Monday, August 21, 2006

Heavenly Balls

You probably noticed my eerie silence last week on a very disturbing development.

Entire worlds hang in the balance, but I held my tongue. (And that’s awkward; it’s really hard to eat or drink that way … not to mention the damage it does to one’s romantic escapades.)

To set things right—and return feeling to my tongue—I will now address the big controversy: How many planets orbit the sun?

Long-time visitors may recall that more than a year ago, I sounded off on the debate over the name of the newly discovered “planet,” labeled 2003-UB313. I made a good case then for calling it “Wombat,” but that seems so trivial now that planetary scientists have taken this planet stuff the next level, proposing an entirely new taxonomy for our solar system.

And it’s all Pluto’s fault.

The ninth planet, you see, is so unlike the eight “classical” planets that many astronomers say it’s not a planet at all. Others claim it does belong in the club—which, they say, should also admit other celestial bodies.

Last week, it came to a head when an International Astronomical Union committee suggested redefining “planet,” creating a subcategory of outer solar system planets called “plutons,” and adding three new bodies to the planetary roster: 2003-UB313/Wombat, Pluto’s partner Charon, and Ceres (the largest, and roundest, asteroid between Mars and Jupiter).

You might support the proposal, but I’m skeptical.

I’ll admit one benefit: The addition of “plutons” would rejuvenate the stagnant field of astronomical poetry. Imagine the buzz among planet-watching limerick-writers, who can now pen verses about Teutons sleeping on futons while eating croutons.

But beware the dark side of this initiative.

Astronomers may be opening the doors of planethood to fraudulent nominations. The proposed expansion from nine to 12 planets emboldens geeks everywhere to claim planetary status for almost anything large and round. Charlie Brown’s head, the Star Wars Death Star, Pamela Anderson’s breasts … where will it end?

Even worse, the new roster would render obsolete the decades-old mnemonic devices that we used as schoolchildren to recall the planets’ order, like “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.”

All this heavenly hubbub makes that phrase so last century. Now, with three additional planets, we’d all have to learn a new one:

Modern Vexing Experts May Completely Jumble System, Unnecessarily Needling Planet-Confused Xenophobes.

And that’s just astronomically hard to remember.


At August 21, 2006 7:39 AM, Blogger DaBich replied to my musings ...

Oh No! Talk about messing up us old timers! :X

What next? Another sun???

At August 21, 2006 7:45 AM, Blogger Death Warmed Over replied to my musings ...

Personally I'm not suprised. Of all the planets only Pluto is named after Mickey Mouse's dog. And In homage to the Mickey Mouse club any additional planets should be named after other friends of Mickey. The next should be planet Goofy, which, I think, sums up the whole debate quite nicely.

At August 21, 2006 7:57 AM, Blogger Minka replied to my musings ...

By Jove! that are some newsbraking events in our here solar system.
I second "goofy" as well, after all half of mankind can then believe a planet was named after themselves :)

Thanks for swinging by!

At August 21, 2006 8:26 AM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

I have heard some sources claim that by adding all the plutons our planet count would be about thirty. That would make the Schoolhouse Rocky tune about the planets a 15 minute opus.

At August 21, 2006 8:43 AM, Blogger Cinderella replied to my musings ...

OMG, I learned how to identify the planets the same way!! My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizza's!! Too Funny!! I guess we are close in age??

Anyway, I think they should stick to naming planets and not asteriods...Pluto is the smallest of them all, so everyone picks on it!! Poor Pluto!! Let it thrive as a planet in peace =)

Have a great Monday!

At August 21, 2006 9:14 AM, Blogger Jeff replied to my musings ...

Does this mean I have to go back to High School to learn the solar system! Just when I think I finally learned all the planets we're taking off some adding some creating crazy subcategories called "plutons." I think I'm just going to concentrate on what's going on down here on earth.

At August 21, 2006 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

I should resign myself to the fact that by the time my oldest gets to high school (2 years from now), I will no longer be able to help him with his homework.

He'll be able to make me feel even dumber than I do now. Oh joy.

At August 21, 2006 9:30 AM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

I heard that our Moon could become a planet. WTF?!?! Are Astronomers that bored?

At August 21, 2006 9:35 AM, Blogger missy replied to my musings ...

Hey you, catching up on post... what did I miss?? Oooh, I like the title of the previous post especially because I have been singing Aimee Mann's One lately... you know being single and all... "one is the loneliest number that you'll ever do"


missy xx

At August 21, 2006 9:46 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

As long as musicians don't start messing with sheet music, I'll be okay.

I mean I cling ever so tightly to:
Every Good Boy Does Fine
All Cars Eat Gas (or All Cows Eat Grass)
Grizzly Bears Don't Fly Airplanes

And there's another one for the spaces on the bass clef that eludes my memory at the moment.

