Today's xkcd

By Phil Plait | September 7, 2008 10:24 pm

XKCD panelLet me get this out of the way before 80 bazillion people email it to me. Yes, I saw today’s xkcd strip. Yes, I agree with the final panel… kinda. But I won’t say more now because I won’t spoil it. Go read it. I’ll post more later, but I have other things to post here first. Be patient.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, Humor

Comments (63)

  1. Justin
  2. madge

    LOL! My sentiments exactly! :D

  3. Randall

    I mostly agree with said sentiments, with a couple of caveats; I won’t elaborate, though, because apparently we’re trying to not spoil the surprise.

  4. freelancer

    Love the PS – “we actually divorced over the airplane/treadmill argument.” HA!

    Phil, you should find and post the video from last week of Adam inhaling the helium, then inhaling the sulfur hexafluoride. For me, that is just about the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life.

  5. Andy

    This is yet another XKCD where the tool tip is even funnier than the final panel (not that the strip wasn’t funny without it…)

  6. Gryfin210

    But what about the airplane on the treadmill?!?

    I for one know that it WILL take off, but I can’t seem to convince my dad of this fact.

  7. Now only 4 bazillion people will email you. Good work. ;-)

    Thanks for the tip about the tooltip. (My answer is yes, proven by experiment.)

  8. Airplane and treadmill…I remember that one from a few years ago. I’m of the view that the setup of the question is flawed…that such a treadmill could never exist, since assuming frictionless wheel bearings, the treadmill would not be able to exert a force on the plane and thus be unable to prevent it from moving forward.

    Of course, if we were assuming real world laws of physics, perhaps the treadmill would be going fast enough to generate the wind necessary to achieve lift greater than the weight of the plane, thus allowing it to take off.

  9. Steve13

    Mythbuster’s busted the airplane and treadmill myth. It takes off, the plane isn’t affected by the treadmill because the forward force exerted does not come from the wheels but the propeller, so the plane goes forward regardless of the the treadmill

  10. Shaun

    Meng: It’s been my experience that the airplane/treadmill argument breaks down because some people think the airplane is moving under its own power (in which case it would take off, regardless of what the treadmill was doing) and others think it is not (in which case I think you’re right, the treadmill would have to be moving VERY fast).

  11. I’m with that girlfriend who kicked him out!

    Of course, Pluto’s a @#!#@#$$%#! planet!!

    It is round because of self-gravity, it orbits the Sun directly, its got three moons one sizeable (Charon) an two small (Nix and Hydra) – which is
    far better than Mercury and Venus which lack moons altogether and beats Mars with its two small moons.

    It has a complex atmosphere with snow and seasons and is almost certainly geologically differentiated and is really one of the wonders of our solar sytem.

    What else does it need?

    Oh right the approval of a bunch of anti-Plutonean, anti-Anerican politically motivated IAU clowns who can’t tell aplanet if they';re standing
    on one! ;-)

    The orbital clearance criteria – which was dreamt up solely to eliminate
    Pluto and Eris is absurd and ridiculous and plain outright dumb.

    If Pluto orbited in the inner solar system there’s little doubt it’d be a planet. It is just unfairly penalised for orbiting in the Kuiper disk – & by current IAU~diocy then if Earth or even Jupiter orbited there then they wouldn’t be planets either!

    Besides who knows what “orbital clearance” really means anyway. (Other than just “We hate Pluto for no good reason. :-( )

    Neptune’s got Pluto in its way – BANG! Neptune’s no longer a planet.

    Earth still hasn’t cleared the Moon or comet McNaught or the Apollo Earth-crossing asteroids so BANG! Goodbye planet Earth! (Well by the IAU definition where stupidity rules anyway!)

    Jupiter has Trojan asteroids in its orbital path. By Jove, Jupiter ain’t no
    planet neither! :-O Farewell largest world in our solar system -by IAU fiat!

    Comets orbit from wa=-aay beyond Eris ouall the way in closer totheSun than Mercury .. Hmm .. heck there’s no planets left in our solar system!!!

    That’s what a strict application of the stupidest definition of “planet”
    ever means. A non-strictapplication thatremoves Pluto for thesake of it is plain hypocritical, transparently wrong and inconsistent. The IAU mob have disgraced themselves completely here and deserve to lose their respect and their offices over this one! I just hope they don’t give all astronomers too
    bad a name. :(

    C’mon. Pluto -& Eris & probably even Ceres are definitely planets – &that’s good. The more planets the merrier! ;-)

    To mis-quote Dr Suess :

    “A planet’s a planet no matter how small!” ;-)

    Sorry Phil Plait but really I can’t belive that you can’t see sense here & arne’t we me and the other pro-Plutoneans.

    That cartoon is wrong. :-(

    The IAU is wrong & Pluto most certainly is a planet!

  12. Ask yourselves this :

    If a ‘dwarf planet’ isn’t really a proper planet then why is a ‘dwarf star’ still counted as being a proper star?

