Welcome Back Ceres

Celestial bodies and ugly heads

Wow, not only has Howard had his ‘border-protection’ bill defeated in the Senate, he’s decided to allow a conscience vote on stem cell research. And Attorney General Ruddock has said that if the Americans don’t charge David Hicks soon he’ll get him sent home. I’m not complaining, but who are these people and what have they done with the Government?

Anyway, lots of news this week about the proposed re-definition (well really just definition, since there hasn’t been one previously) of planet. If accepted, this will upgrade Charon, Ceres and “Xena” to planets immediately – giving us 12 planets in the solar system – and stick a bunch more on a watch list for later inclusion if they match the criteria.

A lot of people seem rather upset about this, but I for one welcome our new celestial companions! To my mind the criteria are (if you’ll pardon my French) bloody sensible – they’re short, easy to understand and consistant. There’s a few minor bugs to be worked out (like what about brown dwarfs?) but apart from that they’re pretty much the criteria I would have devised (which is, of course, high praise indeed ;D)

I think most of the uproar over the proposal is being caused by people with basically nil knowledge of astronomy. They learned the nine planets by rote in primary/elementary school, and now find that sacred knowledge threatened by meddling scientists. “Why can’t they leave things alone?!” they wail. They probably imagine that the solar system is a clean, pristene place with the nine planets floating around in serene majesty, and that now these scientists have invented things like “Ceres” and “Charon” just to mess things up. Well, I mean frankly, if you’ve never heard of Ceres then what use are you?

People are also complaining that under this proposal we could end up with dozens of planets. Well yes, and your point is? There are probably about 60 round things in orbit around the sun. What? Are we supposed to ignore the ones we don’t like? They’re there people! Accept it and deal. No one will be expecting little Timmy to memorise all of them for his science test, so grow up and stop whinging!

(Oh, I just thought, there’s probably people out there who are complaining because the new planets will mess up their horoscopes. Given that astrology is either a: a highly intuitive system of knowledge that uses the planets as a convenient source of random data for interpretation, or b: a load of complete bollocks – this can only be a good thing).

Anyway if this proposal goes through (and we all pray it will) “Xena” will become the 12th planet (although with the eccentric orbits of plutons such exact numbering might be tricky). I say “Xena” of course because “Xena” is just an unofficial nickname – it hasn’t got a real name yet. So we’ll need to come up with one. Now, as good as Lucy Lawless was in that episode of Battlestar Galactica, naming a planet after her might be a bit excessive – we’ll probably want to go back to classical mythology. With this in mind I think the best suggestion is Persephone.

Persephone was the wife of Hades (the Greek name for Pluto). She spent six months a year with him, and six months with her mother Demeter, causing the cycle of the seasons (Demeter was a nature goddess, and got too depressed to do her job when Persephone was away – hence winter). Given that “Xena” is so similar to Pluto, and spends roughly half it’s orbit close to Pluto and half away (or so I’ve read) this would be an ideal name.

Unfortunately there’s already an asteroid called Persephone. I propose we rename it. We can call it “Persephonis” or “Persephonae” or “Persephony” or something. Hell, we can even call it “Xena” if necessary. This would neatly free up the name, and set a very useful precedent for any other Kuiper Belt Objects we need titles for 😉

(The fact that there’s a planet named Persephone in Firefly has nothing to do with my preference at all. Honestly. Anyway we’ve already got moons named Ariel and Miranda so the solar system is pretty shiny as is 🙂

OK, so the 12th planet is now called Persephone. So what to call it’s moon? (yes, it has a moon). This is currently – for obvious reasons – nicknamed “Gabrielle”. Now if we’re not naming planets after Lucy Lawless we can hardly name them after Renee O’Connor so the name has to change. And I reckon we can be really clever with this one, and rename it “Gabriel”. This is suitably mythic sounding and goes nicely with the moons of Uranus, Ariel and Umbriel.

So, that’s the deal with planets. I have spoken! ;D

On a completely different subject, Channel Ten premiered David Tench Tonight this week, which is a half hour of celebrities being interviewed by a giant, computer generated head (which from certain angles happens to bear a startling resemblance to my friend Ryan). Judging by the huge amount of advertising they’ve been running for it they’re trying to make it a flagship program, which just goes to show how idiotic TV execs can be.

Based on Thursday’s episode, the show has absolutely nothing going for it. The interviews were dull, the jokes were extremely lame, and the only thing that made it even worth looking at was the novelty value of seeing people talking to a large computer generated head. Unless the quality improves sharply it’s going to sink like a depth-charged u-boat. And I don’t see how it can really improve.

You see it’s an interview show, and interview shows are only good when you’ve got a good interviewer. Someone who asks good questions, encourages the interviewee’s answers and make them feel comfortable. Andrew Denton (ironically one of the people behind Tench) and Michael Parkinson are good examples. David Tench is not a good interviewer. He doesn’t exist. He’s a model inside a computer and a guy making lame jokes in a funny voice. The interviews are carried out by someone making exagerated gestures in a video capture suit, with the interviewees having to pretend they’re talking and reacting to the computer generated grotesquerie that gets added in the video mixer – there’s no way anyone could feel comfortable and relaxed enough to give a good interview in those circumstances. The concept of interviews conducted by a non-existant interviewer is one that’s doomed right from the start – just because we now have the computing power to do it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

The novelty value will keep the show running for a little while, and convincing some big names to take part will eke things out a little further (although they seem to have run out of big names on the first night – no offense to Ella Hooper but she’s B-list at best) but it’s a losing proposition. Ten should cut their loses and run (either that or marry Tench off to Yasmin and be done with it 😉

Once again I have spoken! ;D

PS: The video clip for the Scissor Sisters’ latest, I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ is brilliantly silly. And it’s not a bad song either.

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