My Very Elegant Mother: The Great Pluto Controversy

It’s official. In case you haven’t heard, Pluto is no longer a planet. The International Astronomical Union has agreed on a definition of “planet” — and Pluto no longer qualifies.

Damn. Only eight planets in the solar system. Freaky.

And I heartily approve. The whole “pro-Pluto” movement reeked of rank sentimentalism. We can’t just go around all willy-nilly calling things planets just because we’re fond of them.

But now we have a far more serious question on our hands: What’s going to be the new mnemonic? Like many of you, I learned at a very early age that my very elegant mother just sat upon nine porcupines. What’s she going to sit upon now? Ninjas? Nunchuks? Narwhales? Nixon? We need a new mnemonic, and we need it fast! Suggestions, people? We don’t have a moment to lose!

My Very Elegant Mother: The Great Pluto Controversy
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5 thoughts on “My Very Elegant Mother: The Great Pluto Controversy

  1. 1

    Sentimentalism? Nuh-uh! It was about the arbitrary dividing line between what is and isn’t a planet. I can’t help it if some narrow-minded scientists don’t like a planet with a deviant path. 🙂 I understand that only 300 out of the 2,500 attendees at the IAU convention voted on this issue. Who’s to say that somebody didn’t deliberately hold a Queer Quasars party the night before the vote to suppress the pro-Pluto faction?
    I’d’ve preferred the direction where we got more planets, rather than fewer. As it is, this definition seems to be written just to get Pluto off the list. It also doesn’t speak to what a planet is outside our own solar system. We might need a better definition sooner than they think.

  2. 2

    Well, I was kind of kidding with the “rank sentimentalism” comment. But in all seriousness (or in some seriousness, anyway), it did seem like everyone agreed that Pluto is in a significantly different category from the other eight planets. And it seemed like the primary foundation of the “let’s define ‘planet’ to include Pluto plus Ceres and Xena and whatever else” argument was “it would be sad to lose Pluto as a planet.” Not good science. I think they made the right decision.
    We still need a new mnemonic, though. The schoolchildren of the world are waiting!

  3. 3

    Elsewhere on the blogosphere they came up with this:
    My! Very educated morons just screwed up numerous planetariums.
    Which is funny, but um…..still has the P folks.
    I say needles instead of nine porcipines. It keeps the pointiness.

  4. 4

    My very elegant mother just shopped until noon.
    My very elegant mother
    jump-started Uncle’s Nissan.
    My very elegant mother just slapped us nicely.
    – – – –
    Or, if you must stick to the old mnemonic throughout:
    My very elegant mother just sat upon Norway.

  5. 5

    Re Pluto:
    Scientifically speaking, there’s really no such thing as a “planet.” Not really any functional or structural thing that makes one thing a planet and another thing not. Asteroids, comets, rocky bits and slushy bits big and small all orbit the Sun pretty indifferently. I mean, look at the IAU’s new definition. Size and eccentricity? That’s just playing word games. It isn’t anything you can do science with.
    D. B. Howard
    (P. S. There are some people whose small size and excessive eccentricity I dislike, but I don’t go around redefining them!)

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