Pluto, Pluto, whereforth art thou, Pluto?
I’ve been following the procedings of the IAU in Prague with great interest the past few weeks.
Furthermore, it has been much more humourous to hear what the Mainstream Media ™ has been reporting to the Less Scientifically Aware ™ general public.
It seemed to me to be joyous reporting of adding a 10th - lo and behold - even an 11th and 12th planet, promoting Ceres, Charon and UB313 (Xena).
As the dissatisfaction grew, suddenly the tone turned to “What the hell is this Pluto, and why is it lumped in with real planets?“
My favourite story worth noting was Andrew Dessler’s who pointed out a brilliant and hilarious paper his Dad wrote up.
Personally.. Planetary status isn’t a binary “is or isn’t” question. We’re lumping lumps of rock in with balls of gas and wedging everything under the same umbrella. No matter how you slice it, we have less than 10 really-big chunks of “stuff” flying around the solar system, hundreds of thousands of small chunks of stuff (mostly rock) we have catalogued, and a few massive wobbles we know are extra-curricular planets from other solar systems. We’re going to discover some mind-bending stuff if we keep looking out there that’s going to hurt our classification anyways.
I’ve long had a problem with trying to differentiate strict lines of distinction where there shouldn’t ought to be. When can we call two similar species distinct? What are masculine traits and what are feminine (or effinimate)? What makes a person ‘black’ versus ‘white’? And what about the poor folks that don’t fit nicely into either category? Bah.
We have 8 reasonably big chunks of stuff orbiting the sun. So far, we can pretty much handle our classification as it stands, right?
Err… Then Bruce Kenyon in town calls up people asking them to remember the planets. Apparently, we’re having a hard enough time with eight.
And the mnemonics are KILLING me. I have no problem remembering planets. I have a much more difficult time remembering the phrases. But from now on, I promise to remember one and ONLY one.
My Very Educated Mother Just Send Us NOTHING! GOT IT? NOTHING, ZILCH, ZIPPO, SQUAT, DITKUS! Now go back to planet Earth, roll that in your sock and smoke it.