Saturday, November 10, 2007

eris, bringer of strife

If you thought the last post was all I had to say about Gustav Holst and The Planets, well you might be amused by what I left out, and what I think is the clincher.

For those of you who bothered to wikipedia* Gustav Holst, you would have learned that the discovery of Pluto, the (former) 9th planet was discovered during his lifetime, four years prior to his death. He was asked by many to write an eighth movement to include the newly discovered planet [Earth was skipped in his famous seven movement piece], but refused primarily because he was acrimonious to the fact that the popularity of The Planets eclipsed his other work.

Well it seems that Holst was vindicated after all with the discovery of Eris, a dwarf planet which is the ninth largest body known to orbit the sun, which resulted in the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to officially define the term 'planet' for the first time, and remove dear old Pluto from her esteemed status, and in fact, place it second in line after the troublemaker Eris.

The dwarf planet Eris was such named after her mythological namesake, because "[t]he name in part reflects the discord in the astronomical community caused by the debate over the object's (and Pluto's) nature.¹" What I also found lovely is that she is accompanied here by her daughter moon, Dysnomia.

And so to bring this farce full circle, we can discuss a book Harmonices Mundi, or "Harmonies of the Worlds" by Johannes Kepler which attempted to explain the musical harmony of the spheres, an ancient concept known as musica universalis, which regarded proportions in the movements of celestial bodies as a form of music.

Next, and with many pardons to Isaac Newton who suffered an erisian mishap with a falling orb, a [golden??!] apple which prompts a foray into describing the maths of celestial mechanics, only to be taken down a notch when Albert Einstein throws a wrench into Newton's game with his general theory which explains the erratic perturbations to local spacetime conditions. Isaac Asimov writes a short story about this and calls it "The Planet that Wasn't", [referring to planet Vulcan] although he never lived long enough to see Pluto demoted, which certainly would have delighted Gustav Holst had he been alive.


'Wikipedia' is a verb, and you can google it if you'd like ;)
¹I think they mean to say 'nomenclature', not 'nature'.

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