Kenneth Chang notes that Neil deGrasse Tyson has a new book coming out very soon: The Pluto Files. Apparently deGrasse Tyson caught a lot of hell over the years for being involved in the slighting of Pluto over at the Hayden Planetarium, long before the International Astronomical Union finished the banishment in 2006.
I’ll look forward to reading Tyson’s book, but as a Plutophile I gotta say, the plaque that the Rose Center for Earth and Space provides to explain its Pluto demotion (which I learned about thanks to Chang’s post) isn’t very impressive to me. It reads like this:
Our solar system includes four rocky (terrestrial) planets and four gas giants…Pluto’s ice-rich composition and unusual orbit set it apart from both families. But it shares these traits with the Kuiper Belt Objects, a recently discovered swarm of thousands of large icy comets orbiting just beyond Neptune.
Some astronomers regard Pluto as a Kuiper Belt Object, some call it a planet, and others think of it as both. This confusion arises because a consensus has yet to emerge on the scientific definition of “planet.”
Hmm…maybe the definition of planet isn’t solely up to modern science? Don’t history and culture count for anything?
Sheril and I just bought our “Dear Earth, You Suck: Love Pluto” t-shirts, so we’ll have more to say about all of this soon enough, including in Unscientific America. Meanwhile, read Dr. Tyson’s book, and try to remember that despite his role in the Pluto affair, he isn’t a bad person…just a little misguided.
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