Hoaxes and fly swatters
Two e-mails that furiously made the rounds last week illustrated just how easy it is for people to get “excited” even over far-fetched ideas and non-issues.
I am not talking about the hyperventilating that’s been happening over the supposed indications that the President is preparing to run as representative of her district in her home province of Pampanga, supposedly as part of a larger scheme to eventually become Prime Minister of this country. It’s not a non-issue, of course; it’s a potentially explosive issue but the type that can only blow up on the faces of those pushing it.
Still, in response to those who have been egging me to say something on the matter, my thoughts hew closely to the Supreme Court’s position on the constituent assembly—let’s wait for more concrete indications. Put more picturesquely, I would rather wait for those people pushing the inconceivable to tighten the noose some more around their necks; the better to hang them with when the appropriate time comes. In the meantime, I am of the belief that what the bright boys at the Palace are doing is building and reinforcing scenarios that would translate into better bargaining points. They know she can’t. The people will not willingly bend over backwards; not this time around.
I am talking about that e-mail about how we, earthlings, will be witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle next month— two moons of more or less the same sizes. The other e-mail was about that famous murder at the White House involving United States President Barack Obama and a hapless, pitiful housefly that got some people so riled up.
According to the hoax that’s being forwarded by people who were probably asleep in their astronomy classes, planet Mars will be closest to Earth next month. The three e-mails I received even had a picture of Mars and the moon magnified to the same size and positioned perilously close to each other. A friend whom I wanted to bop on the head gushed at the possibility until I reminded him of the cataclysmic repercussions of such a celestial event. The gravitational pull that would be created by having two moons side-by-side would be disastrous, not to mention the kind of havoc that would result on the tides of this planet!
The sad thing is that this hoax is actually a result of someone’s careless interpretation of an old fact. Mars did come closest to Earth in 2003 and an official and factual news report said that the planet, when viewed “at a modest 75-power magnification will look as large as the moon.” Someone with an overactive imagination and nothing better to do conveniently dropped the reference to “75-power magnification,” threw in magnified pictures of both Mars and the Moon and then forwarded the baloney to the rest of the world.
I can understand how a number of people fell for the hoax. The solar system and the universe beyond are realms that remain mysterious and captivating to most of us. I, for one, have always had this fascination with astronomical events, thanks to my grandmother who had a profound interest in the stars and the planets and would wake us up in the middle of the night to witness whatever celestial phenomenon was on, such as when a comet was visible or when an eclipse was occurring. For the most part, however, many of the information she passed on to us were breathtaking but I discovered much later on, were quite erroneous.
Like everyone else, I spent quite a number of my elementary years gazing at a mock up of the solar system at the ceiling of our science room where the planets stood quite close to each other. It was only about a decade ago while reading Bill Bryson’s book A Short History of Nearly Everything when I actually learned that even if the earth were reduced to the size of an ordinary pea, a realistic rendition of the solar system drawn to scale would have Jupiter situated about 300 meters away from earth and Pluto would be about two-and-a-half kilometers away.
The other e-mail that I received that I found quite amusing was that bit about how people belonging to the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals chided Obama for what they thought was inhumane attitude towards a fly. The President of the most powerful nation on earth was being interviewed on television when a fly intruded. He smacked it dead. PETA sent Obama a bug catcher that he can use to trap a housefly next time around and taught him the proper way to treat flies—which according to them, is to catch it in a humane way and then release it outside.
I understand that the protest was done more for political reasons than anything else. We all have our own causes and advocacies. But really, taking up the cudgels for houseflies and their rights and chiding a President for swatting a fly? I am not sure such a move advanced the cause of political correctness in a proactive way.