The discovery was announced by US scientists yesterday and the object has unofficially been named Xena, after the TV series starring Lucy Lawless. ‘We have always wanted to name something Xena,’ said Michael Brown, a member of the team that made the discovery using telescopes at the Palomar Observatory, outside San Diego, California. ~The Observer

This must be one of the more pathetic moments in the history of man. Leave it to the truly lame and geeky among scientists to name the tenth planet in the solar system after a fictional Amazon with a meaningless name. When I first read about the new planet, such as it is, I thought they might be at least as classy and basically educated in classical mythology as the astronomers who named Pluto’s “moon” Charon. Every other planet continues to bear the name of a member of the Roman pantheon, including the eighth and ninth planets that were not discovered until modern times. The moons of those planets bear the names of related mythological figures. There is a certain harmony, intelligence and minimal cultivation in the way the planets and satellites have been named, all of which has come crashing down thanks to a gang of American barbarians who probably think the Titans are an NFL franchise or who can only recall a floppy-eared cartoon dog when they hear the name Pluto.

In years to come, our children will be learning astronomy and their unfortunate teacher will have to explain that a badly-made syndicated spinoff with none-too-subtle lesbian overtones was the inspiration for naming an object of scientific inquiry. That truly awful show will live on in the annals of science to the embarrassment of many, and generations to come will point to it as one more example of the barbarians who dwelt at the dawn of the millennium. If there is a special level in Inferno for those who make a laughingstock of their own vocation, these astronomers will be there.

Correction: Thanks to an attentive reader’s comment, I see that my response was a bit rash. Xena is only the temporary name until the permanent name has been approved. That will teach me to be a bit more thorough. All the same, the ‘nickname’ may not end up being the planet’s name, but it is still every bit as stupid.