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Illinois stands up for Pluto

The Illinois Senate, fresh off its conviction of former governor Rod Blagojevich in his impeachment trial, has taken a stand on another controversial issue: whether Pluto should be a planet. Really. Late last month the state senate passed SR0046, designates today, March 13, “Pluto Day”, in honor of the 79th anniversary of the announcement of its discovery. (Why Illinois? Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, was born in Streator, Illinois.)

In addition, the resolution notes that Pluto was “unfairly downgraded” by the IAU in 2006 to a new category, “dwarf planet”, a decision that remains controversial among astronomers to this day. In Illinois, though, that injustice is rectified: the resolution proclaims that “as Pluto passes overhead through Illinois’ night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status.” (The resolution doesn’t discuss what happens when Pluto is not above the horizon as seen from the state; does it revert to dwarf planet status then?) While the resolution delights those who are trying to restore Pluto to full planethood, astronomer Mike Brown worries that the Illinois Senate’s act “can be dangerous to public understanding of science”, he tells National Geographic News.

9 comments to Illinois stands up for Pluto

  • Most liberals can quote you Eisenhowers warning against the military industrial complex, but none of them will admit to the other warning he gave: against the techno-intellectual elites.

    Science is not the exclusive province of a few.

  • John Malkin

    Rod Blagojevich is the least of our problems. As a resident of Illinois, I’m disappointed and I still consider Pluto a dwarf planet but the first dwarf planet. Isn’t it better that he found the first of hundreds than the last of 9? At least they didn’t give it a corporate name.

    In Chicago, we are use to the renaming of landmarks like Comiskey Park [U.S. Cellular Field (The Cell)], Marshall Field’s (Macy’s) and Sears Tower (Willis Tower).

  • Freek Fest

    Science is not the exclusive province of a few.

    But you rabid gun toting Libertarian freeks certainly do have the crackpot and conspiracy aspects of science completely cornered.

  • SpaceMan

    Science is not the exclusive province of a few

    Obviously it isn’t a province you can operate in.

  • Chance

    Don’t feed the troll please.

    Anyway, from what I followed of the story, it’s not as if this Pluto issue is an open and shut case where 99% of astronomers agree. It seems more of a semantic argument than a real scientific one. If Illinois wants to call it a planet, I’m sure the republic will somehow survive, regardless of Mike Brown’s concerns.

  • Chance

    Heh. We should write a song: “Mike Brown’s Planetary Body”, as sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body”.

  • MarkWhittington

    The whole question of whether or not Pluto is a planet is not a scientific one, but a matter of semantics.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Dismissing this (fairly pathetic) argument as simply “a matter of semantics” is both true and naive. A lot of science is based on classification, and that includes, but is not restricted to semantics. I can call it Pluto or Otulp. That doesn’t matter. But when I say that it’s not like something, but like something else instead, that’s science.

  • […] Illinois stands up for Pluto – Space Politics […]

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