Friday, August 14, 2015

Sorry, but Uranus is already taken.

Hey, get this: The International Astronomical Union, the world's recognized authority when it comes to naming things we can barely see and may never actually stand on, has chosen twenty stars and is letting the public name them and their planets. By voting on the internet.
Got a pulse and an internet connection? Then you're qualified to name entire worlds. 
Johann Elert Bode: the man personally
responsible for 200 years of Uranus jokes.
Yup, the IAU is letting us, the little people, name some of the 1,900 or so extrasolar planets spotted by the Kepler array and other planet finding efforts. No longer will naming the potentially infinite worlds of the cosmos be the sole province of the many astronomers who have dedicated their entire lives to the painstaking and largely thankless science of cataloging the universe in the thin hope that they may someday make a discovery of their own and in a small way contribute to their chosen field. Of course they did give us Uranus, so whatever. Huh? No, I mean Uranus pronounced like Yer-anus, not Urine-us. Deal with it. Anyway, at first it sounds pretty great, right? Democracy in space! The stars belong to all of us, so why shouldn't we have a say in what we call them?

Pictured: Planet Daenerys in the
Khaleesi system. Because the internet.
Because we're really really bad at naming things, that's why. Check this out. According to the Social Security Department, last year parents named their kids things like Couture, Gamble and Eliminate. Yeah, Eliminate, as in to murder or to excrete, and the IAU wants us to help name planets? Like, don't get me wrong, I do think naming the planets is a good idea. With ours rapidly spiraling towards ecological catastrophe, we might need another one and since most of the exoplanets are just assigned long, nonsensical strings of numbers it makes sense that we'd want to call them something catchier.

I mean, if the colony on Kepler-329-D is being overrun with xenomorphs and you need to call in an orbital nuclear strike, you don't want the space marines bombing Planet Kepler-329-B by mistake just because of shitty subspace reception, do you?
"No you idiot, Kepler-three-two-niner-D...what? No, D as in dickweed.
Ok, just-just, forget it, I'll blow the queen out an airlock myself. Again."

-Ellen Ripley, seriously sick of this shit
"So you're from Earth which, if my universal
translator is functioning correctly, also means dirt.
And you've named our planet Doritos Prime? I see."
But I guess what bothers me more than even the likelihood of our mighty galactic space empire being made up of worlds like Google Chrome or Disney Planet, is the presumptuousness of naming what could be inhabited planets. Several of those spotted so far are rocky planets within their systems' so-called goldilocks zones so there's a chance, however small, that someone or something already lives on them. Whatever their level of technology, I can't imagine they'd appreciate a bunch of pre-warp savages telling them what to call their homeworld.
Look, I'm not saying don't go vote on the IAU's site, I'm just suggesting that maybe we shouldn't be disappointed if future space explorers, after what's sure to be a long, arduous trip across the lightyears, don't stick with whatever name we come up with just because their ancestors clicked a link three hundred years earlier before going back to checking Facebook and searching for their primitive, non-holo porn.
"Houston, this is Commander Jenkins, do you copy? I've landed on the surface of
<sigh> Pikachu Spongebob V and-no, you know what? Fuck this. Houston this is
Empress Jenkins the First calling from the surface of Planet Jenkins. Acknowledge."

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