The world is a different place than it was when I was a child, and as much as I joke about getting older it really was not that long ago. Thirty years ago people did not have access to the internet in their homes. Mobile phones were strictly a play thing for the rich. The Cold War was the defining characteristic of our world view. Eddie Murphy made entertaining movies, and oh, Pluto was a planet.
Apparently this last bit is a bit too much for folks to handle. I know many out there are just joking when they say “in my day, Pluto was a planet,” but there are plenty out there who are deadly serious and act like it is some sign of moral or cultural decay in our society that it no longer is. The reaction is similar to what one might encounter if they found out the family dog had to be put down. It has been a few years now folks, I think we can stop mourning something that never went away to begin with.
Some folks have postulated that this reaction is due to Pluto being “America’s” planet, the only one in our solar system discovered by an American. There may be some truth to this, but I suspect it is not the driving cause. I believe folks in general are so resistant to change that they have to rail against it, even when that change has no meaningful effect on their lives. We still have politicians referring to the country of Yugoslavia, even though that country has not existed in twenty years. Pundits continue to rage against communism, even though there are few communist countries, most people in this country reject the ideology, and the Cold War has been over for a generation now.
It has been said, and forgive me for not knowing or researching the origin of this, that the one constant in the universe is change. Yes you have to deal with Pluto not being a planet, but for thousands of years of human history it was not. Heck, no one even saw it there. Then, one day someone noticed it, and astronomers had to deal with that change. A few decades later, less than a century, someone noticed a bunch of other objects similar to it. After a lengthy discussion of how one defines a planet, it was decided none of these, including Pluto, fit. There is a very simple explanation for it here.
I understand change can be scary. The familiar is easier to navigate through and anything that alters that introduces uncertainty is to be met with suspicion. Change can be good though. It means a better understanding of our world sometimes. It gives us new toys and tools (hello world wide web) and it helps us discover more about the universe (planets around other stars!) I for one welcome it. New places, new tastes, new knowledge, and whatever else you can throw my way. I enjoy all my familiar comforts, but new adventure is always exciting. So Pluto can enjoy its new designation as a dwarf planet, hopefully the former Yugoslav Republics can live together in peace, and you can take it all in, ready for whatever curve ball our ever fluid knowledge throws your way.
- Push for Pluto mission stamp gains ground (science.nbcnews.com)
- Why Pluto can’t have a moon named Mickey – but may get Cthulhu Crater (cosmiclog.nbcnews.com)
- Former classifications (planetssolarsystem.wordpress.com)
- Plutotesimal – Perturbative Multiparticle Production (lunaticoutpost.com)