greygirlbeast (greygirlbeast) wrote,

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Late-Nite Science!

I've pretty much stayed mum regarding the recent kerfuffle over what is and is not a planet, the demotion of Pluto to the status of a "dwarf planet." I have done so, mostly, because I cannot see that this is anything more than the waste of resources on an issue that is purely semantic, not genuinely scientific. It's the same sort of typological nonsense that has so long had biologists arguing over what constitutes a genus or a species, or that we see in palaeontology and ornithology when tempers flare over whether birds should be called birds or avian theropods. A rose is a frelling rose. Is Antarctica a single continent or merely two subcontinents bridged by ice? Is Australia a continent? Then what about Greenland? And, geographically, how can we possibly consider Europe and Asia two separate continents, when the boundaries dividing them are purely political and historical?

For me, this whole thing about "real" and "dwarf" planets is just the same. For my part, Earth's moon is as much a planet as is Mercury, or Titan, or Miranda, or Pluto. Rocky bodies in orbit about the sun. Spherical rocky bodies, if you want to get picky. Maybe spherical rocky bodies should be distinguished from aspherical rocky bodies, but I can't really see the sense of it. And just because we've always been taught one thing — in this case, that Pluto is a planet — is not a sound reason for hanging onto an idea. That's dogma. The solar system has thousands upon thousands of rocky, gaseous, and icy bodies orbiting the sun. Give them names, for convenience and the sake of romance. Explore them. Discover their secrets. Catalog their differences and similarities. But don't waste time arguing over whether or not one of them should be plugged into an artificial category — "planet." I didn't mean to ramble on like that. Actually, I just meant to post this link, to an article at announcing the official naming of 2003 UB313 and its satellite as Eris and Dysnomia, respectively. There's a very nice bit of humour there, I think.

Also, just in case the weather hasn't been quite weird enough for you lately, note that NOAA has issued an "unscheduled" El Niño advisory. Okay. Time to lie down.
Tags: dysnomia, el nino, eris, pluto, science, typology

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