Join 3,552 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


That's Science!
March 15, 2010 1:51 PM   Subscribe

People have been upset about Pluto's demotion for some time now. (While classical music fans have just had a love/hate relationship with this whole process.) But astronomical hate mail has never been as cute as the missives Neil deGrasse Tyson has received over the years from tots upset at poor Pluto's ouster.
posted by greekphilosophy (46 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Call for Mr. brownpau. Brownpau to the courtesy phone.
posted by joelf at 1:56 PM on March 15, 2010


This is my favorite. :)
posted by zarq at 1:59 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


And also this one.

"Please write back, but not in cursive because I can't read in cursive." :D
posted by zarq at 2:01 PM on March 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


I must not be living my life right.

I don't have any hate mail from third graders.
posted by Zed at 2:09 PM on March 15, 2010


Well, Neil's been getting my love letters for the past 5 years or so, so it probably all balances out.
posted by Think_Long at 2:11 PM on March 15, 2010


The problem with the Holst's The Planets is that it doesn't really fit under any schema of the planets.

Pluto wasn't known at the time Holst wrote it, so there's no movement for Pluto, fair enough. But it was known then that the earth was a planet, yet Holst chose to leave it out. Because, the second link tells us, Earth has no astrological significance. But if we're going by astrology, the Sun and Moon are significant—generally considered more so than the others, even. So Holst's movements do not correspond to what was known to astronomers as planets at that time (which would have been Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune); nor astrological planets at the time (Sun, Mercury, Venus, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune); nor the "classical" planets (Sun, Mercury, Venus, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn; which also keeps the number at seven).

It's a nice piece of music, but Holst was pretty much using his own definition of planet (apparently, those bodies that were both astronomical planets and considered to have astrological significance).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:12 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holst was pretty much using his own definition of planet

He was taking artistic license.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:14 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Which is fine, I'm just saying we shouldn't confuse it for anything else.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:15 PM on March 15, 2010


This is my favorite. :)

I like how he's the one trying to cheer up Dr. Tyson.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:16 PM on March 15, 2010


Remember: Many Very Educated Men Just Screwed Up Nine.
posted by eriko at 2:17 PM on March 15, 2010 [8 favorites]


Let's just have the scientists agree that Pluto is an honorary planet. It seems to work for other things.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:19 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


We need to have a convention to work out how to pronounce U-R-A-N-U-S without making me smirk.
posted by Mister_A at 2:21 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh oh, Neil Degrasse Tyson is my favorite scientist! Don't miss Neil Degrasse Tyson talking about the letters and the Disney link. If you search Google Videos for Neil Degrasse Tyson, you can find these hourlong lectures and they're all wonderful.
posted by yaymukund at 2:24 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


What do you call Pluto if it's not a planet anymore? If you make it a planet again all the science books will be right. Do people live on Pluto? If there are people who live there they won't exist. Why can't Pluto be a planet? If it's small it doesn't mean it can't be a planet anymore. Some people like Pluto. If it doesn't exist, they won't have a favorite planet.

The passion and repetition reminds me of a Youtube comment. But letters from third graders are far more civil.
posted by joechip at 2:38 PM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


He was also on NPR's Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me! back in '07, and mentioned the controversy.
posted by zarq at 2:40 PM on March 15, 2010


I don't understand this controversy at all. I mean, who is the real victim here? Pluto has been parading itself around as a planet for decades, a designation it achieved through false pretenses! When the truth was finally discovered, I felt outraged and betrayed. How could you, Pluto? All those years of lies...

I thought the quiet recategorization of Pluto as king of the Kuiper Belt objects was too good, the astronomical equivalent of failing upwards. I demand a full accounting of Pluto's misdeeds!
posted by AlsoMike at 2:44 PM on March 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is my favorite. :)

That was pretty good. And it does inspire in me an urge to close all my messages going forward in a similar fashion.

