All things ridiculous.
Space advocates see a lot of ridiculous things.
I was tempted to leave the update at that, and let you all draw your own conclusions. I'm certain every reader would draw to a different event or presentation in a different field that made them shake their head in utter incredulity. My original draft of this update referred to an incident where the President of a respected space movement dropped the ball and embarassed a lot of people with his poor sense of good taste and modesty when given a public forum. There's no sense in going into greater detail, we all know it was ridiculous.
There are some people that argue that heavy-lift is ridiculous, some that argue that the ISS is ridiculous. Some think going to the Moon is ridiculous, others feel that way about Mars. In a planet super-saturated with ridiculousness, we've managed to find a way to shovel more into space.
And then I saw this in today's headlines from Boston.
"Xena the warrior planet knocks Pluto out of orbit"
Wow. That's pretty ridiculous. One might even call it fraudulent. It continues...
"It’s doing a fine job, thank you very much - ruling the sign of Scorpio with an even hand, solidly anchoring the mnemonic ‘‘My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nice Pizzas,” allowing a 125-pound woman to weigh only 10 pounds if she were lucky enough to live there."
Now, of course, the ridiculous article is just raising awareness of the identification issues surrounding what to call large ice-balls like Pluto, "Xena" and whatever else lies in the Kuiper belt. It seems the IAU has made its proposal on what to do about this dilemma: increase the number of planets kids learn about to 12 and identify a class of "Plutoids".
The new additions?
Charon, Pluto's moon. Now a planet. Yes, that makes them a binary-planet system.
Xena, which by day poses as mild-mannered 2003 UB313, is now a planet.
Finally the asteroid Ceres, yes...that's planet 4.5. If elementary schoolers learn about Pluto, Charon and Xena...they'll have to learn about Ceres too. (If you can coin a good mnemonic to remember all 12, trademark it now)
Learning 12 planets and half-planets seems to be an unneccesarily complex solution when compared to dropping the list to 8 "planets that count". One wonders the rationale behind this decision. Cue another bit of ridiculousness.
"School feels they helped save Pluto"
"Today's schoolchildren and at least one teacher still believe that effort helped save the planet discovered in 1930 by their hometown hero, Clyde Tombaugh."
"We didn't want him (Tombaugh) to be forgotten. He was the only American to discover a planet."
"Clyde would have loved to know that he not only discovered Pluto but also discovered the first double planet."
Is the United States, a nation that put a man on the Moon, beat Communism and commanded this world in every meaningfully measurable way, so insecure about how many planets it can claim discovery over that it warrants classifying 3 new objects and the 10,000 likely objects just beyond the horizon as "planets" just to bolster a sense national (local) pride? I refuse to accept this as a double planet. It's a ball of ice and a ball of ice half its size acting as a moon.
The IAU even admits that when more Kuiper belt objects are discovered, the list will have to grow larger. We'll be throwing the word planet around at anything we can land a probe on at this rate. The IAU will vote on the proposal next week. Books will be re-written. Teachers will try to catch up.
Why do people defend this as though dismissing Pluto as a planet would cause it to no longer exist? It was an ice-ball before. It's still an ice-ball. There are a LOT of them waiting to be discovered out there. Get out your telescopes, you too can be like Clyde.
A 12-planet system. Pretty ridiculous.
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Ryan on 08.16.06 @ 09:57 AM CST [link] [1347 Comments]