Sunday, April 15, 2012

M is for... well... you'll see:

It's actually been about four years since it caught my attention that the naming of planets in mankind's favorite solar system is relatively uniform except for one glaring exception; that ostentatious little brat of a planet called Earth.

The other eight orbs are labelled in the realm of mythology, six of them of the Roman variety. But Earth? When has there ever been such an obvious and unapologetic display of subjectivity?

Of course, given our natural evolution out of complete ignorance, this is all entirely understandable. Nevertheless, four years ago I wrote on my bucket list: Rename Earth.

Don't worry. I'm not starting a movement. It's strictly an academic exercise though one I find truly interesting and quite likely relevant to a series of sci-fi short stories I have been planning, plotting and researching for quite some time.

The objective: Given the existing pattern of planetary nomenclature, what is the most obvious name for this third planet of the system?

"Easy," says my pal, Killer. "Terra."

"Won't even make the short list," says I.

"It's Latin," says Killer.

"Yeah?" says I. "What's Latin for Who gives a rat's ass?"

Killer: "I'd have to get back to you on that."

It didn't take long to find the solution which satisfies me.

The first step was to decipher a pattern into which Earth could fit. Immediately we see that it will be the name of a god, probably a Roman one.

Next, there are three things that stand out:

1. Earth is, for many reasons both scientific and poetic, the sister planet of Venus, thus Serena makes the short list. Ha ha! Just kid'n. We're looking at Roman, possibly Greek, mythology; not tennis mythology. It is Artemis and Athena who make the short list, among others.

2. There is an obvious lineage running toward the sun. Saturn fathered Jupiter, who fathered Mars. The previously-named Earth comes next. This presents a strong case for naming us after a child of Mars. For various reasons then, it is Romulus on the short list. Hmm. Not pretty. No Earthling I know is likely to wish to be renamed Romulan. It would totally screw up our coveted Star Trek mythology, at least without a terribly clever plot twist.

3. The Gods already represented in our system, with their various spheres of influence, cover most of mankind's most passionate and arduous pursuits. They are politics (Jupiter), media and commerce (Mercury), food (Saturn), water (Neptune), religion and family structure (Uranus), wealth (Pluto), war (Mars), love and sex (Venus).

The most obvious missing human obsessions? I must suggest they are education, art/music and, perhaps, pop culture.

As criteria 1 and 2 are obviously exclusive (Mars did not father Venus nor presumably any of her sisters) there is no way to resolve all three criteria with a single name. The next ideal then would be to find a name that satisfies two of the three; still an unlikely possibility, it occurs to me.

Well, it turns out there is of course a Roman god of art and music; more specifically, a goddess. And lo and behold: She is the sister of Venus! Two of three criteria satisfied!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:


1 comment:

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm for it. Who do you see about renaming the planet?