Professor Mike Brown killed an entire planet.
Now I’m not talking something along the lines of Star Trek (2009) when Nero created a black hole at Vulcan’s core and the planet was devoured. Or as in Star Wars when Tarkin used the Death Star to obliterate Alderaan. But still, it was a crime nonetheless.
Professor Brown visited the the University of Toronto two weeks ago to deliver a talk entitled, “Pluto is Still Dead and Other Good News.” That’s just mean.
In 2003, Professor Brown discovered something orbiting beyond Pluto. Eris, slightly larger than Pluto, takes 557 years to orbit the sun and is, like Pluto, on a largely inclined plane. So was Professor Brown the discoverer of the 10th planet? Nope. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to hold a vote to define what a planet is. This was their conclusion. (As an aside, Eris was the goddess of discord and strife. She definitely caused discord in the astronomical community.)
Basically, because Pluto hasn’t cleared its orbit (Pluto crosses Neptune’s orbit once every 228 years), it is not a planet. Eris isn’t, either. Pluto, Eris and Ceres would all be called “dwarf planets” from now on. Look, I understand the scientific arguments behind the demotion. But really . . . couldn’t we have left poor Pluto alone? Used some “grandfather clause” to help him retain some dignity? Sadly, no. The IAU had laid down the law.
When I went to the University of Toronto talk, I gave him the stink-eye. I wanted so badly to dislike the man. But . . . sigh. His talk was engaging, and he had all these fancy “scientific facts” to back up his argument for Pluto’s demotion. Bloody hell. But it didn’t matter! Pluto was in the hearts of many people . . . AS A FULL-BLOWN PLANET!
I lined up to have him sign his book, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. I knew I had to say something about his crime against the solar system. I told him that I was a Pluto-lover; that I was upset with him. He smiled politely (like he hadn’t heard that before). I said, “Demoting it makes Pluto sound so . . . inferior.” He said, “It IS inferior!” Well, Professor Brown, I thought, hold on to your hat. I was prepared to counter his argument with my own. So I grabbed my book and said, “Lalalala . . . I can’t hear you!” while I walked away, covering my ears.
I showed him.
(Read this article where I am featured as a Pluto-lover.)