Pluto and other matters

Following the slow progress of the Middle Ages, it seems that the world has had a major upheaval over the course of every century since the Reformation. Compare how far we have changed culturally since 1906 and compare the attitudes of 1806 to the repressed Victorian austerity of the end of that century. The face of the world map has changed over the course of wars of empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the World Wars of the twentieth century. Now the Far East is rising anew, the Middle East is rebuilding itself following the illogical jigsaw Europe made of it and our religious culture is changing again. Everything you knew as a child is about to change forever.

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. A mantra driven into us since primary school is re-written on a Tuesday night. It had to happen, of course. With such a loose definition of planets, the astronomical community was in danger of falling into a dogmatic system based on an idea that ‘these are the planets because they have always been the planets’. Let’s face it, this is as convincing an argument for a view of the world as, ‘it says so in the Bible’. I’ve been despairing for a while that the scientific community is sometimes more prone to dogmatism that the Catholic Church (how in the Ten Circles of Hell has the ‘Big Bang’ theory maintained its position as the leading explanation of the Origin of the Universe, I cannot fathom…) but this proves that there is still some room for genuine empiricism in scientific research.

I only wish it didn’t make me feel so old. I’m twenty-one, for Christ’s sake! I shouldn’t be seeing a deep-seated scientific idea reach the end of its era at my time of life! Give me another twenty years of blissful ignorance, for crying out loud! I hadn’t even heard of Ceres before last Thursday and now Sedna, Orcus, Quaoar, Varuna, and Ixion need to be included in my astronomical mental map. My computer’s spell checker has underlined them in red! And the children! Won’t somebody please think of the children! Nine planets were enough of a bitch to remember at eight years old; how the hell are the new generation going to cope with twenty-two? Let’s face facts, the new generation are thick as pig-shit compared to us (thank you New Labour, your education reforms have done us proud – sure, they know what an adverb is, but they can’t tell France from China or William the Conqueror from Attila the Hun); their little brains will surely melt if they have to remember a list that long. I can see this spelling the end for children’s interest in physics but what the hell. The lazy little shits of my generation are all doing media studies degrees and courses in journalism. We may as well complicate our world view, ’cos the kids aren’t going to bother learning more about it.

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~ by Scary Rob on 20 August, 2006.

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