At August 21, 2006 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

I am soooo not relearning the planets or astronomy or nothin'. I refuse to. I shall get to Pluto and then say "And the rest." just like the early version of the Gilligan Island song.

At August 21, 2006 10:06 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Dabich: If we keep adding planets, another sun might be a good idea.

DWO, Minka: Maybe we can name the smallest new pluton "Minnie."

Fuzz: I did hear that the astronomers proposed a minimum size--and a criterion of roundness--to make even the new cut. So hopefully it won't go too far.

Cinner: Perhaps we were seperated at birth. I have head some other mnemonics for this (like "My Very Eager Mother Just Sat On Nana's Puppy"), but the pizzas one sticks in my head.

Jeff, Miss Hobby: It blew my mind the other day when I heard we're up to 150+ moons around our solar system's planets, with 60+ around Jupiter alone. I can't keep up!

Mike: At this rate, that New Year's Eve ball they drop in NYC will be a planet soon.

Missy: Welcome back, I look forward to hearing what you think about the other posts you haven't seen. Is the UK all abuzz with this planet news, too?

Perplexio: You're over my head, because I only remember the "Every Good Boy Does Fine." And, of course, it's also easy for everyone to recall the name David Amulet because of the initials of "Dastardly Attractive."

Jenna: I'll be glad to name a planet after Mary Ann ... and then go explore that heavenly body.

-- david

At August 21, 2006 10:49 AM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

Why not rename all the planets so we all start on an even keel? Name them after the Smurfs or something. Or what happens if we reexamine the data and find out we're the moon and the moon is the sun and the sun is the earth...

Doesn't anyone else see how this has the potential to destroy our little version of reality? And what of the manufacturers of those solar system models with the planets orbiting the sun, will they be able to make them modular for easy expansion? Pun intended, but yet again are astronomers in their own little world so as to not realize the ramifications of their actions?

I can't take it!!! I must go eat some waffles...

At August 21, 2006 11:19 AM, Blogger OnMyWatch replied to my musings ...

you're blinding me with science.

all i know is, with this new stuff I'll never be a winning contestant on Jeopardy now.

At August 21, 2006 11:20 AM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

I played clarinet briefly in grade school... hated the damn licorice! At any rate the one thing I did get from it was a strong familiarity with the treble clef and how to properly read it. I tried my hand at self-instruction with the electric bass and had to teach myself the bass clef. I remember the lines were GBDFA (Grizzly Bears Don't Fly Airplanes). But I don't remember what the spaces on the bass clef are/were (which made teaching myself how to play it a bit more difficult, although with bass tab I was able to teach myself a few things). I do remember the strings on the electric bass are EGAD... Which just reminds me of Pinky & the Brain ("Egads, Brain!")

At August 21, 2006 11:44 AM, Blogger angel, jr. replied to my musings ...

So much new information, cannot register it all right now. My head is going to explode...

At August 21, 2006 12:42 PM, Blogger Maggie replied to my musings ...

I agree with Mike in clearing the slate and starting anew.

Name them after old rockers or something. Jupiter = Jagger. Something we all can identify with.

Of course, it's going to be a battle decided what name goes to the 'farthest one out there'.

At August 21, 2006 12:47 PM, Blogger BuffyICS replied to my musings ...

Wow, I love the new mnemonic device! Very clever. I think it's silly for them to redefine what constitutes a planet--I don't see the point in writing parameters that would include asteroids.

At August 21, 2006 1:08 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

That would be like changing the keyboard....learning with more keys....asdf...jkl;

I do agree, we will have to have a new model to learn by now.
Have a great Monday!

At August 21, 2006 3:52 PM, Blogger Blonde Vigilante replied to my musings ...

So, I should just basically throw out all the bullshit I was taught in school. Great! First quarks and not plutons. What a crock!

I move on Friday...wish me luck.

At August 21, 2006 3:54 PM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

Planets, schmanets!

I want to hear more about this whole tongue "not to mention the damage it does to one’s romantic escapades" problem.

Do tell...;)

At August 21, 2006 3:57 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Mike, Maggie: You both hit on a good idea ... I'll admit a preference for the rockers over the Smurfs.

OMW: Funny, that song just came up on my iPod!

Perplexio: OK, that explains a bit more. I was beginning to worry.

Angel: Uh oh. That's an unintended side effect of this post. It's probably not a good practice to cause my readers to explode.

Buffy: I'm not quite sure why they decided to take it down to the Ceres level, perhaps because it was large/massive enough to be round (unlike other asteroids) and thus met the compromise criterion. Any system is going to have flaws given the various objects they've found orbiting the sun!

Lee Ann: Let's hope the keyboard isn't next on the redesigning board. I'm already challenged enough by typing.