    If Pluto isn’t a real planet then our equally our Sun is not a real star!

    ( & 90% of all stars are dwarf stars like our Sun, Sirius & Vega.)

  13. We do count dwarf stars as stars nonetheless, (despite their dwarfism)
    we also count dwarf people as still real people … & theanti-discrimination laws and decent folks will rightly smack down anyone who says otherwise!

    Therefore we MUST also count dwarf planets as proper planets too!
    ;-)

    Doing anything else is illogical as well as unfair. :-(

  14. Are the people who bash Pluto the same sort of people who bash dwarf people? :-( It would seem likely wouldn’t it? ;-)

    A small star is still a star.
    A small individual is still a person.
    A small planet is still a planet.

    ___ Size matters not said Yoda ___

    There is a planet Pluto
    Its far and small and cold
    Be if you bash poor Pluto
    You’re sure NOT being bold

    The IAU are evil
    They like destroying worlds
    But in the end we’ll have Pluto
    Back as good as gold! ;-)

    – The Alien doggrelist.

  15. D’oh! That’s meant to be But not ‘Be’ there. Corection here since we can’t edit these .. :-(

    ___ ‘Size Matters Not’ Said Yoda ___

    There is a planet Pluto
    Its distant, small and cold
    Yet if you bash poor Pluto
    You’re sure NOT being bold
    The IAU are evil
    They like destroying worlds
    But in the end we’ll have Pluto
    Back as good as gold!

    – The Alien Doggrelist.

  16. Watch out Erathlings or you’ll be reported to PETOP :

    People for
    Ethical
    Treatment
    Of
    Planets! ;-)

  17. CORRECTION : for typos coz I can’t edit here .. *Hint, hint* ;-)
    Last partof my post above should read :

    “Sorry Phil Plait but really I can’t belive that you can’t see sense here & aren’t with me and the other pro-Plutoneans.

    That cartoon is wrong, the IAU is wrong & Pluto most certainly is a planet!

  18. baley

    haha nice one :D

    I agree 100%

  19. Phil, I will be impressed if you can come up with something new on this (well, I don’t rule out there may be something to say about the airplane treadmill problem).

    The hard part is understanding why so many people, some of them quite eminent, care.

  20. I lost my respect for Pluto when I found out that it was smaller than our moon, so I was rather pleased to see it kicked out of the category of planets. It’s something its had coming for a while, like Ceres before it.

    Orbital clearance is a bit vague, but given the pathetic nature of Pluto compared to Neptune (which is almost 10000 times more massive than Pluto), I think it’s perfectly fair to discount Pluto in the clearing of the neighborhood requirement. Plus, it’s in 3:2 motion resonance with Neptune, which means that Neptune dominates it’s orbit (As does Jupiter the Trojan asteroids, which are at L4 and L5).

    As for moons, that is irrelevant to planethood. Lots of small potato-shaped asteroids have moons. They certainly haven’t been called planets any time recently. And if you’ve been paying attention, Charon isn’t actually Pluto’s moon, because they system’s barycenter is outside of Pluto.

    And again, our moon is larger than Pluto. So if Pluto’s a planet, why isn’t our moon? Because of its relationship to the Earth. I think it is much easier to cut off the definition for planethood (which is completely arbitrary anyway) at objects that are large enough to dwarf all other objects in their vicinity and dominate their orbits either as the center of their orbits or through orbital resonance, than it would be to cut them off at roundness, which has lots of shades of gray and would create far too many planets for the average schoolchild to remember.

    But then again, if schoolchildren didn’t have to memorize the names of the planets, then maybe we wouldn’t have so many nostalgic whiners every time a definition gets changed.

    Nah, cultivating an interest in science is important, so I guess I just have to put up with the whiners. ;)

  21. llewelly

    That guy looks an awful lot like Neil deGrasse Tyson.

  22. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The orbital clearance criteria – which was dreamt up solely to eliminate Pluto and Eris is absurd and ridiculous and plain outright dumb. […]

    Besides who knows what “orbital clearance” really means anyway.

    Besides the explicit contradiction in premises (“to eliminate” – “really means”) and the argument of from personal belief, it is wrong. AFAIU orbital clearance is used because planetary disk formation starts to end when then planets clears their neighborhood, and the now recognizable and mature planets can be recognized by, wait for it, having cleared their neighborhood.

    and would create far too many planets for the average schoolchild to remember

    Not pertinent.

    And by analogy speciation creates too many species for the average schoolchild to remember (and for the average biologist!), yet it is considered important to recognize specific populations. Presumably “planetification” (planet formation) or even “planets” are important enough to have definable terms associated with them.

    [Though as all analogies it breaks down – here as “planets” would be the population – and I assume people would like to keep the individuals names. :-)]

    the whiners

    Nay, boor hood.

