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The case for Pluto. June 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.

Do you have a favorite lost cause? Our friend Ben’s is the planet Pluto. Poor Pluto, stripped of its planetary status like a Miss America contestant who was later discovered to have been stripping for the cameras herself. Or, say, a politician who was found engaging in extremely impolitic behavior and was forced to resign. But, I ask, what has Pluto done to deserve this? Talk about planetary persecution!

So our friend Ben was thrilled to discover that Alan Boyle, one of the science contributors to MSN, has a book coming out this October called The Case for Pluto. The publisher’s writeup describes Pluto as “the cutest and most unfairly treated planet.” It goes on to say “And yet, Pluto is the planet best-loved by Americans… one that may have contained the building blocks of life billions of years ago and may well serve as life’s last redoubt billions of years from now… The Case for Pluto is the must-read tale of a cosmic underdog that has captured the hearts of millions: an endearing little planet… ” 

It was balm to our friend Ben’s soul to read that Pluto was the best-loved planet and had “captured the hearts of millions.” It was almost enough to make me forgive that atrocious pun (“tale… underdog”). But, um, “the cutest planet”? Sheesh. Puppies, kittens, baby chicks, kids: fine. Planets? Not so much. Their PR person must be on something.

Nonetheless, our friend Ben is thrilled to see that a champion for little Pluto has arisen like David facing the Goliath of astronomers insisting on abusing the poor lonely planet. I hope Alan Boyle beats the hell out of them.



1. Lzyjo - June 25, 2009

OMG! I love pluto too, probably more because of the cartoon, but I’m pulling for pluto anyway!!

That’s fantastic, Lzyjo! Sometimes I feel like we’re the only ones!

2. Jen - June 25, 2009

Who do they think they are to beat up on the little munchkin? There’s also a book about this by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson from the Hayden Planetarium that came out earlier this year called The Pluto Files. He’s an incredible speaker if you ever have the chance to hear him! I hadn’t realized that Pluto was a recently-added planet.

Thanks, Jen! I’ll keep an eye out for both the book and Dr. Tyson’s speaking schedule!

3. Dave - June 25, 2009

Poor Pluto! I’m more of a Mars fan myself. Every now and then I try to imagine what it would take to terraform Mars. What kind of plants would survive there (if any) from Earth. It’s fun to speculate. I really don’t have any lost causes that I know of. If I do I guess I just lost them!

Ha!!! Good one, Dave!

4. Daphne Gould - June 25, 2009

I must confess my favorite planet is Earth. I have a loving relationship with it.:> Pluto just doesn’t do it for me – cold, small, no pretty colors, very far away. If I’m going for planets that I can look through a telescope I go for the glamorous ones like Jupiter or Saturn. Jupiter is power and its strong storms that you can see swirling on it surface are huge. The great red spot storm is larger than Earth. Saturn is mysterious with all its rings. Even the moons they have are interesting. The only thing I find interesting about Pluto is that it is a binary system (with Charon its moon). And if we keep it as a major planet (I think it is qualified as a dwarf planet now, but things keep changing so it might be something else) we have to bring in the other larger bodies that are out there that have been discovered.

My understanding was that poor Pluto had been downsized to a “planetoid,” Daphne, rather as if someone told me that I was now a “humanoid.” Grrrr!!! But as for the larger bodies, no reason they shouldn’t be up for consideration for planetary status. They keep adding elements to the periodic table, why not add more planets?

5. Alan Boyle - September 1, 2009

Yes, the P.R. copy is … well … P.R. copy. I do hope you and Ben and other folks take a look at the book itself (due out in November). I’m not a “beat the hell” kind of guy, more of a “can’t we all get along?” person. I think you’ll find that the book tells both sides of the story, shows how personalities get tangled up in these sorts of scientific issues, and presents a reasonable argument for giving Pluto and its fellow dwarfs their due – whether or not you end up calling them planets or something else.

Wow, Alan, thanks for checking in! And yes, we’re very much looking forward to reading your book when it comes out. Long may it wave!

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