Pharyngula

Look up!

What an honor: Jeff Medkeff, an astronomer and discoverer of asteroids, has been generous to name a recently discovered set of distant rocks after Michael Stackpole, Rebecca Watson, Phil Plait, and me. That’s right, there is now a few billion tons of rock and metal spinning overhead with my name on it, asteroid 153298 Paulmyers. You can find a picture of its orbit and location, just in case you want to visit.

Now I don’t know much about astronomy — I know this rock doesn’t have any squid on it, unfortunately, and that it’s small, cold, and remote (hey, just like where I am now! Only more so!) — but Phil Plait describes the details of his asteroid.

To give you an idea of the asteroid’s size, it has more than 200 times the volume of Hoover Dam. Assuming that it’s made of rock, it has a mass of about 2 quadrillion grams, or about 2 billion tons. If it’s metal it’ll be about twice that massive.

When I mentioned this to Skatje, the first thing she asked was whether mine was bigger than Phil’s. Phil admits that it probably is twice the size, although it’s an estimate from relative brightness, so it could be that they’re of similar size, but mine is brighter, or Phil’s is dimmer … it’s all good. The rivalry continues!

Now I have to wonder…do I have mineral rights? Can I at least retire to 153298 Paulmyers? When’s the next space bus to the asteroid belt? How about some photos of my rock (near as I can tell, any photo is going to be just of a tiny point of reflected light)?

Comments

  1. #1 jdb
    March 25, 2008

    What a sad day for science. He should have named the asteroid after Nisbet.

  2. #2 woody, tokin librul
    March 25, 2008

    What’s that? Gotta asteroid in your orbit, or are ya just glad to see me?

  3. #3 silence
    March 25, 2008

    You don’t really know that there aren’t squid on 153298 Paulmyers. If we can find meteorites which consist of small chunks of Mars, surely there are ones which consist of frozen calamari out there somewhere, and there is presumably a (vanishingly small) chance that one of those wound up gravitationally attached to 153298 Paulmyers.

  4. #4 Reginald Selkirk
    March 25, 2008

    Nisbet is covered already. I just had a bowel movement and named it after him.

  5. #5 Blake Stacey
    March 25, 2008

    Who is this “Paul” Myers of which you speak?

    No, seriously, this is great stuff. Rebecca was dropping hints about it last night at Skeptics in the Pub: “astronomical news” involving her, Phil Plait and P-Zed? What could that be — our cephalopod overlords from Tau Ceti IV finally announcing their presence? Now, all becomes clear.

  6. #6 Schmeer
    March 25, 2008

    He should have named the asteroid after Nisbet.

    Why? Is it full of shit?

  7. #7 cthulu
    March 25, 2008

    What rights? How do you know that octopoid aliens haven’t already landed there, claimed it for themselves, and built a base? A good spot to observe earthly fools as they prepare for invasion.

  8. #8 catta
    March 25, 2008

    Congratulations, PZ! Best Pet Rock ever. =)

  9. #9 Zeno
    March 25, 2008

    An asteroid? Heck, for a few bucks you can get a star named after you on the International Star Registry. Of course, it wouldn’t be recognized by any official body of any kind, but people who don’t know any better would be impressed by the nice certificate, suitable for framing.

  10. #10 Brownian, OM
    March 25, 2008

    Oh PZ, when is this useless competition between you and Phil going to end? Can’t we just accept that astronomy and biology constitute nonoverlapping magisteria?

  11. #11 Don
    March 25, 2008

    And if it plunges to earth, will your insurance cover the damage?

  12. #12 me
    March 25, 2008

    market some mineral rights options and you’ll be able to retire from this blogging gig once and for all….maybe to a quiet sea somewhere, where you can while away the days herding squid

  13. #13 RAM
    March 25, 2008

    “You don’t really know that there aren’t squid on 153298 Paulmyers.”
    Hey, as our stupid creationist friends would say “how do you know, were you there”?. ;-)

  14. #14 Schmeer
    March 25, 2008

    *shakes fist menacingly at Reginald Selkirk’s faster typing*

  15. #15 allkom
    March 25, 2008

    No time for bathroom betting btw you and Phil Plait . Both deserve congratulations for the acknowledgment . Besides you’re already on the spots ;).

  16. #16 Michelle
    March 25, 2008

    Congrats but … Do you WANT to retire there? Think well, you said it: No squids. And it’s a rock in space. With nothing on it, and… No squids.

    Come on. You can’t go there.

  17. #17 Tony Popple
    March 25, 2008

    This rivalry is going to get expensive.

