Aug 25, 2006

the planet that wouldn't die

Objections to the latest planetary redefinition are manifold. There's the it's-undemocratic objection:
No email voting was allowed for the decision – it was made by a show of hands – and that meant that less than 5% of the nearly 9000 IAU members actually voted.
The exclusivity objection:
The definition stipulates that to be a planet, an object must have cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit. But Earth's orbital neighbourhood is filled with thousands of near-Earth asteroids, Stern says.

And Mars, Jupiter and Neptune have so-called "Trojan" asteroids sharing their orbits. "This is a half-baked criterion for planethood," he says.
The wrong motives objection:
[Stern] says the new definition was pushed by people who are unhappy with having large numbers of planets – an earlier proposal would have potentially allowed hundreds of new planets into the fold.

"It's just people that say things like, 'School kids will have to memorise too many names.' Do we limit the number of stars because children have to think of too many names?
The it's-unenforceable objection:
In any case, he says, astronomers are not obligated to use the new definition, since the IAU does not have the power to enforce it. "I don't think it's going to be very widely followed," he says.
And, lastly, the it-doesn't-even-matter objection:
As best I can tell, 'dwarf' is an adjective and 'planet' is a noun," [David Weintraub] told New Scientist. "I think the IAU thinks they defined Pluto to not be a planet. But they in fact have defined Pluto to be a planet – a particular kind of planet."


Anonymous said...

As my friend said:
"Pluto got Plutowned"

Jim Anderson said...

Nice. (If you had lied and said you invented it, nobody would have known.)