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Illinois Declares Pluto a Planet 512

Posted by timothy
from the after-ruling-out-pebble-and-mailing-tube dept.
The Bad Astronomer writes "The legislators in Illinois, always on the lookout for more places to find voters, have passed a resolution declaring Pluto is a planet. I'm not sure what else can be said here, except that — besides overstepping their jurisdiction just a wee bit — they make a couple of scientific howlers in the resolution itself."
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Illinois Declares Pluto a Planet

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  • by mc1138 (718275) on Friday March 06, 2009 @08:49AM (#27090023) Homepage
    Why no one trusts them to get things done anymore... We're in the biggest financial crisis in years and they spent the time to declare Pluto a planet. It means nothing, is non binding, and shows a huge disconnect between the political scene and the general populace.
  • Too right! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xest (935314) on Friday March 06, 2009 @08:56AM (#27090079)

    Yeah. I vote that Illinois also changes the definition of a mile and shortens it so that their residents can get more miles to the gallon! I also vote that they cut the definition of an hour down to 30mins to shorten my working day.

    Consensus and standards be damned, they're just definitions!

  • by tritonman (998572) on Friday March 06, 2009 @08:57AM (#27090085)
    This just proves that fact that politicians are freaking idiots.
  • by tomrud (471930) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:07AM (#27090157)

    I agree with the need of a scientific definitions and the definition they came up with when they tried to define the word "planet" was good.

    Only one problem. The word "planet" was already in use by the general public and the meaning of the world "planet" is: One of the celestial objects that used to be called "planet".

    Now the astronomers came up with a good classification of objects, but they also needed to come up with new words fitting their classifications. Otherwise they are just saying "We have redefined one of the words you are using, just obey us".

    In summary, the astronomers doesn't own the word "planet", the general public do.

  • by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:12AM (#27090209)
    Frankly, the more time they spend doing silly crap like this, the less time the spend screwing something important up. It's too bad it wastes tax dollars to do it, though...
  • by dotancohen (1015143) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:16AM (#27090245) Homepage

    Frankly, the more time they spend doing silly crap like this, the less time the spend screwing something important up. It's too bad it wastes tax dollars to do it, though...

    Would you rather that they go after hookers on craigslist?

  • by Logic Worshiper (1480539) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:16AM (#27090247)
    You can't legislate a fact. The Catholic church couldn't make the world flat, no matter how hard they tried. This is no different.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:24AM (#27090291)

    "If an elected group of people decide that pi equals 3, who are a bunch of snobbish mathematicians to deny that?"

    See how fucking retarded that sounds?

    Knowledge is power. Knowledge shared is power lost.

    Aaaah, now it becomes obvious why you're promoting ignorance so heavily. My guess is you base too much of your identity in being "smarter" than others.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:27AM (#27090315)

    If Pluto isn't a planet, it will cost a bunch of money to replace all the fifty year old science texts.

    If Pluto is a planet, they can keep using the fifty year old science texts.

    What, you think I'm kidding! You obviously aren't a teacher.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:31AM (#27090343)

    well, if pluto is a planet, then so are Haumea [wikipedia.org], Makemake [wikipedia.org], and Eris [wikipedia.org].

    and it's precisely because of these things that someone had to say "well, these things shouldn't really be planets, and Pluto is more like them than it is like anything else..."

  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:34AM (#27090379)

    This is nothing like say PI is 3. One state declaring it a planet has no effect on the rest of the world or even the people in the state.

    Before you get so strung up on "politicians think they can legislate on scientific issues" I'd just like to remind you it was a bunch on elitist assholes in the first place that declared it wasn't in fact a planet anymore.

  • Re:Too right! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daimanta (1140543) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:38AM (#27090413) Journal

    "Yeah changes nothing, apart from say, how we define what is and isn't categorised as a planet? I mean like, let's re-define the symbol "=" to be the addition operator, I mean that changes nothing right? "=" is the equality operator, does that make you happy?"

    The operator = has a clear funtion and can be used all over.

    You can't do (3 + planet)

    sqrt(planet)

    planet + (planet)' = moon

    People are treating the IAU's words like they're God's own.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:42AM (#27090469)

    The Catholic church tried to make the world flat?

    No wonder why they couldn't, I think even with our current technology it would be very hard to counteract the gravitational potential.

    But seriously, you're talking out of your ass. The church never did such a thing. Check your references before you post.

    If you remember the famous Galileo affair, the contending system was the ptolemaic one, that put a very spherical earth at the centre of the universe. Before that, I've never seen a document stating their opinion on the matter.

  • by Stoutlimb (143245) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:42AM (#27090477)

    The law is written thusly: "that as Pluto passes overhead through Illinois night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status"

    Because Illinois is a northerly state... does Pluto ever actually pass "overhead"? Ever? Pluto's orbital inclination to the sun is about 11 degrees at maximum. The latitude of Illinois is much higher than that, at about 36 degrees. So Pluto may never pass through their air space, even if the borders of Illinois are extended upwards to infinity.

    But since Pluto can never truly be "overhead", does that mean the law never actually goes into effect?

