On this day in 2005, the California Institute of Technology astronomer Mike Brown announced the discovery of 2003 UB313 — not to be confused with the 1980s British pop group UB40 — which the scientist described in a press release as a “10th planet.” Brown based that assertion on the newly discovered astronomical body’s size, which he estimated was as big or bigger than Pluto. But the International Astronomical Union had other ideas. The following year, it officially downsized the solar system to just eight true planets. The IAU designated both Pluto and 2003 UB313, along with another object, Ceres, as “dwarf planets,” meaning that they were just big enough for their mass to form spherical shapes and have gravity, but not so big that they absorbed smaller objects or pushed them out of their orbital path. The IAU, perhaps out of a disinclination to celebrate fantasy TV shows featuring women warriors in leather lingerie, also decided against calling 2003 UB313 “Xena,” the name that Brown and other astronomers had been using. Instead, the new object was officially dubbed Eris, after the minor Greek goddess of strife, who in a fit of spite, set in motion the divine bickering that led to the Trojan War. And before we get in a quarrelsome mood, too, here are the MySci stories of the day.
Force fields could protect astronauts in space. Okay, technically they would be magnetic fields, and they would protect humans on interplanetary trips from dangerous radiation, not attacks by Klingon fighters. But still.
New laser microchips transmit data at unbelievable speeds. We’re talking 50 gigabits per second here, which would enable you to download an entire HD movie from iTunes in less than a second.
Researchers develop method to put tiny doses of medication directly into cells. Amazing, though it’s not as much fun as being miniaturized and injected into someone’s body, like they did in Fantastic Voyage.
Nissan to offer air conditioners that disperse Vitamin C and stress-reducing seats in new cars. They’re trying to attract customers who are into the wellness lifestyle. (What’s next? Floor mats that give foot massages?)
Study: People who fake mental illness can actually convince themselves their phony symptoms are real. But doesn’t having delusions mean they really are mentally ill, after all? We’re getting pretty confused.