Friday, January 05, 2007

Goddess Of Chaos Makes "Scientific American"


Was I ever surprised to see Eris mentioned in Scientific American, January 2007, page 37, in an article called "What Is A Planet?" by Steven Soter. It talks about how Pluto got demoted from planetary status to insignificant-iceball-in-the-sky.

I should have known Eris was behind this. As I type this paragraph, professional astrologers are weeping and gnashing their teeth; Scorpios everywhere are thrusting pins into voodoo dolls made to look like the committee guys that passed down this ruling. The metaphysicians are scattering like bowling pins over this. Who do you think caused it, the Easter Bunny?

Let me quote the learned eggdomes themselves: "The discovery in 2005 of Eris (formerly known as 2003 UB313 or Xena), a KBO [Kuiper Belt Object] even larger than Pluto, brought the issue to a head. If Pluto is a planet, then Eris must also be one, together with scores of other large KBOs; conversely, is Pluto is not a planet, neither are the other KBOs. On what objective grounds could atronomers decide?"

There are so many things to talk about in this paragraph. First, note that Eris was orignally named Xena. Possibly named after the Warrior Princess? What a mistake; Eris is never so obvious as to clobber you with a sword. That's Athena's gig. I daresay they renamed the object when they discovered just how much trouble it was going to cause. Or maybe they aren't clear on the true nature of the situation, even now. Trying to impose 'objective standards' on primal Chaos, facryingoutloud, is kinda stoopid if you ask me.

I know: you didn't ask me.

But above all, please note: the discovery of this dang thing created, well, chaos in the scientific community, in the metaphysical community, and in the solar-system mobile hanging over my bed. About dang time. Well done, my spacy little iceballs.

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