Artificial asteroids, shooting rude men, MG sports cars, and the longest take-out run ever

  • Unusual orbital path of asteroid 2010KQ. Very strange, no?

    Asteroid made by intelligent beings?In the early morning of May 16 Richard Kowalski, an astronomer at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, detected a small deep-space object that might be heading toward Earth. After the initial alarm it was determined that its path would bring it close to Earth, but it would pass safely at a distance just beyond the Moon’s orbit (sigh of relief). But as the new asteroid made its fly-by it was observed by a number of large telescopes and some unusual factors were noted, characteristics not like any other asteroid. And its orbit is very unusual too, not like that any other natural celestial body, an indication that it could and had moved under its own power. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Near-Earth Object Program have concluded this asteroid is probably not natural at all. But who made it?

  • And speaking of asteroids, Japan’s first deep-space probe, Hayabusa, has just completed its 5-year, 1.25-billion-mile return trip to bring back a sample of an asteroid, landing in the Australian Outback. It’s a long way to go for take-out, but the results should be worth it and the video is spectacular.
  • A list of things that should not longer exist, but somehow still do. I might quibble about some items (the U.S. Senate), but I’m amazed that this isn’t included.
  • Cassy Fiano sees a double standard in video games: “A game that makes women the targets of violence is bad, but a game that makes men the targets of violence is fine.” She has a few choice thoughts about about video games that deal with rape, men who make cat-calls, and when it’s OK to shoot them. Cassy is nothing if not outspoken.
  • Yesterday was Flag Day. Did you notice? In fact the President has declared this to be Flag Week. Didn’t know that either? It matters — pay attention.
  • And now for our bit of history: Remember the iconic British MG sports cars of he ’50s and ’60s? Ryan O’Neal took Ali McGraw on romantic trysts in his MG-B in the sappy ’60s Kleenex-mover Love Story, Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney reminisce about their MG-TD in Two for the Road, hunky bad boy Richard Gere stole a pink MGB in Breathless, Robert Wagner and Teri Garr drove a beautiful black MG-SA through beautiful countryside in To Catch a King. Like Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa Romeo Spider in The Graduate and the Vespa on which Audrey Hepburn rode Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, the little MG convertibles came to be true icons of an era. Nobody remembers the Fords and Mercedes that appeared in such movies, but everyone remembers the Alfa, the Vespa, and the MGs.But not long after that — in the ’70s and ’80s — MGs essentially disappeared, first from the U.S., then from its British home as well. As auto design and production technology advanced the MG became a dinosaur, outclassed and outsold by the likes of the Datsun (now Nissan) 1600cc and 2000cc roadsters and more modern designs like the Fiat X1/9. The charm wore off and by 1980 MG was no more. The name was revived as MG-badged versions of various small cars and there was even a dedicated MG-F in the mid-’90s, but none caught on and in 2005 the MG line died along with its hoary parent company British Leyland, a bumbling left-over from Britain’s pre-Thatcher days of industrial socialism.

    But now MG is back in its own right — sort of. New MGs are now made by a subsidiary of SAIC, the giant Chinese auto conglomerate that bought the MG and Rover car brands. The designs are all new and modern, but does “MG” in Chinese still mean what it did in the King’s English?

    We’ll leave aside the question of whether the new ones will have formerly-standard MG features such as leaky engines, drafty tops, antiquated technology, and all-around unreliability, the latter courtesy of the accursed Lucas electricals. (“Lucas: The Prince of Darkness.”) But what about the styling and appearance? Do you see in the new ones the impish charm, the cute-but-cool sportiness that appealed to both men and women? You decide:

    Mazda MX-5 Miata

    Classic MGB roadster (via Chicagoland MG Club)

    New MG-TF

My verdict: I’ve long thought that “when better British roadsters are built, the Japanese will build them.” (I’ve thought the same about Harleys, too.) And I think I was right (on both counts). The Mazda Miata is and has been faster than the old or new MG, breezily out-handles them both, is much more civilized than the MGB ever was (don’t know about the new TF), has huge cuteness and fun-to-drive factors for both sexes, it’s well-built, very reliable, and the fit-like-a-glove ergonomics are a delight to the senses. That’s probably why the Miata has not only been around longer than the MGB ever was, but is by far the best-selling roadster of all time. The Chinese MG-TF looks like, well, it looks like a little Chevy Cobalt with a rag top. No originality, no charm — sorry, SAIC. Go buy a Miata and see how it’s done.

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