Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto refuses demotion. Stays planet.

Today in Prague, a group of astronomers decided that Pluto should lose its status as a planet. They didn't really give a very good laymens answer except to say that Pluto's oblong orbit takes it well outside the boundaries of the other planets in the Solar System. What does that mean? Pluto can stay at my place.

If Pluto is a planet, then it defines the outer boundary of the Solar System. Pluto is round and has two moons. It orbits our Sun, so it's a planet. It seems a bit harsh for astronomers to start making claims about a celestial body that they know very little about. Now we have them demoting it. Planet comes from a Greek word "planetes", which means wanderer and is defined as an object in orbit around a star that is not a star in its own right. The word planet doesn't really have a precise definition. It's one of those words that we use to describe something in general. Unless the International Astronomical Union has decided to change what the word planet means, they have absolutely no authority to change the the staus of Pluto. As of today, Pluto is still not a star, and it still orbits around a star. This makes it a planet.

Is this what astronomers do when the sun comes up? Is this the bureaucracy of star gazing? I can't imagine a group of people getting together and discussing the validity of a planets status. Pluto is a significant part of the twentieth century having been discovered in 1930. Pluto has always been a mystery planet and has no doubt been the inspiration for a great number of science fiction movies.

Pluto was a planet in my Grandfathers day, my Fathers day and mine. Of course it is a planet. At the very least, it defines itself as a planet because it has been part of the Solar System for 75 years.

Astronomers are obviously burdened with the growing bureaucracy that comes with any organization. Why is it when something becomes mainstream we need a a group of experts to stand around and write rule books? These people always complicate things. The people who refuse to to be held back by rules of physics, rules of math, rules of business, are the true innovators.

The ones standing around, writing rule books and thinking up conference dates are the ones not doing anything. It would be nice if they stopped interfering with the peoplethat do.