Vol. 2, Issue 35, October 12, 2004
Most Popular Halloween Costume This Year is Kepler
Retailers this Halloween season have been surprised to find racks of leftover Spiderman costumes gathering dust as shoppers turn to a new favorite figure: Johannes Kepler.
"We've never seen anything like it," said Wal-Mart Vice President Clara Tomkins. "Our Mega-Mathematician line is normally a fringe seller - no more than ten percent of our Halloween costume gross. A lot of our branches are out of stock already. And it's not like we can quickly doctor our stock to sell costumes that sort of look like Kepler. You can't just slap a beard on Yu-Gi-Oh and call it a day, though some outlets have tried."
Johannes Kepler is now chiefly remembered for discovering the three laws of planetary motion that bear his name, published in the early seventeenth century. He also did important work in optics and contributed to the development of calculus. Moreover, he calculated the most exact astronomical tables hitherto known, whose continued accuracy did much to establish the truth of heliocentric astronomy.
"It's all about the planetary motion for me," said Brian Stockwell, age 9, who plans to dress as Kepler this coming Halloween. "And heliocentricity, man. It's da bomb."
Industry analysts are slightly puzzled at the sudden appeal of the seventeenth-century mathematician, who is not particularly well known outside mathematical and scientific circles these days.
"Well, the kids sure didn't learn about him in school," said Ernest Gray, analyst for the Piedmont Group. "They are barely getting through introductory algebra and American history 101. High schools are lucky if they can drill the name of our first president into these kids' heads, let alone obscure mathematicians who aren't even American."
Reaction to the popularity of the costumes among parents has been mixed, ranging from confusion to annoyance to resignation.
"Of course, Kepler's a dead white man," said Tod Stokes. "When are we going to see prominent black mathematicians turned into cartoonish figures of menace for the purpose of extorting candy from strangers? That's what I want to know."
The Catholic Church initially issued a decree condemning the Kepler costumes as heretical, though it later retracted the condemnation.
"Sorry," muttered Archbishop Robert Bruce. "Force of habit."