NASA's Three Body Problem

Slate's Culture Blog
July 22 2009 11:32 AM

NASA's Three Body Problem

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. 1: "Erin Andrews video peep." Searches for a secretly-filmed tape of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews undressing in a hotel room were the hottest trend on Google today. What to add to the glut of commentary , meta-commentary and meta-meta-commentary surrounding the affair? Over at Slate 's sister publication Newsweek , blogger Jennie Yabroff has an interesting take : "Privacy, it seems, is the new nudity. This is why, when Jennifer Aniston poses topless for the cover of GQ magazine no one does more than shrug, but when paparazzi catch her sunbathing topless, its tabloid fodder for weeks. ... It's as though ... the only time we're truly interested in watching is when they don't want us to look." 

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No. 9: "world of warcraft movie." The hugely popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft (subscribers: 11 million) is becoming a movie . The film will be directed by Sam Raimi, the man behind the Spider-Man series and, most recently, the horror flick Drag Me to Hell . Reactions on the official World of Warcraft messageboards ranged from geek-out ("Best. News. Ever!") to skepticism ("You understand that this man ok-ed the dance scene in Spider-man 3 ?").

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No. 10: "Three Body Problem." It's not what you have on your hands after a triple-homicide: Solving the Three-Body Problem was in fact a crucial mathematical prerequisite for the 1969 Apollo 11 landing. Before we put a man on the moon, mathematician Richard Arenstorf needed to predict precisely how three bodies—the Earth, the moon, and the Apollo 11 spacecraft—would interact in space. Not an easy task, but Arenstorf solved the problem , received the NASA Medal of Scientific Achievement, and the rest is history.

Photograph of director Sam Raimi by FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty .

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