Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Monday, August 21, 2006

All My Exes Live on Dwarf Planets

It's hard to say definitively what's important. Family, career, politics, wealth, religion, social activism, tomatoes, health, sports, entertainment, science, status anxiety (a phrase I recently picked up from a friend) all figure into our daily lives somehow and how much each matters is more or less an individual decision. As a general rule, I try to avoid telling people they have misplaced priorities, as it would be quite easy for them to point out a few of mine, but some people are so infuriatingly ignorant, it's difficult to keep my mouth shut at times.

Take the case of poor ex-planet Pluto. Demoted this week in a bitter fight among astronomers over the definition of a planet, Pluto for the time being holds the rather paltry status of "dwarf planet", along with Ceres, a relatively tiny object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and a not officially named object--some refer to it as "Xena"-- even more distant than Pluto and discovered in 2003. Pluto, officially a planet since Clyde Tombaugh found it in 1930, was thought to be considerably larger upon its initial discovery, but in 1978 a moon was observed. Turned out Pluto was so miniscule and distant astronomers had failed to distinguish Pluto itself from its even smaller satellite and assumed Pluto, moon (called Charon) and all the space in between were one object. In fact, as a very young child, I learned Mercury, not Pluto, was the solar system's smallest planet.

I mention this to emphasize that I am, in fact, one of those geeks who enjoys planetary astronomy. This latest debate over Pluto's status is more amusing than rankling to me, as it seems more a battle of nomenclature and definitions than anything scientifically riveting. Nevertheless, I follow it because the world of science changes so rapidly and I like to remain up to date on subjects that interest me. I'll be the first to admit it's an academic topic and not, pardon the pun, planet-shattering.

However, during a recent lunch engagement with a moderate sized group of mostly casual friends, I was forced to endure a full fifteen minutes of Big Brother talk. Remarks as to the appearance of certain Big Brother participants, their annoying habits, their skills or lack of them, and some of those conversing seemed to possess an awful lot of rancor over a bunch of sad sack twits willing to jettison their self-respect not even for money, but for the faint hope of it. Not long thereafter, I breezily brought up the subject of the recently scorned Pluto, which incited a fair number of angrily apathetic comments like "who cares?" and "why are they wasting all this money on it?" and "now they'll have to change all the textbooks."

I kept quiet, but I'll have to admit I was fairly disappointed and a bit perturbed. It's true the debate over Pluto may not be on par with the highest achievements of astronomy, like those of Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein and Hubble, but I must say I consider it far more important than the emptyheaded hijinx of Big Brother contestants. Perhaps there's a bit of elitist in me, or maybe there's just a bit of ignoramus in them. Possibly both. But I couldn't help but wonder if these same dismissive attitudes were prevalent in the past.

When it became well-established and accepted that the sun did not revolve around the Earth, were there legions of naysayers lamenting the fact that all the textbooks of the day had to be changed, that the discovery was a waste of resources and none of it was important anyway? It seems a pretty childish reaction to new information. Deny and dismiss. Dismiss and deny. But as Earth, Wind and Fire--only one of which is a legitimate planet--say, "That's the way of the world."

Questionable Sources

Columnist Cal Thomas asserts that 1 in 12 illegal immigrants has a criminal record. How exactly can that be known? You'd think all their names were on a list somewhere.

Columnist Roland Martin, an admitted reality television fan, asks rhetorically why more African-Americans don't try out for reality shows. Roland, please, Black Americans are proving they're smarter than the rest of us in this respect. Don't mess it up!

Finally, a USA Today column promised to offer several ways of "fixing" the Emmys. I think only one way is needed: get rid of them! I can fix the Grammys this same way.


Anonymous Cinnamon said...

big brother sucks...yea go tell em!

27 August, 2006 19:28  
Anonymous Tony said...

I thought Pluto was Mickey's dog. Also what night is big brother on?

29 August, 2006 13:19  

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