Thursday, September 30, 2010

Zarmina Vogt thinks she's better than us.

I'm misunderstood.

Good news everybody! Scienceticians have discovered a potentially habitable planet. It's called Gliese 581g and is located in what astrophysicists call 'The Goldilocks Zone.' This means the planet has narrowly avoided being eaten by space bears. Space bears, of course, are just a metaphor for real-life factors like cosmic radiation, super-novae and Galactus, Devourer of Worlds.

Gliese 581g has a rich buttery mantle
and a molten cheesy core.

Excited yet? Don't be. This is science, so let's walk it back a bit. By 'potentially habitable' and 'Earth-like' they mean that the temperature won't immediately annihilate whatever chump sets foot on its surface as long as they stick to something called 'the terminator.' How comforting. You see the planet is tidally-locked meaning that one side always faces the sun and the other constantly faces the cold infinity of space. So like a Hot Pocket three times the mass of Earth, Gliese 581g is partially scorched and partially frozen.

I know what your thinking: "Earth-like? Hardly!" But there is precedent for life developing along a narrow corridor of inhabitability. Behold this map of Canadian population density:
See? Science! Much in the same way that Canadian civilization is clustered between two extremes (abject boredom in the frozen north and getting mugged/murdered in the more exciting south), life could have evolved on Gliese 581g in the band between light and dark. Or, to put it in simpler Texas school board terms: Noah's Space Ark could have landed in the 'Promised Zone' and off-loaded all the mythical creatures and that's what happened to all the unicorns.

In Texas, this is science.
(This is the first and best image to come up when you Google 'unicorns')
So there it is. A whole new planet with the potential for life. Someday our children or our children's children might explore it first hand. Ok, so more likely it'll be our children's children's children's multi-trillion dollar robotic probe, but still. Perhaps someday in the distant future our descendants might even call it home. Of course they'll have to change the name. 

No, they're beautiful.
I mean, who needs
a planet...?

Right now it's called Gliese 581g, which is by far the worst name for a planet ever. And yes, I'm including Uranus. You see, it's named after Wilhelm Gliese, so you pronounce it like 'Lisa' but with a german accent. Would you want to be from planet Gleezuh? No, didn't think so. According to the article, one of the scientists who discovered it has unofficially named it after his wife Zarmina. Kudos to her for being born with a name that totally sounds like an alien planet. I'm pretty sure the Starship Enterprise ran into Zarminans at least once (ok, no it didn't). But still, I think we can do better. We don't want Zarmina walking around thinking she's better than us just because she's got a planet.

I say we start a massive letter writing campaign right now to rename it something awesome. Here are some suggestions that are way better than Gliese 581g and slightly better than Planet Zarmina:
1. Gliese Prime (anything sounds cool with 'Prime' on the end of it)
2. Tralfamadore
3. Hotpocketron 7
almost anything...

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