Daily Archives: August 24, 2006

Dwarf Planets

Yes, I heard. Yes, I told Athena, whose response, after asking for and receiving permission to use a very mild curse word, was: “Pluto’s been demoted? That’s crap!”

How do I feel about it? Seriously? Snarky rivalries with other science fiction writers who will undoubtedly be unbearably gloaty when I see them later tonight notwithstanding, I think it’s fine. The IAU has created a new class of planet to recognize Pluto and its ilk (“dwarf planets”). Inasmuch as I’ve advocated classifying Pluto and its ilk as such, I can hardly complain when the IAU agrees with me on that matter. Now, what will be interesting is what the IAU will do when someone discovers one of these “dwarf planets” which actually does meet its official criteria for planetary status. Personally I don’t doubt there are objects out there orbiting the sun massive enough to “sweep the lane” but which are fundamentally slushy balls of ice. Will someone try to add new restrictions to the definition to keep it out of the club? We’ll have to see if the Pluto-hayta types rise again, with their ice-ist agenda.

Does this mean Pluto will now fade from cultural memory? We’ll find out, but I’ll say this much about it — I’ll be revising The Rough Guide to the Universe over the next year; in the previous edition of the book, I lumped in Pluto with Uranus and Neptune. In the revised book, I expect I’ll be adding a new chapter: “Pluto and the dwarf planets.” That’s a bit of a promotion, I’d say. Personally, I think Pluto will be around for a while.

Now, back to the convention. See you all next Monday.