  23. Ah, StevoR. What a rant.

    “It is round because of self-gravity, it orbits the Sun directly,”
    Like every other asteroid.

    “its got three moons”
    Having moons have nothing to do with planethood. Many asteroids & KBOs have moons also. Non-argument.

    “It has a complex atmosphere with snow and seasons and is almost certainly geologically differentiated and is really one of the wonders of our solar sytem. ”
    Like Ceres and some moons.

    “What else does it need?”
    Being relatively alone, not among his kind.

    “The orbital clearance criteria – which was dreamt up solely to eliminate
    Pluto and Eris is absurd and ridiculous and plain outright dumb.”
    Cry, cry more.

    “If Pluto orbited in the inner solar system there’s little doubt it’d be a planet.”
    Oh really? Ask Ceres. Also former planet.

    ” It is just unfairly penalised for orbiting in the Kuiper disk – & by current IAU~diocy then if Earth or even Jupiter orbited there then they wouldn’t be planets either!”
    Yes, they would be. What from you have this interesting factoid?

    “Besides who knows what “orbital clearance” really means anyway.(..)
    Neptune’s got Pluto in its way – BANG! Neptune’s no longer a planet.”
    Yes, you don’t know, what “orbital clearance” is. I personally prefer term “gravitational domination”, because it is easier to explain to people like you why Neptun is still planet.

    “Earth still hasn’t cleared the Moon or comet McNaught or the Apollo Earth-crossing asteroids (…) Jupiter has Trojan asteroids in its orbital path. (..) comets orbit from waaay beyond Eris ouall the way in closer totheSun than Mercury”
    Oookay, that was really inane. “Orbital clearance” does NOT require clearing every little speck of dust. Obvious? As we see, for some people is not obvious. :) And you still repeat this little wonderous nugget of wisdom. Exactly like creationists with their long-ago debunked arguments.

    This comparsion is even better, because former planetary status of Pluto ALSO came from insufficient knowledge from past. When Pluto was discovered, it was thought to have 5 Me. Thought to be alone and one in its class. Oddbal, but recognized as planet.

    We know now, how small is Pluto (and with discovery of Charon it became even smaller). How much similiar bodies are in neighborhood. Pluto is not longer an oddball – it is typical representative object of KBO.

    Today we have more knowledge, so status of some celestial bodies changed accordingly. But some people will still believe that Earth have 6000 years… or Pluto is still planet. :)

  24. Errata:

    “Like every other asteroid.”
    Obviously not every, but there are some that are spherical. :)

  25. Pluto just never seemed very “planet-like” to me:

    1. “Real” planets have a more-or-less circular orbit, more-or-less in the plane of the ecliptic. Pluto’s orbit is neither.

    2. Pluto is, like Ceres, a “primus-inter-pares”, just the biggest (or one of the biggest) in a whole separate class of objects: Ceres is the biggest asteroid, Pluto is the biggest KBO/TNO. If Pluto or Ceres are planets, all of their brethren should be planets too.

  26. madge

    @ Jeeves
    Ditto. It’s usually The Americans that get steamed up because Pluto is the only “planet” they can claim to have discovered and so it hits ‘em hard that it has been demoted. ;)

  27. Naomi

    Pluto is extremely inclined in regards to the ecliptic, though. It just doesn’t FIT with the other planets, all of which are significantly larger than Pluto. Yes, even Mercury’s bigger! In fact, Pluto’s relatively small size, position amongst many other KBOs, inclined, eccentric orbit and many other characteristics make it consistant with – gasp – KBOs. It’s larger than most, so it gets to be a dwarf planet, but it’s not one of the big boys. Sorry, Pluto, you’re not good enough.

    I think a lot of the emo kids are identifying with Pluto because it’s an outcast who got kicked out of the clique by the popular kids – the scientists. Since when have the scientists been the popular kids? XD

    Oh, and Jeeves, Pluto isn’t even the biggest KBO/TNO! Eris is bigger!

    A lot of people are arguing that Pluto should stay a planet because they taught that it was a planet for so long. Yeah, they also taught geocentricism for a fair while…

  28. Gary Ansorge

    Ah, Pluto,,,what a (female) dog,,,

    GAry 7

  29. Andy Beaton

    I’m glad Pluto didn’t get demoted while Clyde Tombaugh was alive, but let’s be realistic – anything that screws with the heads of astrologers is a giant win.

  30. Michelle

    I agree with the woman! Out!

  31. “anything that screws with the heads of astrologers is a giant win.”

    Don’t temp the astronomers.

    Next thing you know the sun and earth will be moons while the planets include Luna and Io.

  32. KC Caldwell

    So if a Jupiter mass “planet” was found in the Kuipler belt would it considered a non-planet also?

    kid cool

  33. StevoR:
    When I do outreach events for the public (especially school kids) I explain the Pluto situation this way. If we keep Pluto as a planet then we have to let Eris, Sedna, 2003 EL61, Orcus, Ixion, Quaoar, Varuna, Makemake and soon hundreds of others be called planets too.

