The Most Isolated Man in the Universe

Slate's Culture Blog
July 20 2009 10:46 AM

The Most Isolated Man in the Universe

If we are what we Google, then Google Hot Trends —an hourly rundown of search terms "that experience sudden surges in popularity"—is the Web's best cultural barometer. Here's a sampling of today's top searches. (Rankings on Hot Trends list current as of 9 a.m.)

No. 15: "Angelas Ashes." Frank McCourt, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Angela's Ashes , died yesterday at age 78. McCourt wrote the book chronicling his miserable childhood in Ireland after more than three decades teaching in New York City public schools. In 2007, McCourt wrote in Slate that "when the book was published in Ireland, I was denounced from hill, pulpit, and barstool. ... Citizens claimed I had disgraced the fair name of the city of Limerick, that I had attacked the church, that I had despoiled my mother's name, and that if I returned to Limerick, I would surely be found hanging from a lamppost."

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No. 46: "nomura s jellyfish." What's with July and huge sea creatures? Last week a 20-foot-long shark washed ashore in New York while jumbo flying squid terrified residents of Southern California; now massive Nomura's jellyfish are ballooning up from the deep off the coast of Japan. The jellyfish can grow as large as 6 and a half feet in diameter and weigh as much as 450 pounds—big enough to destroy Japanese fishermen's expensive nets. This is the third invasion in less than five years: During the 2005 episode, an estimated 300 million to 500 million of the jellyfish passed through Japan's Tsuhima Strait daily.

No. 59 "Michael Collins." As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin traipsed about the surface 40 years ago today, Michael Collins—the oft-forgotten third Apollo 11 astronaut—was sailing around the dark side of the moon in the command module. "I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life," Collins wrote in his 1969 memoir Carrying the Fire . "If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side."

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Photograph of Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins courtesy of NASA/Getty Images

Adrian Chen is a freelance writer and an editor at The New Inquiry.

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