A BRIEF LESSON IN ETYMOLOGY: luna, which is what Romans called the moon prior to Dean Martin, forms the root of lunar, lunette and lunatic. Some might apply that last word to Iowa Slate math professor Alexander Abian, 68, after seeing his proposal—published initially in a campus newspaper—to becalm the world's weather. Just imagine the end of cyclones in Bangladesh, droughts in Ethiopia, sweltering days in Manhattan—a planet where the forecast is always California balmy! The solution to climatic catastrophes is simple, Abian asserts: Nuke the moon. "You make a big hole by deep drilling, and you put there atomic explosive," Abian (who is of Armenian descent) says in English unpolished by 41 years in America. "And you detonate it—by remote control from Earth."

The professor claims that blasting the moon would release the gravitational tug that causes our planet to tilt and thus stabilize the earth's temperature and wind patterns. Other professors say poppycock—or worse. David Taylor, assistant chairman of the physics and astronomy department at Northwestern University, asks, "How does he propose to change the earth's angle of rotation without creating massive earthquakes? He would destroy civilization, but we'd have great weather."

There are a few nettlesome questions—like what would happen to the tides, for instance, and whether Abian is actually serious in his proposal or just dabbling in a bit of academic humor—but for the time being he insists that his theory is sound. "I am raising the petulant finger of defiance to the solar organization for the first time in 5 billion years," the professor declares. "Those critics who say 'Dismiss Abian's ideas' are very close to those who dismissed Galileo."