    It’s just too much to memorize for a test. If we just stick with “My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nachos” as the mnemonic for the planets we’ll be OK. I tried to come up with one for the new KBOs and TNOs but it got kludgy very quickly.

    madge:
    To be honest, I don’t think most Americans even know who found Pluto.
    If there is any American bias toward Pluto it’s Disney’s fault! :groan:
    Rich

  34. TheBlackCat

    So if a Jupiter mass “planet” was found in the Kuipler belt would it considered a non-planet also?

    That would depend on some additional variables. If the particular body was not gravitationally dominating its surroundings then no. If it was, then yes.

  35. MarkW

    cross-posted from my post on the xkcd forum:

    I say we keep to the original seven planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

    There is a danger in arguing from “original definitions”…

  36. Richard Drumm, while I’m content with the IAU definition, I’m not sure that’s the best way to explain it – aren’t people who are interested just going to feel like you’re either underestimating their ability, or you’re trying to keep the good stuff from them? These are people who are interested enough to come to an event, so they’d probably be delighted to learn there’s a whole lot more planets out there – as indeed there are around other stars, too. Still, I don’t do these myself so I’d be interested to hear what response you get.

    I think my preferred approach would be to stress it’s a technical definition for internal IAU consumption (so they know what committee to refer new discoveries to), and then use it as a springboard to discuss the different types of body in the Solar System – massive gas or rock objects that have ‘cleared their orbits’, packs of rocky or icy bodies some of which are large enough to be round, and so on. Still, as I say, I don’t do this kind of thing so maybe that wouldn’t work.

    One of the many things that puzzles me about this debate is the solemn way everyone assumes that the IAU is asserting some kind of jurisdiction over them and then, according to their nature or preferred outcome, either gives in or rebels.

  37. bigjohn756

    Ever since I first heard about Pluto as a young boy some 55 years ago, I have never thought that it deserved to be called a planet. It is too small and its orbit too weird. In my opinion, if you think Pluto should be classified as a planet then you might as well call everything that orbits the Sun a planet.

  38. How come badastronomy.com is “blacklisted” on wikipedia. Currently, any attempt to save an article containing that string is thwarted. Seems draconian.

  39. Ed H.

    Pluto is a planet. Tombaugh said it. I believe it. That settles it.

    =)

    -Ed

  40. anonymous canuck

    BTW. Pluto is smaller than the Moon

    I’m in the adjective camp. Pluto is a dwarf planet, but still a planet. Exoplanet … still a planet. etc. It does make it easier to talk to the public and do education. KISS principle. Natural round thing orbiting a star (that is not another star). Regular people will understand moving the goal posts on the adjectives as a technical thing. Then they can memorize notable dwarf planets, first discovered, biggest, longest orbit, etc. Even if you find a 100 of them you’re not likely to have more than a handful of notables. And everybody should be happy.

    The clearing neighbourhood thing is a just hinky. Time dependent. Distance from star dependent. Inclination dependent. Move Mercury out to Pluto’s orbit and what happens?? Even at, about 8x volume and 15x mass, would it be enough? Not sure it would still be a planet. Or take the Moon and put it in the inner solar system by itself. What would it be?

    And plutoid? Give me a break, it sounds like an embarrassing condition that requires an ointment from the pharmacy.

    Now Drac (2008 KV42) is not likely to be a planet but is one heck of a weird KBO/asteroid/comet? Hard to tell out past the snow line.

  41. Chris A.

    Oh for pity’s sake.

    First StevoR clogged up the planetarium professionals’ list serve (Dome-L) with his “Pluto is a planet and I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue unless everyone agrees with me” rants there, and now he’s hosing down the BA blog to boot.

    Despite my repeated attempts to get StevoR to read the following paper (http://arxiv.org/ftp/astro-ph/papers/0608/0608359.pdf) by Steven Soter, which elucidates a clear, unambiguous definition of what “clearing the orbit” means, and how Pluto doesn’t make the cut by a country kiloparsec, he either

    1) has read it and refuses to comment on it because it shoots holes in his “logic”, or
    2) hasn’t bothered read it at all.

    Either case suggests a sort of “don’t confuse me with the facts” or “I reject your reality and substitute my own” (with a nod to Adam Savage) mode of thinking. (BTW I highly recommend this paper (especially figs. 1 and 3) to anyone who needs convincing that Pluto is fundamentally a different type of object than the planets.)

    Sorry for the snark, but my patience with StevoR’s stubbornness and emotionality on this issue has run thin (speaking of which, it’s interesting that contributors to this forum have noted the resemblance of StevoR’s arguments to those of the creationists, apparently independently of my having done so on the aforementioned Dome-L).

