September 14, 2006

Hail Eris!

Resize of planets3.jpgIt is now official, 2003 UB313 (formerly known as Xena) will be named Eris.

The entire brouhaha about Plutos planetary status has annoyed me to no end, partially because it presupposes that planets is some form of natural kind, but also because it reminded me of astrology. I always get annoyed by astrology because it is like the incompetent elderly uncle to science.

Western astrologers seem to be happy to include new planets into horoscopes, which is OK in my book: that shows that they at least believe the real world matters.

"The teaching in western astrology, the only astrological system in the world which accepts new planets, is that when a new planet is discovered and named, the archetype of that planet is available to everyone on Earth. The name of the planet counts, so does the planet's mythology and the story of the planet."

And divining the astrological significance, it at least sounds quasi-empirical (but the discussions do not appear to be very careful with standards of evidence). But then comes the assumption that the name is significant. Which should mean that now the female warrior archetype has got replaced by the spiteful female (or hopefully, the LSD-illuminati-sexy-mother-goddess). Due to a decision among a small group of astronomers. If one really believes that naming objects have significance, one ought to stop the IAU from naiming all these transneptunians sinisterly: Chaos, Deucalion, Orcus, Ixion and so on. This mixing up between labels and things is typical for pseudoscience.

And then there is the ephemerid problem. Astrologers don't seem to mind that the precession has made the planets be in different signs on the sky than they are on the charts (not to mention that Ophiuchi should be part of the zodiac). I wonder if they are adjusting the location of the newly discovered planets to fit the astrological signs or the real ones? And now they are happily adding transneptunians to the charts without caring that they often have a high inclination (Eris has 45 degrees inclination). So Eris could be in signs outside the zodiac (right now Cetus), but arbitrarily gets assigned to one of them.

It is this arbitrariness that annoys me to no end. Astrologers not only claim their methods work, they also claim they are based on some higher cosmic order. But apparently this higher cosmic order is quite random or arbitrary, not regular and logical. So in the end nothing is gained: the purported cosmic machinery of destiny is just as hopless as mere chance.

Maybe Eris is the real goddess of astrology.

Posted by Anders3 at September 14, 2006 03:12 PM