Science

Why Nazis are Now Super Into NASA

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Transcript:

Big astronomy news, everyone: NASA is currently exploring the most distant object humans have ever reached! It’s a rock that’s located about a billion miles past Pluto, and it’s shaped like a peanut due to actually being two rocks that smashed together and are now spinning around together as one, due to their gravity. This lovely little peanut was designated 2014 MU69. NICE.

I’m not sure why, but the scientists involved in the mission got tired of calling it MU69, which again is a perfectly sweet name. So instead they named it Ultima Thule, which of course is the mythical Arctic landmass thought by Nazi mystics to be the home of giant ubermensch. Wait, what? Ah shit.

To be completely honest, I had never heard of the Nazi legend of a place where enormous honkies strode the frozen landscape, so my first thought upon finding out that NASA chose this name was, “Oh, they probably didn’t know either.” So before I pulled out my pitchfork, I decided to do a little thing called research, unlike all those triggered SJWs on Twitter.

I quickly found a very informative Newsweek article describing the issue in a fair and balanced way. Sure enough, they quote Mark Showalter, who is an investigator on the mission and who led the naming process, as saying, “I had never heard the term Ultima Thule before.” He saw that it meant “beyond the limits of the known world” and thought it was good so they made that the name, and now they see it’s bad so they’ll probably change it. Okay, case closed!

Oh heck let’s keep reading, just for fun. Ultima Thule “was one of about 34,000 names submitted by an online nomination process.” Oh! So, they didn’t just research some names and then pick one. They let random people submit names. On the Internet. The Internet, which is currently flooded with Nazis. I mean, okay, they might not realize how many Nazis are on the Internet so they probably still didn’t realize a name like that might be related to Nazis. Let’s read on.

“As he and his colleagues began narrowing down a list of final contenders, Showalter did stumble on the less palatable meaning of Ultima Thule, which was appropriated in the 19th century to refer to the mythological homeland of the Aryan race.”

Wait, so they did know it was a Nazi thing before they made that the official name. And yes, being the specific favored mythical land of Nazis is less palatable than simply being a general term for an undiscovered place. So wait, why did they pick it? Let’s see…it says here that the original meaning wasn’t “place that Nazis love” and so “Showalter said that NASA…balanced the term’s more recent past against its original meaning.” If only there was some other thing that used to be fine but then got appropriated by Nazis and now we don’t use it anymore, like an ancient Hindu spiritual symbol known as the swastika, or the name Adolf. “I was hesitant at first to name my baby Adolf Hitler Showalter but then I balanced the name’s original Latin meaning of “Noble Wolf Hitler” against the name’s more recent past and thought it would be fine.”

They do point out that like me, a lot of people aren’t familiar with the Nazi version of Ultima Thule, which probably made them think it was more okay than naming the object “2016 Adolf Hitler,” which at first seemed to make sense to me until I remembered that in the past few years I’ve learned so much about Nazis, both old and new, and particularly about how the new ones have their own distinct language and codes that they use to communicate without being immediately noticed as Nazis by general society. Like, certain hand signals, and loads of tattoos with various crosses and wolfheads. Or 1488! I had no idea what that was until a few years ago. “14” refers to the 14 words that make up a much-loved-by-Nazis statement about white supremacy, and 88 refers to Heil Hitler, since “H” is the 8th letter in the alphabet. If you accidentally named an asteroid “1488” you might be forgiven, but if you chose 1488 from a list of things submitted by randos online, and then you Googled it and saw that it was often used by Nazis, why would you still use it???

To answer that, let’s keep reading Newsweek. “In the end, (NASA) decided to include it in the popular vote…” Oh! They put up the top names to popular online vote and that one won. Well, I suppose I could fault them for putting a known Nazi-related name into the popular vote and then letting the Internet, again a place absolutely infested with Nazis, decide, but hey, if Ultima Thule won the popular vote then I guess they have to abide by that. Don’t want another Boaty McBoatface situation.

Oh wait, that sentence wasn’t over. Let me read the entire thing aloud. “In the end, they decided to include it in the popular vote, where it fared quite well, coming in seventh out of the 37 options.”

SEVENTH? The Nazi name came in SEVENTH and you still picked it? I actually started out assuming the best of Showalter and the rest of the New Horizons staff but holy fuck guys I think you might have a Nazi on your team. IT CAME IN SEVENTH! What were one through six? Cunty McCuntface? Kitten Killer 6969? Donald Trump’s Gooch Hair? Seriously, fuck you guys.

The good news is that it’s only a temporary name. The better news is that the guys who chose a Nazi name that came in seventh in an online poll don’t get to choose its permanent name — that has to go through  International Astronomical Union, who hopefully have higher standards than “came in seventh in an online poll.” Fucking Christ. Allow me to end with the Showalter quote that Newsweek ended with: “We’re very, very tired of talking about 2014 MU69,” Showalter said. “Any name is better than 2014 MU69.”

Is it though?

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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5 Comments

  1. I don’t understand… if almost 20 years online have taught me anything, it’s that the entertainment values of cats and the number 69 are individually infinite, and yet we’re being told that saying “mew 69” is boring? Something Is Amiss!

    1. Apparently.

      The Nazi thing is kinda interesting. The Nazis were big on Blavatsky and Steiner, I know that. So, yeah, now you not only have Atlantis (and this is where it became completely unmoored from the actually somewhat plausible Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias into the crystal technology Atlantis we now think of), but three additional lost continents, and each of them has its own “root race”. They were also big on homeopathy because Hahnemann was a German, and the Welteislehre because the mind which imagined that little bit of nonsense was an Austrian.

  2. > I had never heard of the Nazi legend of a place where enormous honkies strode the frozen landscape

    Honkies? Why not crackers? Wouldn’t crackers preserve really well in the dry, frozen Tundra? What have you got against crackers, Rebecca? :-)

    > The Internet, which is currently flooded with Nazis. …a place absolutely infested with Nazis…

    Flooded? Infested? I think you are giving these asshats more credit than they deserve. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, and the amount of material denouncing Nazis, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, etc. is orders of magnitude beyond the amount of material promoting them. About the only time I read anything at all about Nazis is when I read something about how evil (pathetic is more like it) they are. I just typed “nazi” into Google and the first three pages are from sources like Wikipedia, the BBC, the Holocaust Museum, Britannica, the New York Times, the Atlantic, Smithsonian, The Guardian, The Telegraph, etc. I didn’t look beyond three pages, but I think it’s fair to say that finding positive, promotional material about Nazis will take some dedicated research. Let’s not make these jagoffs into bogeymen. They are a few sad, pathetic, ignorant morons who exert no more influence over modern society and culture than any other fringe group.

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