Thursday, August 24, 2006
Goodbye, Pluto 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: I'm a few hours too late to enter Jason Kottke's Pluto Mnemonic Contest, but here's my 9 words:

Many valid extraterrestrial masses jointly secede under new plan.

Isn't there's something surreal - and vaguely ominous - about the natural world arbitrarily "losing" a planet, somewhere along the lines of a global math society declaring the numeral "9" nonexistent?

Offsetting this loss, we will gain objects in the "dwarf planet" and "pluton" categories, but my mid-Century sensibilities have been dealt a decisive thwack by the Union's fateful decision in Prague. Specifically, the International Astronomical Union has set the definition of "planet" to be
...a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
...and by not "clearing the neighborhood around its orbit," Pluto didn't cut the mustard. Not a good enough housekeeper for the celestial condo association, apparently. I don't know about you, but I know some people who meet all three criteria of planethood, with the additional quality of periodically dispersing vast quantities of gaseous matter into their surrounding atmosphere. Perhaps we could call these folk "planets" as a subtle form of insult.

Think of all the science textbooks that will have to be revised - wait, scratch that - I'm sure the ID folks would gladly just pull them from circulation. Not to mention, this website will have now have to change its domain name - and this obscure science-fiction book [which I confess I read in 7th grade, although in terms of content, it really had no business being in a middle-school library] is one planet further away from reality.

We still love you, Pluto, and to me you will always be the NINTH planet....(*sigh*). Can I start my own revisionist curriculum now?