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Astrologer Sues NASA Over Comet Probe 999

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the gotta-hate-when-that-happens dept.
0110011001110101 writes "NASA's mission that sent a space probe smashing into a comet raised more than cosmic dust -- it also brought a lawsuit from a Russian astrologer. 'Bai is seeking damages totaling $300 million -- the approximate equivalent of the mission's cost -- for her "moral sufferings," Izvestia said, citing her lawyer Alexander Molokhov. She earlier told the paper that the experiment would "deform her horoscope." ' "
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Astrologer Sues NASA Over Comet Probe

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  • by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:42AM (#12985727) Journal
    Obviously at least one Russian citizen has wholeheartedly embraced the US style of democracy.
  • by The I Shing (700142) * on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:42AM (#12985729) Journal
    If the Russian court agrees to let this case proceed, it opens the door for all kinds of inane, utterly frivolous lawsuits from astrologers, witch doctors, faith healers, and every other kind of kook out there who wants to make a quick buck by accusing actual scientists of violating some crackpot principle. I'm not an objectivist, but I have to say that Ayn Rand must be rolling over in her grave.
    • by Nplugd (662449) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:49AM (#12985816) Homepage
      Right, because "inane, utterly frivolous lawsuits" never EVER happened in the US so far. Ever.
      • by Troy (3118) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @01:21PM (#12986722)
        I'm sorry, but I own the trademark rights to the words "inane" and "lawsuit". Lucky for you I have very generous liscening terms that will keep you out of court.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:51AM (#12985831)

      If the Russian court agrees to let this case proceed, it opens the door for all kinds of inane, utterly frivolous lawsuits from astrologers, witch doctors, faith healers, and every other kind of kook out there who wants to make a quick buck by accusing actual scientists of violating some crackpot principle.

      On the other hand, it would also show very clearly that there's absolutely no evidence that such crackpot theories are valid. Think about it - this woman stands to gain $300 million if she can show that her particular crackpot theory is valid. If the court case proceeds, and she can't show that astrology works - given some pretty damn big incentive - then perhaps less people will be inclined to believe in astrology.

      By the way, what's the deciding factor between whether or not something is a) a crackpot theory, b) a superstition, or c) a religion? Seems to me, the amount of believers and money involved has something to do with it.

      A crackpot theory is typically believed by one or two people. Astrology is a cottage industry. And Christianity has a billion believers and stupid amounts of money.

      • by lheal (86013) <lheal1999@yahoo . c om> on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:57AM (#12985895) Journal
        then perhaps less people will be inclined to believe in astrology.

        Nope, not a chance. The publicity would just legitimize astrology. When the suit was finally decided in NASA's favor, believers would just spin it that NASA had better lawyers.

        People who believe in astrology don't do so because of logic. They cling to the hope that the universe is not just a giant machine, that they are somehow made unique among humans by their keen intelligence, inside knowledge, and special placement in it.

        • People who believe in astrology don't do so because of logic. They cling to the hope that the universe is not just a giant machine, that they are somehow made unique among humans by their keen intelligence, inside knowledge, and special placement in it.

          The very nature of astrology implies that the universe is a giant machine and that it determines your attributes. The placements of planets A, B, and C indicate that I have attribute X. While the belief is illogical, the motivation for it appears to be a fe
        • by symbolic (11752) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:16PM (#12986091)

          People who believe in astrology don't do so because of logic.

          People who believe in anything that isn't objectively verifiable, do not believe because of logic. This includes religious belief, since it is, by definition, faith-based. Faith is not rational or logical- it is merely a manner in which we choose to structure our worldview.
        • by fyoder (857358) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:52PM (#12986458) Homepage Journal
          ...that they are somehow made unique among humans by their keen intelligence, inside knowledge, and special placement in it.

          Ah, sort of like slashdotters ;-)

    • by flabbergasted (518911) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:51AM (#12985833)
      Yeah, the next thing you know a bunch of fundamentalist christians will be trying to force through laws to push their form of creationism into public classrooms.
      • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:55AM (#12985882)
        No way, that'll never happen. That's just taking it too far.

        On a side note, I have to leave Texas before my children get in to school. I already had my "linux" fish ripped off my car once since I moved here.
        • Hahaha... Yeah, they'll do that out here in Texas. We used to have elementary school classes that taught social studies and civics and stuff like that. They taught how to value freedom and how to respect one another. What ever happened to those classes? Are they still being taught? I know they left an impression on me but it seems clear that it's not leaving an impression these days.

