Uh oh! I was actually serious in an email response to my old buddy Joel. Mostly, anyway. I had to go off on him a bit for forwarding the link (bottom of this email) to me that he did.
Sent: Friday, September 01, 2006 9:27 PM
To: my peeps
Subject: RE: Fight On! Save our System!
I know you’re being tongue-in-cheek, but I’ve been following this debate for years, and I agree with ole Clyde Tombaugh himself, who when asked about Pluto’s nebulous (no pun intended) planetary status would usually sigh and say, “It is what it is.” The question of the rock’s designation was the least interesting to Tombaugh, and indeed, to most scientists who actually study the things. Dwellers in semantics give a rat’s ass for something to do, but those who analyze extra-terrestrial bodies’ compositions, looking for gases and metals, just care about what is there and how it got there, and not what arbitrary designations the composite globs themselves bear. I can mix a bunch of ingredients in a bowl, pour it onto a griddle, and someone will call it a flapjack and someone else will call it a pancake. Me, I’ll just eat the damn thing and know what I put in it.
Although I think the IAU’s definition of a planet is about as useful as trying to separate bad erotica from high class porn, I do tend to agree with them that classifying three or more dozen – to several hundred – more objects as Solar planets would be way too confusing…and would produce no positive or useful outcome, excepting the fun it would be to DVR The Today Show and watch them stumble through the topic. Thus, I propose the following alternative, by my alter ego,
Definition of a Planet
A Solar Planet shall be:
- One of these: Mercury, Earth, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune, or
- Of equal or greater mass than Mercury, with an orbit of primary slavishness to Sol (versus to another object)
Every other floating thing out there shall be considered one of the following:
- Planetary Satellites (which would or would not qualify to be planets if the poor bastards had not been captured by one of the “true” planets at some point, or they might also qualify as one of the below…)
- Ice Chunk
- Black Hole
- Mini-Black Hole
- Black Matter
- Black Energy
- Star (of which there are also many varieties)
- Human-made artifacts
- Alien artifacts
- Weird “Other” shit
Now then, since that is done, it’s time to get back to the science. Let’s just admit we’re all circling the drain pipe, flotsam arguing over our names…as we all go down one by one.
Oh, and sure, I no doubt left out as many or more bullet points as I included. Feel free to pummel me about it.
Sent: Friday, September 01, 2006 4:03 PM
Subject: Fight On! Save our System!
Give 'em hell, sciencey guys, give 'em hell! I'll buy the bullets!!!!!!!!!!!!