-- david

At August 21, 2006 3:59 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

BV: I hereby officially wish you luck. I'll use my magic to keep quarks and plutons from disrupting your move.

Stacy: Methinks you can imagine the troubles. Unless you really enjoy men whose hands and tongues are both out of commission.

-- david

At August 21, 2006 4:02 PM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

This is just wrong. How will I ever get a decent horoscope reading. Besides adding planets, I just heard that because of the axis of the earth, we are not born under the star signs we think we are. I can't take this upheaval to my existance.

PS. Thanks for stopping by my place.

At August 21, 2006 4:13 PM, Blogger OnMyWatch replied to my musings ...

you mean to say you have "I Lost on Jeopardy" on your iPod? you just lost 2 points.

kidding. ;)

At August 21, 2006 7:20 PM, Blogger Scarlett replied to my musings ...

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars

As for your tongue - use it or lose it. :)

At August 21, 2006 7:27 PM, Blogger Michelle replied to my musings ...

Ok i need to clarify, is your "wombat" what astronomists are calling 'Xena"?

At August 21, 2006 8:35 PM, Blogger Zen Wizard replied to my musings ...

A buddy of mine and I just thought of a great mnemonic device to remember the first 10 Presidents of the United States.

Now I reckon one of you Brainiacs are gonna come along and contend that there were twenty Presidents before Washington, e.g. Ron Hanson--who sounds like a rock star but was really a President.

That will mean back to the drawing board, I guess.

At August 21, 2006 8:50 PM, Blogger Trundling Grunt replied to my musings ...

It's like redefining crocodiles as fish - all a cunning plan to stimulate the economy by rendering all previous reference works obsolete and needing republishing.

As to the actual definition, I find it amusing that Ceres gets an unwarranted promotion about this - do you think the other asteroids are all jealous and gossiping behind her back?

At August 21, 2006 11:01 PM, Blogger Enemy of the Republic replied to my musings ...

You have just touched upon a topic that frustrates me immensely. Why can't they leave poor Pluto alone? Why isn't it a planet? It's not even close to Neptune and it's way bigger than some aestoriod. I love Pluto; it's my favorite planet and I will go there some day--you just wait.

At August 22, 2006 1:07 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

I heard about this too, I thought it was funny.

I am sure President Bush is on the phone as speak to Nasa wanting to get a crew there ASAP to explore wasting more of country's money.

At August 22, 2006 1:15 AM, Blogger Paige Burns replied to my musings ...

The aliens up there using our solar system as a game better stop adding planets!

What do you mean Men in Black wasn't real?

At August 22, 2006 1:52 AM, Anonymous barbara replied to my musings ...

I like Maggie's idea of naming planets after old rock stars - that's what planets are right, stars covered with rocks?

Surely they can come up with a better name than Uranus. That's so bad.

At August 22, 2006 2:00 AM, Blogger Jim replied to my musings ...

I always thought the planets were just a joke, like gravity, but I respect your right to believe they (or them) are real

At August 22, 2006 6:16 AM, Blogger ~ good girl ~ replied to my musings ...

Mars is my ruling planet. All others are irrelevant. That's what Mars tells me to think because I am First, I am Warrior, I Win.

I speaketh like an Aries.

GG x

At August 22, 2006 6:48 AM, Blogger Ben Heller replied to my musings ...

I'm all for finding these new planets. After all we might discover unsolved mysteries yet resolved.

One of these so called "plutons" may hold the clues and evidence of the following.

Things we may find on Planet Pluton...
Axl's album
Barry Bonds stash
K-Fed's brain
Paris Hilton's integrity
President Bush and PM BLIAR's logic.
David Amulet's sidebar.

At August 22, 2006 6:55 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe replied to my musings ...

With that logic, I'd like to claim Planet Chicky!

At August 22, 2006 7:15 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Goldennib, Scarlett: I hadn't considered the implication for astrology. We'll need rhymes for Ceres and Charon now, too.

OMW: Yup, my iPod holds both "She Blinded Me With Science" and "Jeopardy." Not to mention "Planet Caravan," "Planet Earth," and "Out of the Silent Planet."

Michelle: The guy who discovered 2003-UB313 calls it "Xena," but that hasn't been approved yet. So there's still hope for "Wombat."

ZW: I should have known, with all the other tricks and things out there, that there was an automatic mnemonic generator. I'm curious what they come up wwith for the new planetary order.

Grunt: Perhaps the other asteroids will join together to get enough mass to qualify.

Enemy: I think their problem with Pluto is that they are sure there are other Pluto-like objects further out we have yet to discover, but the further out they are the less and less they are like the classical planets. So they wanted a system to allow for "smart growth."

-- david

At August 22, 2006 7:26 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Phats, Paige: I say we send missions to all the planets, including the plutons, ASAP to stake our claim before the real aliens arrive.