    We need to start a fund-raising effort so that we can send a robotic probe out there and cover PZ’s rock with reflective material.

  18. #18 Rien
    March 25, 2008

    The physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft got an asteroid named after him too. You should also set up a constitution: http://www.phys.uu.nl/~thooft/constitution.html

    (‘t Hooft is a Nobel laureate and general all-round genius if you aren’t familiar with the name.)

  19. #19 Sili
    March 25, 2008

    As I said hither:

    When are you gonna have it carved in your tentacular image? We could use a good graven one Master.

  20. #20 Ron
    March 25, 2008

    Of course Phil is dimmer, he’s a mere astronomer as opposed to a biologist….

  21. #21 Deepsix
    March 25, 2008

    Is your asteroid anywhere near the rings of Uranus? (someone had to say it).

    Anyway, I’m sure there are several IDiots who are starting a fund to send you to your home planet.

  22. #22 Azkyroth
    March 25, 2008

    When I mentioned this to Skatje, the first thing she asked was whether mine was bigger than Phil’s.

    Cue Sal Cordova quote-mining in 3, 2, 1…

  23. #23 Chris Clarke
    March 25, 2008

    Proper characteristics an asteroid would need to be properly named after Nisbet:

    small
    silicaceous
    hyperbolic trajectory through Solar System
    perigee approximately 100,000 AU
    rotation period < 1 hour

    So find a lightweight, careering, useless hunk of rock that spins furiously but affects nothing, and you’ve got Planet Nisbet.

  24. #24 Eric
    March 25, 2008

    I predict this will be the asteroid that crashes into Earth and turns us all into zombies.

  25. #25 Sigmund
    March 25, 2008

    Apparently Nisbet’s having a hemorrhoid named after him.

  26. #26 Dan
    March 25, 2008

    There goes the neighborhood.

  27. #27 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 25, 2008

    I for one will welcome our Asteroid Squid Overlords when they steer their death rock into our planet and enslave the lot of us.

  28. #28 Dan
    March 25, 2008

    I wonder what the creotards are thinking about this sort of thing. I’d imagine it would make them all sorts of wigged-out gonky to realize that there is now a heavenly body named after PZ Myers.

  29. #29 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 25, 2008

    Congratulations! That’s as close to an apotheosis as you’re likely to get :o)

    What a sad day for science. He should have named the asteroid after Nisbet.

    :-D :-D :-D

  30. #30 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 25, 2008

    Congratulations! That’s as close to an apotheosis as you’re likely to get :o)

    What a sad day for science. He should have named the asteroid after Nisbet.

    :-D :-D :-D

  31. #31 Chris Clarke
    March 25, 2008

    rotation period

    OK, I’m an idiot for forgetting to escape the “<” symbol in “< 1 hour”.

  32. #32 Diego
    March 25, 2008

    Okay there have been a lot of jokes in this thread at Nisbet’s expense (and I think deservedly so), but I think that Chris Clarke wind teh internets with his.

    “So find a lightweight, careering, useless hunk of rock that spins furiously but affects nothing, and you’ve got Planet Nisbet.”

  33. #33 Kseniya
    March 25, 2008

    We need to start a fund-raising effort so that we can send a robotic probe out there and cover PZ’s rock with reflective material.

    Mirror, mirror, in the sky
    Who’s the brightest science guy?

  34. #34 PZ Myers
    March 25, 2008

    Although it would be nice if a simple, positive post like this one weren’t turned into yet another Nisbet-bashing opportunity…

  35. #35 Chris Clarke
    March 25, 2008

    Point taken, PZ, and I’m sorry to sully this very nice tribute.

  36. #36 jdb
    March 25, 2008

    Sorry, PZ, my fault for getting that ball rolling.

    Of course, since all publicity is good publicity, even Nisbet-bashing is good for Nisbet, right?

    Damn. Did it again, didn’t I?

    Anyway, congratulations.

  37. #37 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    March 25, 2008

    Sorry, no space buses; personal rocketry hasn’t any kind of beltway.

    Can’t we just accept that astronomy and biology constitute nonoverlapping magisteria?

    You should return that to your company ink tank, it smells fishy – because we live on an astronomical body. Seems empiricism joins these two disparate subjects and shows that superlife is a dead option.

    @ Chris:

    ROTL!

  38. #38 Torbj÷rn Larsson, OM
    March 25, 2008

    Sorry, no space buses; personal rocketry hasn’t any kind of beltway.

