Nate Lo on the art of naming a new bacterium

"There's plenty of science in Star Wars but not enough Star Wars in science as far as I'm concerned."

- Dr. Nate Lo, as quoted in The Scientist

Stephen Pincock brings us news of Australian post-doc Nate Lo, who turned to Hollywood when he couldn't come up with a name for his newly discovered life-form, a bacterium that lives happily inside the mitochondria of female tick egg cells. Apparently the first of its kind, the bug infects the space between the mitochondria's inner and outer membrane and devours the energy-producing organelle from the inside out.

After much soul-searching and web surfing, Lo and colleagues dubbed the bug Midichloria mitochondrii after 'midichlorians', fictitious life-forms invented by George Lucas as part of the back-story for his Star Wars world. The midichlorians, according to Lucas, live inside the cells of all living things and "communicate with the Force". Fortunately, Lucas unleashed his blessing, not his copyright lawyers, on the new appellation prior to publication in The International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.

"As far as we know, it's the first species to be formally named after anything in the entertainment industry," Lo also said.

You can read the entire article here with a subscription to The Scientist magazine.