In a remarkable display of scientific federalism, a member of New Mexico’s state legislature introduced legislation that when Pluto is in New Mexico’s airspace, it’s a planet:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that, as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico’s excellent night skies, it be declared a planet and that March 13, 2007 be declared “Pluto Planet Day” at the legislature.
I just do not get this. We gave up the brontosaurus without a whimper. A whole dinosaur just disappeared without protests or heartfelt letters to the Museum of Natural History — and not a minor dinosaur either — one of the big ones that even those who don’t have kids knew about. But people just can’t let Pluto go. Just check out the t-shirts alone! (My favorite is the one that says “Pluto. Never Forget.”, but has a picture of Jupiter. I guess they forgot.)
Really, the situations are analogous. The brontosaurus was misclassified because the first prototypical skeleton was missing a head, so they guessed and put the wrong one on. Eventually they figured it out and lumped the brontosaurus back in with apatosaurus where it was supposed to have been all along. Likewise, Pluto was misclassified because we didn’t know enough about the outer reaches of the solar system to recognize that it had much more in common with a different class of objects than the inner planets. Same deal. But poor old brontosaurus never got the press, while Pluto has the New Mexico legislature weighing in. Baffling.