    Can’t we just accept that astronomy and biology constitute nonoverlapping magisteria?

    You should return that to your company ink tank, it smells fishy – because we live on an astronomical body. Seems empiricism joins these two disparate subjects and shows that superlife is a dead option.

    @ Chris:

    ROTL!

  39. #39 Reginald Selkirk
    March 25, 2008

    Although it would be nice if a simple, positive post like this one weren’t turned into yet another Nisbet-bashing opportunity…

    Right-o. Switch over to Moon-ey bashing mode. Does someone want to name a gallstone after mini-Matt?

  40. #40 Kseniya
    March 25, 2008

    I’m a little puzzled (and not a little dismayed) by the intensity of the anti-Nisbet (and to a lesser extent, anti-Mooney and even anti-Kirshenbaum) sentiments here. Sure, the call for RD and PZ to silence themselves is borderline ludicrous; sure, there’s a Chamberlain thing happening, and that’s not good, but I’m seeing the kind of criticisms and epithets normally reserved for the Cordovas and Luskins of our world being thrown at the folks over there in the pro-framing squad. What’s the scoop? Matt, Chris and Sheril aren’t on the side of science, rationality and secularism anymore? I hardly think that’s the case.

    What I see is: A fairly serious disagreement in the area of tactics and framing, and a growing schism being fed by a lot of gratutitous personal mud-slinging. Is that really necessary, or helpful to anyone outside of the cozy confines of UhDuh?

    I claim no special insight into this matter, but I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t concern me.

  41. #41 Dave
    March 25, 2008

    Dancing Rodents, Oh Squidmeister.

  42. #42 An
    March 25, 2008

    Haha!! :)

  43. #43 Azkyroth
    March 25, 2008

    Kseniya: I think it’s a combination of Nisbet making himself quite a nuisance for quite a while, and some of us just enjoying coming up with biting, clever potshots whenever we’re given an excuse. :)

  44. #44 Kseniya
    March 25, 2008

    Ah, I see PZ kinda beat me to the punch here. Me B slow 2day.

    (Still… it’s not only this thread. Just sayin’.)

  45. #45 Kseniya
    March 25, 2008

    Azky – understood, and I’m not saying any criticism is undeserved. As I wrote, it’s the intensity and kind that troubles me, for reasons stated.

    (*shrug*) I dunno, maybe I’m feeling hypersensitive today. It’s been known to happen. But I’m not taking anything back. :-)

  46. #46 Eamon Knight
    March 25, 2008

    Heck, for a few bucks you can get a star named after you on the International Star Registry.

    Isn’t that the outfit that’s run by Scientology?

    (No framers were insulted in the writing of this post).

  47. #47 jdb
    March 25, 2008

    Kseniya, at the risk of further derailing this thread: For me, it’s because I get the impression that Nisbet’s sole contribution to “science, rationality, and secularism” is through criticizing the contributions of others. We can all think of examples of other “defenders of science” who take a different, softer approach than PZ or Dawkins; Michael Shermer and Neil de Grasse Tyson come to mind. But I know of those gentlemen because of their own contributions, whereas the only time I hear of Nisbet doing anything, it’s criticising the approach of others.

    Perhaps that’s my own ignorance showing. Maybe Nisbet has made some great contributions of which I’m unaware, in which case I’d be delighted if someone would point them out.

    I also find it a little suspicious that Nisbet’s actions are just as consistent with promoting Matt Nisbet as they are with promoting The Cause. I don’t hate the man, but I think he deserves to be taken down a notch or two, and someone who’s so free to tell others to shut up ought to be willing to take some strong criticism in return.

  48. #48 Bee
    March 25, 2008

    Do we get to describe PZed as ‘other-worldly’, now?

  49. #49 Kristjan Wager
    March 25, 2008

    Congratulations – that’s indeed a rare honour. Now, you just need a chemical name after you in some way or other, and then we’ll be impressed (winkie thingie)

  50. #50 andy
    March 25, 2008

    IIRC in Stephen Baxter’s Manifold: Time they send out a bunch of genetically-modified squid to colonise an asteroid.

  51. #51 MH
    March 25, 2008

    Folks, regarding Nisbett: zippit! zip! z-!

  52. #52 Inoculated Mind
    March 25, 2008

    When I mentioned this to Skatje, the first thing she asked was whether mine was bigger than Phil’s.

    Cue Sal Cordova quote-mining in 3, 2, 1…

    Azkyroth wins the thread.

  53. #53 thwaite
    March 25, 2008

    Ay, anyone can name rocks out in the starry sky.
    But will they come when you call their names?

