Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pluto makes trouble

Learning about the nine planets was a big part my early formal education. While recognizing the comedic gift that is Uranus, my favorite planet, right off the bat, was Pluto.

I was small and felt like an outsider in the big world. Pluto was small and farthest from the sun. The intra-galactic connection between myself and the ninth planet was undeniable.

As I got older and bigger the bond, predictably, waned. With that, disturbing facts I had always known about Pluto -- it was smaller than our moon, its orbit was spotty at best -- came to the forefront. Pluto, it seemed, belonged with the other eight planets like a first grader belonged on the Supreme Court.

Pluto's planetary merits were also being debated by the scientific community. A historic demotion was a real possibility.

It looks like they went the other way.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has just
classified three new celestial bodies as planets. My untrained read on these promotions is they were needed to justify Pluto's continued inclusion as a planet.

To make matters worse some astronomers think these new Pluto-friendly standards could lead to the recognition of up to 41 more new planets.

I say if you have 53 planets you might as well have one.

Low-expectations don't only have negative consequences here on earth.

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