Moultrie Observer

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January 29, 2014

On Pluto, Shakespeare and big rocks

MOULTRIE — A few years back some scientists got together and decided that Pluto was not a planet, even though it has been called a planet since its discovery by Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930.

Now when this announcement was made, the declaration of its stature did not impact the Dow Jones averages whatsoever. Back then if Fed chairman Alan Greenspan showed up to work in a wrinkled shirt and extra bags under his eyes, the Dow could drop as much as 100 points in the blink of any eye. Yet the besmirching of a heavenly body would not have such an effect. Go figure.

So last night I was watching the Discovery Channel and apparently there is still great debate among the astrophysicists on whether the downgrading of Pluto was accurate. Some of those who still want it to be referred to as a planet were getting kind of hot under the collar about it. This is their world and their profession so their sentiments over such stuff runs deep on either side of the issue. I suppose on a much lower level of intellect, this would be like telling a die hard fan that professional wrestling is fake.

The gist of the decision to remove planet status is based on its size.

Now I don’t care one way or another whether Pluto is called a planet, a dwarf planet or just a large rock. It is what it has always been. It’s not like we will go there anytime in the foreseeable future. There’s a whole lot between it and us that we have yet to study. Pluto is roughly 4.7 billion miles from earth. And to add more dimension to that perspective, it takes 248 years for Pluto to orbit the sun.

Now just why scientists felt it was necessary to call Pluto something other than a planet ... well I just don’t have time for that kind of research. To me that’s like debating whether something is a pebble or a stone. Would the definition have made any difference to young David when he flung one at Goliath? Now I’ve had a couple of kidney stone issues, and I would offer that they were boulders. Jagged boulders. Not stones.

Likewise, is it a boat or a ship. The prevailing concern likely would be, does it float?

Or maybe, is it a biscuit or a hockey puck?

I really do enjoy those kind of Discovery programs where elements of our universe are featured. I know a lot of people probably think the study of the stars, planets and black holes are a waste of money. But one must stop and realize just how far we have come since it was discovered that the earth was not flat and that the sun is the center of our solar system and the earth revolves around it. And in the big picture, that wasn’t all that long ago. Meanwhile, I’ve met a few people who think the world revolves around them.

Some will say that the data provided about the planets is just guesswork. So I point out to them that our great minds have put a man on the moon and brought him back. And that now we shuttle in and out of space like it was a taxi ride. That’s a lot more than guesswork. Guesswork is trying to navigate in downtown Atlanta.

Of course we must factor into this discussion those people who think the moon landing was faked and that we have Bigfoots living in the back forty.

What a contrast! On our planet we have those who can detail the relationships of planets and stars and calculate the movement of heavenly bodies.

 On the same planet we have people who have progressed very little beyond the biological engineering of the opposing thumb.

Back to Pluto’s planetary qualifications or the lack thereof. I think Shakespeare said it best, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

 I would, however, suggest that you not name your kid Horatio or Allowichus. He might want to play football one day.


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