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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Listener Letters

Air Date: Week of

This week we dip into the Living on Earth mailbag to hear what listeners have to say.


CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. Coming up: Diving into Lake Erie’s dead zone, but first, time now for comments from you, our listeners.

Listener response to our recent interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson led to an illuminating off-air lesson on astronomy’s etymology. Mr. Tyson, a frequent contributor to our program on all things celestial, talked with us about a new planet recently discovered in our solar system. Currently known by its catalogue name, 2003UB3313, astronomers are now entertaining suggestions for a permanent name for the planet. Its discoverer, Tyson noted, wants to name it “Xena” after the fictional warrior princess of television fame.

“Perhaps the name Xena was ‘made up’ for the television series you refer to,” writes Terry Potter of Washington, DC, “but this name is definitely an Arabic name that remains popular for women today. I hope that you will recognize this fact if the opportunity presents itself. Giving serious consideration to this name or others of Middle Eastern heritage could go some distance in recognizing the ancient heritage of astronomy as practiced by regions of astronomers.”

Mr. Tyson responded to Mr. Potter with a brief historical primer on the subject of star-naming. “Planet and moon names, with the exception of the moons of Uranus, by convention, trace to Roman and Greek gods,” Neil writes. “Xena is neither, although it sounds Greek. And the TV character of this name is neither Muslim nor from the Middle East. That being said, you perhaps know that the Middle Eastern influence on astronomy is manifest. More than two-thirds of all stars that have names have Arabic names, not to mention the astrolabes and other instruments of celestial navigation pioneered by the culture.”

Response to our recent story on cold fusion technology left one listener well, cold.

“I am dismayed that Living on Earth would devote such a disproportionate fraction of its air time to the pathology of ‘cold fusion,’” writes retired physicist Don Groom of California. “In addition to cold fusion and its ilk, the nonsense out there includes claims that ‘intelligent design’ is a science, that cell phones and /or power lines cause cancer and that aliens have visited Earth.”

Oh well, some like their fusion hot.

Your comments on our program are always welcome. Call our listener line anytime at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-99-88. Or write to 20 Holland Street, Somerville, Massachusetts, 02144. Our e-mail address is letters at loe dot org. Once again, letters at loe dot org. And visit our web page at Living on Earth dot org. That's Living on Earth dot org. CD's and transcripts are fifteen dollars.



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