Friday, September 01, 2006

Don't Worry Pluto. We Still Love You.

I've been holding off on commenting about Pluto. It was a subject of such coverage that I figured there is nothing I could possibly say, unless it was in some obscure language, like Tagalog, that hadn't already been said.

Since this "re-naming" has triggered a near world war, I figure I'd lend a word or two. So here they are.

I disagree.

I disagree on an emotional front --to me, Pluto will always be planet no matter what anyone says-- and I disagree on a semantic front. After learning of why they declassified Pluto as a planet, I was stunned. I assumed it had something to do with its diminutive size, but no! It had to do with Pluto's orbital crossing with Neptune. Pluto had failed to clear its neighborhood, as it were.

Well why not declassify Neptune? It has failed on the same count. Does Neptune get a free pass because it's larger than the giant rock we call home? I agree a definition is good idea, but this is silly. How could simply nailing down a definition to a word cause such problems?

And an interesting side effect is coming out of this; total confusion on how to teach the planets! When the scientific community is totally split on something, what are the poor teachers to do? Do they just flip a coin? It's quite a pickle into which the IAU has gotten us all.

I think the idea of a "legacy planet" is a good one. At least until me and every other intransigent adult who was taught otherwise has died. Moreover, instead of totally reclassifying "planet," I think subcategories is the best move. Unfortunately, this will add Xena into the fold. Xena is still surrounded by junk, so why not call Xena a proto-planet? Jupiter is very different from us, so we've always called it a "gas giant." We're already sub-categorizing our planets. We don't say we have 5 planets, and 4 gas giants. We just say we have 9 planets. Let's continue in that vein.

Astronomers Continue Fight For Pluto's Planetary Status (Via Science.QJ.Net)
Bulldoze Pluto? I Don’t Think So (Via
Pluto: Down But Maybe Not Out (Via
300 Astronomers Will Not Use New Planet Definition (Via

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