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Friday 25 August 2006
Pluto is not a planet. So sayeth the International Astronomical Union. ("International Astronomical"? Are they inclusive enough with their title? "Can everybody find a seat?")
As of yesterday, the World Scientists, in a very 1984 scenario, voted to re-define the term "planet." Because of the new definition, Pluto got the cold shoulder. Feeling sorry for the old bean, they created a new category of "dwarf planet" for Pluto and it's solar-system neighbors. I think most people will agree that the tag "dwarf" is not much of a consolation prize.
I'm not really against this decision. Pluto has never quite gotten along with the gang. (Think of the dweeb that used to hang around with your clique in high school just so that you & your friends would have someone to stuff into trashcans: that's Pluto to the other planets.) I suppose it's more surprising that it took scientists several thousand years to define the word "planet," a word with a vestigial tail lingering from ancient Greek and a concept strongly tied to ancient pagan polytheistic deity worship. Confusion of the nature of planets has lingered for years; in the past, even large asteroids have been considered planets, if only temporarily. It's nice to finally have some closure on the issue, at least for a few hundred years or so, when they'll no doubt redefine it again.
On the other hand, this redefinition of Pluto may have long lasting and drastic implications on modern culture. Disney will have to put down Mickey's dog. Whole planetariums will have to be razed and rebuilt from scratch. On my Solarquest game board, Pluto property values will plummet. Galactus, the Eater of Planets, will have to tighten his belt. Millions of textbooks will have to have stickers added that say, "See? Scientists are fickle and can't decide on anything so evolution must be bullshit." The last four generations of humans will begin to question everything that they've ever been taught by The Man. (Wisely, the prescient Gustav Holst refused to compose an amended Pluto movement for his masterpiece suite The Planets, saving his artistic legacy from scientific destruction.) In short, this nearsighted redefinition has the potential to DESTROY THE WORLD.
And then again, when was the last time that you really thought about Pluto, anyway? Maybe this is just a PR move on the part of a washed-up attention-hound long discarded. Perhaps Pluto, which could really never make up its mind if it was the 8th or 9th planet, simply decided it was time for a new crowd and finally moved out of it's parents' basement. Good for you, Pluto! Go be somebody! This is the 21st century; if a dwarf can't make it here, there's always next century.