    Comments? Suggestions?

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:48AM (#27090523) Homepage Journal
    3. It is large enough to have or can attract and clear up other objects in its orbit.

    #3 is the problem with Pluto with its orbit crossing Neptune once the time gets right and Neptune gets to close it will just Suck up Pluto and not the other way around.

    I would imagine that most of the planets will one day end up either being enveloped by the sun or by Jupiter. I agree that it is ridiculous that Illinois would "declare" Pluto a planet, but the IAU was the first to be ridiculous by arbitrarily drawing a line in the sand as to what a planet was and then declaring that what everyone had said was a planet for the last 80 years is now not one.
  • by FTWinston (1332785) on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:52AM (#27090587) Homepage

    who are a bunch of snobbish scients to deny that?

    They are, uh, the appropriate scientific institution. They're also, you know, informed?
    Say what you like about the IAU defintion, but its a scientific definition made by scientists.

    When the powers that be start defining things they aren't properly informed on, in a manner different to the rest of the world, things get pointlessly confused.
    If an elected group of people were to decide that within their durestriction, the speed of light in vacuum is 2 * 10^8 m/s, this changes nothing about the state of the world, but is liable to cause significant issues for physicists working in their durestriction, and particularly for cross-durestriction collaborations.

    When the 17th Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures defined the speed of light as 299,792,458 m/s in 1983, they were not doing so as elected representatives of the people of Earth, they were doing so as the appropriate scientific institution. This definition clearly didn't change reality in any way, what it did do was give a global definition such that individuals wouldn't use their own favoured definitions and cause inconsistancies when the same calculation is performed by different parties.

    Definition of planet, speed of light, I see no real difference here. It doesn't matter how right the definition is, as long as we agree to use it. Consider for instance the average mass of a planet in our solar system. With a standard global definition, this value is simple to agree upon. Without one, you need caveats. If you have caveats for every definition known to man, achieving any consensus quickly becomes a ridiculous process.

  • Never gonna happen (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AlpineR (32307) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Friday March 06, 2009 @09:55AM (#27090607) Homepage

    This resolution will never kick in, will it? The text says:

    RESOLVED [...] that as Pluto passes overhead through Illinois' night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status....

    But Pluto will never be directly overhead in Illinois. The state is too far from the equator to ever get pointed straight at the ecliptic. Or does the tilt of Earth's axis and the inclination of Pluto's orbit really put it overhead of Illinois once in a while? Any astronomy nerds care to calculate when that will happen?

  • by ImYourVirus (1443523) on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:02AM (#27090689)

    #3 is the problem with Pluto with its orbit crossing Neptune once the time gets right and Neptune gets to close it will just Suck up Pluto and not the other way around. So even it Pluto was the size of the earth if it was where Pluto is now it wouldn't be considered a planet.

    Wait so the earth isn't a planet either because when we cross paths with the sun it will suck us up.

    By that definition nothing is a planet, next to whatever the biggest piece of shit in this galaxy is (whatever the hell it is).

    A far easier definition would have been a planet is 10 million miles wide or weighs 2.38 billon pounds. The other is left open to whoever wants to interpret it, such as I did in my first paragraph.

  • Re:Too right! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Skye16 (685048) on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:02AM (#27090697)

    Cool your jets, turbo. It's just a stupid state legislature nobody cares about wasting their tax payers' dollars on stupid shit nobody will take seriously anyway. Outside of the "roflnoobs" we all had when we read this, it's surely not worth getting this fired up over.

  • Follow the money! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:12AM (#27090815) Journal
    Yes. Just follow the money. That'll lead you to who's really behind this reclassification. Ask yourself, who stands to benefit most by saying that Pluto is a planet? On the one hand you have the new textbook printers who are looking to make a lot of money on new astronomy text books. And on the other, you have school boards with tight budgets and astronomy texts that are just fine except for one inconvenient "fact". There's also the Disney Corporation. Having a character named after a planet earned them a certain amount of free publicity, a certain je-ne-sait-quoi. They would not be above lining a few political pockets to get Pluto re-instated. Oh, and let's not forget all the science museums who now have to change all their solar system models and retrain all of their staff. When you throw in the countless companies who use Pluto as a company slogan or in their trademarks, the disgruntled housewives with a bone to pick with the International Astronomical Union, the t-shirt companies who stand to make millions off of this, and the rich conspiracy nutcases, the picture is a lot muddier than a simple case of idiot politicians making a dumb decision. Follow the money.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:24AM (#27090941)

    Um... "... named after a disney character"??? Please tell me you meant "... has a Disney character named after it"?

    (It is, in fact, named after the Roman god of the underworld.)

  • If an elected group of people decide that Pluto is a planet(which changes absolutely NOTHING),

    Yes, it bloody well does change something. It creates the idea that Pluto shares more things in common with the 8 planets, than with Eris or Ceres or Haumea or Makemake.

    But ofcourse you don't care about facts, you don't care about reality, you don't care about proper scientific education, you only care about the "snobbishness" instead.

    You should be ashamed of yourself.

    "Who are a bunch of snobbish scientist?"

