Saturday, March 13, 2010

Being Pluto

I have to admit it. I'm one of those crazy, bored, obsessed people who spend at least one hour devoted to Facebook per day. I don't necessarily check on other people's profiles. I just stare and stare at my computer screen and if I happen to find someone to chat with, well, the one hour becomes two hours, then three, or more.

I once read an article somewhere which claimed that people who spend a lot of time on the internet, outside of the necessity of their livelihoods, are people who have lower EQs, who tend to procrastinate, and are less likely to succeed in their careers. Well, I guess you have to count me in. I do have a low EQ (no need to take the test), I do procrastinate all the time, and I really don't care about a successful career. So there. Happy, functional people, judge me.

Despite taking too much of my precious time, I can't help but be grateful for the internet because it has afforded me several life-changing opportunities. These social networking sites, ridiculous though they sound, have enabled me to reconnect with old childhood friends and long-lost cousins and uncles. Severed relationships were reconciled. Life-long friendships were established. I met one of my best ever friends in the internet. I found my long-lost brother-cousin in Facebook after more than 5 years of searching for him. So at the expense of being labeled as "low EQ", I'm indebted to the worldwide wed and so I'll try to stay on-line whenever I can.

Tonight, as I was reading through my 800+ friends' status updates, I found out that Pluto is no longer a planet. Whaaat?!?! How could this happen? I've lived my entire thirty years knowing that there are 9 planets in the solar system, and suddenly, somebody posts in Facebook: "It's ok Pluto. I'm not a planet too." So, low EQ as I was, I hurriedly Gooogled this new found information. Indeed, some facts we hold dear since childhood are apparently fiction. Call it a semantic atrocity, but sorry folks, Pluto is not a planet at all.

This isn't exactly new information, stupid me. Way back in 2006, the International Astronomical Union met in Prague and created a consensus on the definition of all celestial bodies. The National Geographic reports that according to the new definition, "a full-fledged planet is an object that orbits the sun and is large enough to have become round due to the force of its own gravity. In addition, a planet has to dominate the neighborhood around its orbit."

photo from

Pluto is not large enough. Its moon, Charon, is about half its size. While legitimate planets, being bodies that dominate their neighborhoods, "sweep up" asteroids, comets, and other debris, clearing a path along their orbits, Pluto does not. Its orbit is unpredictable and somewhat untidy. Because of this, Pluto has been demoted to a particular class of solar system entities called "solar system bodies," which would apply to many asteroids, comets, and moons. Hence, it is remarkable enough to be something, but just not special enough to be called a planet.

This new-found information depresses me somewhat. How much of the truths I accept to be true are actually false? Now, there are only 8 planets in the solar system. One day, I might find out that living things grow in Mars, or that the sun is not a ball of fire, or the moon is not round, that Aspirin is bad for the heart, or not everything that goes around comes around and not everyone who loves will be loved in return.

I wonder how it feels to be Pluto - to wake up one day and find out you're no longer a planet. To be relegated to a lower kind, despite giving your best, simply because you no longer fit a certain criteria arbitrarily set by "the experts". How does it feel to be classified under the category of "etcetera" or "otherwise unclassified" or "others"?

I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for Pluto. But at least Pluto will always have Charon, her moon.


Laurel Kornfeld said...

You only know part of the story regarding Pluto. Pluto is still a planet. Only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial demotion, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by New Horizons Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern. One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is it says dwarf planets are not planets at all! That is like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear, and it is inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies. Also, the IAU definition classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is essentially useless. Pluto is a planet because it is spherical, meaning it is large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity–a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium and characteristic of planets, not of shapeless asteroids held together by chemical bonds. These reasons are why many astronomers, lay people, and educators are either ignoring the demotion entirely or working to get it overturned. For more on why the IAU definition is wrong and on worldwide efforts to fight it, visit my Pluto Blog at

And don't believe everything you read. The article you read about people who spend a lot of time on the Internet--who knows if the author had any qualifications or scientific data to make those claims. Anyone can say anything online; that does not make what they say true.

Walking on Water said...

i don't really go for the facts, but the emotional significance of every information i read.
but yes, your points are much appreciated. thanks. =)

Reena said...

oh no. i spend a lot of time on the internet too. though FB has never ever taken my life. hahaha.

buti pa si pluto. where's my charon????

Walking on Water said...

you'll have your moon too, reena. someday you'll find out there's a moon revolving around you. =)

Reena said...

hahaha...moon aka stalker. i have one of those.