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New Mexico Might Declare Pluto a Planet 328

pease1 writes "Wired and others are reporting that for New Mexico, the fight for Pluto is not over. Seven months after the International Astronomical Union downgraded the distant heavenly body to a 'dwarf planet,' a state representative in New Mexico aims to give the snubbed world back some of its respect. State lawmakers will vote Tuesday on a bill that proposes that 'as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies, it be declared a planet.' The lawmaker who introduced the measure represents the county in which Clyde Tombaugh, Pluto's discoverer, was born. For many of us old timers, and those who had the honor of meeting Clyde, this just causes a belly laugh and is pure fun. Not to mention a bit of poking a stick in the eye."
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New Mexico Might Declare Pluto a Planet

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  • Who cares (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mikesd81 ( 518581 ) <> on Sunday March 11, 2007 @02:26PM (#18308784) Homepage
    Is it really that big of a deal that they want to pass this to honor the person that found Pluto? A link to the Memorial Text []. This probably won't cost the state much money so let it be.
  • They're voting a friggin' fact!!

    No, they're voting a friggin' name. Pluto is a big round ball of matter that orbits the sun at a mind-boggling distance, and no one's questioning that. NM just wants to call it a "planet", which is well within their prerogative. they could also pass a law whereby you would be referred to as "the one who does not understand the law", and that'd be just fine as well.

    One of the basic functions of government is naming things. (Don't believe me? Go look at a street sign. And then pick up any package in the grocery store. The words on those things have meaning, essentially, only because the Government says so.)
  • The saddest thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jiawen ( 693693 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @02:52PM (#18308952) Homepage
    The saddest thing about all this, to me, is that the legislators probably did this because their constituents demanded it. There are way too many people out there who think that Pluto being declared not a planet is the biggest astronomy story in recent memory. Hints as to the source of gamma ray bursts? Flowing water on Mars? The Hubble's main camera having trouble? Landing a probe on the surface of Titan? More beautiful photography of Saturn than you can shake a stick at? None of those seem to get a grip on the popular consciousness. But Pluto, subject to more anthropomorphizing than any planet should be, somehow gets to be the cute underdog, fighting for its rights against nasty scientists. Blech.
  • by Kabuthunk ( 972557 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <knuhtubak>> on Sunday March 11, 2007 @03:11PM (#18309096) Homepage
    This is what I see upon looking at the article:

    "I'm right and everyone else is wrong! I'm going to believe it MY way, and that's that."

    I mean cripes... I wonder how many of them still believe the world is flat? Just because you say that it's true doesn't mean that it is.
  • Re:Pluto (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @03:12PM (#18309112)
    Most state representatives are not professional politicians. They do their service at the statehouse for a few months out of the year, and for the rest of their time, they have a real job. It takes five minutes of this representative's time to write this bill, and another minute of their legislature's time to vote for it (most state legislatures handle their voting instantly rather than having protracted voting times like Congress does) to honor an astronomer from their state, so I don't see a problem.

  • Re:Fine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Sunday March 11, 2007 @03:18PM (#18309156) Homepage Journal

    No, because marbles didn't (and wouldn't) naturally form themselves into spheres in space. I'd just call them "artificial debris."

    There are lots more things, but most are pretty much unchanged - only the debate about what a planet is has really been stirring things up. For instance, if an object was formed by intelligent beings rather than nature, then it gets prefixed with "artificial." I also like "planetesimal" for planets too small to walk on, "planetoid" for planets that are very low mass (specifically, if you can jump off it and reach escape velocity, it's a planetoid), James Blish's "gas giant" for planets that are gaseous and transition from a gas to a solid of the same material at some depth based upon pressure, "spacecraft" for anything that was under its own power or let go inertially from something else under its own power, "satellite" for artificial moons, and "debris" for anything in space that that intelligence is responsible for, that doesn't currently perform some useful function.

  • Thank you New Mexico (Score:5, Interesting)

    by volcanopele ( 537152 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @03:22PM (#18309202)
    I, for one, like this resolution. The IAU decision last year consisted of one of the most ridiculous definitions I have ever seen and it is nice to see a legitimate resolution being offered to attack it. There was a resolution last year in the California statehouse, but that read more like a joke, than something more serious like this one. I've emailed my state assemblyman this story so maybe Arizona will do the same thing. After all, this PLANET was discovered using an Arizona telescope. For those who think this is a waste of money, how much money do you think this will cost? This is a symbolic resolution, no appropriations are associated with it. The text looks like it took 10 minutes to write. As commented earlier, this will take about a minute to vote on. So certainly compared to other government wasteful spending, this ranks pretty far down there.
  • Re:The saddest thing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by AnswerIs42 ( 622520 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @03:23PM (#18309208) Homepage
    I take it that 1) You don't live in southern New Mexico 2) Have never been to Las Cruces, NM (Clyde Tombaugh's name is all over the place). If you have or had been, then you would understand.

    Tombaugh is a local hero (The "do it yourself" guy that found a planet) to people there and having his discovery "watered down" is akin to going to someone that has three purple hearts and taking them away because of an "oversight".

    So, the saddest thing is your complete lack of details as to WHY they want to do this. It is to honor someone.

  • Re:Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @03:26PM (#18309258) Journal
    A large part of science is categorization, putting together like objects and phenomona, aiding researchers in narrowing things down. With the discovery that Pluto is one among many like bodies, we either have to admit into the planetary family dozens if not hundreds of such bodies, or we have to say that, whatever emotional attachments some might have to this particular body, it isn't a planet. Science is supposed to be dispassionate, so it can't consider that some legislator in New Mexico might get pissed off at a perceived slight to his state. In science, the rule is "if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it must be a duck", even if the locals have been calling it a emperor penguin for years.
  • Re:Fine (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Sunday March 11, 2007 @03:43PM (#18309400) Homepage Journal
    What do you think planets are made out of, debris

    In my view, debris is the result of the actions of intelligence, so no, planets aren't made of debris. They are generally made of materials condensed out of a stellar (or proto-stellar) accretion disk, or otherwise naturally found in space.

