20 January 2016

Finally, Rupert?

If you're a Douglas Adams fan, then you know of his oft-maligned fifth entry in the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, "Mostly Harmless." In that book, a fictional 10th (which would be 9th, had Mr. Adams been writing after 2006, which wouldn't that have been wonderful?) planet lurks in the dark outer reaches of our solar system. From the icy surface of that dim world aliens observe Earth's radio and television broadcasts that have leaked out into space. To find out what happens next, you'll have to read the book (sometimes I can be a wee bit the sadist).
According to astronomers with much better math skills and much faster computers than I, the math seems to be working out again that there's another planet out there in the far reaches of ol' Sol's gravitational influence. Reading this made me think some things:

  • We really should name the damned thing "Rupert" if it does exist. Seems a fitting and prescient tribute.
  • I know the odds on this are, um, astronomical (hah!), but wouldn't it be great if New Horizons were either headed toward or at least able to be nudged in the direction of Rupert? It's not as if we knew the world was out there, so there's a non-zero chance that if Rupert does orbit the sun that our Pluto-buzzing buddy could be able to capture some science data about our newest sister planet.
  • Finally, we could re-work the mnemonic to something like:
    • My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine
      • Root beers
      • R├Ądlers
      • Rutabegas
      • Reeses (hello marketing tie-in!)
      • Raisins
      • Radishes
      • Ravioli
      • ...(your turn)

My imagination is a wonderful place to visit, and much warmer than Planet Rupert.

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