Neil deGrasse Tyson, the bestselling author and director of the world-famous Hayden Planetarium, chronicles America's irrational love affair with Pluto, man's best celestial friend.
Dr. Laura Danly is Curator at the Griffith Observatory, where she develops all educational, theatrical, gallery, and telescope programs. She holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy, and is a spectroscopist specializing in ultraviolet observations from space satellites.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.
Tyson's professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way. Tyson obtains his data from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as from telescopes in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and in the Andes Mountains of Chile.
In 2001, Tyson was appointed by President Bush to serve on a 12-member commission that studied the Future of the US Aerospace Industry. The final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations (for Congress and for the major agencies of the government) that would promote a thriving future of transportation, space exploration, and national security.
In 2004, Tyson was once again appointed by President Bush to serve on a 9-member commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, dubbed the "Moon, Mars, and Beyond" commission. This group navigated a path by which the new space vision can become a successful part of the American agenda. And in 2006, the head of NASA appointed Tyson to serve on its prestigious Advisory Committee, which will help guide NASA through its perennial need to fit its ambitious vision into its restricted budget.
In addition to dozens of professional publications, Dr. Tyson has written, and continues to write for the public.
Neil deGrasse Tyson says despite President George W. Bush's record on the environment and opposition to stem cell research, more money was allocated to science under the his administration than under Clinton.
"Funding for science under Republican administrations has been historically higher than under Democrats," he says.
Solar system body, regarded as the ninth planet from the Sun until struck from the list of planets and reclassified as a dwarf planet in August 2006. It was discovered in 1930 by Clyde W. Tombaugh (190697) and named after the Greek god of the underworld. Its average distance from the Sun is about 3.7 billion mi (5.9 billion km)it is located within the Kuiper beltbut its eccentric orbit brings it closer to the Sun than Neptune for 22 years during its 248-year orbit. Its axis is tipped 120°, so it rotates nearly on its side and backward (seeretrograde motion) once every 6.39 days, locked synchronously with the orbit of its largest moon, Charon, discovered in 1978. Two additional, small moons were discovered in 2005. Pluto has a diameter of about 1,455 mi (2,340 km), less than 1% of Earth's mass, and only about 6% of Earth's surface gravity. Its estimated average surface temperature is near -390 °F (-235 °C). Its thin atmosphere contains nitrogen, methane, and perhaps other heavier gases. Pluto is thought to be made of frozen gases with a significant fraction of rocky material. Its size, composition, and orbital location in the Kuiper belt sparked a long debate over its classification as a major planet, which culminated in a decision by the International Astronomical Union to drop it from the planetary ranks.
I LOVE Neil..:-)) but he is VERY hard to read..:-) just got his book via Amazon Death by black hole....I rather listen to him speak...very entertaining.
If I ever get to USA (I live in Australia) I will definetely pay the visit to the Planetarium..:-)
I actually like Tyson, but I am also pro-Pluto. It is important to note that Tyson has distanced himself from the controversial 2006 IAU decision, which he himself admits is flawed. At this point, he even admits that the debate is not over, that it might be too early in the study of planetary scientists for anyone to be defining what a planet is in the first place. This was pretty much his message at the Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, which he moderated at the American Museum of Natural History on March 10, 2009. At this event and at the Great Planet Debate in August 2008, he made it clear he did not view the IAU definition as a step forward but as something that only causes further confusion.
There are strong scientific reasons for keeping the term planet broad to encompass any non-self-luminous spheroidal body orbiting a star. The reason I include Pluto (and Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris) as planets is that I prefer to use this broader definition and then distinguish types of planets via subcategories.
There are two legitimate schools of thought, each with its own way of looking at the solar system. Dynamicists focus on the way objects like planets affect other objects, in other words the dynamics between various worlds. In their view, only objects large enough to gravitationally dominate their orbits should be considered planets.
Geophysicists, in contrast, look not at how objects interact with one another, but focus on studying the individual objects themselves. To them, if an object is large enough to be rounded by its own gravity--hydrostatic equilibrium--it is a planet. In fact, the term dwarf planet was coined by Dr. Alan Stern, a leading supporter of this viewpoint. But he never intended for dwarf planets to be considered not planets at all. Instead, dwarf planets should simply be a subclass of planets that are planets because they are in hydrostatic equilibrium but are of the dwarf subcategory because they are too small to dominate their orbits.