    The issue isn't WHO, (it's you who reveal yourserf a snob by asking that question), the issue is WHAT. And the answer is THAT THEY ARE CORRECT.

    Pluto isn't a planet. Pluto should never have been called a planet. DEAL.

    And the fucking government doesn't have a job trying to dictate science to scientists.

  • I disagree. It's a more rigid definition based on increased understanding of the phenomena.

    Grandfathering in Pluto because people used to think it was a planet would be no more acceptable than giving every large Kuiper object that we discover (and we've already discovered ones that are bigger than Pluto) planetary status.

    Either way the schoolkids are gonna be pissed off, but it's not a popularity contest.

  • Re:Too right! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aris Katsaris (939578) <katsaris@gmail.com> on Friday March 06, 2009 @10:45AM (#27091195) Homepage

    Another anti-scientific moron who doesn't undestand that because a definition is arbitrary that doesn't mean it CAN BE UTTERLY RANDOM, as it would have to be for Pluto to be called a planet but Eris not to be called one.

  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Friday March 06, 2009 @11:10AM (#27091513)

    The problem with having Pluto being a regular planet not that you have nine planets, it's that you end up with a much larger number of planets as a lot of kuiper belt objects are better matches for planet status than Pluto.

    Pluto doesn't look like any of the other planets in other ways, such as having a 'moon' so big that its center of mass isn't inside itself. In fact Charon is 11% of Pluto's mass, and while the Moon (Luna) looks huge, its mass is only 1% of the Earth's.

    Just as interesting, Charon doesn't orbit Pluto, making it the only 'planet' with a non-orbiting satellite. Aditionally this satelitte has a mean distance that is less than 20 times Pluto's radius. To put that in perspective, that'd make the Moon orbit at 120,000 km - about a third that of its current orbit. And if we wanted to put it even more into perspective, the Moon would also have to grow significantly to something like 3 times its current size (haven't done the math). While that would be interesting from an astronomical point of view, I'm fairly certain we wouldn't enjoy the increased gravitational pull. If you think high tide is bad now, imagine what it'd be like if the ground itself moved up and down with the tides.

    We use definitions, like the word planet, to make things easier. If we can use one definition to describe the planets, and then have to go "oh, and it's okay if they don't lie in the same plane as everything else, as long as they're no more than 50 AU away from the Sun, and have a huge eccentric orbit compared to every other planet", then it doesn't really fit the same definition.

    In fact, just looking at orbital eccentricity it'd difficult to argue that Pluto (and Mercury) is in the same class as the other 7 planets. Mercury has a slight excuse since it's 100 times closer to the sun.

    But, to jump on your main point:
    "declaring that what everyone had said was a planet for the last 80 years is now not one"

    That's the thing about science. Science knows it doesn't know everything, otherwise it'd stop.

    What have we discovered/come to realise in the last 80 years, that we took for granted back then? How about asbestos not being good for you [wikipedia.org]? Smoking not being good for you? That you could in fact go faster than the speed of sound? That DDT isn't the safest way to get rid of bugs?

    How about something a bit more down to earth? Like plate tectonics [wikipedia.org]. I mean, if you were to go back in time to the 1930s, when Pluto was discovered, and told people that the earth's surface was made up of large slabs of rock, floating on an inner sea of molten rock, and that these massive plates moved, shifting continents around and that the Earth of today looks nothing like the earth of 100 million years ago, you'd either be comitted to mental 'care', or just outright laughed at.

    But, if you prefer sticking to your guns, defending something that we thought was correct 80 years ago, then why not do one better and defend astrology. That's even older.

  • by Electrawn (321224) <{electrawn} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Friday March 06, 2009 @11:21AM (#27091659) Homepage

    I live in Illinois, and just took some time from work to make two calls expressing my displeasure at the silliness.

    I got a hold of a live person at Represeative "Bob" Ritas office and left a message for State Senator Emil Jones. Anyone else in Illinois should do the same with their representatives.

    As an "Illinoisan," I apologize for the circus that is our state government. I am officially fed up.

  • by Ornedan (1093745) on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:02PM (#27092915)

    The old definition was pretty much arbitrary. The problem was that a non-arbitrary definition that does leave Pluto as a planet needs to add several other bodies as planets that are rather unlike the other bodies currently called planets. Choices were to expand the meaning of the term or contract it. They chose contracting it and adding new definitions for those objects that didn't fit the new definition of planet, but are still significant enough not to be lumped with the generic small rocks.

  • by Electrawn (321224) <{electrawn} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Friday March 06, 2009 @01:23PM (#27093215) Homepage

    With Blago, Burris, Todd Stroger's extreme Cook county sales taxes (Chicago for the rest of you), Sheriff Tom Dart suing craigslist...

    I'm embarrassed to live here. Passing a "Pluto is a planet" resolution is over the top for this legislature compared with all the other fun stuff going on. It furthers Illinois as a laughing stock, tarnishing the reputation of the state, it's people and businesses.

    That is reason enough to get my goat, straw that bropke the camels back per se and make some phone calls and try and remind my representatives to get the bleep on track.

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