          On the other hand, you realize that a Linux fish is essentially a mobile insult against their religious expression which

        • I'll appoligize (as a christian) on behalf of whoever ripped off your fish, as that was a very "un-christian" act.

      • by mooingyak (720677) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:29PM (#12986216)
        It's not just the Christians. Those who believe in the FSM want their theories [venganza.org] put into classrooms too.
    • Actually, lawsuits by crackpots are not uncommon. Especially producers of "alternative" medicine are prone to sueing people who state that their product doesn't work. Normally, such a case is judged on the fact whether it can be shown objectively that the defendants statements were false. Science is objective, and such cases are therefore usually resolved by a loss of the crackpot (since alternative medicine is alternative because science has shown that it doesn't really work). I think in this case the same
      • by king-manic (409855) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:38PM (#12986310)
        Actually, lawsuits by crackpots are not uncommon.

        To fix this, you should have a law liek Canada's where the loser pays the legal bills for both sides in a law suit. This ensure frivilous law suits have to think twice. While a suit with a legitimate chance of suceeding won't be unduly impeded.
        • by Dirtside (91468) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @03:55PM (#12988184) Journal
          No, that's a terrible idea. Real "Loser pays"-type systems usually have the judge deciding who pays how much, based on things like, was this a reasonable action (even if you didn't win), did you introduce frivolous motions just to waste time and money, etc.

          Pure loser-pays systems are no better than the status quo, because then small individuals daren't ever risk suing large organizations, because if they lose, they may end up owing millions in legal fees (since the big company can spend that much without breaking a sweat). You might say, "Well if they lose, then it was obviously a frivolous lawsuit," but that's plainly not true either.
    • by daniil (775990) <evilbj8rn@hotmail.com> on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:03PM (#12985961) Journal
      According to Izvestia, the first hearing took place on Monday, but as the representatives of NASA were not present in the court, it was postponed to the 28th.

      And i do believe they will let the case proceed, as the judge recommended that the astrologer and her defendant find a specialist who would be able to tell whether the experiment caused and increased threat of comet impact. It seems that they are trying to spin the case into a demonstration against the US "solving all problems, scientific ones included, with bombs." (quoting the astrologer herself) Yeah, so it might be absurd, but it seems that in foreign politics, everything goes for the Russians.

  • Although I'm an east european myself, I hate "irrational beliefs", especially when they lead to ridiculous lawsuits.
  • by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:43AM (#12985737) Homepage
    "She earlier told the paper that the experiment would "deform her horoscope."

    Oh, and she didn't see this coming?

  • by arc.light (125142) <dbcurry@hotmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:43AM (#12985741)
    It appears the inhabitants of Tempel-1 are lawsuit-happy [transterrestrial.com] as well.
  • by dave-tx (684169) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [todhsals+80891fd]> on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:44AM (#12985748)
    NASA's reply to Marina Bai: "Would you be happier if our next probe was smashed into Uranus?"

  • Waaa. (Score:5, Funny)

    by say__10 (768448) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:44AM (#12985751) Homepage
    I wish NASA would be as cynical as I am in their response. "Are you going to cry about it?" Then proceed to blow chunks out of 10 or 15 more comets, to show them who is boss.
  • Fucking moron astrologers.

    I predict she will lose!

    Don't claim to tell me my future when you can't even tell me what I had for breakfast. Wanna really impress me? Buy the winning lottery ticket. Over. And Over. And Over.

  • Well then (Score:5, Funny)

    by epiphani (254981) <<ten.lad> <ta> <inahpipe>> on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:44AM (#12985754)
    That settles it! I'm going ahead with my lawsuit against slashdot. I've never gotten a first post, and its fucked up my chi.
  • Bit silly (Score:4, Funny)

    by lilmouse (310335) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:44AM (#12985755)
    NASA should charge this nut for deftly moving the comet a milimeter from its original course, thus saving his love-life from complete misery.

    OTOH, I'm glad to see the Russians finally learning to do things the American Way (i.e., sue the pants off everyone).

    --LWM
    • by tomhudson (43916)

      OTOH, I'm glad to see the Russians finally learning to do things the American Way (i.e., sue the pants off everyone).

      No, it only means we're going to get more russian spam like this:

      Subject: Y0u4 FR33 V4C4T10N IS R34DY

      How I Made $$$$ by SUING NASA.