    [ with apologies to The Bard ]

  54. #54 blf
    March 25, 2008

    Congratulations!

    As pointed out over at Phil’s blog, Randi’s is larger than his, yours, and Arthur C Clarke’s–but Clarke’s was named first.

    Then of course there’s the wonderfully named 2001 DA42, a.k.a. (25924) DouglasAdams.

  55. #55 Paul
    March 25, 2008

    Congratulations!

    They even mentioned it just now on Minnesota Public Radio.

  56. #56 qedpro
    March 25, 2008

    ironically PZs rock is only 6000 years old.

    i have no proof of that of course, but because I believe it, it must be true.

  57. #57 L.Nielsen
    March 25, 2008

    As I said over at Phils about him, I will repeat here about you: You are a great defender and promoter of science, critical thinking and reason. You deserve it too.

    Tillykke!

  58. #58 Adzam
    March 25, 2008

    surely you can find your asteroid on google sky somewhere…

    and many congratulations on your newfound fame and fortune

  59. #59 Bride of Shrek
    March 25, 2008

    Oh hey, I’ve deen this movie. Doesn’t it get really close to Earth, and defying all principles of physics as we know it, Bruce Willis plants a thermonuclear (which are much badder than plain old nuclear) device in the core and blows himself up all the while being substoried by the improbable plotline of the beautiful Liv Tyler shaboinking the horribly Rojer Ramjetted jaw faced Ben Affleck and…

  60. #60 Bert Chadick
    March 25, 2008

    Beware PZed! The only advantage to being famous is being able to cash in. Get that book out. Book your Evolution ’08 tour. Above all, hire a manager. Ka-Ching!

  61. #61 Farb
    March 25, 2008

    #5: . . . our cephalopod overlords from Tau Ceti IV . . .

    Gonna have a little bit of trouble finding the cephalopods’ homeworld (or for that matter liquid water) four planets (rocky–otherwise no place for liquid water to pool into oceans) out from there, since based on the star’s luminosity, an earthlike planet would be need to be located 0.7 AU away. I’d look for the homeworld on TCII instead (and since we haven’t been able to find anything bigger than, say, Neptune, that’s still a few years off). Now, of course, if they had a base on TCIV, or for that matter, an off-world imperial capital, all bets are off.

    Just ruins a nice sci-fi fantasy, doesn’t it? Well, at least it avoids the N-subject!

  62. #62 The Countess
    March 25, 2008

    Congrats, PZ. That’s really cool! Believe it or no, you are the second person I know who has had an asteroid named after him. The first is a close friend of mine who works at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. He’s an astrophysicist.

    Knowing scientists is cool. They get asteroids named after them. ;)

  63. #63 The Countess
    March 25, 2008

    One more thing about the NASA guy, PZ – he’s also a hard science fiction writer.

  64. #64 Farb
    March 25, 2008

    BTW, PZed, congrats on having your very own asteroid.

  65. #65 David vun Kannon
    March 25, 2008

    Now find another friend to name a cephalopod after you and its dicyemid mesozoan after…

  66. #66 Geral
    March 25, 2008

    It’s not a very exciting orbit. We need to start writing letters to NASA to send a probe to smash into it!

  67. #67 Vadjong
    March 25, 2008

    Well, I suppose it’s better than having some syndrome or disease named after you; but not as good as newfound deep-ocean cephalopod.

    Also, please write your local astrologer and ask for an appropiate update of your horoscope. See if your life has changed.

  68. #68 Kseniya
    March 25, 2008

    Speaking of rocks’n’stuff, my little brother once named a future coprolite after me…

    Does that count?

  69. #69 Zach Miller
    March 25, 2008

    Right on! Congrats, PZ. Next time I buy a giant high-calibur telescope, I’ll look for your asteroid. :-)

  70. #70 John McKay
    March 25, 2008

    What? No asteroid for Ben Stein?

    That’s odd.

  71. #71 Chris Clarke
    March 25, 2008

    but not as good as newfound deep-ocean cephalopod.

    What, Megaloteuthis myersi wasn’t good enough for you people?

  72. #72 Azkyroth
    March 25, 2008

    What? No asteroid for Ben Stein?

    An asteroid?

    Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to name a hemorrhoid after him?

  73. #73 Kseniya
    March 25, 2008

    Chris, that’s awesome! :-D

  74. #74 knightwhosaysni
    March 25, 2008

    If ever 153298 Paulmyers collides with the earth someday, perhaps it’ll land on AiG’s creationist museum — if God exists, perhaps that would be his form of “ironic punishment” to AiG for creating more atheists than converting them.

