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Ben Franklin's bifocals August 28, 2006

Alas, Poor Pluto

Pluto, the planet formerly known as #9

Alas, poor Pluto, we knew you so well,
Your job description: "In Charge of Hell."
Bureaucrats demoted you from planetary status.
Now you wear a T-shirt that says, "They Hate Us."

Religion has its dogma, Government has its rules,
Science has its orthodoxy; All of them are fools.
As you travel around in your cold, icy orbit,
They hit you a shot, and you couldn't absorb it.

Once a proud planet; now just a big sno-cone.
Brown found one bigger; it cost you your throne.
We thought we knew our own Solar System.
Who was offended by Pluto, and dismissed him?

Pluto the dog on the way to his doghouse

The Nine Plnets of the Solar System that we learned in school

Following the controversial meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague this week that stripped Pluto of its planetary status, a dissident band of astronomers and astrophysicists gathered in one of the local taverns. After imbibing serious quantities of the excellent local Czech beer, the group resolved to form a new society to be called Save The Outer Planets (STOP).

Founding members of STOP elected as their spokesperson and first executive director, Don Coyote of La Mancha, Arizona. Dr. Coyote, who is now at the Kidspeak Observatory, is perhaps best known for his work in mapping the smaller asteroids of the asteroid belt. He is credited with having found the smallest object in the solar system, which has a mass of less than 1 kg, and has been named Trivial in his honor. In an animated press conference immediately following the formation of STOP, Dr. Coyote issued the following press release:


The members of STOP are dismayed at the recent action of the IAU regarding Pluto. The IAU decision to reclassify the planet Pluto and demote it to the status of "dwarf planet" is both ill advised and unnecessary. Additionally, it shows disregard and lack of sensitivity to the needs of our children, and in particular those that are at or beyond the fifth grade, in which they learn the planets of our solar system. Heaven knows what trauma these innocent kids will suffer as a result of such cavalier treatment. One sixth grader recently came home from school in tears and blurted out in his mother's arms, "if they can do this to a planet, what will they do to me?"

We would hasten to point out that the IAU actions smack of bias and prejudice. The use of the phrase "dwarf planet" to refer to the once beloved Pluto is a transparent attempt to stigmatize that body. Referring to Pluto, a sphere that is 1400 miles in diameter, as a dwarf is a disingenuous attempt to justify the shoddy treatment that the IAU has visited upon this harmless planet. Furthermore, singling out the orbit of Pluto as being unnecessarily oblong, tilted, and intruding on the orbit of the planet Neptune, reveals appalling planetary profiling. Nor is the icy composition of the planet Pluto a valid reason for its disparagement. Our very own planet Earth has icy composition at both of its poles, nor is the planet Neptune's composition such hot stuff.

This brings us to the final point upon which the IAU based its disgraceful treatment of Pluto. In a thinly disguised slur to Pluto's manhood, the planetary definition adopted yesterday implies that a celestial body cannot qualify as a planet unless it devours all its competitors in the neighborhood. In other words, real planets don't eat quiche, they eat other planets. This kind of mindless worship of cannibalism, and senseless elevation of neighborhood bullies brings no credit to the IAU. Some planets are man enough to show their feelings and consideration for others. We should applaud them.

The members of STOP will not simply revolve on their axes and mindlessly pursue this unfair path laid down by the IAU. We intend to raise the necessary funds to retain a Washington lobbyist with substantial congressional access. We will pursue a bill that would restore to Pluto its historic planetary status, and provide adequate safeguards to all the planets of our solar system against arbitrary and capricious treatment. Clearly, the solar system is complex and delicately balanced. Removing any of its planets is bound to affect the others. Any future attempt by the IAU (or any other organization) to reclassify the traditional heavenly bodies should require, at a minimum, the development of a comprehensive Cosmic Impact Statement to analyze the consequences in exhaustive fashion.

We do not go so far as to accuse the IAU of racism. It is evident, however, that by referring to Pluto disparagingly as being associated with the "Kuiper Belt" the IAU shows its manifest xenophobia. Here in the United States we reject the nefarious practice of guilt by association. We call upon the IAU to cleanse itself of this disgraceful behavior and reconsider its decision to cast out Pluto from the family of planets.

The Solar System Before - 9 Planets intact    The Solar System After - 8 of the 9 Planets remain
[The Solar System - Before and After Revision]

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