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[ba-unrev-talk] Fwd: [xml-dev] OFFTOPIC: the dangers of shortsightedness

>From: John Cowan <jcowan@reutershealth.com>
>To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
>Warning: only philosophically on topic, no ObXML content inside.
>The naming of stars is a difficult matter, not one of your everyday
>holiday games.  The sky is divided into 88 arbitrary areas of varying
>size called constellations, and ordinary stars are named in order of
>brightness by a Greek letter followed by the name of the constellation
>(in Latin, traditionally in the genitive case).  Thus Alpha Centauri is
>the brightest star in the constellation of the Centaur, and Tau Ceti is
>the 19th brightest star in the constellation of the Whale.
> >From the 25th brightest star on, numbers are used.  This system is fairly
>simple and rational, since stars are naturally going to be discovered
>in order from brightest to dimmest, as telescopes become more powerful.
>Stars which are, for any reason, of variable brightness don't fit neatly
>into the rank order.  If the star already had an ordinary name before
>its variability was noticed, it keeps it.  Otherwise, variable stars are
>given Latin-letter names in order of discovery, followed again by the
>name of the constellation, thus:  R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.  S Doradus,
>for example, one of the most luminous (and bizarre) stars known, is the
>second variable star discovered in the constellation of the Dolphin.
>(The reason for beginning with R seems to be forgotten.)  All was well.
>But some constellations were found to contain more than nine variable
>No problem: astronomers went to two Latin letters for the 10th star
>onwards, thus:  RR, RS, ... RZ, SR, SS, ..., SZ, TR, ... ZZ.  All was
>But some constellations were found to contain more than 90 variable stars.
>No problem: astronomers wrapped around the Latin alphabet, thus:
>AA, AB, ...  AZ, ..., BA, ... QZ, omitting the letter J (most of this
>system was invented in Germany, which was still on Fraktur at the time).
>All was well.
>But some constellations were found to contain more than 334 variable
>Two-letter sequences beginning with R-Z had already been been used at
>an earlier stage, so RA, ... RQ, SA, ..., SQ, ... ZQ were rejected.
>Instead the final stage of nomenclature became (at very long last)
>V335, V336, ....  Which could and should have been done in the first
>place instead of the fourth place.
>Caveat nomenclator.
>John Cowan                                <jcowan@reutershealth.com>
>http://www.reutershealth.com              http://www.ccil.org/~cowan
>Yakka foob mog.  Grug pubbawup zink wattoom gazork.  Chumble spuzz.
>     -- Calvin, giving Newton's First Law "in his own words"    (01)