Ken Jennings


August 26, 2006

pluto.jpgSo Pluto is history. At least at Disney-owned ABC News, the story includes a quote from a Disney spokesman reassuring us that Pluto the Pup has come to terms with the bad news.

I don’t see the need for all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over distraught schoolchildren, new textbooks, etc. It’s science. Stuff gets upgraded and downgraded and re-classified all the time.

So we lose Pluto, but since I left school, we’ve gained:

  • An ocean. In 2000, the Southern Ocean was “created” by some outfit called the International Hydrographic Organization, making headlines for the first and last time in its history.
  • A new “taste.” The receptor for umami, or “savouriness,” was discovered in 2000.
  • Two or three new taxonomic kingdoms. We learned animals, plants, and protists, but now, depending on who you ask, you can add Fungi and Monera, or replace the whole bunch with Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya.
  • Two food groups. Until 1992 it was fruits and veggies, meat, dairy, and grains. Now fruits and vegetables have split up (but who gets the kids? who gets tomatoes?), beans have moved in with meat, and there’s a little stripe for oils. A little tiny stripe, the government sternly reminds the fat kids.
  • A Great Lake. Apparently those nutty Vermonters, after a few bong hits, tend to consider Lake Champlain the “sixth Great Lake,” but only Patrick Leahy has tried to make it official, in 1998, for the purposes of the U.S. Sea Grant Program. After much amusement, this redefinition was “clarified” away two weeks later.

So don’t hyperventilate over Pluto. Busybody bureaucrats and scientists give, and busybody bureacrats and scientists take away. Tomorrow “indigo” will be gone from ROYGBIV, or there’ll be a new Lucky Charms marshmallow, or maybe a new eighth deadly sin. All part of life’s rich pageant.

Posted by Ken at 2:50 pm