I only raised points 3 and 4 in my initial post as a response to claims Tyson makes, specifically that it is only Americans who have strong convictions that Pluto should remain a planet and that American support for Pluto is attributable to the Disney dog. Neither Tyson's statements here or my responses have anything to do with the scientific method. They are attempts to explain why the general public reacted in a particular way.
The people who decided on the demotion are not the experts or the best in the field. Most of the four percent of the IAU who voted on this are not planetary scientists but other types of astronomers. Studying planets is not what they do. The 300 professional astronomers who signed Stern's petition opposing the demotion are mostly planetary scientists. Planetary science has burgeoned as a field in the last 50 years with robotic exploration of the solar system. It is a relatively new field. And as I said before, many planetary scientists do not belong to the IAU and therefore had no say in the matter.
The process by which four percent of the IAU reached this decision is extremely problematic. It violated the IAU's own bylaws, as the resolution was put on the floor on the last day of the General Assembly, when most attendees had already gone home, expecting a different resolution to be on the table--the one approved by the IAU's own committee, which would have included Ceres, Eris, Pluto, and Charon as planets. As can be seen from the video proceedings of the session, the process was extremely chaotic; there was little debate; and most who voted did not even see the text of the resolution until the day of the vote. These are real concerns, as the process by which a decision is reached is as important as that decision itself. And remember that since the IAU allows no electronic voting, 96 percent of its membership had no say, as they were not in a particular room on a particular day.
And you are correct, Tyson did not take part in the IAU vote or even attend that General Assembly. He may agree with the dynamical definition of planet, but he also makes it clear he had nothing to do with the tumultuous proceedings that took place there and admits the IAU did not do a good job in defining what a planet is.
I don't see what the problem is in my reasoning why Pluto is not a comet. At times, Tyson has described Pluto as a large comet. But the argument he uses, that if it were brought 30 times closer to the sun than its current orbit (into Earth's orbit) it would develop a tail due to sublimation is true of any planet. Put Earth 30 times closer to the sun than where it is now, and it will develop a tail as well.
You say wishing something away doesn't make it happen. Some astronomers--not Tyson--who support the IAU definition want to wish away the fact that this debate is ongoing, and that smart, well-educated top-level astronomers themselves do not agree on this issue. My purpose is not to attack Tyson but to refute some of the arguments he uses. I also object to your assumption that I know "nothing" about this topic. I happen to be a graduate student studying astronomy at Swinburne University and an active amateur astronomer who has done much-researched public presentations on this issue.
If you really have such a problem with me and my arguments, I recommend reading "The Case for Pluto" by science journalist Alan Boyle, just released this fall. He beat me to the punch in writing a Pluto book, and he does a terrific job discussing the debate and making a rational case for Pluto's planethood.
These bozos that play experts on astronomy, they are bozos because they say things that are for laughs. Thank you FORA for your humor.
The next time make them wear a bozo suit. That will put some more emphasis on their stupid commentary and will fit the occasion.
Laurele, (AKA first commenter) did you even watch the video? What the heck were you even talking about? I can't tell if you are actually pro-Pluto, or just anti-Tyson, like everyone else whose evidence for Pluto being a planet is that they just don't like Tyson's lecture. This long-ass comment may be a waste of my time if your only reasoning for Pluto's classification is that you and a few others like it being called a planet and have no real meaningful reason. But, just in case you have the slightest notion that you actually made legitimate points in your comment and that they somehow support the planetizing of Pluto; This is for you and those who agree with you.
Firstly, with the "disavowing" of any connection to the IAU you mentioned? I fail to see exactly what you mean in that usage, but I'm guessing it's probably due to the fact that he actually had no part in the IAU's separate and independent, (but for some reason, in total agreement with his), decision. It sounded to me like he was praising them, if anything, when talking about the voting procedures and naming rules, and that most hearings held by the IAU are simple, efficient and get the job done well without much debate. And those flaws that you mentioned? If you watch the video, they are not about the IAU, but in fact about the idea of worrying about something so petty as classifying something so complex as something so vague as a just a planet. Thus, the better name of plutoid was created to better describe similar, Pluto-like bodies. So, no real contradictions here boss. Let's keep going.
