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Dear Matthew Alice:

If you're in a falling elevator, and just before it hits you were to jump in the air, would you be fine?

La Mesa

Fine isn't the adjective that pops into my mind. Try fractured. Flattened. Finished. The big problem with your plummeting elevator scenario is that you're not some passive. bystander to the proceedings. You're falling at the same rate the box is. Assuming you're an average human bean, you can't possibly jump fast enough to counteract your fall rate. The typical unaided human vertical jump from a standing start will get your body moving at a rate of, oh, four, five feet per second. You and your elevator wouldn't have to fall for very long to be plunging at a rate many times that. No matter how precise your timing, you 'Il never overcome the differential.

Dear Matthew Alice:

Until recently, every Susan B. Anthony dollar I'd seen was dated 1979. The ratio is about 50 to 1, the rogue being a 1980. What years were Anthony dollars minted? How many each year? In short, how rare is a 1980 Susan B.? Thanks for answering a question that's just small change.

Ben Linton
City Heights

Ah, the U.S. Mint's two-dollar misunderstanding, wherein the Feds learned a lesson on the free market and consumer demand. The first Susans were minted in Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco in 1979 — 757,813,744 of them. The Mint, then set about persuading us that we wanted, we needed a two-dollar coin. Underwhelming consumer enthusiasm resulted in a minting in 1980 of 89,660,708 of the monetary duds roughly one ninth as many as in '79. When it became clear that we just weren't going to buy the idea (or, spend the idea, actually) the Mint produced 9,742,000 in 1981 and then dis.continued production.

Obviously, the '81s are the rare birds here. Butt still, according to knowledgeable sources at the Old Coin Shop in North Park, at best you'll get only three or four dollars for an '81 Susan. The coins from '79 and '80 are worth exactly $2.00. And these may be the only coins where the circulated types are more unusual than the uncirculated, since that's what caused their demise in the first place.

Dear Matthew Alice:

As a Christian and believer in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, I heard a story that the New York Times already has its type set up and ready to print a story on this event. Is this true?

San Diego

Just another one of our odd rumors is all this is, M.W. — a story that circulates by word of mouth back and forth across the continent year after year. Granted, the press and broadcasters are frequently accused of manufacturing the news, but it's not likely that a journalist would have much to gain by predicting the future and writing a story about something that hasn't happened yet. Just out of curiosity, what do you suppose such a . creative writer would have put in the readymade Second Coming article? How would he or she have described the scene? (Meaning no disrespect, you may be convinced you know exactly what the scene would look like, but not everyone would agree with your version.) And do you figure the brass at the New York Times is assuming that the day following the Second Coming, it will just be business as usual? We may have bigger things on our minds than crossword puzzles and theater reviews.

And any newspaper inclined to save a little time and prewrite the news would surely be deterred by the infamous stories about the Truman-Dewey presidential election in 1948. Virtually all the journalistic and political powers of the day were so convinced that Dewey Dewey would whup Truman's butt that it was assumed to be a "fact." A few days before the election, Life magazine hit the stands with a picture of Tom Dewey and the caption: "The next president travels by ferry boat over the broad waters of San Francisco Bay." Drew Pearson prepared a column in advance of the election, scheduled to be printed the day after the voting, in which he described the personalities in "the closely knit group around 10m Dewey, who will take the White House 86 days from now." Gallup and New York Times opinion polls deemed Dewey the landslide winner. And the Chicago Daily Tribune, ignoring Truman's early lead in the returns, published its morning-after-voting edition with one of the most famous headlines of all time: "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN."

If you're scratching your head trying to recall something about President Dewey, forget it. He lost, When Truman came back into Washington after all the votes were counted, the Washington Post hung a banner across the facade of its building stating, "Mr. President, we are ready to eat crow whenever you're ready to serve it." So much for predicting the news.

That having been said, there is one department in most news-gathering agencies that does have stories ready to go when the need arises. But this department bases its predictions on one of the few sure bets in life: death. The "morgue" is the file that holds all the background information for future obituaries of famous people. In most cases, the obituaries have already been written, omitting, of course, the imponderables like time, place, and cause, which can be filled in at the last minute. Obituaries are updated periodically to keep them current. A celebrity's obituary contains a good deal of history, career highlights, and such, all of which can be written up in advance.

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