Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pluto Controversy: Overview

Alright, I've been following this for a few days now, and have been meaning to write up something about it since the beginning. School is starting tomorrow, so I wanted to get at least an overview of the whole topic written up. If I have time tonight or this weekend I'll add more (and possibly go into detail on my stance).

Okay, for all of those who haven't been following, listen up: The IAU (International Astronomical Union) is deciding whether or not Pluto should be a planet. And depending on what they decide, we could have 4, 8, 9, or 12 planets. That's right, you'll have to come up with a new mnemonic device (which if everyone had a different one, how did that work in schools anyways?).

The most amusing part of this whole controversy is the debate between Science Fiction writers, Scott Westerfeld and John Sclazi, so click on their names when you're done here to get other views (and more information) on the whole controversy. And I'd like to mention that even though I love Westerfeld and his books, I am not going to take that into my final decision. Now, onto the good stuff.

Westerfeld gave a pretty good description of all the different groups involved, but he left out a few. I'll be using the group names he provided, and one that Scalzi pointed out, to talk about all the views on this subject (and they're all quite different too).

The No Iceball Left Behind Group
Okay, these guys love Pluto. They're the ones trying to save Pluto's planet title by defining a planet as an object that orbits a star (without being a star itself) and its gravity has to be strong enough to pull it into a spherical shape. So, if that goes through, they have accomplished their mission: Pluto will still be a planet. But in the process, they opened a can of worms. Think of all the new "planets" under this. If it goes through, we'll immediately induct Ceres, Charon, and 2003 UB313 (Xena?); there's about 43 total actually. So, uh...how does that save the mnemonic devices again?

The Culture Vultures
I know a few of these, one of whom was brave enough to debate it with me (which I love him for, debates are fun and I haven't had a good partner for a long time now). So, like my buddy Mike, these guys are pulling for a plan that basicly ends up in the "nine historical planets." Well, that's where Mike gets seperated from the culture vultures. They don't like change at all; Mike and others just want to keep the nine planets (and their handy mnemonic devices). But those two types of people got grouped together for this one because it's just their stance on this topic; just wanted to make that clear.

Mike Brown, the "UB313 Guy"
This guy's his own group really. He wants the "nine historical planets," but with only 1 extra: UB313, the planet he helped discover. He's a culture vulture who likes the idea of no iceball left behind, which proves that there are always going to be freethinkers who don't fit in with a certain group (and with that I say "good on ya Mike Brown"). So he wants 10 planets, nothing more. He realizes that the new plan will bring in every hunk of space junk we find and doesn't want all that, but he does want his own planet, which of coarse he's biased towards.

The "Pluto-haytas"
They're they opposite of the first group, they don't like Pluto. Or at least they don't want it to be a planet. Seeing as how Pluto is just a tiny little iceball out on the edge of the solar system, they don't think it should be a planet; they're more for the "eight classic planets." Westerfeld likes this idea, and he says before we go and define planet, we should learn more about the universe. If we don't, we'll end up like those guys back in the day who thought the Sun revolved around the Earth and that the sun and moon were both planets.

And that's the end of Scott's 4 groups, which brings us to the last one:
The Quads (I'm the one that named them that btw)
They don't want 9 planets, 12, or even 8. They want 4: Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus. Charlie Stross seems to be the biggest supporter of this (and the only one I found today). He (and any others there may be) think only the four biggest should be considered as planets, the rest of us are just space rocks. I'm betting this guy's gonna loose, sorry dude.

The one that has gone over best is the 12 planet system, Discovery will even have toys ready by Christmas if it goes through. Unfortunately the more important textbooks won't be totally implemented for 7 years. So, we'll have out-dated books in schools, but I guess we could just skip that chapter and implement our own, right?

Time for the wrap-up, then I'll get started on my stance explaination and get ready for the first day of school. The final vote by the IAU is on the 24th of August, 1 week from today. I'll post something on the decision for you.

For related links, check out my del.icio.us account, under the PlutoControversy tag.

1 comment:

elizabeth said...

that was long

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