  42. IBY

    Now that I think about it, I think that maybe they should add a whole bunch of objects as planets. So what if people can’t memorize all of them. At least it will get people interested in them, and study perhaps even the minor planets, and even the moons of the planets. Moons could be considered planets orbiting another planets, which makes them moons and planets. Grr… I don’t know, this is a difficult issue.

  43. anonymous canuck

    One of the reasons I think the (adjective) planet approach is better when dealing with the public is that regardless of what a given field will choose to use, the general public is very likely to go their own way. There are lots of examples of fields where this has happened and the protestations of a governing body or a few specialists can easily get trampled by the stampede of common usage.

    Language and language change is very democratic despite what our English teachers tried to tell us. When that happens you will waste a lot of time and energy unless you recognize there is common and technical usage. Dwarf or minor planet works for me. But saying it isn’t a planet is like saying a white horse is somehow not a horse. It just sounds silly. Not something that can be quickly explained before young (or old) eyes glaze over.

    Good paper BTW. Funny the whole planets not colliding with each other aspect didn’t seem to make it into the public debate.

  44. Ben

    I don’t see why we can just set I size or weight limit. X billion metric tones and it a a planet, under that and its something else.
    We do it with many other earth bound objects. Why is Australia a continent and not Greenland? It’s because Australia is over the man made size and Greenland under the size.
    The only difference between a mountain and a hill is size. Or a stream and a river.
    And its not just geography, size is used to determine if it is a tree or a bush. And a battle is bigger then a skirmish.
    The list goes on.
    Why does astronomy have to be different?

  45. LS

    Feh! Pluto is a planet! Get outta the house! :-P

  46. Todd W.

    Someone refresh my memory, please. If Pluto is not defined as a planet, is it then solely defined as a KPO?

    The problem I have with defining it as a KPO and nothing more, is that the definition is meaningless when considering similar objects outside our solar system. If we find other systems with a similar collection of far-out orbiting objects, we can’t exactly call them KPOs, can we? But if they share all the same characteristics as Pluto, et al., shouldn’t there be a common term?

    I guess I like the adjective approach.

  47. anonymous canuck

    Todd.

    Pluto is a KBO and also a “dwarf planet”. When the IAU says planet w/o adjectives they mean major planet which is pretty well defined in the paper noted above – it even makes sense if you skim it. Major is of course silent :)

    And I still have a problem with Plutoid. Computer science got into this with “virus” in the late 80’s. There were all kinds of variants with special names. There were even good viruses. Now there are very technical names but to the public they’re all viruses or malware.

  48. amphiox

    The orbital clearance criteria to my mind is not arbitrary, because it is about a fairly specific gravitational behavior.

    If Jupiter existed in the region of the Kuiper belt, there would be NO Kuiper belt, as Jupiter would very quickly absorb or eject all the KBOs. If Earth existed in the region of the asteriod belt, similarly, there would very quickly be no asteroid belt.

    I’m not sure what would happen if earth were positioned in the Kuiper belt, though.

    As far as I’m concerned, if Pluto is a planet then Ceres must be one as well. If Ceres is not a planet, then Pluto cannot be one either. Either option is fine with me. I just think a decision should be made one way or another, and then we should stick with it. Definitions are simply tools for classification, it doesn’t matter exactly what they are, so long as they are consistent and useful.

  49. Mu

    We just need to reevaluate Pluto’s status regularly, say every billion years. Give the little guy some time to clean up it’s backyard.

  50. StevoR

    @ Torbjörn Larsson, OM who said Sept 8th, 2008 at 4:18 am :

    Me : The orbital clearance criteria – which was dreamt up solely to eliminate Pluto and Eris is absurd and ridiculous and plain outright dumb. […] Besides who knows what “orbital clearance” really means anyway.

    TL : “Besides the explicit contradiction in premises (”to eliminate” – “really means”) and the argument of from personal belief, it is wrong. AFAIU orbital clearance is used because planetary disk formation starts to end when then planets clears their neighborhood, and the now recognizable and mature planets can be recognized by, wait for it, having cleared their neighborhood.”

    Me : Sorry but that last bit sounds like its begging the question or circular argument –

    “whats a planet? : a planet is some object that has cleared its orbit,”

    “Well what’s does cleared its orbit mean? Something a planet has done!”

    (‘Cleared’ how much? How far away? From what size bodies? Does resonance really count as clearing? Etc … ! “)

    TL : Besides the explicit contradiction in premises (”to eliminate” – “really means”) and the argument of from personal belief, it is wrong.

    Me : Say what? I don’t get what you’re saying in that first bit. Anyway, aren’t all arguments not done as purely academic excerices a matter of personal belief? True objectivity is rare if not impossible.

    TL : AFAIU

    Me : = what, maybe I’m just tired but I don’t recall what AFAIU means. AFAIC = ‘As Far As I’m Concerned’, I think, is that what you meant just with a typo? (No snipe just puzzled.)

