Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I never got to meet Clyde Tombaugh. I know someone who did though. By all accounts he was a nice and thoughtful man. Clyde Tombaugh died back in 1997 thinking he had discovered a planet, Pluto. Recently the International Astronomical Union (IAU) changed all that. They redefined Pluto. Pluto is now a dwarf planet. It has Ceres, the largest known asteroid, and 2003 UB313 , affectionately nicknamed “Xena”, to keep it company.

Now don’t feel too bad for old Clyde because he lost his planet. Rather it’s quite remarkable that his discovery helped us discover a whole new class of objects, these dwarf planets. As we discover more objects in the Kupier Disk and the Oort Cloud we shall more than likely discover many more of these dwarf planets.

Never mind that the term, dwarf planet, really sucks. Couldn’t they have come up with something a lot cooler than dwarf planet? What happened to planetoid? Now there’s a name a nerd can love! Dwarf planet sounds like they just gave up. The stress of deciding that the solar system was now eight planets instead of nine was just too much. Getting a name out of these people was going to be like pulling teeth. So we got dwarf planet. Maybe if they are going to call the dwarf planets we should limit their number to seven and rename them; Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Bashful, Sleepy and Dopey. But, I digress.

Also what’s going to happen to pneumonic device used to learn the planet’s names? You know it, “My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas”. What’s is going to be now, “My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Noodles”? What kid wants noodles instead of nine pizzas? Oh the humanity!

What about the wonderful Nine Planets Web site? Will they change their domain name?

I don’t mean to seem as if I am making light of these exciting times. We live in extraordinary times. Of course most people are far more worried about a ten-year-old murder case in Colorado than things like this. The first observation of dark matter isn’t even a blip on the media’s radar. But a wedding video of some psycho who likes little girls playing guitar at a wedding is all over it. People who wonder why our schools are failing need to only investigate the media’s priorities to understand.

Rest in Peace Clyde Tombaugh. Your diligence in discovering Pluto has helped lead us into new and exciting times. I just hope more than a few science lovers notice.


Anonymous Dave said...

You're right, no more Pizzas from mother. She'll have to feed us Nachos. Not as good a pizza, but still pretty good I guess. I think they shoulda left it at nine....Mr. Webster has had a definition for "planet" for an awefully long time without losing much sleep over it.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Eric said...



The children will be overjoyed.

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey...it's p x b from ptc =]

3:21 PM  

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