Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Anniversaries: Discovery of Our Tenth Planet

NASA artist's concept of Eris. Image Source: Space Today Online.

We live in great times. Sometimes the incredible discoveries of our era remind me of this. It's easy to forget them because the daily tidal wave of information is so overwhelming. Today marks the sixth anniversary since the tenth planet, Eris (also known as 2003 UB313), was discovered.  This frozen world, slightly smaller than our moon, is in fact larger than Pluto and has a tiny moon of its own, called DysnomiaWiki: "Eris was discovered by the team of Mike Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David Rabinowitz on January 5, 2005, from images taken on October 21, 2003."

Eris, Greek goddess of strife and discord. Athenian painting, ca. 575-525 BCE. Image Source: Wiki.

The planet is named after Ἔρις, the Greek goddess of strife and discord, who in the myths initiated the Trojan War.  The planet's tiny moon is named after the goddess's child, Δυσνομία, "lawlessness," the demon daughter of strife.

Shortly after Eris's discovery, in September 2006, the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto from being considered a planet to a 'minor planet,' to share Eris's classification.   The two minor planets are part of the Kuiper belt past Neptune, which will likely yield more such discoveries in the future.  The belt has a 'cliff' at its edge, which may be a gap, after which there could well be another belt orbiting our sun, out past Pluto.  Similar small planetary bodies in the belt include Makemake, Haumea (moons: Namaka and Hi'iaka), Sedna, Orcus (moon: Vanth), and Quaoar (moon: Weywot).

Kuiper Belt objects. Image Source: Wiki.

Eris's orbit.

A video below from BBC Worldwide explains how Eris was discovered.

Video Source: BBC Worldwide via Youtube.


  1. A frozen tenth planet? Did anyone check for Cybermen?
    And also, I have to admit my Latin is a little rusty but wouldn't "Dysnomia" literally translate to "can't be named" or "can't name"? It sounds an awful lot like Ian Hunter giving one of his albums the title "All Of The Good Ones Are Taken".
    In a sense, being without a name and being lawless or unwelcome in society would have been more aligned for cultures in the ancient world. It's definitely something Rowling tapped into, whether by instinct or after flipping through Joseph Campbell.

  2. Thanks very much for your comment pblfsda - it's always great to read your responses, especially with Dr. Who references! I think you've hit on something interesting, namely a Latin conflation between naming something and creating law. Dysnomia also refers to the inability to remember the right word when you need it. Thus it seems that names, laws and memories are all linked semantically. Something to look into further, I imagine. And on that note, perhaps one day you can tell me what your cryptic pen name stands for!

  3. Sorry it took so long to get back to you but I was waylaid by a brief illness and spent my 'down' time researching my music blogs. I looked up and it was a week later. Gah...
    As for the screen name, the last three letters are my initials. The first four are a re-e-eally obscure animation joke I usually don't bother explaining, not so much to be mysterious as that it doesn't seem to help. Since you've devoted so much effort to unlocking the mysteries of the universe here, I wouldn't mind committing the story to print if you don't object to a 1000+ word off-topic comment.

  4. Well, don't say I didn't warn you.
    When I was a kid, I watched a lot of-- well, I watched too many cartoons. As an adult I continued to delve into their histories and while I found tons of interesting trivia I would only rarely stumble across something truly revelatory. One such discovery was in the form of a forgotten thread picked up in the mid 1990's. Some basic cable network had picked up the rights to rebroadcast "Rocky and Bullwinkle". I had fallen in love with the show as a preteen after having watched it intermittently in syndication for years. The stories were serialized and local stations across the country didn't always broadcast the episodes in the proper order. For a seven-year-old this makes it most interesting as a puzzle to put together, but small children aren't famously known for their patience and never seeing the first or last chapters of a story gets old after a while. By ten or eleven, however, the wiseass gene kicks in, in anticipation of hormones. It's a wonderful time right after the eyes open up and right before the brain shuts down. I began to notice the satirical quality of the writing, how it overcompensated for the poorly drawn characters and sparse, cheap animation. And puns, puns, puns. Every episode ended in two alternate titles for the following episode, always a pun in black humor. Anyway, as an adult rewatching the shows years later I noticed that they were still using a closing credit sequence dating to the years of syndication in the 1970's and not the sequence from the original run in the 1960's. I had been videotaping the episodes, something I was unable to do as a child, when it occurred to me that this meant I now had the technology to do something I had wanted for years to be able to do: read the final credit.

    The syndication closing credit sequence used the motif of a theatre marquee to display the names. It worked much like a Times Square animated sign; hundreds of little individual light bulbs would spell out a list of names, then blink on and off to list another. However, the last name, an executive producer, only appeared for a fraction of a second before the bulbs burst in rapid random sequence, leaving only a few letters. I had seen it happen hundreds of times and could make only educated guesses at what it said, never knowing for sure. Years later I stood in front of the television with the power to see it frame by frame. Years of waiting were satisfied in minutes.
    [comment split for length]

  5. [comment continues]
    The name I had been trying to read was "Ponsonby Britt". It wasn't a credit I had seen associated with any other production. There was good reason for that, as it turns out.

