Chew it over

Xena, warrior planet

By now, you’ve probably heard that astronomers have discovered a tenth planet in our solar system, lurking out beyond Pluto, 9 billion miles from the sun. But did you know what astronomers are considering naming it? From today’s New York Times:

Informally, the astronomers have been calling it Xena after the television series about a Greek warrior princess, which was popular when the astronomers began their systematic sweep of the sky in 2000. “Because we always wanted to name something Xena,” Dr. Brown said.

Awesome. The name “Xena” is, of course, only provisional, since the name has to be approved by the International Astronomical Union. But I love the idea of naming planets after major pop-culture entities. It’s kind of like the way neuroscientists have a penchant for naming neurotransmitters after video-game characters.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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