Secondly, Laurele, your points 3 & 4 are both asenine and irrelevant. If things worked the way you would like them to as described by these two points, then there would be no such thing as the scientific method at all! Just because it's what people want to be true doesn't simply make it true, no matter how many "songs and poems" have been written or how many "enthusiasts" wish it so. The simple fact is that the people who decided this are the best at what they do since they are the ones whose job it is to do it. And, (thank God for this), they looked at actual evidence and data without making any decisions beforehand and then had a vote based on the tangible, observational material they gathered. It's not like they went in the meeting with a menacing plan straight from the beginning to break up the "family" that is our solar system.
Your point number 5 is just as ridiculous as all your others and really needs little comment. Though, it was pretty amazing how you showed that Pluto is not a comet. It would have been just that more amazing if he had said that it was a comet instead of just comparing the two to show a common similarity between them.
The real main point of this that I want to get across, which also relates to all facets of science, (especially in evolution) is that although many people find some things like this hard to swallow; simply wishing something away does not make it happen. And, when confronted with something that goes against what you truly believe, it is not enough to simply show how the other person could be wrong through meaningless fallacies in their wording or small inconsistencies in an otherwise immensely complex and completely reasonable and sound theory or undertaking such as this.
Now, as you may have noticed, I did not make this comment in effort to try and prove that Pluto is not a planet. I only attempt to defend an extremely smart man who I expect knows exactly what he is talking about and who I know was not solely responsible for this ordeal. With that said, the bottom line is that you have to bring about counter evidence when supporting your own claim. Otherwise, you have no basis for rejecting another's views without an alternative you can back and it's just useless negative criticism. And though you may think that "thinking outside the box", or rejecting that which is given to you is what you're doing and is what real science is about; When it comes to a conclusion made by a committee of the top astronomical scientists who have huge amounts of knowledge and understanding of their fields? In your case, I would take what I was given.
Sorry for such a long comment of raging out . But, people who do not accept reasonable things for what they obviously are and, without reason, oppose something they really have no understanding of in exchange for something they feel comfortable with, disgust me and have no place commenting on the findings of real scientists and theorists who devote their lives to this stuff by finding answers to natural phenomenon using evidence. This is not to be confused with finding evidence for decisions one has already made about things that one shouldn't be making decisions about in the first place.
It's annoying to have someone pick apart your argument's fallacies rather than to dispute the actual argument itself isn't it? Well, this post is pretty late, so I doubt you'll even read this and I also doubt I'll get a reply. But, just let me know how that book is going. And, I'm sorry to say this, Laurele, but in my non-expert opinion, you have been what could be "accurately described" as pwnt .
"to be honest, it did feel like i was loosing a family member when i heard that Pluto wasnt going to be considered a planet anymore...
i dont think i agree with Pluto's demotion."
I respect your honesty and the deep family ties you felt having towards Pluto, but fortunately its "reclassification" has nothing to do with emotions nor feelings nor beliefs, it has to do with science: there are precise reasons to why this celestial body, Pluto, was formed with such an orbit which are different from the classified planets, it is important that such a distinction be made so to understand the different dynamics of our solar system formation.
hmm maybe I got it wrong but Mr. Tyson should reread his classics: accelaration has nothing to do with time contraction/dilatation, any body, even at constant velocity (accelaration being zero) will be subect to it.
In special relativity, the equation is:
dt' = dt. squareroot(1-(v/c)^2)
no accelaration there...
I don't quite understand why people are so concern over Pluto being knocked out of the term "planets".
Perhaps instead of calling it a "demotion" we really should just call it "reclassification".
I mean, its just a classification which would make (as Tyson had suggested) further references more easier. Calling it a star, planet, planetoid, asteroid, comet isn't in any way going to dishonor Pluto. It isn't stripping it of its dignity, or of anyone. Its just a classification!