Thursday, September 14, 2006

A planet by any other name?

The New York Times reported today that the dwarf planet formerly known as Xena has been re-christened 'Eris'. Quoting NYT:

Dr. Michael E. Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology who discovered the distant ball of ice and rock that he nicknamed Xena, chose the name Eris, after the goddess of discord and strife in Greek mythology. The International Astronomical Union made the name official today.

"It is absolutely the perfect name," Dr. Brown said, given the continuing discord among astronomers and the public over whether Pluto should have retained its planetary status.

In mythology, Eris ignited discord that led to the Trojan War. “She causes strife by causing arguments among men, by making them think their opinions are right and everyone else’s is wrong,” Dr. Brown said. “It really is just perfect.”

Hmmm... I have known about Ares, the God of War (Come on, I used to love 'Xena, the Warrior Princess'!), but I don't recall hearing about Eris before. It is strange, on reflexion, how Eris, associated with strife, is closely homophonic to Eros, the God of Love! Those Greek mythologists had a sense of humor!

Perhaps so does the International Astronomical Union! Anyway, Prof. Myers at Pharyngula kind of stole my thunder by blogging the news of the name change in his post about Planetary conspiracy theories, and I have to say, he is HILARIOUS! I must share this with you, my friends; I urge you to visit his post following the link above, for further linkouts to other related blogs, but here is the excellent part:

The dwarf planet formerly known as Xena has been renamed Eris, and it's companion has been named Dysnomia... We all know the real devious reasons for juggling the names around.
  • It's an anti-feminist plot to deprive that famous female historical figure and butt-kicking lesbian, Xena the Warrior-Princess, of her due honor.
  • It's a feminist plot to punish Xena for making those horribly uncomfortable leather bustiers popular.
  • It's a Discordian conspiracy to destroy Christianity. Hail Eris!
  • Look at that name, "Eris". It makes no sense. But it's "Sire" spelled backwards…obviously, the British Royal Family is behind it, and we all know that they are up to no good, those shape-shifting reptoid bastards.
  • Alternatively, it's a typo: it's supposed to be "Bris." It's a Jewish feminist conspiracy, and they decided that a butt-kicking lesbian warrior wasn't aggressive enough, so they went to something more likely to strike fear in men's hearts.
  • It's a coded message from the Democrats. No more Floridas, no more Ohios—they're calling in Electoral Reform International Services.
  • Aww, heck, forget the secret conspiracy stories. This is an organization under the Bush administration, after all…somebody screwed up and accidentally typed random letters into a form. Has anyone seen Deutsch lately?
  • They were going to name the two bodies Eros and Dysmenorrhea, but those two just didn't get along, so they picked the next best names.
  • The REAL answer, the one we should worry about, is that all this shuffling about and renaming and categorizing of planets is an anti-evolutionist conspiracy. We now have dwarf planets; soon they'll unveil pygmy planets, and then we'll have the cosmic version of an irrefutable creationist argument, and we'll be doomed.
By the way, did anyone notice that Dr. Brown's description above about Eris - causes strife by causing arguments among men, by making them think their opinions are right and everyone else’s is wrong - fits ever so nicely to Organized Religion?

I shall say 'Amen' to that. Gotta go now. Later, dudes and dudettes.

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