      Comrade, I am writing you with this GREAT BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY. Surely you must have heard about the astrologer who sued NASA for wrecking her horoscope?

      Remember all those rumours of the SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCHES CHANGING THE CLIMATE? You too can sue NASA fo

  • by daniil (775990) <evilbj8rn@hotmail.com> on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:45AM (#12985757) Journal
    After all, they did just alter my fate. If a butterfly flapping its wings can cause a hurricane, then who knows what consequences this change of Universal order might have!
  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:45AM (#12985759) Homepage Journal
    What, exactly, are "moral sufferings"? When your sense of values is in some way damaged?

    Is this why she's suing? Because, thanks to NASA, she doesn't have any morals, and therefore is absolutely fine with the idea of frivolous lawsuits?

    Is this what happened to Jeffrey Vernon Merkey [merkeylaw.com] too?

  • by squarefish (561836) * on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:45AM (#12985760)
    She needs to be beaten with a clue by four [everything2.com]
  • by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:46AM (#12985769)
    The woman is suing the government for depriving her of her ability to make an income in her current profession. Her allegation is that the government (through NASA) has fundamentally shifted the course of celestial bodies with the impact and that she is entitled to monetary recompense.

    This is so similar to how the record companies are fighting tooth and nail to stop people from changing the RIAA's business model.

    Is someone entitled to make a living? Should the government be in the business of putting people out of work?
    • by jusdisgi (617863) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:00PM (#12985934)

      The woman is suing the government for depriving her of her ability to make an income in her current profession.

      Bullshit.

      Changing the course of a celestial body in no way deprives this person of her livelihood. She's supposed to read the movements of the stars, right? Ok, so this was one of them. We, humans, products of the universe, make changes to it just like stars and planets exert their own forces on comets. An astrologer should be reading the movements, not complaining about them being made.

      Now, naturally, since she's just making this shit up anyway, what it really amounts to is an increase in her ability to make income; she can call all her clients up and say "You must come in immediately for a new reading, as NASA has just fucked up the heavens." and dupe these poor sons of bitches yet again. And if anybody thinks this lady is up to anything but a (successful) publicity stunt, you're way off base.

      Also, in more direct conflict of the parent statement:

      1)TFA doesn't say she's suing them for loss-of-business damages, but "moral sufferings" ....you just made that up.
      2)300 million? How long would it have taken her to earn that much? Because that's what the damages would be determined by if the cause of action was what you claim. It isn't.

  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:46AM (#12985771)
    From TFA:
    Marina Bai has sued the U.S. space agency, claiming the Deep Impact probe that punched a crater into the comet Tempel 1 late Sunday "ruins the natural balance of forces in the universe"
    Bai is seeking damages totaling $300 million -- the approximate equivalent of the mission's cost -- for her "moral sufferings"
    So...the cost of ruining the 'natural balance of forces in the universe' is $300 mil US. Wonder how she arrived at that figure...could we see a breakdown?
    • Re:Cost analysis (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kryzx (178628) *
      Actually I believe this figure is accurate. Since it cost about $300M (+/- $100M) for Anakin to "restore balance to the force", the figure in the lawsuit is roughly the amount required to repair the damage.

      But will she use it to make the repairs, or spend it on vodka, lottery tickets and incense?
  • Not the first (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Crashmarik (635988) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:46AM (#12985772)
    A few years ago a psychic in florida sued a MRI facility. Her claim was that the MRI had robbed her of her psychic abilities.

  • by bani (467531) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:46AM (#12985775)
    You infidel aggressors are simply not content to bomb afghanistan and iraq!

    American aggressors are now bombing innocent comets!

    What do you think you will find, WMD or oil in Tempel I? Stupid USA!

    NASA should go back to doing what it does best, making fake moon landings!
  • by BorisSkratchunkov (642046) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:46AM (#12985777) Journal
    You may be persecuted by American space agencies today, dear Libra. However, despite your "moral sufferings" you will be able to gain great fortune from friends, family, and coworkers. Embrace your lawyers, Libra, for they will save you from the unnatural entropy of the universe caused by space probe crashes!
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:49AM (#12985808) Homepage Journal
    If this goes through I will counter sue for one billion dollars. The damage to my karma this will cause will be HUGE. I mean it. I will be so mad at this woman that my aura will never be the same. I could end up coming back as a rat or worse fan of Ayn Rand or some other low form of life.
    What amount of money would be enough to make up for this eternal setback? A billion would be a good start.