Barbara: Uranus can be named for Freddie Mercury, unless we take the easy route and name the first planet after him.

Jim: The planets are just as real as the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Democratic Party's platform.

Good Girl: You're Mars? How have you felt about all those probes lately?

Ben: I checked my sidebar in Safari and Explorer and saw it in both. Please let me know what you're using.

ChickyBabe: You've got it. You're somehwere out beyond Pluto, though, so good luck visiting your planet.

EVERYONE: Let me know if you see my sidebar--and what browser you are using. Thanks!

-- david

At August 22, 2006 7:47 AM, Blogger Janet replied to my musings ...

So you're saying Pluto has never been a true planet, much like Paris Hilton has never been a true singer? Hmm, interesting.

At August 22, 2006 7:49 AM, Blogger ~ good girl ~ replied to my musings ...

Probe is excellent, Mr Amulet. All in the name of science and progress, of course.

Sidebar shows when I use Firefox but in IE, it's right down at the end of page.


At August 22, 2006 8:18 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

NO! That's actually a recurring nightmare of mine.


At August 22, 2006 9:21 AM, Blogger Ben Heller replied to my musings ...

I'm using IE David. Don't worry, it's not that important.

At August 22, 2006 5:58 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Janet: I would never speak such blasphemy against Ms. Hilton. How dare you! She is the finest singer of our--nay, ANY--generation.

GG, Ben: I have made some tweaks, and the sidebar seems to fit just fine next to the main text on my Explorer and Safari views. Please let me know if you see any other funny-looking screens and I'll keep playing with it. The template, that is.

Stacy: Sorry, I'll try to avoid your nightmares from here on out.

-- david

At August 22, 2006 8:41 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

I posted about this too! I remember reading your take on it. I wasn't too thrilled with the naming of that newest planet "Xena."

I like "Wombat" much better. Either that or "Jim."

At August 22, 2006 9:22 PM, Blogger Logophile replied to my musings ...

I think personally think the fact that some scientists want to name a "planet" after a warrior princess TV character speaks volumes about them, and it's not an inspiring read.

At August 22, 2006 10:23 PM, Blogger KC replied to my musings ...

"Teutons sleeping on futons while eating croutons". Damn! You stole the first line of my new epic poem. I don't think I can start again after all the hard work I put into it! Thanks. Thanks a lot.

At August 23, 2006 10:18 AM, Blogger Godwhacker replied to my musings ...

What part does tradition play in all of this? If tradition can be used to beat down an innocuous thing like gay marriage, why can't we keep Pluto in the planet club just because? That way we don't have to relearn nothing. Further, we can incorporate a little spanglish for these new bodies by coining the word ~ planetittos.

At August 23, 2006 3:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous replied to my musings ...

David, thanks for the email. It's working just fine now on IE. If I see anything strange I'll let you know.

Now the blog address for the small project I'm doing is...

href ""

I'm counting down my 300 favourite albums of all time. You, ofcourse will be made most welcome.

At August 23, 2006 3:06 PM, Blogger Ben Heller replied to my musings ...

That was me by the way. I'm having a bad day

At August 23, 2006 4:13 PM, Blogger Crazy Dan replied to my musings ...

I don't know about you but it all went downhill after discovering Uranus...heheh. Was I the first to say that?

At August 23, 2006 6:02 PM, Blogger Enemy of the Republic replied to my musings ...

Blog looks good.

At August 23, 2006 7:34 PM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

I'm sorry, did you say something after "not to mention the damage it does to one's romantic escapades?"


At August 24, 2006 8:16 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Phoenix, Logophile: I'm really not a fan of "Xena." I think I could accept "Angelina," though.

KC: Sorry about that--I know you're big into Teutonic epic poetry.

GW: I suspect that the committee thought about tradition when trying to find a way to keep Pluto in the planetary club.

Ben: Got it. I hope you're doing better today.

Crazy Dan: You've got the virtual prize for that.

Enemy: Thanks--I hope the tweaking makes it visible on all browsers. Someday I may even redesign the template. Someday.

Lisa: The line abut my tongue, hand, and romantic escapades seems to have captured the attention of several female visitors. Who knew?

-- david

At August 24, 2006 11:19 PM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

And now they "demote" Pluto to a dwarf planet? WTF? Is that where the Spinal Tap elves end up, teleported by a teensy rendition of Stonehenge? I've heard weird stories about Stonehenge, hmm? huh? hmm?

What pomposity of these loser "astronomists."

At August 27, 2006 8:15 PM, Blogger dragonflyfilly replied to my musings ...

as Shakespear would say: "A Rose by any other name is just as beautiful", or something like that....but what about Ureinus (sp?), i forget, is that a star or a planet, in any event, surely that needs to be re-named or SOMETHING? -- I dunno, that's just the way I see it....


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