My Rating System


As my friend Nathan recently pointed out, any movie review site needs a rating system.  That seemed so obvious that I had to agree with him, which is something I hate to do if it wasn’t my idea in the first place.  Nathan went on to say that the rating system should be unique and interesting, reflecting the site itself.

I knew I was in trouble at that point.  Like everything else about this blog, it immediately took on a life of its own and I found myself scouring the internet for ideas that seemed sufficiently science-fictiony (at some point I may explain about my gift of neology, which makes me a neologian, but for right now we don’t have time—we’re hot on the trail of a unique rating system and in any event the word “science-fictiony” is a fairly puerile effort in comparison to some of my gems like “prevenge”).

I considered a number of ideas, but nothing really took hold until I suddenly realized that the Harvard stellar classification system was perfect for my needs.  It’s appropriately geeky, in that it takes a pretty heavy duty science nerd to think of it, it has a wonderful mnemonic device, and it gives me a scale related to something we all understand (temperature) as well as seven classification items.

Problem solved.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the classification system, it ranks stars on the basis of their surface temperature, which has the side effect of lumping color, mass and size in as well thanks to the laws of physics.  From hottest to coolest, the classification system runs O (supergiants with a blue color and something in excess of 16 times the mass of the sun and a truly giant 6 or more solar radii), B (blue-white), A (white to blue white), F (white), G (yellow-white, and the solar classification into which our sun falls), K (yellow orange) and M (red orange).

The really cool mnemonic device to remember this is “Oh, Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me.”  Who says astronomers don’t know how to have fun?

For the non-geeks out there, I’ll use a parenthetical point system with 1 being great and 7 being really, really bad.

Now, I could go on about how this classification system was originally based on the hydrogen lines in the stellar absorption spectra, and how they reveal the fascinating link between a star’s mass and its temperature and that in turn illustrates a star’s life cycle and the tension between gravity and fusion, but you really don’t want to hear about all that.  Only you should totally go look up the Harvard Spectra Classification on Wikipedia or something, just so you can astound your friends.

Oh, and I hear some of you right now, along with the ghost of Spock, talking about Class M planets, and isn’t that confusing?  I’ve got news for you: Class M planets are fictional.  According to one story I heard, probably apocryphal, the “M” stands for Majel, as in Majel Barrett, about whom Gene Roddenberry allegedly said she “makes my life possible.”  It may not be true, but it’s a sweet story.  And no, I’m not going to tell you who Majel Barrett and Gene Roddenberry are; this blog is geeky enough as it is.

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