Saturday, March 31, 2007

Binary Planets Are Common, says JPL

Binary systems are at least as likely to have planets as single-sun systems like our own, NASA scientists said yesterday. The group, working with the Spitzer space telescope, have an article published in the April edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

This means that the probable number of planets in the galaxy is more than doubled. And to me, that means the probability that there's life out there is more than doubled, too. Interesting stuff. I volunteer to go visit one as soon as NASA send a ship. Are you listening, NASA?

Not everyone's thrilled. M John Harrison, the writer, on his blog says that it is "culturally a total disaster because it encourages even respectable science journalists to make the obvious reference. Trilling’s team would have been better keeping their discovery secret until humanity could handle it." I puzzled over what the hell Mike meant for about five minutes. I eventually concluded that the universe, by having more than half of its planetary systems over-shone by binary systems, was displaying a distressingly white, middle-class, conservative notion of parenthood. When kids are involved, the universe itself comes down on the side of heterosexual two-parent families!!111!!Eleventy!11

It seemed like a blindingly stupid thing to say, but I couldn't say that in a comment on Mike's blog as it only accepts registered users. A couple of hours later, by dint of the Rosetta Stone of comments that had been posted under his pronouncement, I worked out that this wasn't what Mike meant at all. Apparently the discovery is "culturally a total disaster" because it will encourage people to see Star Wars as a Good Film, what with its lyrical twin sunsets over Tatooine as Luke pines for the fjords or whatever it is he's doing in A New Hope. Seeing Star Wars as a Good Film is apparently a Bad Thing in the Mike Harrisoniverse.

Suns setting on Tatooine (Lucasfilm).

I love Star Wars, so I'm going to pretend he really did mean the first thing. At least it shows imagination.

JPL/NASA's write up is here.'s write up is here.

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