    I’m no creationist & I veiw this issue as being a very different type of argument – we’re talking about semantics and classification NOT cosmology or religion vs science here!

    (I’m on Sciences side there ok! ;-) )

  51. StevoR

    D’oh Italics stuff up. Yegods. Editing capability please BA!

    Hope this hasn’t converted the whole thread to them … Yeck. ;-(

  52. Todd W.

    @StevoR

    AFAIU = As Far As I Understand

  53. StevoR

    Phew. At least we’re not stuck in italics.. Sigh – of releif. ;-)

    In what amounts to an ad hominam attack, Chris A. ranted away himself on Sept 8th, 2008 at 12:22 pm :

    “Oh for pity’s sake. First StevoR clogged up the planetarium professionals’ list serve (Dome-L) with his “Pluto is a planet and I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue unless everyone agrees with me” rants there, and now he’s hosing down the BA blog to boot.

    Despite my repeated attempts to get StevoR to read the following paper (http://arxiv.org/ftp/astro-ph/papers/0608/0608359.pdf) by Steven Soter, which elucidates a clear, unambiguous definition of what “clearing the orbit” means, and how Pluto doesn’t make the cut by a country kiloparsec, he either

    1) has read it and refuses to comment on it because it shoots holes in his “logic”, or
    2) hasn’t bothered read it at all.

    Either case suggests a sort of “don’t confuse me with the facts” or “I reject your reality and substitute my own” (with a nod to Adam Savage) mode of thinking. (BTW I highly recommend this paper (especially figs. 1 and 3) to anyone who needs convincing that Pluto is fundamentally a different type of object than the planets.)

    Sorry for the snark, but my patience with StevoR’s stubbornness and emotionality on this issue has run thin (speaking of which, it’s interesting that contributors to this forum have noted the resemblance of StevoR’s arguments to those of the creationists, apparently independently of my having done so on the aforementioned Dome-L).”

    Dome-L? Sorry but that doesn’t ring a bell with me, mate. Yes, I’ve commented on this matter before – its something I do feel strongly about -as clearly from the opposite side do you. I think it hurts astronomy to have the leading internat’l organistaion for astronomers make such an “idiotic” decison – and that was Alan Stern’s description not mine! You going to abuse him now?

    Let me make this clear – I think I’ve got a valid right to self-expression and to express my views every bit as much as you do. You want to argue with me, fine. Make your case. But don’t abuse me just for having my say and perhaps using a diferent style to yours.

    ChrisA : “Pluto is a planet and I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue unless everyone agrees with me” rants.”

    I have never, ever said I was going to hold my breath and turn blue unless folks agreed! ;-)

    I made my case by setting out a series of valid if sometimes strongly worded – and I hope amusingly put – reasons. I used logic and humour, abitof emphasis and sarcasm too. Stubborn? Maybe. I happen to think I’m rightand have better reasons for thinking as I do than you do. Faras Iknow that’s not a crime! ;-)

    (Oh are you going to object to my using emoticons or suchlike? Get over it – & yourself!)

    Chris A :
    “Despite my repeated attempts to get StevoR to read the following paper (http://arxiv.org/ftp/astro-ph/papers/0608/0608359.pdf) by Steven Soter, which elucidates a clear, unambiguous definition of what “clearing the orbit” means, and how Pluto doesn’t make the cut by a country kiloparsec, he either :

    1) has read it and refuses to comment on it because it shoots holes in his “logic”, or

    2) hasn’t bothered read it at all.”

    Or what has actually happened is :

    Option 3) I have read it, disagreed with it and rebutted it. I have responded to that elsewhere – was that you who I responded to with that before? Didn’t you see my response? Tell me then if you can what holes you see in my logic – coz I sure as heck can’t see any! ;-)

    Have you, Chris A tried conducting a ‘reductio ad absurdum’ logic test on the implications of the (Socratic method) on the IAU definition and how absurd its implications are?

    Have you even thought about how many other better definitions – like the original IAU proposal otr the hill-mountain arbitrary cut-off at, say, about Ceres size that would have included Pluto as a planet and which were, evidently, rejected as such by the anti-Plutonean lobby?

    And tell me this – by way of analogy – if a dwarf star is still a star then why should a dwarf planet be dismissed from being a proper planet?

    Where are you coming from and what do you have against Pluto anyway ..?

    Well ChrisA?

  54. StevoR - editing again

    Arrgh! Another italics stuff-up . CORRECTION :

    ——
    ChrisA claimed that I said :“Pluto is a planet and I’m going to hold my breath until I turn blue unless everyone agrees with me” rants.”

    I have never, ever said I was going to hold my breath and turn blue unless folks agreed! ;-)

    I made my case by setting out a series of valid if sometimes strongly worded – and I hope amusingly put – reasons. I used logic and humour, a bit of emphasis and sarcasm too.

    Stubborn? Maybe.
    Emotional? Well I’m human & we all have feelings but I think I was still logical just entertaining & passionate with it!

