Reeking With Plutessence
Because I know you care, the latest on Pluto: First, Scott Westerfeld’s latest Pluto-hatin’ rant, in which it’s revealed, more or less, that one of his biggest problems with a solar system with tiny ice planets is that then everything gets so darn messy. Which reminds me that the pre-Copernicans had a lovely and ordered view of the solar system — a sphere for everything, and everything in its sphere — whose only problem was that it just happened to be, you know, wrong. Fact is, it’s a messy universe; not even the universal constants may be as constant as we once assumed. If we end up with dozens — nay, hundreds! — of tiny ice planets orbiting the sun slowly in wacky, eccentric orbits, it’s just the way these things go.
Scott’s also against the “nine historical planets” idea, hoping against all sense and reason that astronomers and other scientists will fall back on saying “eight classic planets,” thus giving Pluto the (ironically) cold shoulder, and eventually we’ll all forget about those crazy little ice planets with their crazy eccentric orbits and all. Well, the reason this won’t happen is because Pluto is useful; it’s not only a planet, but it’s also a signifier for all the other dinky ice planets out there. By retaining and invoking Pluto as the example par excellence of tiny ice planets, we get away with not having to name them all, thus allowing future generations of children to know tiny ice planets exist — as they certainly do, so ignoring them entirely would be a lie — without torturing them by requiring them to memorize the name of every bit of ice and rock massive enough to collapse into a sphere. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Pluto saved Christmas.
One more twist in Scott’s Pluto-hatin’ gut: Textbook and toy makers are preparing to implement the 12-planet solar system. Apparently it’ll take up to seven years before all the science textbooks in the US have all the 12 proposed planets in them, thanks to the nature of textbook sales in this country. But the toys could be ready much sooner than that: “Discovery Channel Store spokeswoman Pamela Rucker predicted new 12-planet toys could be in stores in time for the Christmas season.”
Heh. I know what I’m getting Scott for the holidays.