Particularly in office correspondences.

quin
age 38
posted by quin at 2:48 PM on March 15, 2010 [7 favorites]


Astronomy is a field that can generate a lot of passion. As the face of an organization tasked with engaging the public's enthusiasm for the subject, I think Neil is doing a tremendous job to create 'controversy', and thus driving interest.

Incidentally, I was a summer student at Princeton astrophysics when Neil was a postdoc there. Nice guy. He liked tunafish, as I remember.

He has no idea who I am. sniff.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 2:51 PM on March 15, 2010


Which is fine, I'm just saying we shouldn't confuse it for anything else.

I was being jokey about it, but I don't think people read too much into the scientific angles of Holst's work.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:55 PM on March 15, 2010


I love this:

This is what it looks like.

It is a planet.

posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 2:57 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the whole Holst thing just plucks my OCD nerve. I remember sitting in a hotel room in Chartres, France deciphering a newspaper, when I ran across a review of Colin Matthews' additional movement. My French is terrible, so all I could really figure out was that he had written a movement to "complete" the suite. And I just remember thinking, "Finally..." and my soul let out a big old sigh and all was right in the world.

Until I noticed that there was a bidet in the bathroom. Those things just freak me the fuck out.
posted by greekphilosophy at 3:02 PM on March 15, 2010


I recently asked strangers on my college campus how many planets there were, to see if they could answer correctly a few years after the fact. About 60% correctly responded that there were eight, most others incorrectly responded that there were nine, and one responded "Seven - because Pluto's not a planet."
posted by LSK at 3:06 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Let's just have the scientists agree that Pluto is an honorary planet.

Or maybe like the Solar system equivalent of a featured player on Saturday Night Live? If it does some good work in the first couple seasons (e.g., Adam Sandler, Chris Rock), it'll be granted full cast member status. If not, it's a pat on the back and a cheap bus ticket back to the sticks (otherwise known as "the Siobhan Fallon Outcome").
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:11 PM on March 15, 2010


I am now completely in love with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Thank you for the post. /runs off to watch hours of him talk in his "planetarium voice". <3
posted by the_royal_we at 3:15 PM on March 15, 2010


Will is awesome. My math has him at about 17 now, and I can only imagine him as a sullen emo kid sitting in the back of his science class, mouthing mocking obscenities during every lecture. I mean, he's probably a totally well-adjusted lacrosse player or something, but I'm just saying.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:21 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorites were the drawing of Pluto in order to refresh Neil deGrasse Tyson's memory as to what it lookes like (a blue circle). And the kid who concluded that we have to get over it because it's science, and science makes you smart. You know what, kid? People many times your age have still to get that concept. Well done.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 3:49 PM on March 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


On his Nova show, he sometimes talks about evolution. Let's see the hate mail from those haters.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:06 PM on March 15, 2010


Maybe a Holst successor should step up with a new suite, “The Dwarf Planets.”

I'm down with that.
posted by ovvl at 4:11 PM on March 15, 2010


I recently asked strangers on my college campus how many planets there were, to see if they could answer correctly a few years after the fact. About 60% correctly responded that there were eight, most others incorrectly responded that there were nine, and one responded "Seven - because Pluto's not a planet."

Well, it depends on when you asked but if you were asking the number of known planets the correct answer should have been in the hundreds
posted by delmoi at 4:37 PM on March 15, 2010


Actually the controversy with Pluto came about because people discovered a Tenth planet, but then people argued that it wasn't a planet. The problem was there wasn't enough of a difference between it and Pluto to justify one being a planet and the other not. In fact Eris is larger then Pluto. Eris and Pluto both got demoted.

However, I still say it's B.S. Classification schemes are "Scientific" but there's nothing that makes one classification system any more scientific then any other. If you had said "Any object that meets criteria X, plus Pluto" it would still have been just as valid of a classification scheme.
posted by delmoi at 4:41 PM on March 15, 2010


So, all this is because Eris started all the strife and discord. But that's always the way with Eris, isn't it?

Now you know why Peleus and Thetis left her off their wedding invite list.
posted by darkstar at 4:50 PM on March 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


We need to have a convention to work out how to pronounce U-R-A-N-U-S without making me smirk.

If we'd stuck a little closer to the Greek pronunciation when we borrowed the word, it'd be "OOH - ra - noss." Which is sort of meta-snicker-inducing now (as in "Dude, there goes that guy who can't pronounce Uranus any of the normal ways without snickering so he has to say it that funny Greek way instead. Let's snicker at him!"), but if we'd gone with it from square one it'd be fine. Hook me up with a time machine and I'll go buy that Bill Herschel guy a beer and straighten this shit out.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:53 PM on March 15, 2010


Man, do not get me started about "Eris" -- the name should never have been changed. Discord was always the skankiest of the Raimi/Tapert goddesses.
posted by worldswalker at 5:05 PM on March 15, 2010


These are pretty effing cute.
posted by mindless progress at 5:06 PM on March 15, 2010


Origionally they were going to call it Xena
posted by delmoi at 5:28 PM on March 15, 2010


I have a man-crush on Neil deGrasse Tyson.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:35 PM on March 15, 2010


Or maybe a fish-crush.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:35 PM on March 15, 2010


ace. wonderful stuff.

i saw a video with NDT talking about ufo abductions. hilarious.
posted by marienbad at 7:12 PM on March 15, 2010


Do you know how many dwarf planets there are in this solar system?

Seven. That's right there are SEVEN little dwarfs.

Let that soak in for a little while.



Actually there are five, but wouldn't that be weird?



posted by Bonzai at 7:17 PM on March 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


(With several more candidates)
posted by Bonzai at 7:19 PM on March 15, 2010


What I liked best about the name Xena for the planetoid is that it starts with X, so planet X, 10th planet, you know...

Also Xena totally rocks.
posted by Mister_A at 7:27 PM on March 15, 2010


My soundtrack for this post would clearly have to be "I'm Your Moon" (SLYT) by Jonathan Coulton.
posted by mrmcsurly at 7:36 PM on March 15, 2010


So, all this is because Eris started all the strife and discord.

Indeed. That's why Mike Brown named Eris's moon Dysnomia and twitters as plutokiller.
posted by lukemeister at 9:19 PM on March 15, 2010


Wow, just tonight my five-year-old showed me a picture he'd drawn of "the new dwarf planet Xena" (which he insisted was pronounced "Ex-ena", no relation to X's singer), and I didn't realize it was Eris' old name. I'll have to break it to him tomorrow.

(He's the kind of kid who goes up to people and says, "Did you know? Eris' moon is called Dysnomia! It's true!")

I think the whole Pluto thing was just a PR disaster -- instead of presenting it like, "Pluto's not a planet anymore," it should have been "Now we've got five dwarf planets besides the eight regular ones! Kids, you can learn their names too! And Ceres and Eris rhyme, and Makemake is even more fun to say!" Instead the Pluto-demoters are just viewed as big meanies. (My mom, born in 1940, is still sad because Pluto was her favorite as a kid.)
posted by lisa g at 10:10 PM on March 15, 2010


Jesus Christ, not this again.
the number of planets in our solar system is much closer to 100 than it is to 7,8, or 9.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:44 AM on March 16, 2010


DevilsAdvocate,

I'm sure you are correct, but after a quick googling, I found this wikipedia reference:
"The concept of the work is astrological rather than astronomical (which is why Earth is not included)..."

But more to the point... As I understand it (per my brother, the classical music and astronomy brain), Holst knew that Earth was a planet, but did not include it, because Earth already had a piece of music - Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" (The Song of the Earth). But this may just be apocryphal.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:08 AM on March 16, 2010


« Older From a 2008 document titled "Wikileaks.org—An Onli...  |  A lot of people figure things ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments