Friday September 1, 2006

I Say it's Still a Planet

I've been watching the nomenclature wars for years. First protozoans were renamed protista (did anyone ask their opinion?). Then centrifugal force was refuted and the force that makes an (ahem) centrifuge operate is now called centripetal (never mind that the result is exactly the same).

And now, where there were nine, there are eight.

Meeting in Prague, home of several defenestrations, the world's astronomers threw Pluto out the window. They'd been looking for an excuse to get rid of it for a while, because it was too small and crafty, and it made the astronomers nervous. So they came up with a definition that excluded Pluto (its orbit was "too oblong," they said, like that's a convincing reason) and they consigned it to the dustbin of history. Now it's just a beltless asteroid.

[Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle columnist

I can understand things like "Hey, we were wrong about the earth being in the center of the galaxy. It seems that it revolves around the sun instead." But, the renaming thing rather annoys me. After all, the names aren't "real" to begin with. We made them up.

So, Pluto is no longer a planet. Uhuh. I'm waiting to see if Mercury will be thrown out next; after all, it doesn't rotate. Whoa. That's weird, right?

And I agree with Jon Carroll:

I mean, why stop at planets? Let's think about those continents. Are Europe and Asia really separate continents? Why? It's just one big land mass with an east end and a west end. South and North America at least have a waist, so a case can be made that they're almost different. But Europe and Asia? Just one thick clump of land divided only by historical accidents -- and, to be fair, steppes. It's like, we're always hearing that Turkey wants to be part of Europe. If the geographers were on the ball, it would either be a part of Asia or it wouldn't.

I Say it's Still a Planet ( in category Random Thoughts ) - posted at Fri, 01 Sep, 19:28 Pacific | «e»