  • Not only in France (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fmobus ( 831767 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @04:15PM (#18309690)

    Unfortunately, there are some Representative jackasses in my country (Brazil) trying to push this etymology-purity agenda, forbidding any use of foreign expressions where a translation is available. Before anyone says that would violate freedom of speech, I should inform that this agenda is mainly lead by a Communist Party of Brazil representative. 'Nuff said.

    I remember once a crappy CHI teacher I had, who said foreign/loan-words should be written in italics or quoted (this is right) and gave "deletar" as an example. "Deletar" is how "to delete" was adapted into Brazilian Portuguese computer-related lexicon, and its use is widely accepted and understood. I argued with him that this word was already officially accepted, and was even listed in Brazilian Literary Academy latests dictionary updates, to which he replied the Academy is not defending the purity of Portuguese well enough. He then mentioned that there at least seven good translations for "to delete" in Portuguese but, as it turns out, all translations he suggested fail to capture the computer-semantic of deletion. I proceeded to show how successfully loaned words from other languages like French and no one seems to bother: "capô" (vehicle hood/bonnet) is derived from "capeaux", just like most car parts in Brazilian Portuguese (maybe because the first cars were brought here by French people). He just shut up.

    Completely OT: This same teacher also was against CSS because it made impossible to the user to enlarge fonts, against PDF for text because it is an image format. He also said that human adaptability to absence of light increases with time (this is right) and that if you remained 60 minutes in a dark room, you'd be adapted enough to be able to read a text on a paper. WTF??

    In my opinion, people should be incentive and taught to write and spell properly, but if rule-of-law is necessary to achieve it, something is really wrong deep down.

    Oh, we were talking about Pluto here? Almost forgot. I'm still amazed there is still no NGO named "Friends of Pluto" [] (portuguese text warning. babelfish is your friend) using vast incentives from government and big companies (which in turn get nice tax-reductions) to defend this unjust arbitrarity.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @04:36PM (#18309858) Homepage Journal

    as his wife noted after the demotion of Pluto, he would have been disappointed but he would have understood.

    And in fact, when Tombaugh announced his discovery he didn't claim that it was a planet, only a Trans Neptunian Object.

  • by skrolle2 ( 844387 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @04:51PM (#18309944)
    The Kuiper belt has a lot of stuff in it. If Pluto is a planet, what is Eris, Ceres, Varuna, Ixion, Quaoar, and Orcus? All of those are definitely in the same ballpark as Pluto, should we upgrade all of those to planet status as well? Or should we only keep Pluto classified as a planet, since that's the object we discovered first? The discovery of Pluto isn't lessened because we since have discovered objects with the same characteristics, We know now that it was premature to call it a planet, but it was still a remarkable achievement.
  • by NonSequor ( 230139 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @06:25PM (#18310566) Journal
    The court's job was to determine the intent of the law and it decided to go with what most people consider to be fruits rather than the more rigorous definition used by botanists.

    My favorite part is the justification about how the people think it's a vegetable because of when they eat it:

    in the common language of the people, whether sellers or consumers of provisions, all these are vegetables which are grown in kitchen gardens, and which, whether eaten cooked or raw, are, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnips, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, and lettuce, usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert

    That's not a justification, it's a description of how the words fruit and vegetable are used in everyday speech. The judge decided, correctly, that the lawmakers were using the words fruit and vegetable as they are commonly used rather than as they are used by botanists.
  • by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Sunday March 11, 2007 @08:06PM (#18311228) Homepage Journal

    What about it? Half a dozen isn't any surprise to me. This sub-thread was started by a claim of 1000+, which is what got me interested, because it seems... optimistic. No one has backed the claim up yet, but the thread's life isn't over yet. Regardless, I'm all for discovering new planets. Even thousands of them, which would be absolutely fascinating. Let's do it!

  • Re:Fine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JimDaGeek ( 983925 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @09:01PM (#18311542)
    So exactly why are you expressing your "views" about a topic you have no formal education in? Seriously. I am educated in physics, I would never attempt to enter my "view" to Vascular Surgery. It would just be stupid.

    Your "views" just make no sense from a scientific stand-point. As far as the "atom" stuff goes, you do know what you are really made from, correct? You do know what the Sun and Moon and Earth are mad from, correct?

    All of your other posts were trying to separate celestial bodies by such stupid criterion, that I thought we might as well just lump everything together on the atomic scale. After all, matter is made up of atoms. So there is a much closer link to categorize objects based on atoms vs. the 3rd grade "science view" that you came up with. Though I am very glad that we do not categorize things based only on their atomic make-up.

    Please, stop trying to defend your original post. At least own up to the fact that you know crap about physics or astronomy at a graduate or post-graduate level.

    Heck, maybe the scientific community should just let any amateur or enthusiast just start calling the shots. Hell, education is over-rated, and let us all just start to build our world view on the "views" of people like you.

    No thanks!
  • Re:Fine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alienmole ( 15522 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @10:24PM (#18311970)
    The "stuff left around by people" definition is just a specialization of a more general meaning, which is "stuff left around by some activity" which can include geological activity, biological activity, collisions between planetary or stellar bodies, etc. Here's a pretty picture of Stellar Debris in the Large Magellanic Cloud [] for you to contemplate while you're plotting your theft of this term from multiple scientific disciplines. ;)

    You originally used the term "artificial debris"; qualifying it like that seems fine to me. So I'm not clear why any redefinition is needed here.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard