Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Planetizing Pluto

It seems that main reason why we care so much about what is and is not a planet is due to the Astrological origins of Astronomy. The word "planet" is derived from a Greek word for "wanderer", as in a star that wanders around the sky. Earth wasn't considered a planet by this ancient definition.

Today, the term planet isn't special, and things we call planets shouldn't be special either. The current definition of the word "planet" by IAU doesn't make any sense since it pretty much invalidates all the planets of "planet" status with the 2006 addition "A planet is a celestial body that has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."  For example, Pluto is tied to Neptune's orbit. So, technically, Neptune's orbit hasn't been cleared of other objects (the biggest being Pluto's system), so Neptune isn't a planet. IAU definition presents us with a mess. We need to stop treating the word "planet" like it's some special term. "Planet" is just a word and it should be used to describe a well defined class of objects that aren't determined by ancient superstitions.

Always emotions

One of the common statements by those who argue against the application of the term "planet" to Pluto is that those who want to categorize Pluto as a planet want this for "mostly for emotional reasons".  However, the very reason Pluto was "demoted" was for mostly emotional reasons. Here's how:

The definition of "planet" adopted in 2006 by the IAU actually invalidates all other planets from the class as well, particularly the big ones.  Also, the IAU still named Pluto a type of planet called "Dwarf Planet" while in the same breath saying that it is no longer a planet.  These oversights were due to the 2006 definition not being vetted by scientists in the field of study (which is supposedly a violation of IAU policy).  Why was this definition pushed so hard that it by-passed normal procedures?  Someone was trying to game the system.

In my opinion, the whole thing is a mess because Michael Brown (self-described "Pluto Killer") and others of similar opinions wanted to have some fun trolling the IAU.  He has reportedly stated many times how much fun he had with the reclassification of Pluto.  If anything is emotional, it was the whole effort to "demote" Pluto for a bit of fun.

A Different Perspective

What would our thoughts be if we evolved on a rocky orb that revolved around some Gas Giant?  If we looked out at this alternative solar system, we'd see all these other rocky orbs; some orbiting one of several Gas Giants and some orbiting the primary star.  Would all the Gas Giants be known by the same name that we'd called our own rocky orb?  No. We'd call the Gas Giants something else, and all the rocky orbs would be called by the same classification as our own world, regardless to them orbiting a Gas Giant or orbiting the star.  There wouldn't even be a concept of "moon".

The main reason we have trouble with this whole "moon" and "planet" classification is because of our own Earth-centric view of our solar system. The reason some people try to protect the word "planet" is rooted in ancient superstitions that people don't realize they are still perpetuating.  We need to break free of this ancient beliefs and just use science to categorize things in a neutral and fact based manner.  We need a real definition for the word "planet" which isn't implemented for unvetted and emotional reasons, but rather being based on hard facts.  We need a definition developed by a body of Planetary Scientists who base their conclusions on geophysical traits.

For more information about Pluto and New Horizons, please read Chasing New Horizons.

Monday, March 13, 2017

60 cents equals 1.43 dollars

It's one those mornings where I pay cash for some breakfast and the math works out to this:
  • Check = $6.42
  • Cash = $7.02 (five dollar bill, two dollar coins and two pennies)
  • and the change you get back is $1.43. 
Being the guy that I am, I don't attempt to just take the extra 83¢.  Knowing that something is seriously wrong since there's a dollar bill and 3 pennies in my change, I immediately notify the cashier that something is wrong.

The cashier tells me she thought the two dollar coins were quarters.  Of course, that meant that the change she should have given me based on this mistake was 10¢, not $1.43.  So, the manager comes over to help out.  At first, he insists that my bill was $6.52 (the change that the cashier thought I tendered). I had to correct him twice.  He finally figures it out, takes the change back and hands me 50¢.  I don't know where everyone learned math, but that isn't quite right either.  After correcting him one last time, I finally get back my 60¢ change.

That will learn me not to pay cash!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Is it really Frankenstein's Monster?

Frankenstein comicIs the term really "Frankenstein's Monster" rather than just "Frankenstein" when talking about the monster?  How often has the term "Frankenstein's Monster" really appeared anywhere?   Why is there confusion about the monster's name?  Well, that's because he isn't actually given a proper name in the original story by Mary Shelley.

Without much context, a quick search on Google ngram reveals that the term "Frankenstein's Monster" does indeed show up in literature.  However, going back to 1800 finds that the term really didn't get started until well after 1870. Beyond that, the term wasn't really in use until the 1960's. Just for reference, the Frankenstein book was originally published in 1818.

So, what do we get when we compare the usage of the term "Frankenstein's Monster" with usage of just the name "Frankenstein"?

Well, usage of "Frankenstein" does occur well before 1818.  That makes sense since it is a real surname.  However, taking pre-1818 use of the name as noise, there is still substantial use of the term "Frankenstein" from 1818 and on.  "Frankenstein" appears so often that it literally relegates the use of "Frankenstein's Monster" to well below that of background noise.  Usage of "Frankenstein's Monster" is less than a blip, even nowadays.

Beyond that, is the distinction between the mad scientist and his monster really all that important, namewise?  If we count the monster as the scientist's child in a manner of speaking, the monster would carry the scientist's surname anyway.  Both the monster and the scientist carry the name "Frankenstein".  Maybe instead of trying to impose a ill-accepted term like "Frankenstein's Monster", we simply use the term "Dr. Frankenstein" for the mad scientist and "Frankenstein" for the monster.

"Dr. Frankenstein" appears orders-of-magnitude more often than "Frankenstein's Monster".  And, it's a bit more of a blip when compared to just "Frankenstein".

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Stopped in L.A.

While running around L.A. with Allie after SOLIDWORKS World 2017, I was approached twice over the weekend in early February.

We were queued for a ride at an amusement part.  The guy behind Allie and I got my attention and asked, "Are you in a recent movie?  I feel like I've seen you somewhere."  Now, if I had been such a D-list star that someone kinda recognized me but didn't know for sure, I might have been mildly insulted.  But, as it turns how, I am not a star.  I'm just a guy that gets mistaken for other people from time to time.  Instead, I'm mildly amused.  Sorry, no point in getting a photo with me or having my autograph.
The next day, Allie and I were walking along Venice Beach.  We had just spotted Emma Roberts on the walk down to the beach, but she looked busy on the phone as she rushed into a wardrobe trailer.  Anyway, down on Venice Beach, this one guy road up to us on his bike.  He didn't recognize me so much as he recognized the shirt I wore.  It was a t-shirt from SOLIDWORKS World 2017.  He is a SOLIDWORKS user who didn't get to go to the conference this year even though it was in L.A.  The conversation was pleasant, but soon enough, Allie and I were on our way down the beach again.

Of course, as an employee of Dassault Systemes that supports the development of SOLIDWORKS products, I expect to be approached at the SOLIDWORKS World 2017 conference.  However, SOLIDWORKS is well enough known that anyone wearing the company shirts or even t-shirts will be approached from time to time just for that alone.  I actually try to avoid wearing the actual company shirts when travelling or attending any nonwork event.  You'll never know when someone will approach you to talk shop, not that I mind all the much.  It's just nice to keep the universes separate when I'm out with my wife or focused on getting somewhere.