Back to previous post: Pretend tough

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Nothing to hope for but fear itself

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

August 16, 2006

Gather in the Hall of the Planets
Posted by Patrick at 08:43 AM *

The Middle East? Warrantless wiretapping? Lamont versus Lieberman? No, the important controversy roiling today’s blogosphere is the question: Is Pluto a planet?

John Scalzi’s daughter expresses her opinion of Scott Westerfeld’s anti-Pluto advocacy. In the process, an effigy of Scott is consumed by a plush Cthulhu doll.

The real Scott Westerfeld responds with facts and stuff, in a lengthy post entitled Cthulhu can Eat Me.

A committee of the International Astronomical Union proposes to leave Pluto with its “planet” status, while also granting planethood to Ceres, Charon, UB313, and parts of Union City, New Jersey. Kevin Drum is unimpressed.

And in the hardbitten world of astronomical taxonomy, feelings run high. Defending the proposal, Dr. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute observes, “Nature is much richer than our imagination. Life is tough, life is complicated.” “Get over it,� adds Dr. Stern through gritted jaws.

Meanwhile, planet-hunter Geoffrey W. Marcy of UC Berkeley is dismissive: “I am not attending the I.A.U. meeting, nor do I care about the outcome of any vote about whether Pluto and Xena are ‘planets.’” Bravely said, but if I were Dr. Geoffrey C. Marcy I’d be keeping a safe distance from little girls with stuffed eldritch gods.

Comments on Gather in the Hall of the Planets:
#1 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:04 AM:

So the Great Old Ones are not-dead on Pluto?

Pretty scary.

Still not a planet! [runs]

#2 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:06 AM:

If Charon is a planet, why not the Moon? And if the Moon, why not Titan?

#3 ::: Neil_in_Chicago ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:10 AM:

Um, no.

There is no right answer to a wrong question.

Our understanding of the lights in the sky is a lot more complicated now than the fixed stars and the seven "wanderers." The question is, what system of categorization makes the best sense of what we know?

Not, which historically unimaginable objects are in which semi-mythic categories.

#4 ::: kwb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:16 AM:

This is going to sound horribly trollish, and thus I probably couldn't have picked a worse subject to delurk on, but if I understand the Pluto-is-a-planet position (discounting "Cthulhu will eat you!" as an argument) it basically seems to be "Science should say that this is so because we really really want it to be."

Don't we get mad when creationists do that?

I've only read the news stories, so if there's a more substantial argument I'm happy to be wrong, but that's the only case I've seen so far.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:20 AM:

By the way, are they still planning to call Xena's moon Gabrielle? Say it ain't so.

#6 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:25 AM:

Serge, they could call it Anex.

And before anybody runs off and writes any more "additional movements" for Holst's "The Planets," he was concerned with the astrological planets, and that's why "Earth" doesn't get a movement, either. (Though, as Mister Spock tells us, inhabitants of the Moon sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Earth / How I wonder what you're worth.")

#7 ::: Lowell Gilbert ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:25 AM:

In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting. (Rutherford, supposedly)

Which isn't really true, but "Planet-ness" is stamp collecting.

#8 ::: Michael Barry ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:26 AM:

Pluto. The little planet that could!

#9 ::: James Fox ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:30 AM:

The anti-pluto argument basically boils down to : Pluto is not like the other 8, so it should not count as a planet. However, when you get down to the nitty gritty details, people start to bring in extrasolar planets and arguments about exactly what attributes should be distinctive, and how. Major disagreements abound.

http://www.spacedaily.com/news/outerplanets-04b.html

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/450/1

Personally, I would prefer that an intermediate category including the Plutons and Ceres, be set up.

#10 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:31 AM:

Pluto is a naturally sympathetic object. It represents the outcast, the outsider. It’s far from the heart of the solar system, from the light and heat we enjoy. It doesn’t really fit in with the others. It’s the wrong size, a runt. Its orbit is out of shape. It just seems lonely.

Really, it’s the underdog of planets, and people love to root for an underdog.

(Personally, I don’t think it is a planet for all of the sound scientific reasoning I’ve heard. It should be taken off the list, but I will miss it.)

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:45 AM:

Mickey is a mouse. Donald is a duck. Goofy is a dog. What is Pluto?

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Anex, Kip?

#13 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:50 AM:

Please tell me we're not calling that planet -- er, pluton -- whatever -- out beyond Pluto "Xena".

#14 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Do you know of Christine Lavin's excellent song "Planet X?"

Reading the lyrics doesn't convey the experience of hearing it, but they're all I can offer at the moment.

Google says it's on this album and this album and for 99 cents.

Lavin comes down on the pro-planet side of the controversy.

She writes, "I've taken liberties with rhythms to make it all fit (the hardest phrase to incorporate was 'International Astronomical Union's Working Group Of Planetary System Nomenclature' (yes, an actual organization)."

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:59 AM:

Wasn't there a Duck Dodgers cartoon about Our Hero's journey to Planet X, which he found right after planets U, V and W?

#16 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 10:09 AM:

Wasn't there a Duck Dodgers cartoon about Our Hero's journey to Planet X, which he found right after planets U, V and W?

The very first one: Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century.

Planet X should be easy to identify: just check the spectrum for signs of Illudium Phosdex (you know, the shaving-cream atom).

#17 ::: John C ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 10:11 AM:

Bill: Haven't heard Lavin's song, but those lyrics are great. I'm definitely hitting up iTunes for that later.

This thread actually reminded me of a different song, called "Pluto", by 2 Skinnee J's. Sort of Nerdcore Hip Hop. Not nearly as comprehensive (or comprehensible) as Lavin's song, and definitely on the "planet for nostalgia's sake" side, but it always gave me a chuckle. Lyrics are here.

#18 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 10:21 AM:

What's cooler: the little girl having a Cthulu doll, or the fact that her T-shirt reads "I have issues," or the deadly insult of "Pluto hayta"? Choices, choices, choices.

#19 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 10:30 AM:

theophylact: From what I gather from this CBC story, the Moon wouldn't count as a planet because the centre of gravity for the Earth-Moon system is below the Earth's surface. On the other hand, Charon and Pluto are far enough apart and close enough in mass that the Charon-Pluto system's centre of gravity is above Pluto's surface. So it's not a planet/satellite system, but a double planet under these proposed rules.

Personally, I'd rather promote the Moon, Titan, and the four Galilean satellites of Jupiter too.

#20 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 10:52 AM:

James Fox, there is a classification that covers Ceres, as well as a lot of other non-large objects orbiting the sun. They're called minor planets.

Here is the IAU's page on naming conventions for the different categories of objects that are lumped together as minor planets, in case anyone wants to kill time looking through this--there's even a link to the complete list of minor planets, in case you need a real time-sink.

#21 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:09 AM:

"Zena" is a codename for the Kuiper Belt object (and maybe planet) 2003 UB313. "Gabrielle" is similarly a codename for its moon. These names don't have any official standing, and won't be permanent. Part of the reason these bodies don't have real names yet is that the IAU has separate committees for naming asteroids, etc, and for naming planetary features, and they couldn't agree over who had jurisdiction.

kwb, the point is, science doesn't care about this. There isn't a good scientific rationale for any likely definition of "planet". It's just not an important category in modern astronomy - even if you leave Pluto off, there are four terrestrial planets and four gas giants, and the two groups don't have much in common. There aren't any factual or theoretical claims involved either way, so there's no scientific reason not to tailor the definition to include Pluto, if it makes people happy.

Mike Brown, codiscoverer of UB313, has a page up on the issues and possible solutions.

#22 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:17 AM:

I know I'm petulant about this, but yes, I'm one of those people who wants Pluto to remain a planet, because I want a planet called Xena that has a moon named Gabrielle, dammit!!! *stamps foot*

(Why yes, I have been a hard-core Xenite since 1995. Why do you ask? :)

I absolutely adore that Christine Lavin song, btw. It's particularly amusing to see performed live.

#23 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:18 AM:

"Mother very tartily made crappy jelly sandwiches undermining neutrality protocols, xenophobe!"

I think I prefer the original.

#24 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:19 AM:

"Mother very tartily made crappy jelly sandwiches undermining neutrality protocols, xenophobic Googlephile!"

It's beginning to grow on me.

#25 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:36 AM:

Personally, I'd rather promote the Moon, Titan, and the four Galilean satellites of Jupiter too.

But then you'd have the rather odd situation of "the Moon" not being a "moon" anymore. Not to mention the fact that the Galilean satellites are the oldest examples of "moons" other than Luna.

#26 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:38 AM:

And before anybody runs off and writes any more "additional movements" for Holst's "The Planets," he was concerned with the astrological planets, and that's why "Earth" doesn't get a movement, either.

Actually, modern astrologers look at the influence of Pluto (or rather the generational trends that roughly map to its Zodiac transition, and a few other things). Pluto is said to "rule" death and the occult. My natal Pluto is conjunct Venus, which makes for some interesting predictions about my personality, most of which are true.

How to use self-fulfilling prophecy to make yourself into a very interesting person.

#27 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:46 AM:

Pluto is not a planet-- but Yuggoth is.

#28 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:54 AM:

But then you'd have the rather odd situation of "the Moon" not being a "moon" anymore. Not to mention the fact that the Galilean satellites are the oldest examples of "moons" other than Luna.

What's wrong with overlapping categories? Pluto is a planet that's also a Kuiper Belt object, Charon is a (provisional) planet that's also a Kuiper Belt object and a moon, Ceres is a planet/asteroid, etc.

#29 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:56 AM:

Our local newspaper ran an AP article on this controversy yesterday. Not having John's video of his daughter siccing the Elder Gods on naysayers, they instead mentioned the New Horizons mission, which it said is a 9¢-year journey. If that character is unreadable for anyone it's the cents symbol, a c with a / through it, nine-hundreths of a dollar. Planet or no planet, I think Pluto is worth more than 9 cents a year!

Another suggestion: maybe they can demote Mercury and Venus. After all, they don't have moons. The other planets have moons. Maybe you should need a moon to be a planet. Or multiple moons. Pluto apparently has more moons than Earth does -- are we still a planet?

It's a big universe out there. Why not ten planets? Or thirteen or, I don't know, twenty-seven? Whatever. It may be more than your average third-grader can memorize, but so what? Geez, I remember when Jupiter only had 12 moons!

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 12:02 PM:

These names don't have any official standing, and won't be permanent.

Sure, and when we rescued a puppy litter, my wife called her favorite 'Brownie'. Just a puppy name, she said. Suuuure. More than 13 years later, that's what my wife still calls her. Me, I refer to our oldest doguette as Stinky-breath.

#31 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Geoffrey W. Marcy of UC Berkeley is right to be dismissive of this whole question, no? Whether we call Pluto a planet or not is not a scientific question. (The fact that it's being decided by a vote in a standards committee should be a hint of that fact.) It's just a matter of what kind of labels we find it convenient to use.

#32 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 12:44 PM:

Am I the only one who's picturing a weeping little girl at recess, as a bunch of nasty kids stand around her in a ring, swinging their arms in time as they chant "Pluto's not a plaaaaanet! Pluto's not a plaaaaanet!"?

Until, of course, the Elder Gods eat them (Lovecraftian tradition) or they're torn apart by bears (Judeo-Christian tradition). (In the Pagan tradition they would tear her apart, then discover she was right all along, followed by a lot of weeping and gory suicides (offstage).)

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 12:44 PM:

Why is the act of labeling not a part of science?

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 01:13 PM:

I'd say that anyone who wants to keep the planetary name 'Xena' is Lawless.

#35 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 01:16 PM:

Why is the act of labeling not a part of science?

I always felt like wearing a white lab coat while using my Dymo . . .


* * *

I'm glad Clyde Tombaugh isn't around to see this.

Assuming he's really dead, and didn't have his brain stuck in a life support cylinder and whisked off to the dark places between stars.

#36 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 01:22 PM:

There are several rules that make up the definition, and Ceres seems to meet them: self-gravity spherical, orbiting the Sun, and so on. The double-planet point, for Pluto and Charon, is one of those things which I think is a sign of people thinking ahead, about poossible extra-solar planets.

I think teachers are going to be dreading the start of the new school year.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 01:37 PM:

As for myself, Stefan, I want a dayglo-green lab coat, with a badge that says "Clayton Forrester"...

Seriously though, when you label something, you define and circumscribe what it is. Isn't that one of the things that science does?

#38 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 01:43 PM:

Analysis and naming are parts of science; however, in this case, that is not the most important part of the discussion . The word "planet" has been tautological until now; a planet has been defined as one of those things generally called planets. In common usage, that meaning will persist (and I suspect the elder gods are big on vernacular definitions); in astronomic systematics, either the word will be superceded or a definition will be developed which will always be in discord with the vernacular definition.

Ask a gardener and a botanical systematist to define "Chrysanthemum" for a real world demonstration of how that process works.

#39 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 02:13 PM:

I still think half of the problem is the attempt to keep Mercury in with the 'real planets' and Pluto out (to keep Xena out). What we really have is four gas giants, three rocks big enough to have dynamic atmospheres, and a bunch of round rocks; dry ones like Mercury and Ceres close in, icy ones like Pluto and Xena out far. If I was defining, I'd have three classes; the gas giants; Mars, Earth, and Venus as 'planets'; and Mercury, Ceres, Pluto, Xena and probably many more to be discovered as 'dwarf planets'.

I like the double planet officialization for Pluto-Charon, though.

#40 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 02:34 PM:

Hah.

I think they should stay with the original rough definition -- moving natural celestial objects with regular orbits visible to the naked eye. With an exception for the Sun, since its motion is only apparent (although it was originally a "planet").

Get rid of Uranus and Neptune along with Pluto. Return to the classics.

#41 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 02:50 PM:

I still think half of the problem is the attempt to keep Mercury in with the 'real planets' and Pluto out (to keep Xena out). What we really have is four gas giants, three rocks big enough to have dynamic atmospheres, and a bunch of round rocks; dry ones like Mercury and Ceres close in, icy ones like Pluto and Xena out far. If I was defining, I'd have three classes; the gas giants; Mars, Earth, and Venus as 'planets'; and Mercury, Ceres, Pluto, Xena and probably many more to be discovered as 'dwarf planets'.

Mercury is naturally grouped with Earth, Venus, and Mars as one of the terrestrial planets: metallic core, rocky mantle and crust. It's even got a magnetic field. It's also more massive than any of the moons (even Titan), and almost a thousand times more massive than Ceres. It's big enough to have an atmosphere (its surface gravity is the same as that of Mars) -- if it weren't so close to the Sun.

Pluto and the other Kuiper Belt objects have a much different composition -- basically a mix of ices (including things like frozen methane) with a leavening of rocks and dust.

(And given that people have considered it a "planet" along with Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn for thousands of years, it's got much more a traditional claim than something like Pluto!)

#42 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 02:53 PM:

My 10-yo and I were just talking about this this morning, reading the Newsday article which claims someone has proposed using the word "plutons" for the little rocky non-planet "worlds" (including Pluto but not Mercury). The word "plutons" made my kid LOL on the subway. She thinks it's one of the funniest things she's ever heard.

In her opinion, if Ceres and all the other little rocky things are going to be planets, Pluto should be one too. But she's not sure about having little rocky things be planets in the first place. I think she could easily become a member of the Pluto Haters club.

#43 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 02:59 PM:

I think they should stay with the original rough definition -- moving natural celestial objects with regular orbits visible to the naked eye. With an exception for the Sun, since its motion is only apparent (although it was originally a "planet").

So the Moon goes back to being a "planet," too? ;-)

I seem to recall reading somewhere that traditional Indian astronomy/astrology had nine "planets": Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and two invisible planets that were somehow responsible for eclipses. The fact that nine is a number with some mystical significance in Hinduism is, of course, completely irrelevant....

#44 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 03:08 PM:

Dan MacQueen said:
What's wrong with overlapping categories? Pluto is a planet that's also a Kuiper Belt object, Charon is a (provisional) planet that's also a Kuiper Belt object and a moon, Ceres is a planet/asteroid, etc.

And suddenly, this debate makes me think of Connie Willis's "At the Rialto", in which we encoutner altogether too many is full of actress/models and dancer/hairdressers?

#45 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Sorry about the mangled sentence. I tried to correct it, but too late.

That should be:

...in which we encounter altogether too many actress/models...

#46 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 03:26 PM:

JESR said: Analysis and naming are parts of science; however, in this case, that is not the most important part of the discussion . The word "planet" has been tautological until now; a planet has been defined as one of those things generally called planets. In common usage, that meaning will persist (and I suspect the elder gods are big on vernacular definitions); in astronomic systematics, either the word will be superceded or a definition will be developed which will always be in discord with the vernacular definition.

The problem for astronomers started in the 1990s, which is when A) people started finding Kuiper Belt objects and realizing that Pluto was only one of a potentially large number of icy... um... bodies out beyond Neptune; and B) people started finding planets around other stars.[*]

Lately there's been a definitional problem in the other direction: how big can a "planet" get before you should call it a brown dwarf? Should you consider the possible formation mechanisms? (Planets are thought to form out of gas disks around young stars, while brown dwarfs are supposed to form directly out of collapsing interstellar gas clouds, like regular stars.)

Here's another interesting question: if you found something similar to the Earth, or to Jupiter, out wandering in interstellar space -- not orbiting an individual star -- would you still call it a planet? Simulations suggest that the mutual interaction of multiple planets around a star could eject one of the planets; this may be how you can end up with some of the extrasolar systems we see, where gas giants are in close, highly elliptical orbits around the star, instead of the nearly circular orbits we see in our solar system.

[*] Including planets around a neutron star, which no one except maybe Poul Anderson was expecting.

#47 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 03:28 PM:

Stefan Jones --

We have a very nice Brother labeler in the lab and in fact I have only used it while wearing a white coat. It labels such dreadfully scientific things as the sizes of screws inside various drawers. Okay, so it also labeled the x, y, and z axes of the micromanipulator, which is much more scientific-sounding.

More seriously -- this is probably my physics training coming out, but I think labeling and categorizing things is useful science only insofar as it leads to seeing patterns that lead to understanding underlying processes. This means it is very useful and necessary for nearly everything, since we don't understand the underlying processes of lots of things very well.

Arguing over planet/moon/random space object categorizations can actually lead to fruitful discussion about how these things came to be, and what the similarities or differences in two objects mean with regards to their origins. (I did one summer internship in astronomy and then left it behind, so IANAA [I am not an astronomer].)

#48 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 03:30 PM:

"Science should say that this is so because we really really want it to be."
Don't we get mad when creationists do that?

That isn't what creationists say. They say, "Your entire view of the structure of the biological world is absolutely wrong, because God said so in a questionably translated text from several thousand years ago." If the actual statement, rather than the thought, were "We say special creation is true because we want it to be," it would imply doubt and a deliberate choice.

As observed above, what one calls such an object really is subjective; there are all kinds of objects that fit into the broad "planet/moon" categories. (Nobody is suggesting that Pluto is, say, a comet, or a planetoid.) Some of those objects are going to fall into an in-between area. (This is true of biological classification as well.)

More importantly, it doesn't matter for any practical purpose what side it falls on. It doesn't change our understanding of the object's physical nature -- which saying "This is biologically related to this entire family of biota" as distinct from "This was created by magic, all by itself, and will never change" does.


#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 03:40 PM:

They might run into problems using pluton for a small rocky astronomical object, seeing as it's already in use in geology.

#50 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 03:43 PM:

The problem with using "pluton" for Pluto-like objects is that it already has a definition in terrestrial geology. ("A body of igneous rock formed beneath the surface of the earth by consolidation of magma." according to Free Dictionary). There's been a growing tendency to avoid terms with assigned meanings in other fields.

#51 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 03:46 PM:

...and two invisible planets...

Now that sounds cool. I think we need to go back to having invisible planets.

#52 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:10 PM:

I skimmed that last sentence a bit too quickly and it initially parsed as "...I'd be keeping my distance from stuffed little girls and eldritch gods," which I think might also be excellent advice.

Personally, I tend to fall on the Westerfeld side of things, but I really think I stopped caring a couple of decades ago.

#53 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:19 PM:

For anyone who wants to read it straight from the metaphorical horse's mouth, you can find the full text of the IAU's resolution here:

Draft resolution
Press release
FAQ

(Officially it's only a "draft resolution", but I gather they were careful to make sure everyone was unanimous before releasing it, so I don't think any changes are likely.)

Personally I try to avoid the whole mess by just not using the unqualified term "planet"; I use "major planet" for the big eight and "planetesimal" for everything else.

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:21 PM:

little girls and eldritch gods

There's a difference?

#55 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:33 PM:

I get audio from Scalzi's daughter, but no video. I'm running Safari, so I tried it with Internet Explorer and got the same results.

Is it just me?

#56 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:38 PM:

I get audio from Scalzi's daughter, but no video. I'm running Safari, so I tried it with Internet Explorer and got the same results.

Is it just me?

I think you need to have the very latest version of the Flash player to get the video. I got audio-only until I spent an inordinate amount of time upgrading the Flash player.

#57 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:56 PM:

I can just imagine the classroom a thousand years from now.

student: How did the planet Mars get its name?

teacher: Ancient Babylonian astronomers named the planet Nergal after their God of Fire, probably because of the planet's reddish appearance. Ancient Greeks identified Nergal with Ares, their god of war. And the Roman god of war was Mars. So Mars.

s: And what about Venus?

s: Babylonians named the planet "Ishtar", their Goddess of Love, and the ancient Roman goddes of love was Venus.

s: And what about Xena?

t: (long, sad sigh)

s: What?

t: Well, there was this thing called 'television', see...

#58 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:59 PM:

Chad,

Thanks. I tend to assume that all computers are out to get me to a greater or lesser degree, so it's good to hear that it's only a download issue.

(Note to listening hardware - This doesn't mean you. Especially it doesn't mean my dearly beloved laptop, paragon of computerly virtue.)

#59 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 04:59 PM:

Stephen Frug said:

...and two invisible planets...

Now that sounds cool. I think we need to go back to having invisible planets.

Well, there's always Antichthon, the Counter-Earth of Pythagorean and later lore, which is conveniently hidden on the opposite side of the Sun from us. And Vulcan, which supposedly orbited inside Mercury's orbit and was occasionally reported in the mid-19th Century. And Charles Fort apparently collected all sorts of odd reports of phantom planets.

There's a very amusing summary of this stuff in one of the collected columns ("Nine Is Not Enough") in Kenneth Hite's Suppressed Transmissions 2:

... Where are the ruins of the Egyptian space colonies, the hawk-people, the enormous clockwork aether guns going to turn up now that we've selfishly wasted all of our real planets on astrophysics and exogeology? Well, in the Extra Planets, of which I've selected at least seven from the potential galaxies available. That's what they're there for, and only a cad would point out that they're not, technically speaking, there.
#60 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:00 PM:

Mercury is naturally grouped with Earth, Venus, and Mars as one of the terrestrial planets: metallic core, rocky mantle and crust. It's even got a magnetic field.

Ah, but Ceres is also differentiated, with core, icy mantle, and crust. It's very likely, in fact, that it has a magnetic field as well; the Dawn probe will tell us.

Which requires falling back on very arbitrary mass/diameter definitions. Sure, it's much less massive than Mercury... but then, in a solar system that has Jupiter in it, that seems silly as a definition. All the rocky planets are just trash next to the gas giants.

#61 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:06 PM:

But Greg, a thousand years from now television will seem just as ancient and respect-worthy as books as classical culture does to us.

"Xena Lawless was a popular cult figure of the High Western English people. She was an instance of the outlaw-hero archetype (see also: Robin Hood, Han Solo, G Gordon Liddy), and was also associated with graceful combat, feminism, and anarchism."

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Avram, I'm reminded of Delany's future cultural historian whose thesis was that the Beatles were simply a late and watered down version of the Orpheus myth. Where he was torn to pieces by shrieking maenads, they merely had their clothes torn by shrieking fannes. Clearly a transparent reference to the earlier story, rather than an actual historical event!

#63 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:22 PM:

"[Xena] was also associated with graceful combat, feminism, and anarchism."

Makes you wish for the time-shift episode where she teams up with Emma Goldman.

#64 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:33 PM:

G Gordon Liddy), and was also associated with graceful combat, feminism, and anarchism."

G Gordon Liddy was a feminist? I'll have to change my opinion of the man...

#65 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:36 PM:

But Greg, a thousand years from now television will seem just as ancient and respect-worthy as books as classical culture does to us.

"Xena Lawless was a popular cult figure of the High Western English people. She was an instance of the outlaw-hero archetype (see also: Robin Hood, Han Solo, G Gordon Liddy), and was also associated with graceful combat, feminism, and anarchism."

There's a role-playing game called Diana: Warrior Princess, which is based on the idea of the 20th Century as retold a thousand years from now, with exactly the same sense of historical accuracy that Xena, Warrior Princess displays toward the Classical era. ("Join Diana and her friends: Fergie, Red Ken, and Wild Bill Gates as they battle the evil War God Landmines, Thatcher the Sorceress, and other nefarious villains in a world of rampant anachronism based on the 20th Century.")

#66 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:37 PM:

I personally am in favor of retaining Pluto as a planet, if only because the namer is still alive.

As a side note, one of the recent threads had a link to a speech by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner. I'm having a hard time digging it up, would anyone mind reposting it?

#67 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:42 PM:

I have suspected for a while that "Xena" was also a covert "light-weight" allusion to the elment Xenon -- a very mild joke, following the Uranus - Neptune - Pluto / Uranium -Neptunium [in 1941] - Plutonium [in 1942] sequence for the outer Gas Giants and three heavy elements (92, 93, and 94).

I don't know if this has been addressed directly by anyone involved, but I would be surprised if the suggestion is original with me.

The name might also serve as a personified (and feminine) form of xenos (meaning stranger, guest and host), which might have seemed appropriate, too. With the addition of more distint objects to the roster it will probably be seen as less of a "stranger" in the Solar System, so I wouldn't press that interpretation.

#68 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 05:47 PM:

Wikipedia states that the name "xena" for planet 10 really did come from the TV show.

According to the IAU rules, TNOs must be named after deities of creation, with the exception of plutinos, which are named after underworld deities.

The team refers to the object informally by the nickname Xena, after the television series Xena: Warrior Princess. ... the team has also claimed that they chose the name because "We have always wanted to name something Xena",

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 06:01 PM:

They could have come up with worse than Xena for a planet's name. How about Cleopatra 2525?

#70 ::: kathryn from sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Anyone else here hearing "Pluton" that thinks a pluton ought to be found at the farmer's markets?

For example, Ceres is a pluot, and Sedna is an aprium. (Except now I see that those hybrid fruit names are all registered trademarks.)

Where are the best collections of the mnemonicists' new work? I was doing ok with "So, my very easy method? Just set up nine planets, Sedna." But that doesn't scale.

#71 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 06:06 PM:

tavella said:
Ah, but Ceres is also differentiated, with core, icy mantle, and crust. It's very likely, in fact, that it has a magnetic field as well; the Dawn probe will tell us.

Which requires falling back on very arbitrary mass/diameter definitions. Sure, it's much less massive than Mercury... but then, in a solar system that has Jupiter in it, that seems silly as a definition. All the rocky planets are just trash next to the gas giants.

Actually, they're not. Here are the relative masses: Mercury/Ceres: 347; Mars/Mercury: 2; Earth/Mars: 9; Uranus/Earth: 15; Jupiter/Uranus: 22. So it's easier to argue for continuity, of a sort, between the terrestrial planets (including Mercury) and the gas giants, than it is to try for continuity between the terrestrials and Ceres.

Jupiter does dominate the solar system (well, aside from the Sun, that is ;-); only Saturn comes close. But the low-mass end of the gas giant family is surprisingly small.

#72 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 06:13 PM:
Okay, so it also labeled the x, y, and z axes of the micromanipulator

Sounds much like my last employee review.

#73 ::: Christopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 06:22 PM:

> I'd say that anyone who wants to keep the
> planetary name 'Xena' is Lawless.

Not entirely lawless. Loosely lawless, perhaps.

#74 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 06:28 PM:

Wikipedia states that the name "xena" for planet 10 really did come from the TV show.

This web page of Mike Brown, lead author on the discovery paper, lists some other code names his team has used: "Santa," "Rudolph" (moon of Santa), "Easterbunny," and "Flying Dutchman" (later officially named Sedna). And "Gabrielle" for the moon of "Xena," of course. ("We use these names internally simply because they are easier to say and remember than things like 2003 EL61 or S/2005 (2003 UB313) 1.")

#75 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 07:19 PM:

Christopher: I bow to your mastery.

#76 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 07:33 PM:

Pluto responds to possible downgrading:

http://www.drinkatwork.com/2006/08/comic-for-tuesday-august-15-2006.html

D

#77 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 08:04 PM:

Serge writes:

They could have come up with worse than Xena for a planet's name. How about Cleopatra 2525?

That already sounds like an asteroid name... hang on... here it is, 216 Kleopatra.

Anyway, if they keep discovering these things, we'll get even worse. Flyby mission to TheGirlFromUNCLE, anyone?

Malthus writes:

I personally am in favor of retaining Pluto as a planet, if only because the namer is still alive.

Sad to say, Clyde Tombaugh passed away in 1997, shortly before his 91st birthday. Asteroid 1604 is named "Tombaugh."

In Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Heinlein has Tombaugh still alive and doing astronomy. We didn't get the Moon bases and space tourism the book describes-- but the prediction that Tombaugh would survive and keep working into the late 20th century was accurate.

#78 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 08:18 PM:

Ah, but Tombaugh wasn't the namer, now was he?

If you haven't heard the story, go look it up (IIRC it was in the NYTimes a month ago).

#79 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 08:41 PM:

If you want mnemonics, a poster at Ars Technica suggested "My Very Eager Mission Control Just Showed Us New Planet Called X".

#80 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:11 PM:

The IAU has more-or-less-officially approved three new planets, bringing the total to 12, but admits that there are quite a few other bodies that will probably qualify after closer examination. If we go by the best current estimates of the sizes of the objects out there, and take the IAU's suggested rule of thumb that planets have diameters over 800 km, we end up with 17 planets in our solar system:

Number  Planet             Distance   Diameter
1       Mercury            0.3871 au  4879 km
2       Venus              0.7233 au  12104 km
3       Earth              1.000 au   12746 km
4       Mars               1.524 au   6780 km
5       Ceres              2.767 au   952 km
6       Jupiter            5.203 au   138346 km
7       Saturn             9.537 au   114632 km
8       Uranus             19.19 au   50532 km
9       Neptune            30.07 au   49105 km
10      Orcus              39.47 au   1000 km
11=     Charon             39.48 au   1205 km
11=     Pluto              39.48 au   2306 km
13      2003 EL61          43.34 au   1340 km
14      Quaoar             43.38 au   1000 km
15      2005 FY9           45.64 au   1500 km
16      2003 UB313 (Xena)  67.71 au   2400 km
17      Sedna              509 au     1500 km
#81 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 09:15 PM:

I guess 17 is the mystical number.

#82 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 10:13 PM:

about Ceres -- I have some trouble taking a body as a planet when it's jostling about among large numbers of other never-made-it lumps. (IIRC that's the current assessment of the Belt, as opposed to the Keplerian vision-of-an-explosion popularized by Heinlein, Nourse, and many others.) I'm remembering a trip to Alaska where we were very seriously informed that not all floating ice is icebergs; there's also "bergy bits" and "trash ice", and maybe another category I'm forgetting. (When half of it is kabonging against the hull outside your window and the other half has one each unbelievably cute fur-covered sausage, formal classification tends to become unimportant....)

#83 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 10:32 PM:

may take some classes. start writing again.

(chuckling)

;)

#84 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 10:48 PM:

When half of it is kabonging against the hull outside your window and the other half has one each unbelievably cute fur-covered sausage, formal classification tends to become unimportant....

"Look! Planetoid to starboard! Belt otters!"

"Ooooooooooooooooo!"

"Is that a magnetic grapple?"

#85 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:15 PM:

Ross, you missed one:

18 Ixion 39.65 980 km

#86 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:21 PM:

Ooh, looks like there are a whole pile of more. Check out this page from Mike Brown's website. Note that he doesn't include Charon. And that he says his lab is studying "30 more" that they haven't published findings on yet.

#87 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2006, 11:33 PM:

Greg Ioannou: Ross, you missed one: 18 Ixion 39.65 980 km

I was going by the list on the IAU website, which gives a diameter of 500 km for Ixion. (I suspect one source or the other may have confused radius and diameter somewhere along the line.)

Ooh, looks like there are a whole pile of more. Check out this page from Mike Brown's website.

Yeah, this shows how silly the whole thing is getting. I was hoping all along that the IAU would let reality overrule politics and rule that Pluto wasn't a planet. There's no question that Pluto and Xena are the same kind of object as all the other KBOs (leftover planetesimals), not the same kind as any of the eight major planets.

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 12:06 AM:

Flyby mission to TheGirlFromUNCLE, anyone?

Sounds good to me, Bill, although I'd MUCH prefer a mission to IdreamOfJeannie.

#89 ::: chris bond ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 12:11 AM:

I think one of the better objections to the proposed definition is one of the ones Phil Plait mentions here. Under the guidelines, the moon is not a planet, but would become one in something like 40 million years.

#90 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 12:16 AM:

Hey, you wanna see a taxonomy grudge-match? Go ask a gathering of botanical 'stamp collectors' about classifying the Eucalypts; light blue touch paper and stand back. Personally, I'm still grumpy with what they did to the Epacridaceae.

I recently put up a few links about some of the newer, stranger (to us), things that are turning up astronomically. Dontcha love the feeling of stretching the brain sometimes? (related to sensawunda) You can see that the whole planet definition debate reaches well beyond heliopause. There's interesting things turning up biologically as well. Ain't the universe a fascinating place? Another reason to try to stay here when it does seem iffy.

The sentiment below, tho' not new, is one meseems is getting a good workout in various forms -- with differing degrees of snappiness -- of late.

From: Mini-planet systems get stranger ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5051706.stm )
Professor Ray Jayawardhana, who also worked on the study, added: "The diversity of worlds out there is truly remarkable. Nature often seems more prolific than our imagination."

#91 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 03:52 AM:

Remind me never to annoy Athena Scalzi. Maybe Xena should be renamed for her (and her classical counterpart, of course).

Wikipedia mentions that the X in Xena is also a reference to the old Planet X theory (as opposed to the Planet Ten theory, which involves a bunch of people named John). NPR, I think it was, also said that there really hasn't been an official definition of a planet before now. "A planet is round" is a good start, and a minimum size and mass is necessary, but that center of gravity thing confuses me a bit. Shouldn't a planet be something that orbits its sun, rather than orbiting a planet?

Also, I've read a layman's claim that this new definition could result in thousands of additional planet in this system, as exploration of the Kuiper Belt and environs continues. Is this likely?

#92 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 05:43 AM:

Cyberman controller:

Both of you
Know Mondas as your home world.

Both Cybermen:

True, my lord.

Cyberman controller:

So it was mine; and in such secret distance,
That every minute of its orbit warms
My last few bio-parts: and now it is
No longer the tenth planet from our sun
I'd say we'll stay upon it, yet I must not,
For certain friends that watched us long and close,
Whose loves I may not drop, but wail the fall
Of continuity; and thence it is,
That I to your assistance do make love,
Packing our bags for Xena, our new home
For sundry weighty reasons.

Second Cyberman

We shall, my lord,
Perform what you command us.

#93 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 07:05 AM:

Of course, if these are a new type of object, then I assume one of them is to be an exemplary example- it represents their...
Plutonic ideal

#94 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 07:09 AM:

Wikipedia mentions that the X in Xena is also a reference to the old Planet X theory (as opposed to the Planet Ten theory, which involves a bunch of people named John). NPR, I think it was, also said that there really hasn't been an official definition of a planet before now. "A planet is round" is a good start, and a minimum size and mass is necessary, but that center of gravity thing confuses me a bit. Shouldn't a planet be something that orbits its sun, rather than orbiting a planet?

Well, that's the idea; the problem is that you could have, for example, two equal-mass planetary-type objects, which would orbit around their center of gravity (aka the barycenter, which will be midway between them). Which is the planet, and which the moon? The informal term "binary planet" certainly seems apt, and it's analogous to the idea of a binary star. You can make one have smaller mass, in which case the barycenter moves toward the larger one; but even if the barycenter is one-third of the way between them, it still seems a bit odd to say one of them has to be the moon.

It's not a bad attempt at resolving the planet-moon/binary-planet classification problem.

Also, I've read a layman's claim that this new definition could result in thousands of additional planet in this system, as exploration of the Kuiper Belt and environs continues. Is this likely?

Dozens -- almost certainly.
Hundreds -- possible.
Thousands -- I'm a little bit dubious, since there's evidence for a sharp falloff in Kuiper Belt density beyond about 50 AU (somewhat less than twice Neptune's orbit), and I don't think current models based on what's already been observed predict that many.

(Of course, if there are Pluto-sized objects out in the Oort Cloud, then you really could have thousands, or more.)

#95 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 07:28 AM:

Peter, re "binary planets" — apparently something very similar to what you describe has already been observed. As far as I can make out, at the moment the suggested name for the ones seen so far is "planemos" (from planetary mass object).

#96 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 08:46 AM:

I have to say I don't like the word "pluton". Sounds too similar to Pluto, for a start, and I don't like the sound of the final syllable, don't know why.

Whatever happened to "plutino"? A much more upbeat sound to it, though I guess it literally means "little Pluto", which leads to a question of whether Pluto can be a plutino.

"Minor planet" still appeals to me. We can corral off the nine as Major Planets, then everything discovered after Pluto becomes a minor planet, only of interest to s/t/a/m/p/ c/o/l/l/e/c/t/o/r/s/ astronomers. Teachers can breathe a sigh of relief that they only have to make one small change now, and not have to update their knowledge every year.

#97 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 08:51 AM:

Flyby mission to TheGirlFromUNCLE, anyone?

I have it on good authority that there are no fewer the three asteroids named Marcia: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Speaking of Planet X, The Zombie Astronaut this month has for download an old 1950s BBC-radio serial about alien probes on Earth and mysterious transmissions from the vicinity of Planet X: Orbit One Zero. Great vintage British SF of the Qautermain school.

#98 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 08:55 AM:

I quite like the definition which says any body big enough to be spherical under its own gravity is a planet. If you want to add that it's only a planet if it's not a moon of another planet, OK, since moon is a well understood term.

So Pluto stays in, Ceres is back in, Xena and friends out in the Kuiper belt are in, but Titan, Ganymede, Triton and so on are out.

So is Charon a planet or a moon? I vote planet, under this definition.

#99 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 09:17 AM:

Charon's a double planet (because the CoG is outside the surface of Pluto) or a moon (because it's not the largest body in its planet-moon system).

#100 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 10:10 AM:

double planet (because the CoG is outside the surface

Good grief. Their commute must totally suck!

#101 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 10:18 AM:

Whatever happened to "plutino"? A much more upbeat sound to it, though I guess it literally means "little Pluto", which leads to a question of whether Pluto can be a plutino.

"Plutino" is already being used to describe things in orbits similar to Pluto's (that is, in a 3:2 resonance with Neptune's orbit). Pluto and Charon are both Plutinos, under this definition; "Xena" is not, since it's in a very different orbit.

"Minor planet" still appeals to me. We can corral off the nine as Major Planets, then everything discovered after Pluto becomes a minor planet, only of interest to s/t/a/m/p/ c/o/l/l/e/c/t/o/r/s/ astronomers. Teachers can breathe a sigh of relief that they only have to make one small change now, and not have to update their knowledge every year.

The problem is that there's a reasonable chance someone will discover something significantly larger than Pluto (twice the size, perhaps?), and then the can of worms gets opened up again.

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 10:44 AM:

So, the 10th planet was called 'Xena' because it used to be referred to as Planet X. Suuuure. If they ever find the 12th planet, I want to call it 'Zardoz'.

#103 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 10:46 AM:

Greg writes: Their commute must totally suck!

Not at all. Since Pluto and Charon are mutually tidally locked, you can just catch a cable car. It's only 20,000 km.

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 11:12 AM:

Caution though: Pay for a round trip on Pluto, not Charon. In fact don't ever pay Charon at all.

Don't even fix a price.

#105 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 12:01 PM:

I think the X in Planet X is a roman-numeral ten, not X-for-unknown. That would make the twelfth planet Planet XII. Pronounced "Planet She."

Isn't there some kind of crazy crackpot theory about a Planet X that occupies Earth's orbit, but 180 degrees from Earth, so it's always hidden by the sun? It seems to me it had something to do with Edgar Cayce or Velikovsky or something. Or maybe it was in a Kaiju movie.

#106 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 12:27 PM:

That's the plot of a Gerry Anderson produced TV movie called Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, or in some markets, Doppelgänger.

#107 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Isn't there some kind of crazy crackpot theory about a Planet X that occupies Earth's orbit, but 180 degrees from Earth, so it's always hidden by the sun? It seems to me it had something to do with Edgar Cayce or Velikovsky or something. Or maybe it was in a Kaiju movie.

A version of that idea goes back to the Pythagoreans, though their picure of the solar system was a bit odd.

The Wikipedia article on Counter-Earth has some more fictional references.

#109 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 03:00 PM:

"Planet She", Howard? With Ursula Andress as its Supreme Ruler...

#110 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 03:11 PM:

"Planet She", Howard? With Ursula Andress as its Supreme Ruler...

Good heavens, no. Helen Gahagan (Douglas).

"Bring the 'Nix-On' before me . . ."

#111 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 03:16 PM:

Scott Westerfeld and John Scalzi have each fired off new rounds in their Pluto skirmish (no new videos, though). My favorite quote from Westerfeld's post:

Like a sweaty Joe McCarthy, the IAU brandished a list of 43 known plutons, and admitted they have a secret list of dozens more.

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Mike, isn't there also a version of She done in the early Sixties with Ursula as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed? (No, not that one, not Mrs. Rumpole.)

#113 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 04:27 PM:

...Delany's future cultural historian whose thesis was that the Beatles were simply a late and watered down version of the Orpheus myth...

Anyone remember which book that was in? Sounds like The Einstein Intersection but I don't remember that bit... (Actually, my most vivid memories of that book are the bits from Delany's journal. Go figure.)

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 04:36 PM:

Stephen, I think it was Nova, but I'm not sure.

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 04:44 PM:

It sounds like Nova to me too.

#116 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Serge: yes, Hammer remade She with Ursula Andress* and the usual Hammer suspects (Lee, Cushing, Andre Morell). There have been a whole bunch of film versions, including several silent ones.

*"That magnificent Spoonerism." -- Pauline Kael

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 05:32 PM:

Spoonerism, Mike? I grew on that stuff. ("It shows, buddy.") Right now I'm going thru my first DVD set of The Champions, and I think Dennis Spooner was involved in that one too.

#118 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 05:33 PM:

Isn't there some kind of crazy crackpot theory about a Planet X that occupies Earth's orbit, but 180 degrees from Earth, so it's always hidden by the sun? It seems to me it had something to do with Edgar Cayce or Velikovsky or something. Or maybe it was in a Kaiju movie.

Please don't forget John Norman's enlightening treatise on sexual liberation and gender equality, the Gor series. It's a fantasy of mine to someday see Norman and MZB duke it out on "Celebrity Death Match"...

#119 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 05:36 PM:

Say, in the original Flash Gordon comic-strip, didn't Ming the Merciless bring Mongo to the same orbit as the Earth, but on the other side of the Sun? How he could manage that trick AND have his minions fly around in dinky ships, I don't know.

#120 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 07:15 PM:

Serge: 'Arsula Undress'.

#121 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 08:01 PM:

How he could manage that trick AND have his minions fly around in dinky ships, I don't know.

X-wing fighters have hyperdrives.

#123 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 09:02 PM:

Xopher, I just wanted you to know someone got the Chris DeBurgh reference.

#125 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 09:19 PM:

Marion Zimmer Bradley; scifi/fantasy author.

#126 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 09:42 PM:

JMF: actually, they were seals (no, not "Giant Space Seals with Photon Flippers)....

Edward: The Decomposers, or, Rivets Has Risen from the Grave ((c) Keller & Anderson, 1979) includes a would-be Free Companion, steel drawn, chasing "Norman Johnson".

all: definitely The Einstein Intersection; Nova doesn't do any looking-backward \and/ doesn't have any journal entries.

#127 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 10:39 PM:

Mez: Assuming you're referring to my BBC radio link away up above, I clearly meant to type Quatermass, and got going too fast. The main protagonist is a gruff-but-fair scientist with his two young graduate students. It's a very entertaining serial with An Important Message; if you're not familiar with old-school SF on the radio, I highly recommend it. Lately I've been getting almost all my science fiction in radio form.

I was pulled away from the Internet for some hours and missed the fun since my last post. This is why I love Making Light -- anywhere else I could write "Planet She" and get blank, uncomprehending stares in response. Thanks, all, for running with it. It made my evening.

Peter, thanks for the Counter-Earth link. For some reason, I still have this tenuous mental connection between Planet X and some fin de siècle "spiritualist" movement. Blavatsky? Gurdjieff? Could just be a stray synapse, I suppose.

#128 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 10:43 PM:

MZB was Marion Zimmer Bradley, a writer with strong feminist leanings who wrote the wonderful Darkover series. Sample a few books from Gor and Darkover and you'll see why the Deathmatch would have been perfect. I'm pretty sure that right up to her last day, MZB couldv'e kicked Norman's narrow ass. Both series should be required reading for a Master's in Gender Studies...

#129 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 11:03 PM:

One point I saw addressed only obliquely was the issue of planets around other stars. We should not develop our classification system based only on our own solar system. We have found over 130 extra-solar planets already, and that number will soon explode exponentially. Push our solar system out of your mind and imagine how you would classify these new discoveries. Would Pluto be a planet if it was circling some other star as an only satellite? I think so, so that makes it a planet here too. Ceres? You bet, so it's in as well. How about Charon if it was alone? Again, I think most scientists would grant it planetary status then.

The CoG arguement is an excellent litmus test for binary vs. planet/moon systems, as it can be applied everywhere in the universe. The size criteria is arbitrary, so thus loses some legitimacy, but the threshold of gravitationally-based spherification is a universal standard that makes allowances for density and composition, and thus wins my vote.

I also want to throw in a vote for the term 'planetoid' for the ones too small (if size is to remain a criteria) or too gravitationally weak to make the cut. Pluton and the other 'Plutes' conjure up inevitable comparisons with Pluto, which detracts from their uniqueness, and thus should be avoided.

#130 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 11:15 PM:

I seem to recall reading that Randall Garrett wrote a parody called 'Free Amazons of Gor', setting independent Darkovan women in John Norman's world.

#131 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2006, 11:22 PM:

Lila, thank you. It's also an ancient mythology reference, one DeBurgh was using.

#132 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 06:46 AM:

The term "pluton" has been bothering me all through this thread, in a "wait, I know that word" way.

It's a term from geology (and could probably be applied to other terrestrial worlds than Earth): a pluton is an igneous intrusion, a blob of rock formed from lava.

So not only is the term already in use, but I gather that the minor planets being discussed here probably didn't form in ways that would involve igneous rock.

#133 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 06:48 AM:

I correct myself: apparently Vesta, at least, has basaltic regions, and might have plutons.

Whether that makes the use of the term "pluton" for a minor planet better or worse, I'm not sure.

#134 ::: Betsey Langan ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 11:00 AM:

Fragano Ledgister said:

I seem to recall reading that Randall Garrett wrote a parody called 'Free Amazons of Gor', setting independent Darkovan women in John Norman's world.

<shudder>
<flail>

OK, who's got the Scrubbing Bubbles for Brains? And a wire brush?

#135 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 11:54 AM:

I've never read the Gor novels, having picked up the impression that their target demo is straight 13-14 year old boys, but I have read a Free Amazons story ("To Keep The Oath"), and I thought it was stupid. SPOILER: the main character decides she has to break her oath, rather than employ any of the (to me) obvious alternatives that would accomplish the critical goal.

My enjoyment of The Mists of Avalon was somewhat tempered by the reaction in the woo-woo wing of the Pagan community, who liked it not because it was a good story, but because (they thought) it's TRUE. *moan, bury face in hands* But I have to say I thought that was a pretty good read, and I really like her explanation of Merlin "youthening."

Beyond that, I think I've read on Darkover novel, and it was damn trashy IMO. There are other, better writers who are languishing in my TBR pile; I'm not wasting my time on MZB, who was a nasty woman while she was alive, and whose death has not improved her writing!

#136 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 12:41 PM:

There are writers I had a passion for at one point, and go back to, and find they are even better with maturity. And there are writers who ... aren't. I suspect MZB is one of the latter, because her books have gathered years and years of dust on my shelves.

#137 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 12:45 PM:

Never read Mists of Avalon, but I saw the mini-series. It was OK, but damned if I can remember anything that happened. (It might have been more interesting if James Coburn had played Merlin like he wanted to.) There's one thing I'd like to ask those people who read the book: was the book as vague about That Other Religion and its precepts as the mini-series was?

#138 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 01:02 PM:

I don't recall it being vague at all. In fact there's one scene where Morgaine kills someone with weaving magic. I bet the miniseries, which I didn't see, vagued it up to avoid pissing off the Christianists.

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Thanks, Xopher. I did wonder about that possibility.

Back to other planets... I wonder what Jon Favreau's version of A Princess of Mars would have been like if they hadn't pulled the plug on it.

#140 ::: Ian Myles Slater ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 01:23 PM:

On "Counter-Earth"

There is actually a nice little summary of the Counter-Earth theory in "Cornzan the Mighty," L. Sprague de Camp's story about the production of an ever-so-slightly-derivative futuristic TV show about a mighty-thewed hero's adventures on the supposed planet.

The producers and the network are show to have some trouble with the Greek term Antichthon, "Opposite-Earth," since "Antic" and "Tik-Ton" both "sound funny," and a real foreign language was, of course, obviously too difficult for American audiences.

It the story had not been published in 1955 (and included in "A Gun for Dinosaur" in 1963), it would probably be taken for a too-obvious parody of both "Hercules" and "Xena," despite the hero's portmanteau name.

On Marion Zimmer Bradley

"Mist of Avalon" was ever-so-slightly constricted by "real history," and some commonplaces of Arthurian legend, but it was a bit more explicit than what I recall of the TV series. Unfortunately, there are inherent problems in writing about "secret traditions" and "holy mysteries."

Her quasi-Arthurian novels naturally share some assumptions about human nature and society with the Darkover books, but she spent decades working out the details of the latter, and the picture there is pretty complex. Ultimately, she had to include a lot of back-tracking to account for assumptions and conventions in Darkover stories written in the 1950s and early 1960s, which she no longer accepted, or in fact never had. (And some of the stories were actually re-written from juvenilia, including fan publications; drastically altered in most cases!)

#141 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 01:25 PM:

I'm going to go out on a limb here. I enjoyed the Darkover novels. There were passages that clanked, and her assumption that heterosexual marriage would remain the same structure of male domination for thousands of years in the future is problematic, but I enjoyed them as stories of personal development and as stories that reminded me that women face very similar personal problems and crises as men. Of course, your mileage may vary.

#142 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 01:34 PM:

I enjoyed the Darkover books, too, although I certainly wouldn't call them great literature. My view of Mists of Avalon, however, is colored by the fact that I encountered Mary Stewart's Merlin books first, and imprinted on those to the extent that any other version is obviously wrong. ;)

--Mary Aileen

#143 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Mary Stuart's Merlin... That was adapted as a mini-series with Sam Neill, wasn't it, Mary Aileen? It had good things in it, but Martin Short wasn't one of them.

#144 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Well, I *like* the Darkover books (some more than others) and I do go back and visit my favorites from time to time.

Regarding _Mists of Avalon_, I enjoyed that too (despite a plot gravid with pregnant women). I am a fan of the Matter of Britain, and I've probably read most of the various versions that have been on the market ever since I was old enough to buy my own books.

Since my first exposure to Arthur was the Broadway version of _Camelot_, followed by Disney's _Sword in the Stone_, I don't consider Mary Stewart's version of the tale to be the "right" one. I'm not sure there IS a right one. BTW I did enjoy the Stewart tales.

And yes, Xopher, I hold my head and groan when I encounter those Pagans that think _Mists_ is true. (Though I must admit the book left me with a distaste for St. Patrick.)

#145 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 03:58 PM:

IMO _The Sword at Sunset_ is the correct version.
(Just had to throw it in, but for me it felt more real than Stewart's version.)

#146 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 04:21 PM:

_Sword at Sunset_ - Rosemary Sutcliff.

My favorite part in that one was the horses.

I have a copy of this. Read it first from my local library, then picked up a copy at a used book store.

I think I'll dig up my copy and read it again...

Thanks for reminding me.

#147 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 04:39 PM:

Lori, the Father Patricius in Mists is nothing like the real Patrick. He's more like the later Roman-trained priests who forced the Irish Celtic Christians to switch to the Roman way of doing things..."when in Ireland, do as the Romans do."

The real Patrick had been enslaved in Ireland, and was familiar with Irish culture. I don't think we know exactly what he did, but the result was the most enlightened form of Christianity practiced anywhere in the premodern period. (I'll wait for someone to say "No, Christian Egypt!" or "WTF does 'enlightened' mean?" but I'm just giving an opinion.)

#148 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2006, 11:37 PM:

I once saw MZB and Norman close to coming to blows, but it was Norman Spinrad, not John Norman. (Some panel at Iguanacon in 1978; he thought she was being too self-congratulatory about whatever the topic was.)

#149 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 01:58 AM:

I don't think we know exactly what [St. Patrick] did

Snakes Off an Island

With Colin Farrell as Patrick
Sarah Jessica Parker as Brigid
Lucy Liu as Columba
and Johnny Depp as Brendan the Wet

#150 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 02:42 AM:

I seem to recall reading that Randall Garrett wrote a parody called 'Free Amazons of Gor', setting independent Darkovan women in John Norman's world.

Oh I gotta find me this one! Thanks Fragano!

I did enjoy the Darkover books, especially the early ones. I also enjoyed the first few Gor books (well, I was 15...) Both series fell apart when the author's success allowed them to become little more than platforms for their particular social views. Some of the action plots were still good, but you had to be able just skim and de-process lots of preaching.

Both authors were at extremes of a continuum, and I have a theory about that: Any continuum is actually a circle where the extremes meet at the back. This puts the yammering of both extremes, which all too often has remarkably similar patterns, thankfully out of sight and hopefully out of mind.

Sorry this drifted off-topic, but thinking of fiction writers brings up an idea... We will soon run out of mythical figures to name planets after. Why not honor our writers who have spent so much time naming their own worlds by freely sampling among them? The first new binary-planet pair could be called Gor and Darkover just for the sheer pleasure of watching entire segments of the population turn purple and fall over quivering... Huh? Huh?

#151 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 03:28 AM:

We will soon run out of mythical figures to name planets after.

Uh . . .

A good many Greco-Roman mythical figures have been spoken for, but there are a whole bunch of other cultures with cool gods and heroes to choose from.

I can certainly see folklorists arguing about who really counts as a "mythic figure" -- Joe Magarac? Pecos Bill? -- and we can probably exclude what Richard Dorson calls "fakelore," e.g. Paul Bunyan, but that doesn't significantly diminish the pool. It does tend to leave non-native Americans out, but, well, them's the breaks of having a country that hasn't been around half as long as Rome faw down go boom.

#152 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 07:00 AM:

Did Richard Dorson coin the term "fakelore"? I always assumed it was Gershon Legman, where I saw it first (I think).

#153 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 10:26 AM:

Allan, locking those two in a room alone with lots of weapons...well, you couldn't sell the video because the pink mist in the air would block your view, but it would have been fun.

#154 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 10:28 AM:

The commercial for this week's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" comments that since planets have to be round and revolve around a star, with the departure of Katie Couric, Al Roker is no longer a planet.

#155 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 11:47 AM:

A good many Greco-Roman mythical figures have been spoken for, but there are a whole bunch of other cultures with cool gods and heroes to choose from.

Which is exactly what the IAU has started doing with Kuiper Belt Objects:
Sedna (Inuit)
Quaoar (Tongva -- N. American Indian)
Varuna (Hindu)
Huya (Wayuu -- S. American Indian)

(Although other Kuiper Belt Objects have Classical names -- Ixion, Chaos, Logos, Zoe, Rhadamanthus, Orcus, ...)

#156 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Edward Oleander said:
One point I saw addressed only obliquely was the issue of planets around other stars. We should not develop our classification system based only on our own solar system. We have found over 130 extra-solar planets already, and that number will soon explode exponentially. Push our solar system out of your mind and imagine how you would classify these new discoveries....

The current number of detected extrasolar planets is 202. The semi-official catalog is here.

#157 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 10:26 PM:

Re Darkover: a person who finishes a book feeling that they've enjoyed reading it is always correct, since otherwise you have to hypothesize the existence of illusory pleasure (and pain) which gets silly fast.

Epacris, I kvetched about the botanical renaming wars in a comment thread on another weblog. People who have conniptions over the mere reclassification of Pluto have no idea. If this were botany rather than planetary astronomy, Pluto would have been renamed something like Audhumla or Titivullus, and moved into a completely new class of objects defined by their lithic fracture patterns, low metallic content, and absence of bracts.

#158 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2006, 10:38 PM:

adamsj, I'd heard the term as originating with Dorson (but then, I went to Indiana), but it's possible he borrowed it, and it also seems like something that could have had multiple independent inventions.

#159 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2006, 10:34 AM:

Both series fell apart when the author's success allowed them to become little more than platforms for their particular social views.

Where would you put the breakdown for MZB? I'd say it has less to do with views and more with running out of steam; YMMV, but I found (e.g.) Thendara House worth reading precisely because it had a clear disdain for simple dogma (cf Tommy), instead involving people working their ways through to some degree of useful understanding. I gave up when she started writing books that were so padded I was bored even with skimming. I know that's subjective; for a quantitative assay, try lining up the Darkover books by time and note two distinct jumps in size: in ~1980 (e.g., rewrite/extension of The Sword of Aldones into Sharra's Exile, followed by several books I found worth the time), and ~1995 (e.g., Exiles's Song).

Norman, on the other hand, jumped publishers, going from someone who insisted on editing his worst excesses to someone who needed the money Gor's sales brought. (At least, that was the commonly told story in the late 70's / early 80's; our hosts probably know more and might even be willing to comment.)

#160 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2006, 08:15 PM:

CHip, I think Darkover lost it when they reintroduced Earth.

#161 ::: Annie G. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 10:37 AM:

I hope I'm not hijacking (to address the last point: the only MZB I've read was The Mists of Avalon; I tried one Darkover book once and didn't enjoy it), but I just heard: Pluto is no longer a planet.

#162 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 11:26 AM:

My enjoyment of The Mists of Avalon was somewhat tempered by the reaction in the woo-woo wing of the Pagan community, who liked it not because it was a good story, but because (they thought) it's TRUE. *moan, bury face in hands* But I have to say I thought that was a pretty good read, and I really like her explanation of Merlin "youthening."

I'm of the opinion that MZB has a lot to answer for because of that book. I look at it and I see the seeds of I-don't-know-how-many stupid-ass ideas that run around the pagan community.

I mean, yeah, it was a great way to make Arthurian legend pseudo-historical and plausible(allowing for magic that works), but egggh. Plus I totally dropped out of the story when the Holy Grail was introduced.

I think my favorite bit, BTW, was Morgaine and Morgause. Leaving aside that neither of these is even vaugely plausible as a post-Roman British name, it did allow for more than one version of Morgan to appear in the story and make sense.

#163 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 11:27 AM:

And there was much rejoicing. Right has triumphed! The infidels slink away, having abandoned their arms on the field of battle; their women lament.

#164 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 11:39 AM:

Pluto is officially out. Don't know if that was "Right" or not, as Xopher seems to think. Certainly I haven't seen any lamenting women...

Well, it had a good run. Almost a century in the hall of planets.

Maybe the reason people are upset is that someone is going to have to update all these acronyms.

#165 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 11:56 AM:

I was being sarcastic, Greg (why do I hear that in Henry Thomas' voice?). Pluto doesn't change its nature depending on whether we call it a planet or not. It sure isn't an ecliptic planet, but really, who cares? That much, I mean?

Other than the Elder Gods, of course.

And I can only remember those mnemonics if I go through the planets in my head and try to remember the word in the mnemonic.

#166 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 01:04 PM:

New mnemonic, with dwarf planets on their own line:

My very enraged mother just stabbed Uncle Nunzio.

Cioau paizon, capice?

#167 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 01:21 PM:

"Free Amazons of Gor" was a short play in three acts (sort of). There may be scripts or transcriptions floating around. I'm not sure how or why I managed to see both west coast and east coast productions, but I did.

I enjoyed the Darkover books, but Boy, Howdy did MZB ever need an editor! I never read a Gor book all the way through, but according to my little brother, the first four books were a rip-off of Edgar Rice Burroughs The Gods of Mars.

Anyone remember "Abbott and Costello Meet the Priest-Kings, or, Buckets of Gor"? I saw it at a Worldcon masquerade, where it was followed by a couple doing Gor costumes in earnest (I just can't say "seriously"), and whose presentation suffered mightily in comparison.

#168 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 02:39 PM:

I was being sarcastic, Greg

I know. I was being facetious. I wish there were a (f) tag on these things. Or (h) for humorous. or (s) for sarcastic.

#169 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2006, 04:03 PM:

Tracie #167: I've read one Gor book. I made it all the way through. My first thought on completing it was: People pay money for this? That was, ahem, 26 years ago....

#170 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 04:03 AM:

Apparently Pluto was murdered by the government.

#171 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 08:40 AM:

What happens to Sailor Pluto?

Think of the children!

#172 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:45 AM:

With apologies to the shade of Marlowe:

Pluto is gone. Regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise
Only to wonder at unlawful things
Whose deepness doth entice such froward wits
To practice more than astronomy permits.

#173 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 10:15 AM:

on Pluto: What is the world coming to? Didn't ought to be allowed.

on MZB: Sometime in the 80s, the quality of her work declined sharply. (I put Mists on the wrong side of the line, personally.)

As a friend pointed out, although her name always appeared alone on the cover, if you look at the copyright page of her later books, you will often find various co-authors listed.

My opinion: a great writer in her prime, not a nice person at all. It leaves one in a bit of a quandary.

#174 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 01:28 PM:

Fragano - Bravo!

#175 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 05:33 PM:

Larry Brennan: Thanks! Though the credit should really go to Christopher Marlowe....

#176 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 08:02 PM:

ooh. My first post. Let's hope I don't appear to be too much of a doofus.

From the Washington Post a bit of satire on Pluto's loss of planetary status.

re: Gor - Does anyone remember reading a news blurb in Locus a few months ago about a group of "cultists" living the Gor dream in England? Found it! Now we know where to send all the Sharon Green fans.

Tania

#177 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 09:36 PM:

Tania, one too many "http" designations in there. Here's the correct link.

#178 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 10:12 PM:

Linkmeister - Thanks, and drat. What can I say other than: delurking anxiety!

#179 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2006, 10:40 PM:

Grins. We were all there once. I'm still too shy to address some of these folks directly.

The link I fixed is to the WaPo story, btw.

#180 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2006, 10:09 PM:

Anyone else having fun thinking up new mnemonics for the planets? Useless to me, of course; I can only remember the mnemonics by reciting the planets in order first. But it's fun—if, like me, your social life is pretty well into the toilet these days.

Moving on.

The simplest one I've seen so far is My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles, but I have to say I prefer My Very Exotic Mistress Just Showed Up Nude.

A friend on the West Coast offers My Volkswagen Emits Mick Jaggar Songs Until Noon.

The best one I've thought of personally was Malevolent Vampires Ended Mary Jane's Spectacularly Ugly Night. I deeply regret the one I made up that started Master Victor Explained Masochism...which I expect offended some people, even though it had a pretty good pun in the second half.

Who am I to suggest this should be a contest? No, I have no such brief, alas.

#181 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 03:47 PM:

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine.

"Nine what?"

"I don't know, they took it away before I had a chance to check it out."

#182 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 06:40 PM:

That should be "We Nine," the identity of the guests being left to Mom, who should certainly know if she's that educated.

Which means that Uranus has the wrong name, which is a considerable relief to those of us who have heard Every Damn Rectal Joke in the Solar System.

Suggested new names:

Wendy
Winky
Woo-Woo
Wladislaw
Whadat?
Weeble (Precesses but it Don't Fall Down)

No, no, wait, this won't work, Gotta be "We Eight," so . . .

Eeptune. Or possibly End of Track.

For all that people have been complaining about the IAS, the alternative is to throw* the nomenclature of Floaty Things Out There to everybody with an axe to set fire to onstage. If you are familiar with the requests received for commemorative postage stamps, or the various International Joe's Post Office Box Star Registry for Fifty Bucks A Throw Services, you'll see the problem.

*"Hurl" might be more appropriate.

#183 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 06:57 PM:

I really like "End of Track," if only for its historical significance. Imagine the saloons out there!

#184 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 07:43 PM:

"Welcome to Hell on Ion Station-Keeping Thrusters, stranger. Would ya like a bleep bleep drink in a bleepin' bleepy glass, a coupla bleepin' hands of eight-bleep-card bleep poker, or twelve bleepity bleep bleep minutes of bleep onna bleep with a virtual bleeper of user-defined gender an' specializations? We also got Star Trek reruns. But no bleepifyin' Voyager."

Once, bleep was an overdub. Now, it's a word men will kill over.
--Deadwood 2189

#185 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 07:46 PM:

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nothing.

Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Up North.

#186 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 08:45 PM:

TexAnne, you're in the Terra camp for name of this planet, I take it?

#187 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 08:59 PM:

"Greetings, intelligent beings of this world! We come to you from habitats orbiting a star approximately one-tenth the distance along this arm of the galaxy. We bring the technology of clean and inexpensive energy on a large scale."
"How much is that going to cost?"
"Pardon me, my translator seems to be malfunctioning. Would you like to visit our craft?"
"What kind of guns does it have?"
"I must adjust my translator. The name of our home is Bright Fragments Reflecting the Inspiring Vastnesss of the Cosmos. What do you call your home?"
"Dirt."
"My translator must be broken."

#188 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2006, 09:48 PM:

Xopher: That second one was supposed to be a lit'ry reference. In Have Spacesuit Et Cetera, Kip says "Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest."

#189 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 11:21 AM:

John M. Ford: I take it you prefer that this planet be called 'Tellus'.

Not, of course, that that tells us anything about you...

#190 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 11:55 AM:

TexAnne --

Mutant Velociraptors Eat Many Juicy Steaks Until Nauseous.

#191 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Fragano: Only if the Moon (it is still a moon, right?) is called Penne.

I didn't even get to the part where the alien ambassador asks what we call ourselves as a species, and is told that it's "Wise wise man." At that point he probably just sells us a subscription to Galactic Highlights,* sucks some fuel off Eeptune, and leaves a While You Were Out card on Europa.

*Featuring the cartoon adventures of Goofant and Galactus. They both eat planets, but one has really bad table manners.

#192 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 12:06 PM:

Graydon --

You have disturbed the Copyeditor Within.* Someone who has an upset stomach is "nauseated." Someone who is "nauseous" inspires that condition in others.

Of course, an fat 'n happy V-raptor might make you feel very unsettled, especially if you smelled yummy.

*OMGWTFBFD.

#193 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Mike --

I do have this habit of distressing copyeditors.

Nauseated is fine by me, though I could probably make a case for the velociraptor smelling anything but yummy, now that its plumage is covered in blood and finely divided gristle and like that.

#194 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 04:09 PM:

John M. Ford # 191: In that case the alien ambassador might eat the Moon first.

(I'd go for Cynthia, but then I'd go for Cytherean for an inhabitant of Venus...).

Of course, the alien ambassador could have read the species name as wise wise guy...

#195 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2006, 05:01 PM:

...or smart, smart homo. Like me!

#196 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 01:05 PM:

John M. Ford:

and we can probably exclude what Richard Dorson calls "fakelore," e.g. Paul Bunyan

Hmmm--my folklore classes in college emphasized that the logger Paul Bunyan was "fakelore," but the oilman Paul Bunyan tales from the Southwest were The Real Thing. Have things changed since then?

#197 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 03:40 PM:

Bruce: No, and indeed the logger stories are traced to old French-Canadian tall tales. I was picking an example in a hurry, and recalled Bunyan from someone else's discussion of Dorson's term. (I'd blame him if I remembered who he was.)

On Making Light, sloppiness will always whack you upside yo' lazy temporal lobe.

#198 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 05:48 PM:

There's a nifty modern Paul Bunyan story by Larry Hammer called "Paul Bunyan and the Photocopier," available in mp3/podcast form. (So you get the proper oral-tradition folktale effect; campfire and fellow loggers not supplied.)

Explains why Lake Michigan is so long, in case you were wondering.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.