    I happen to think I’m right and have better reasons for thinking as I do than you do, ChrisA. Far as I know that’s not a crime!

    (Oh are you going to object to my using emoticons or suchlike? Get over it – & yourself!)

  55. StevoR - editing again

    Oh – thanks Todd W. :-)

    Sometimes you get the acronymns,sometimes they get you! ;-)

    Cheers!

  56. Chris A.

    @StevoR:
    You claim (“under the ‘Still Here’ thread”) to have responded to me here. Yet, I still see no evidence that you’ve bothered to read Steve Soter’s paper. If you had, you wouldn’t make statements like “Who knows what ‘orbital clearance’ really means anyway?” Soter shows how there exists a logical, unambiguous, quantitative measure for exactly that.

    Read the paper, present your objections, and we can discuss. Until then, it’s wasted bandwidth.

  57. Chris A.

    @StevoR:
    First off, messages must have crossed in the ether, so my last (9/10/2008 11:23 am) can be ignored, mostly.

    Second, if you’ve rebutted Steve Soter’s paper, I have yet to see it. Please direct me to where I can read your rebuttal.

    Third, you are apparently claiming not to be the same Steve R. who posts passionately against the IAU’s Pluto decision on Dome-L, the planetarium professionals’ list serve, often using CAPITALS to emphasize his points, and using some of the exact same arguments and syntax, and often rife with spelling and grammatical errors. Whatever, it matters not.

    Fourth, my “accusation” that you are threatening to hold your breath until you turn blue was, to anyone with a functioning sense of sarcasm (as you claim to possess), obviously sarcasm. But you knew that.

    Fifth, and this one is the most significant: I have called your arguments emotional, and you have claimed that it is merely your presentation style, not the arguments themselves, which are emotional.

    Allow me to quote you:

    1) “Have you even thought about how many other better definitions…were…rejected…by the anti-Plutonean lobby?”

    2) “…why should a dwarf planet be dismissed from being a proper planet?”

    3) “Where are you coming from and what do you have against Pluto anyway ..?”

    This is all evidence of arguing from emotion, not logic. Changing the label we choose to refer to Pluto is not “anti-Pluto.” Pluto is not harmed in any way. It doesn’t lose is parking space, corner office, or dental plan. Nor is calling Pluto a planet “pro-Pluto.” Pluto is a ball of ice and rock. It is incapable of being harmed or helped by what we call it.

    There is nothing “proper” about a planet or “improper” about a KBO (or asteroid, or comet, or dwarf planet, or…). To suggest this is purely emotional, and based not at all on logic or reason.

    I have nothing “against” Pluto. To suggest that I do implies that I, like you, have some sort of emotional relationship with it. It’s one of a thousand similar, small balls of ice and rock, for crying out loud. Is a mountain “better” than a hill? If someone wants to reclassify Greenland as a continent, does that make them “pro-Greenland?”

  58. W L Anderson

    Concerning the “hole through earth” discussion it might be best to stick to a rock or something inanimate as an example. A human will have major problems. You have to discount air pressure as well as air friction. Air pressure would be enormous and would have associated high temperature as well. Best scenario for the experiment: maintain a vacuum in there and replace the human by a rock or biliard ball, etc.

  59. StevoR

    @Chris A who said :

    “Second, if you’ve rebutted Steve Soter’s paper, I have yet to see it. Please direct me to where I can read your rebuttal.”

    It was on one of these threads where Pluto’s planetary status was debated
    on the Bad Astronomy /Discover blitzfeed thingummy. I’ll have to go back & find the thread and link it here myself – one of the more recent of many …

    Suffice to say I did read the paper and was very far from convinced it was either clear or reasonable as a definition as it seemed arbitary – just Soter’s view & who is this Soter that his view should overide that of many others who disagree with him eg. say Alan S. Stern? It also struck me as
    being full of obscure techno-babble terminology rather than saying anything
    in plain, comprehensible english and thus is hard to comprehend for the average person on the street and especially for non-anti-Plutoneans like myself! ;-)

    Chris A : “Third, you are apparently claiming not to be the same Steve R. who posts passionately against the IAU’s Pluto decision on Dome-L, the planetarium professionals’ list serve, often using CAPITALS to emphasize his points, and using some of the exact same arguments and syntax, and often rife with spelling and grammatical errors. Whatever, it matters not.”

    Yes, I am claiming that wasn’t me at least I’m pretty sure its not It is true that I’ve posted these arguments before but mostly on the Bad Astronomy thread and NOT in capitals. (well okay perhaps just the odd word in capitals but not more than the odd word.)

