THE PLUTONIAN BLUNDER
"It ain't fair, damn it!
Them nutty astronomers
declare Pluto an un-planet
and now all my customers
want their money back on
grounds I had the planets aligned all wrong!"
Demoting Pluto from planet
status could wreak havoc
By CHUCK McFADDEN
By now, you have read about the astronomers all getting together in Prague, hoisting a few and solemnly declaring that Pluto is no longer a planet.
Kicked out of the club. Its okay for Neptune, Venus, Jupiter and all the rest of the gang, but Pluto is consigned to a cold, lonely life--way out there with no one for company except some lousy asteroids.
Of course, when it was officially a planet, Pluto had a cold, lonely life way out there anyway, but still. Rank has its privileges.
There have been some protests about the decision of the International Astronomical Union and there is talk of a meeting of dissident planetary scientists next year to revisit the issue.
I should think so. Schoolchildren have a vested interest in this, for instance, and so do teachers. You could argue that future generations will only have to memorize eight planets instead of nine, but education is essentially conservative and at heart really doesnt much like major changes such as this one. Fads, yes. Real change, no.
But never mind all this. What I want to know is if, in all the fuss about Plutos demotion, have you or anyone else given a care about one particular vested interest that perhaps has the most to lose?
I thought not.
Astrologers. Has anyone thought about astrologers?
They dont have the same group of planets to work with any more. The whole system has been upended.
Here we have someone sitting in a darkened room, doing someones horoscope and telling the client that Pluto is in its ascendancy, so dont buy that Bolivian tin mine stock. Oops.
Oh, sure, astrologers may enjoy a spike in revenue as thousands rush to have their horoscopes redone to make them Pluto-free, but the wholesale revision of the astrological infrastructure that must occur will soak up any windfall profits.
I foresee a cottage industry springing up. Consultants will rent hotel meeting rooms and take out ads in newspapers inviting astrologers to learn how to cope with the new realities. Only $750 for a full day of learning about how you can profit from the downsized solar system.
If they were smart--since theyre astrologers, they arent--but if they were, astrologers would cast this as a civil rights issue.
After all, one of the reasons Pluto has been drummed out of the corps is because its orbit around the sun is different. Odd. Not a regular circle, like all the other fellas.
Is that fair? Just because Plutos orbit is a bit elongated, does that mean it should be barred from equal status? It didnt choose to be that way. Its something that came from nature. Maybe in its genes, if planets have genes.
And anyway, where do we draw the line? Saturn has those goofy rings around it. Is that any way for a real planet to behave? Of course not. And we wont even go into the reasons for Jupiters behavior, with that weight problem. It could be that Jupiter is beginning to show, and we all know what that means.
Fundamentalist Christians may start praying that if Pluto really wanted to--if it really, really tried--it could reform and become a straight planet, like God intended it to be. I doubt if they will be successful, because planets, even former planets such as Pluto, have traditionally been perversely resistant to preachers, however earnest their entreaties.
There is a solution to this unjust situation, and it doesnt rely on an alliance of fundamentalist preachers and bereft astrologers for success.
Lets make Pluto an honorary planet. It could play with the other planets, and maybe even have a civil union with any asteroid that might be so inclined. Not, of course, with any mainstream planet. One has to draw the line somewhere in defense of the Christian principles upon which our nation was founded.
It wont make everyone happy. But middle-ground, sensible compromise seldom does.
Meanwhile, lets tend to our knitting here on Earth. If odd behavior is a disqualifier for planethood, we have some things to think about.
©2006 by Charles M. McFadden. The McFadden caricature is ©2001 by Jim Hummel. The cartoon illustration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA. This column first posted Sept. 4, 2006.
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