Rough Guides sent along my author copies of the second edition of The Rough Guide to the Universe, which you see here to the right of a poster of the cover of the 2003 first edition. The new edition looks lovely and has all the latest on Mars, Pluto, Saturn and so and so forth, and updates information on eclipses and other astronomical phenomena well into the next decade. The official release date is May 5 (one week short of five years after the release of the first edition — it doesn’t seem that long ago), which means it’ll be released just in time for my birthday. What a nice present to me: The universe! In handy travel form. A pocket universe, if you will.

In any event, if you’re looking for this book yourself, remember: You want the version with Saturn on the cover, not Jupiter. I suppose for the third edition (in 2013), logically we’ll go with a picture of Uranus. Yes, I said “Uranus.” Grow up, y’all.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

29 replies on “Multiverses”

Huh huh. Anus. Huh huh mm huh

I live in Ithaca, which has a, and as far as I know, the only, scale model of the solar system. There are pylons with tiny marbles representing each of the planets spread out from the center of town to the local kids science museum, all to scale. The pylon with the tiny pea representing Uranus is about a block from my house, so I pass by it all the time, with less than mature results, I’m afraid.

Yes, I said “Uranus.”

Man, if there’s one thing I find annoying, it’s the people who feel the need to pronounce it YUR-uh-nus, instead of the tried-and-true yur-AY-nus.

Just like the fad of calling (sexual) harrassment “HAR-as-ment” instead of “har-ASS-ment”. In both cases it’s just fear of talking about asses.

As you said: Grow up!


I love me some Bart Simpson as much as the next guy but I must admit the original Latin pronunciation was around much longer than the new-fangled “your anus.” Add in the Greek before the Latin and we’ve got a long way to go before “your anus” becomes tried and true. heh heh. I said becomes.

Now using ‘hexadecimal’ instead of the correct ‘sexadecimal’ I will concede is a bow to the prudes.

#11, Saturn is the one with the rings. Of course, Jupiter has rings too. Come to think of it, there are rings around Uranus too. Heh. Rings around Uranus.

“Where you bound?” I asked him.
“Where else? Uranus.” He pronounced it your-anus.
“What about you?” Lou asked.
“Uranus,” I confirmed. I pronounced it Urine-us. Was there ever an orb so inelegantly named? Nobody’s ever agreed on how to say it, and both ways stink.

— John Varley, The Golden Globe


‘Tis a pity so few people find German pleasant to the ear, as this is one of the few times that the language got something right:


Short vowel in the second syllable. See, that wasn’t hard at all, now was it?
[Okay, so they stole it. Sue me.]


(BTW, Pluto was distinctly mentioned in context of “the outer planets” in the elided bit above. So nyaahh-thppbbt! :)

There are a bunch of scale models of the solar system out there. Wikipedia has a useful listing at

I’d heard of two of these previously. The one in northern Maine was written up in _Smithsonian_ a few years back, and the one in Boston was featured in the first episode of the PBS kids’ science-game-show _Fetch_. It’s nice to hear there are more lurking around there.

I wonder, as more extrasolar systems get discovered and mapped, whether we’ll eventually see multisystem scale models coordinated between distant cities…

@23: True, any Earth-based multi-star model that’s to scale will involve both very large distances and very small planets. (According to
having the earth be the size of a peppercorn — 2 mm across– makes the sun the size of a soccer ball about 25m away, Neptune about 280m away, and Alpha Centauri over 6000km away.)

If I centered this model at my home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I could fit all 8 major planets in my neighborhood, with the inner planets all in short-distance line of sight, and the longest human space flight to date, to the Moon, involving a trip of less than 10 cm. Meanwhile, the nearest star would be out somewhere near Krakow, Poland.

It does give one some appreciation for the immenseness of interstellar space.

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