Friday, August 25, 2006


Memo to the Scientific Community

To: Scientists

From: Dean Dad

Re: Pluto

I have been fond of you folks for a long time. I remember sitting through Cosmos, watching Carl Sagan juxtapose himself against the infinity of the universe, and wondering which was more tedious, but not holding it against you. At times, in grad school, when attempting an especially tight corner in my 1989 Tercel hatchback, I would reflect on my high school physics teacher's claim that centrifugal force was 'ficititious,' and decide that she must have been smoking some of Sagan's stash. That, too, I could forgive.

You folks have given us the internet, without which blogging would be a bit more tedious. (Anyone else out there remember 'zines?) You've given us central air, which I consider an advance on the order of a major vaccine. Hell, you've given us vaccines.

But now you go and take away an entire *(#%# PLANET?

I don't think so.

The Boy has nine (count 'em!) glow-in-the-dark planets hanging from his ceiling, arranged in order around the overhead light, which doubles as the sun. I ain't takin' Pluto down. You people can just stick that in your telescopes and smoke it, just like that Sagan guy. And look what happened to him!

That is all.

Dean Dad - come on! I'm from Binghamton! I know you appreciate a good escape-from-dismal-place-with-snowy-weather story. I managed to scrape my way out of that little town and get myself into a PhD astro program. So what's a planet or four between people who seem to have so much in common??

;) Just kidding . . . sorry about Pluto, folks. If it makes you feel any better, a lot of us are unhappy with the new definition (even if the definition we prefer might have also killed Pluto); also, Pluto has been recategorized as a dwarf planet. Which means it's technically still a planet. Even if the IAU wants to pretend nouns & adjectives don't work the way they do.
Yes I remember 'Zines.

And that is bizarre about Pluto, I mean I finally memorized the order of the planets thanks to watching Blue's Clues with my kids, now what am I supposed to do? Just end the song after "Neptune's really windy"?

Or maybe I could sing it like this, "Neptune's really windy, and Pluto's really fact it's so small that it's now called a dwarf planet, whatever the %$@* that means."

Okay, maybe not.
My thoughts exactly! I will stand tall and declare that I will not give up on Pluto! And also because it's not high on my radar it would take me months if not years to remember to call it dwarf planet, or whatever, so I refuse to waste the brain power on it!!!!
My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us... Nothing?

Sorry- in my house, and in my classes, we'll be thanking Mom for her Nine Pizzas until they pry Pluto (now apparently small enough) from my very cold (convection?) hands.
I do admit that, well... Pluto was just always a weird planet. I remember all my space books from childhood (the mid 80's) with glossy photographs of the other planets which were just so cool, and then... well, Pluto was a letdown.

Dean Dad, maybe you could add the other "dwarf planets" to TB's room? That would be pretty cool. If I were a kid, I would be thrilled to have more glowing in the dark celestial objects.
Dean dad,

Wouldn't this be a great opportunity to introduce 'The Boy' to the notion that scientific concepts are, in part, social constructions? Years from now when he is reading Kuhn for some undergraduate course he'll be much better prepared.
14 years ago, my son played the part of one of saturn's moons in that kindergarten classic, "the play of the planets." last year, my nephew was mars in the same production. my first thought was that the play would have to be totally re-written -- but then i realized that the teachers already tweak it every year, so every kid in the class gets a part.

so -- then i heard a news report referring to the remaining 8 planets as "classic planets," which immediately made me think of that failed coca-cola "new coke" campaign of some years back. i suppose the scientists could have called the smaller planetary objects "planets lite," but no -- they went for "dwarf planets" in a terrible show of insensitivity and poor marketing.

"pluto and the planet-ettes" has some rock-star potential, though. certainly, an upbeat new musical number could only improve the already stellar "play of the planets."
It's a conspiracy brought about by textbook publishers. Dump a planet and get to republish the science textbooks ... then charge everyone $100/per book.
check this out:
Wow, I feel like I've jumped back in time a few hundred years and am watching the announcement that the world is round. "I've always believed it was flat and we've always called it flat, so dangit I'm not going to put one of those globes in my classroom! If a map was good enough for my generation, it's good enough for the next generation." Guys, this is scientific fact. Moreover, it's a NAME. A classification. We aren't exactly about to nuke Pluto to obliterate it from existence.
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