Pluto, more like Plut-no!

Did you ever make a diaroama of our solar system out of painted styrofoam, toothpicks, and a shoebox? 


Image:  Wikipedia Commons

I myself had those glow-in-the dark type stars all over my ceiling and walls (both the plasic kind with sticky tack on the back and the stickers) and also glow-in-the-dark planets.  Being the pretentious child that I was, I arranged the planet likenesses in approximately appropriate orbits around the sun (i.e. the light on my ceiling fan).  Looking back, I recall one of the very innacurate aspects of my ceiling solar system was the fact that I had a star on each blade of the fan so that when it was running, there was a nice glowing spiral.  I'll claim artistic license on that one over scientific accuracy.

There were some clever mnemonic devices to aid the student in remembering the order of the planets, such as "My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nice Pizza."  I was a fan of this one (as I love both my mom and pizza)!  Maybe my affinity toward pizza has contributed to my disappointment over Pluto's demotion from the ninth planet in our solar system to only the second-largest dwarf planet.  Now how will I remember it… Mom served us nice…. nothing!  I guess she could serve us Nutella (still delicious) or something but …

There's an entertaining article on this subject on NPR's Cosmos and Culture.  The author's take is that it turns out that our neat, 9 planet solar system is anything but organized – think the asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt, and the Scattered Disc – and that we don't like this change in perception.  Back in school we could memorize the whole solar system with one catchy phrase, and now that's not possible.  It's kind of like the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?"  Used to be simple to answer "professional soccer player" or "movie star" … now ask any engineer what he or she does for a living, and you'll get something ambiguous and complicated, analagous to trying to explain dwarf planets and elliptical orbits to elementary school kids.

Oh well, planet or not, this guy isn't getting demoted!



One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s