Shihan Qu stood before an industrial gas furnace in a cavernous metal treatment plant on the outskirts of Denver wearing a novelty tuxedo T-shirt and dark-framed hipsterish glasses. He was there to hear a eulogy for his magnets.
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in solemn remembrance and fond celebration of the lives of these perfectly good, not-at-all-defective magnet spheres,” said Eric Sigurdson, Qu’s most loyal employee. He addressed the tiny orbs directly, barely audible above the rumble of the huge machines. “May you one day be reforged as part of a spaceship to effect your ultimate homecoming among the supernovas that once begat you billions of years ago.”
A federal judge had ordered thousands of Qu’s BB-sized metal balls ― once among America’s most popular novelty gifts ― to be destroyed because Qu had bought them from a company that promised to stop all sales as part of a government effort to protect children. Their end came in a 1,000 degree Fahrenheit furnace, where they would demagnetize, their shiny coatings would melt, and they would be left charred