Ninth planet gets the boot
Pluto, the beloved underdog planet, has been kicked out of the Big Boys Club. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted in late August to demote Pluto to "dwarf planet" status. Normally, no one would care what 2,500 astronomers in the IAU decide, but this has repercussions. Big Time.
"My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas" becomes…what? "My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us…Ninjas? Nincompoops? Neanderthals?" And even worse for our cherished mnemonic device, the IAU is considering the status of an asteroid named Ceres, a moon of Pluto's named Charon, and an object nicknamed Xena. That would leave the whole thing a heaping mess. "My Very Excitable Mother Called Jane Several Ugly Names 'Cause of Xenophobia." I don't buy it.
Think about the planetariums. And the textbooks. And the posters. And the puzzles. And the models. Everything has to change!! And think about the children. You always have to think about the children. Doing last minute, late-night science fair projects recycled from older siblings is no longer a possibility. Out the door with them are the models tossed together in a hurry with Internet printouts, tennis balls and dried-out glue. How will we survive?
And don't forget the poor celebrity mothers-to-be. I'm sure at least one of them wanted to name her new baby "Pluto." I mean, come on, there is already an Apple, Moon Unit, Dweezil, Phinnaeus, Tennyson, Puma, Chastity, Bluebell, Shiloh and Suri. Well, at least one of them can still call dibs on the object Xena's real name, 2003 UB313.
Multiple generations grew up accepting Pluto as a planet. It was hard, unchangeable fact. But now, our beliefs are shattered. What does that leave us with? What else will be changed in our lifetime? Was Big Brother right? Is 2+2 really 5? Is ice cream actually healthy for you (not that I would mind)? Is the world flat? Have the French, in fact, won a war? Can Justin Timberlake indeed sing?
Of course, scientists are especially finicky and unpredictable. Just watch: in a year, the IAU will decide they made a mistake and declare Pluto a planet again. The celebrities and all the children will be waiting.
Pia Nargundkar. Pia Nargundkar was Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online during the 2007-2008 school year. More »