Friday, October 06, 2006

On Pluto

For several days now – I wanted to write about this planet – more like an apology that we owe to it. Here’s my declaration to the astronomical, physical, aeronautical, or any other fancy scientific body that concerns itself with Pluto. In the common law legal system, there is this wonderful thing called ‘The Statute of Limitation’. Do you guys have anything like that? It’s been what – three quarters of a century since you classified Pluto a planet – and suddenly you yank the title from it? C’ mon – even the IRS has more heart!

Just leave it like it is – who cares if you want to call Pluto a planet or a dwarf planet – or a Macaca planet – does it make a difference? Like some astronomical body in Andromeda is going to say – hmmm – the idiots on Earth have deemed Pluto to be a non-planet – so now we cannot plan an attack on it. Leave it as it is – and move on – do something that changes the way we live and use your brains to try and improve global warming or glacial erosion and Ozone depletion.


Raoul said...

We do not owe any apologies to Pluto. It is not a planet, and does not deserve to be called as such. It is merely an asteroid in the Kuiper belt. A macaca planet at best.

Still, if one must term Pluto as a planet, I am fine with it. As long as other comparable (and larger) bodies are called planets as well. Thus, if Pluto is a planet, then so are 2003 UB313, Ceres and Quaoar.

One must realize also that Pluto's been a 'planet' only for the last 70 years or so. I'm sure there were been people back in the 1930s opposed to adding to the set of 8 planets. Pluto was classified as a planet in 1929 only because we lacked the technology to know any better. Now that we do, we ought to rectify the mistake, rather than be sentimental about it and turn a blind eye towards the issue.

Lastly, does it make a difference? I believe it does. Does it make a difference to most of our lives that we are descended from apes rather than the progeny of Adam and Eve? It doesn't. Still, we insist upon it. For we must establish the scientific fact. Central to the whole Pluto debate is not just the status of Pluto as a planet, but the mere definition of what constitutes a planet. And that I believe is worth making a fuss about.

Sorry for being so dogmatic about the issue. But I do feel quite strongly about it. I have a rather scathing post on the topic myself here.

akv said...

Hi Roul,
First of all - there is no clear definition of the word 'Planet' - hence there is no way to say that such and such is or is not a planet.

Even if there is a loose definition of the word, all I am talking about is that we could have very easily kept Pluto, albeit with a footnote, in the orignal list and moved on. The footnote might have contained all kind of detailed explaination about what Pluto is and why other objects like Pluto (KBO etc) are not included in the list.

My rational is more cultural, historical and about being reasonable (think about reprinting all those geography, GK books) rather than being scientific.

This debate can hardly be compared to evolution v creation debate which traces us back from where we came and who we are - which in turn will have a plethora of biological, social and genealogical consequences. This is debate about our very identity.

Deeming Pluto to be a Macaca planet does not change a thing.

akv said...

Sorry Raoul - mispelt your name in my earlier post.