    The Dome-L planetarium profesionals listserve does NOT ring any bells at all for me. When was this if I may ask? My tag is usually StevoR – with an ‘o’ and no space before the R and NOT Steve with an “e” and space before the capital R so we probably have a case of mistaken identity. Steve is a pretty common name .. Or maybe the person was giving me credit for my article (My X points showing why Pluto is a planet?) and you got confused there? You may want to check again. Esp. before you launch into any
    more ad hominanm attacks .. :-(

    Chris A : “This is all evidence of arguing from emotion, not logic. Changing the label we choose to refer to Pluto is not “anti-Pluto.” Pluto is not harmed in any way.”

    Actually I think science and, especially astronomy, is harmed by this. Its reputation suffers when it appears – as I’ve stated earlier – that astronomers can’t tell a planet if they’re standing on one! Morover, if they need to refer to an obscure academic paper to explain what the word means its seems well a bit emabarasasing and silly frankly. Its like a mathematican not being able to tell you what a numeral is or a biologist what an animal is.

    As for harm coming to Pluto – I guess its reputation – along with that of the IAU is in question. Do planets have reputations – well perhaps not that that they know about it no, but in the sense that we know about them, yes! ;-)

    Chris A : “There is nothing “proper” about a planet or “improper” about a KBO (or asteroid, or comet, or dwarf planet, or…). To suggest this is purely emotional, and based not at all on logic or reason.

    Except in terms of definition. I’ve used lots of logic – reductio ad absurdum as well as using logical consistiency (eg. dwarf star = proper star that is called and counted as a star therefore ..) as well as yes some emotion. I think there is a place for using both in making arguments. Outside of the narrow confines of a logic or maths classroom you’re going to find there is an emotional component to everything.

    Chris A : “I have nothing “against” Pluto. To suggest that I do implies that I, like you, have some sort of emotional relationship with it.”

    Yes, I do get the distinct sense that you are emotional against Pluto – you seem unreasonably hostile to the idea that Pluto is a genuine planet along with Eris, Ceres, Neptune, Earth and Jupiter! Pluto in fact has more in common with Earth than Earth has in common with Jupiter! ;-) To quote Darth Vader : “Search your feelings you know it to be true!” ;-)

    So I’ll ask again – what particular reason do you, Chris A have to be so hostile and dead set against Pluto? Are you anti-American and wish to not be reminded of Clyde Tombaugh’s very proudly American achievement in his
    discovering that world? Do you have a crush on some crazed orbital dynamicist or did you once have a feud with Alan Stern or ..well what? What possible reason do you have for your evident hatred of this fascinating little planet? ;-)

    Chris A : “It’s {Pluto} one of a thousand similar, small balls of ice and rock, for crying out loud.”

    No and here you’re emotional bias is clear. Pluto is NOT just one of many -it is the first Kuiper Belt object to be found, the brightest, the second-largest, (far larger than all but a handful of others and even Eris only
    beats it by a very small fraction), the most famous and culturally significant, the prototype for its class, a world that has 3 moons (more
    than any other TNO /KBO /Plutino /whatever y’call’em! I think) and so forth. The discovery of many other ice dwarf type planets and Kuiper
    Belt / Oort Cloud asteroids makes Pluto no less significant and less a
    planet than the discovery of other exo-Jupiters makes our Jupiter less a
    planet!

    Chris A : “Is a mountain “better” than a hill?”

    Ask a mountainer! They’ll tell you – yes! “Better” is of course a subjective term that depends on what you want to do but in this case the dwarf planet term seems to disciminate unfairly against smaller planets so yes I’d say planet is better than mere dwarf. Oh and has anyone used the IAU’s silly “classical planet” term outside of this debate yet? Anyone at all? ;-)

    “If someone wants to reclassify Greenland as a continent, does that make them “pro-Greenland?”

    Yes! I’d say so. In fact I’d suspect such a person was probably from the
    Greenland tourism bureau .. ;-)

  60. StevoR

    Italics Correction : * Sigh*
    ————————-

    Chris A : “Third, you are apparently claiming not to be the same Steve R. who posts passionately against the IAU’s Pluto decision on Dome-L, the planetarium professionals’ list serve, often using CAPITALS to emphasize his points, and using some of the exact same arguments and syntax, and often rife with spelling and grammatical errors. Whatever, it matters not.”

    Yes, I am indeed saying that wasn’t me at least I’m pretty sure its not. It is true that I’ve posted these arguments before but mostly on the Bad Astronomy thread and NOT in capitals. (well okay perhaps just the odd word in capitals but not more than the odd word.)

    The Dome-L planetarium profesionals listserve does NOT ring any bells at all for me. When was this if I may ask? My tag is usually StevoR – with an ‘o’ and no space before the R and NOT Steve with an “e” and space before the capital R so we probably have a case of mistaken identity. Steve is a pretty common name .. Or maybe the person was giving me credit for my article (My X points showing why Pluto is a planet?) and you got confused there? You may want to check again. Esp. before you launch into any
    more ad hominanm attacks. :-(

  61. StevoR, you’re flogging a dead horse! Cool it, man!

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