    "Rocky and Bullwinkle" was created by Jay Ward and Bill Scott. Ward was... wired differently than most people who worked in television. With an earlier collaborator (the late Alex Anderson) he created "Crusader Rabbit and Rags the Tiger" in the dawning days of television. They had been cheated out of ownership of the character and it would be years before Ward returned (from advertising) to broadcasting in 1959 with "R&B", which superficially resembles "Crusader...": plucky little rodent with big, goofy pal. The difference was in the dialogue. "Crusader..." had been intended as a series of full animation shorts, which at the time (1940's) were shown in movie theaters before the main feature, along with newsreels, sing-a-longs, etc. When it was rejected in that arena, it found a home in television where standards of quality were low all around. If it moved and made noise, it was good enough for 1940's television. "R&B", however, was a product of the cold war. Mistrust was a given. Television itself had already fallen into cliches and had a well-earned reputation for hucksterism. What was a minefield for everyone else was a playground for Jay Ward. Ward and Scott often had to field phone calls from network executives they'd never heard of who would crawl out of the woodwork to give their half-baked opinions on what the public's reaction would be to this or that line in the script. Sometimes they would agree to remove something, forget to do so, and the episode would air to absolutely no outrage in response.

    Now, the expense of reanimating a sequence is nothing compared to time consumed; the reverse is true with live actors on camera. Network personnel never seemed to take this into consideration, so to save themselves headaches, Ward and Scott fell into the habit of pretending that they had cleared potentially objectionable material through their fictional corporate founder, Ponsonby Britt. They even issued a CV/bio for him in the press packets, giving him an O.B.E. and a personal history that would give H. Rider Haggard sweaty palms. The network weasels were apparently very intimidated by anyone with a title in their names. Heated and time-wasting conversations could be brought to an end by asking, "Of course, if you'd prefer to speak to Mr. Britt yourself...". No one ever did. Once in a while someone on the other end would mention that they had had lunch with Mr. Britt the previous week, and while Ward and Scott didn't know what to make of that, they were too crafty to pursue it.
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  6. [comment continues]
    I managed to track down most of this information before I had access to the internet. Ward had died in the late 1980's and his daughter was trying to substitute earlier scattershot attempts at marketing the series to home video with a better organized business plan that had a chance at seeing comprehensive releases. (The DVD's are currently headed in that direction, including the restored closing credits with Britt's name clearly visible.) Today, of course, Britt has his own Facebook page. But in the late 1990's his existence (or nonexistence) was a forgotten pop culture secret, an inside joke shared mostly by people who had died or retired. As a comics/music junkie I often found myself swimming in oceans of similar trivia. But in Ponsonby Britt I found a valuable lesson. Many of those people who called for censorship were adamant as long as they thought that they were dealing with a powerless underling. When faced with a person of authority, even a fictional one they had never met, they buckled. They never really cared about the supposed bone of contention. It had only ever been just an excuse to feign power. None of their fears of public outrage had ever been based on any real research into public opinion. They weren't based on prior complaints. They just wanted an excuse to give someone an order, an impotent reaction to being given orders themselves. Their behavior was toxic to those around them and had they gotten their way it wouldn't have improved their own lives a whit. Ponsonby Britt became, to me, a symbol of a monkeywrench in a sick and dysfunctional machine. Thus I founded the Ponsonby Britt Liberation Front-- the PBLF.
    And I am pblfsda.

  7. Pblfsda, you win the all time award on this blog for the best comment ever! That's an amazing story. Thank you very much for taking the time to explain it and share it on my blog.

    I'm sure I've heard of Ponsonby Britt before, but that could either be the power of suggestion, or the fact that the story has recently seeped into pop culture. I fully appreciate the weight of a story in which you dug up a nugget of pop culture knowledge in a pre-internet age, b/c I prided myself before the Web existed in being able to find that kind of stuff out.

    In fact, I believe it used to be a point of pride for a lot of people to be able to dig up little known facts like this - based on genuine interest in things that seemed simple and popular but were in fact far more complex. It's fast becoming a forgotten art, I think, since I notice no one now has to go to such lengths to search out these gems. Thank you again, pblfsda - I'm humbled by your comment. All my name stands for is 'tamaran or bust' but what that means is a story for another time.

  8. Further - pblfsda - regarding your comment on people's interest in power vs. their honest belief in causes, I would tend to argue that that is a common phenomenon, especially these days. I've often noted that bandwagon devotion to any given cause quickly evaporates, and the labels used which generate public interest are completely interchangeable for many people. What they are interested in in fact is dynamism, credibility or power they can get from bandying such terms about. This kind of rhetoric drives much of our political discourse.