  75. #75 s
    March 25, 2008

    Congratulations on the asteroid, PZ!

    I took a look at the JPL orbital tracking site link, though and there is one thing that seems to stand out about your particular hunk of rock though; it’s orbit seems a bit…well…
    eccentric…
    not that Jeff meant anything by that, I’m sure.

  76. #76 Alan Clark
    March 25, 2008

    My favourite asteroid name is Mister Spock. Wiki:-

    “2309 Mr. Spock is a small asteroid in the main asteroid belt, about 11 km in diameter. It was discovered in 1971 by James B. Gibson. Its name does not come directly from the character of Mr. Spock in Star Trek, but rather from the discoverer’s cat. Like his namesake, the feline Mr. Spock was “imperturbable, logical, intelligent, and had pointed ears”. The naming created an uproar, and the International Astronomical Union subsequently decided that pet animal names were to be discouraged. A number of other asteroids have since been named after Star Trek characters, as well as after musicians and other figures in pop culture.”

  77. #77 Bride of Shrek
    March 25, 2008

    From the JPL tracking site, a small disclaimer regarding their projections…

    “…hence should not be used for determining accurate long-term trajectories (over several years or decades) or planetary encounter circumstances.”.

    PLANETORY ENCOUNTER CIRCUMSTANCES?!? We all know thats NASA code for its gonna crash. Aaaaarggh, run for the hills. I’m off to the bunker with 10 years worth of cab sav and a clean glass. You would all be wise to do the same.

  78. #78 mothra
    March 25, 2008

    Twinkle twinkle asteroid,
    so far away there in the void.
    One distant rock, a name acquires,
    congratulations P. Z. Myers

  79. #79 October Mermaid
    March 25, 2008

    This offers a perfect opportunity to mention again one of my favorite Christian songs by a band called FFH. I promise you, I’m not making these lyrics up. They REALLY sing this:

    “Well, I don’t know that much about astronauts
    but I know that Jesus cares an awful lot!”

    Haha, oh wow.

  80. #80 Sam
    March 25, 2008

    Congratulations to PZ and the other recipients! What a fantastic honor! I’ll be thinking of your asteroids when I look up in the sky.

  81. #81 Tristan I Croll
    March 26, 2008

    I wonder what the creotards are thinking about this sort of thing. I’d imagine it would make them all sorts of wigged-out gonky to realize that there is now a heavenly body named after PZ Myers.

    But, from what I hear, that’s been the case for years – unless his trophy wife kept her own surname…?

  82. #82 jeh
    March 26, 2008

    Re: 153298

    “That’s no asteroid! It’s a space station.”

  83. #83 Jim
    March 26, 2008

    Will help secure mineral right for room, board, delta V, and suit.

  84. #84 Andreas Johansson
    March 26, 2008

    Congratulations!

    I’m starting to think I should set up a blog of my own …

  85. #85 LisaJ
    March 26, 2008

    Congratulations! That’s so exciting.

  86. #86 madarab
    March 26, 2008

    PZ, have you read “Manifest Time” by Steven Baxter? It’s got asteroids and squid in it. :)

  87. #87 Schpatz
    March 26, 2008

    Congrats PZ,
    I even heard about this on MPR last night. Your celebrity seems to be taking off: NYTimes, asteroids, radio, movies…I think it’s time for a new reality show based around your life.

    Maybe on FOX…

  88. #88 John Phillips, FCD
    March 26, 2008

    Nice one PZ, BA et al, well earned and quite appropriate. Next time I’m out that way I shall have to pay it a visit :)

  89. #89 Emma
    March 27, 2008

    Congratulations! This a well deserved honor for a staunch defender of evolution and rationality. Though neither cephalopods nor zebrafish seem to be likely residents of ‘your’ real estate. BTW, my understanding of Minnesota property tax law indicates that you will not be getting an additional property assessment, yet. However, I really think you need to respond to Phil Plait’s assertion regarding the relative size of your respective asteroids. “In fact I think PZ is overcompensating for something.” I can’t imagine what that could be. Does it have something to do with male cephalopod anatomy?

  90. #90 Monado, FCD
    March 27, 2008

    Your asteroid 153298 Paulmyers might not have a squid on it, but it might have a rock formation that if looked at from the correct angle, photographed under the right slant of light, unfocussed enough, and squinted at enough looks like a squid. Shouldn’t that be enough?

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