News Quiz

No. 491: “Majorer”

An announcement Sunday proclaims that we now have a fourth “supermajor.” Explain.

Send your answer by 10 a.m. ET Wednesday to

Friday’s Question (No. 490)—”Defiance”:

“[It] is about defying gravity. This is the idea. In some ways it is like information. Information is immaterial.” Who said this about what?

“For God’s sake, would everyone just stop giving Al Gore advice about his debating style!”—Greg Diamond

“The Archer Daniels Midland Co. In an ad Sunday morning. Over gold-tinted footage of a kid flying a kite through a field of grain. And I have no idea what it meant, but God bless ‘em. And God bless ethanol.”—Chris Kelly

“Cher, apparently about getting older.”—Steven Davis

“The leading man in David Mamet’s new play, The Scientific Science, about something scientific. He went on to say, ‘This could be, like, a totally new thing. In science. Eh? Because when you have an idea—no, wait—you have an idea, and this idea comes to you: You say, “Yes.” You do not wait. Because inspiration is fleeting, my friend. And so you go, to the lab, to the … it doesn’t matter, you go there, you do the experiments, and maybe you defy gravity, maybe you don’t. You see?’ “—Francis Heaney

“Looks to me as if this is a trick question. It’d be too easy to say someone (or anyone) in the Gore or Bush or Clinton or Lazio or Clarence Thomas camps. So I’m going to try something a little more esoteric and take a wild stab: Could it be Renzo Piano about his winning design for the new Times building on Eighth Avenue?”—David Finkle

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Randy’s Wrap-Up

It’s easy talking about defying gravity when it’s not around to hear all your tough talk. But what is gravity? Simply put—my favorite way—it’s the force of attraction between all objects, not just between an object and the Earth. So there’s no reason for the Earth to act so hoity-toity. The question then arises: If the force of gravity operates on all objects, why don’t all the little skinny people get attracted to the big fat people? It might have something to do with Vogue magazine and those skinny models it likes so much, but if you ever saw one of them vomiting in the ladies’ room at a really expensive restaurant, well, you’d have some explaining to do yourself, if you’re a man: What are you doing in the ladies room? If, however, you are a woman, then more power to you. That’s gravity.

It was Isaac Newton who discovered that a force is required to change the speed or direction of an object: There’s no point in simply shouting at it. Newton realized that the force of gravity made that apple fall from a tree. But it couldn’t make the apple into a pie. (Wouldn’t that be something? An apple that just fell into some gravity-induced, pielike form thanks to science. But it doesn’t. Damn you, science.) Newton figured out that the force needed to push an object at a given acceleration rate was proportional to the object’s mass. F=MA. And he did that on an empty stomach. No pie. Newton proposed that, with enough force, an artificial satellite could be put into orbit around the Earth. But he did not anticipate that the satellite would transmit such crappy TV shows. Dharma & Greg? Why?

Quietly Understated Answer

Architect Renzo Piano was bragging on his award-winning design for a new headquarters for the New York Times.

Gush? You bet. But he’s no David Dunlap, who tells the story—in the Times—this way: “The New York Times plans to stake a gossamer claim to the mid-Manhattan skyline.” Yeah, well stake a gossamer claim to this, pal!

While the contest selected an architect, it did not choose a building. Mr. Piano, designer of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, will create a whole other tower for the site on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st, just across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It will be the seventh home of the Times since 1851, and the first not to include something. What?

That amiable old gasbag William Safire, who’s finally being put out to pasture.

I joke. It will be the first Times building not to include printing presses.

“For me,” Mr. Piano said, “the romance comes from the capacity of the building to sing in some way, to vibrate, and to be a mirror of the weather.”

A vibrating building? Cool!

I joke, knowing he’s being metaphoric, as the eternally youthful Mr. Safire, still very much on the job, could easily explain, and does every week in his delightful column “On Language.” And as Safire says the kids say, “I dig it the most, Daddio.”

Adam Bonin’s Unused Question Extra

“[I’m] not moralizing, I’m applying words the American people adopted. It’s not weird … like eating little babies.” Who said this about what?

Find out at

See an item in the table of contents called “Supreme Court Law Clerks: Diversity at Last.”

Common Denominator

G. W.