Asteroid-Naming in the New Millennium
Acting out of "a sense of public duty"...
Acting out of "a sense of public duty," Ashok Nimgade '80, M.P.H. '98, M.D., of Boston, has forwarded for publication a copy of a letter he knows to have been sent by David Anthony Garcia '81 to Brian G. Marsden at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The letter has not been answered, Nimgade states, and may have fallen into a black hole. Garcia wrote to Marsden as follows:
"I am an attorney in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This morning I read an Associated Press story about Asteroid 2000BF19, which will fly perilously close to, and possibly into, Earth in 2022. I understand your office handles the naming of newly discovered asteroids and the like.
"The name '2000BF19' lacks the punch needed to describe this asteroid. I understand that the discoverers of such an object are often given the opportunity to do the naming. But it strikes me that this particular asteroid's discoverer may be concerned, understandably, with associating his or her name--or anyone else's-- with such a dangerous object. If this is the case, I offer mine. I suggest that the asteroid be renamed 'David A. Garcia's Asteroid of Mass Extinction.' This can be abbreviated 'dagame' for short. Y'all name the thing that and it will get some attention! Funding will pour in like water for studies, telescopes, rocket ships, nuclear space-torpedoes, laser cannon, vaporizers, dolphin astronauts, whatever....
"One last advantage to this proposal. With the risk to Earth, not to mention satellites, space stations, and whatever else we have up there in 2022, panicking individuals or governments may well issue calls for the asteroid's destruction. Accordingly, this asteroid needs a lawyer. The natural asteroidal environment must be respected and protected. Also, if it does turn out that the asteroid is going to hit Earth, someone acting on its behalf will need to see that all the necessary environmental impact statements are prepared in proper form. I would be honored to help my namesake asteroid comply with applicable statutes, regulations, and city and county ordinances."
"Some of our people are being 'mentioned in dispatches,'" Stuart W. Settle, J.D. '72, of Richmond, observes in a note attached to a clipping from the Washington Times. The clipping is headlined, "Man must pay for adultery," and tells that "a Baltimore psychiatrist has been ordered to pay $42,800 in damages to a Duke University professor for having sex with the professor's wife."
"This is North Carolina," Judge Howard Manning wrote in his decision, according to the press report. "In North Carolina, one does not engage in sexual intercourse with another person's spouse knowing that he or she is married."
Judge Manning noted that all the parties to the lawsuit are graduates of Harvard. "These acts of adultery occurred in an academic atmosphere, with trappings of fine wine, romantic lunches, classical records and CDs, cerebral conversations and within an environment self-perceived as highly cultured." Never mind the trappings, ruled the judge, the adulterous conduct was "common as pig tracks."
Washington-based magazine writer Ted Rose '94 reports that he thought of Harvard recently while "deep in the Southeast Asian interior, in the French colonial Laotian city of Luang Prabang. While I was there, I learned that there was only one American living in the city, working as a glassmaker next to a beautiful wat near the Mekong River. For some reason, probably the stifling heat, I became convinced that this glassmaker surely was a Harvard graduate. When I found him, an athletic-looking guy in his late twenties working away in the basement along with two Lao nationals, I didn't beat around the bush. 'By any chance, did you go to Harvard?' The graduate of Montclair State College later told me, over a wonderful dinner at his house, that questions like mine were precisely the reason he had fled to Luang Prabang in the first place."