How to survive the internet – tip number one:
To avoid embarrassing the librarian, do not type the phrase “heavenly body” into Google or Yahoo if you are looking for an image of an asteroid on line.
I know this because of what happened after the announcement, on April 9, that Victoria astronomer David Balam had named “his” new-found asteroid tafelmusik in honour of Toronto’s most esteemed baroque ensemble.
Great topic for an editorial, I said, and flailed around on the internet for a bit, trying to find out what musical company tafelmusik would be keeping in its lofty new orbit. I found chopin, wagner, mozartia, liszt, thebeatles, bach, … no Beethoven, though. Probably still too modern. And then I decided to look for a photo.
.... Well, anyway, enough of that.
Good for Tafelmusik I say. The concert that caught astronomer David Balam’s imagination was called The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres, taking their audience flying back 400 years to the music being invented at the same time the telescope was. It’s typical of the storytelling panache that Toronto’s premiere baroque orchestra regularly brings to its work.
Mind you, I can think of a few other local musical entities I’d like to nominate for similar immortalization in the firmament, some for distinctly less flattering reasons. (They don’t name meteors, though, so “spectacular flameouts” is out as as an award category.) “Black Holes” are more promising – but even there you have to be very careful. It’s not the black hole itself that you get to name. It’s the measurable emissions, or lack of, around it — its “luminati”, so to speak.
There is a danger to politicizing the celestial name game. Anyone can play. Rumours are that even as we speak Harper and Flaherty are hotfooting it to B.C. to offer astronomer Balam a senate seat (what better spot for stargazing?) in exchange for finding them a black hole with emanations they can christen cbc and canadacouncil
Better stick to asteroids, Mr. Balam, is my advice. You’ll make fewer enemies. I know a media genius in town who’d pay a good price for a celestial rolling stone called thenewclassicalfmz.
David Perlman, publisher