping district. This was not an inevitable consequence of suburbia--in his book City Life, Witold Rybczynski describes many delightful suburbs built in America since the 1920s--this was simply bad design.

One thing these postwar tract-home developments did have in abundance was kids, and considered as kid cities, they were wonderfully designed. There were generous kid recreation grounds, the unfenced backyards through which we swarmed. There were kid civic centers where we met one another; they were called "schools." And you got to them via the excellent kid transit system, bicycles. There was even a mobile dessert van, the ice cream truck, that came around each evening, offering kid food. In my suburb, Pennside, the ice cream man was Popsicle Pete--not Crème Brûlée Pete, not Chocolate Mousse Pete. It was a kid's world.

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End of the World Answer

Brookhaven National Laboratories will crank up its Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a nuclear accelerator designed to replicate the Big Bang.

When they do, ions moving at 99.9 percent of the speed of light will smash into each other, generating minuscule fireballs of superdense matter with temperatures of about a trillion degrees, 10,000 times hotter than the sun, creating quarks and gluons and--fingers crossed--strange quarks.

Some physicists assert that there is a tiny but real risk that the machine might create "strangelets," a new type of matter made up of strange quarks, which might start an uncontrollable chain reaction, converting anything they touch into more strange matter. An alternative, but no cheerier, theory suggests that colliding particles could achieve sufficient density to form a mini-black hole whose gravitational field would suck in all surrounding matter. "The creation of one on Earth," the Times points out, "could be disastrous."

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Brookhaven has convened a committee to investigate the danger. Professor Bob Jaffe, director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at MIT, who is on the committee, told the Times, "There have been fears that strange matter could alter the structure of anything nearby. The risk is exceedingly small but the probability of something unusual happening is not zero."

Death and Music Extra

This weekend, two events drew huge crowds--the funeral of Morocco's King Hassan, and Woodstock '99. A comparison:

  • Capsule Description
    Funeral: a moving tribute to a fallen leader
    Festival: three days of peace, love, music, looting, arson, and riot 
  • New York Times Description of Crowd
    Funeral: "hundreds of thousands of mourners"
    Festival: "marauding bands of shirtless bellowing men"
  • Distinguished Guests
    Funeral: dozens of kings, presidents, and prime ministers
    Festival: a sun-addled James Brown
  • Most Moving Image
    Funeral: gun carriage bearing a king's coffin
    Festival: Metallica fans pushing over a Portasan
  • Frequently Heard Cry
    Funeral: "God is great!"
    Festival: "Let's set fire to the pretzel truck!"
  • Catalyst for Outburst of Emotion
    Funeral: death of a longtime monarch
    Festival: $4? For a bag of potato chips?
  • Heartfelt Remarks From Ordinary Person in Crowd
    Funeral: "He was like a father."
    Festival: "I'm going to steal some more stuff."
  • Lesson Learned
    Funeral: Death comes to us all
    Festival: "Should have spent the $60 for pay-per-view."

Errata
"charybdis.com does exist; carybdis is a misspelling, so it is no surprise that it does not. (I'm afraid I've taken too much Latin for any sane person.)"--Jeff Newman

Common Denominator

Hillary and Amy.