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Plutoids: a new class of objects beyond Neptune, Astronomy, politics or damage control
Classification of Pluto
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Greg Hullender
post Jun 19 2008, 10:32 PM
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Sigh. People are getting too serious again; it's probably time for someone to delete the thread.

My point was that in language the whole isn't always the sum of its parts. On reflection, trying to work in the Mark Twain quip about lightning/lightning bug was probably too cute. Here's one I'm sure you'll love. A "minor planet" isn't a planet. Anyone disagree? :-)

Summary: If you want to argue the term is bad, do it on a scientific basis. Don't appeal to linguistics.

--Greg
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David
post Jun 20 2008, 01:35 AM
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QUOTE (Greg Hullender @ Jun 19 2008, 10:32 PM) *
My point was that in language the whole isn't always the sum of its parts. On reflection, trying to work in the Mark Twain quip about lightning/lightning bug was probably too cute. Here's one I'm sure you'll love. A "minor planet" isn't a planet. Anyone disagree? :-)

Summary: If you want to argue the term is bad, do it on a scientific basis. Don't appeal to linguistics.


I hope you weren't intending to suggest that linguistics isn't a science. tongue.gif But of course, as a science, it deals with different questions than astronomy: it doesn't answer the question of how the natural world is categorized (if at all), but rather how human minds categorize their experiences using language. To some extent, both questions are being discussed here, which is itself a kind of category error; the two questions "is Pluto a different category of object from Mercury" and "does it make sense to call that category, if it exists, 'dwarf planet' or 'plutoid'" are just not the same kind of question.

As for "minor planets" vs. "planets" -- this is a bit of terminological sloppiness. From Copernicus on down to the turn of the 19th century, anything (other than comets) that orbited the Sun was a "planet" -- even moons were "planets" in some astronomical writings for a while. When asteroids popped up, they were "planets" too, to everybody but the far-sighted William Herschel. When the asteroids were finally downgraded, they remained, in a sense, "planets" -- just "minor" ones. The other eight objects should have been "major planets", but as they were the ones that had been called "planets" from a much earlier period, it was easier just to say "planet" instead of "major planet".

But if we wish terminological consistency, then "planet" should be the general name for any periodic object in solar orbit, and "planets" can then be subdivided into "major" and "minor" -- and now, apparently, "dwarf". But of course terminology is not consistent.
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tedstryk
post Jun 20 2008, 01:40 AM
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QUOTE (dvandorn @ Jun 19 2008, 06:35 PM) *
(OK -- so I'm just thinking, if you could get the average NASCAR fan interested in the Solar System, it would have to be a good thing... *grin*...)

-the other Doug


Easy on NASCAR fans biggrin.gif


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