    On a more reasonable note. You can sue anyone for anything. It is nothing but a stunt.
  • Deform? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Viking Coder (102287) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:50AM (#12985818)
    She earlier told the paper that the experiment would "deform her horoscope."

    NASA: Okay - how's about this - we spend all the money required to create a new horoscope, which incorporates the changes we made to the "fabric of the universe", and has just as much predictive power as your old horoscope.

    Total price: $0.

    Studying astronomy instead of astrology: Priceless.

    For bullshit predictions based on the position of the planets at the moment of your birth, there's Madame Marina Bai. For everything else there's NASA.
  • Let it proceed... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moz25 (262020) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:50AM (#12985819) Homepage
    I'm certainly interested in seeing such a case appear in court. Usually, charlatans such as these take care to avoid independent scrutiny and measurability. To let it appear before court would place her in the position of having to prove the had any abilities to begin with... and that's going to work against her the most. At least, I'm guessing the judge is going to be a lot more emotionally independent than her clients who probably have an emotional interest in believing in her abilities.

    Besides, she has 1 million dollars waiting for her if she can prove she has paranormal abilities [randi.org]
    • Re:Let it proceed... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Flyboy Connor (741764) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:05PM (#12985993)
      Ah yes, so now the woman has to show in court that astrology really works -- which she can't, of course. Unfortunately, her answer will be that the fact that it doesn't work validates her claim: NASA changed the universe so that she cannot really predict anything anymore. And of course she will bring in a string of witnesses who will claim that her predictions before this date were faultless.
      • Re:Let it proceed... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by moz25 (262020)
        You're right, that is probably how a charlatan like her would argue. But, even if she succeeds in proving that astrology worked before, she would still need to prove that the same astrology is no longer going to work at all as the result of 1 comet impact.

        With other words: in order for her to prove her claim, she has to prove that astrology from now on is false and that all astrologers following the same method will fail to reach "true" conclusions. It actually seems in the interest of other astrologers fo
  • by Pope (17780) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:51AM (#12985832)
    The whole Zodiac system was made up 2000 years ago, on the idea that your 'sign' was the one that the sun rose into on your birthday. At the present time, the Earth has precessed something like 15 degrees, so the sun actually rises 1 sign away from where it originally did. (thanks Bill Nye!)

    Fuck these goddamn superstitious idiots anyway, we left the caves a long time ago.
  • sure, why not. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by supernova87a (532540) <kepler1@hotma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:51AM (#12985837)
    I say that if she, while blindfolded and away from any source of news, could have told the authorities the exact instant the impact occurred, and supposedly changed all the "energy fields" and "balance of the universe", by all means, let her lawsuit be heard!
  • Defense (Score:3, Funny)

    by retinaburn (218226) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:51AM (#12985839)
    Defense Lawyer: Your honour, if you let this case proceed our court systems will be flooded with inane frivolous lawsuits, and the number of lawyers in our country will rise exponentially. As proof I would like to enter into Evident Exhibit A, the United States legal system.

    Judge: Case Dismissed!
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @11:55AM (#12985883) Journal
    The REAL reason they popped that comet, was to improve the Feng-shui of the local celestial neighborhood.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:02PM (#12985951) Homepage Journal
    She should have seen this turn of events coming.
  • by Gyorg_Lavode (520114) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:16PM (#12986089)
    This is really a test of the Russian courts. I know many large foreign (to Russia) companies do not want to work in Russia as they fear frivilous lawsuits losing them money as Russian courts hand it to the locals simply because they enjoy profiting.

    Should this case not receive the honest critic of its validity that it should get, I can see Russian courts becoming basically ignored on the world scale. Why bother defending yourself if you can't win? You might as well lose and just let them try to collect.

  • by Peter_Pork (627313) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:39PM (#12986322)
    In an unprecedented prank, NASA engineers sent capsule with astrologer and her lawyer towards Mercury. Her parents sued over the suffering endured by her daughter while sharing the tiny capsule with a lawyer. "Ok, I must admit that part was not nice", said a nerdy NASA engineer. Oddly enough, this "astral trip" was part of a previous settlement...
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday July 05, 2005 @12:39PM (#12986324) Homepage
    Any real astrologer knows that the courts are not the proper channel for such disputes. The correct procedure for redress of these complaints is for the astrologer to put a curse on NASA. And then, when NASA begs forgiveness, she can dictate her terms to them.

    Why don't people use the established channels the way they were intended to be used anymore???

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