Monthly Archives: August 2006

Stupid Weather!

Aw, I was hoping for the space shuttle Atlantis launch on Sunday afternoon, but it looks like the launch pad structure was hit by lightning on Friday, so they're postponing for about 24 hours to check things out.

They say it was the lightning stike was the largest one they've ever had on the pad. I wonder how hard it would be for them to just stick up a giant lightning rod that would deflect the charge away from the entire launch structure? Oh wait, they do have one, sticking right off the top of the launch complex… huh… maybe they could have engineered it a little better so the orbiter wouldn't get damaged when it gets hit? I dunno…

There's also been mention that they might have to delay the launch because a tropical storm could threaten Mission Control is Houston later in the week.

Stupid weather.

By the way, I watched the International Space Station fly over again last night. It's not a terribly exciting activity, but when there's nothing else to do it's kinda cool to watch, I guess.

Planets and Dwarf Planets

It looks like we've got an official definition of planet now, and it excludes Pluto. Yay! Actually, Pluto is now a “dwarf planet”, along with probably a dozen or so other objects in the solar system (including Ceres, previously called an asteroid, 2003 UB213, and others). For some reason they decided not to call Charon (largest moon of Pluto) a dwarf planet. They were going to call these things “plutons” instead of “dwarf planets”, but a bunch of geologists yelled about the fact that “pluton” already has a definition. Like English doesn't have words with multiple definitions already? Oh well.

So, I'm somewhat happy now. Pluto's not a planet anymore, which is what I wanted. It's too bad Luna can't become one, but oh well. I can live with that. 🙂

Das ist alles für heute!

Planets

There has been a lot of discussion in recent years, and in particular the past week, about the definition of “planet”. This is the result of, among other things, the discovery of more objects similar to Pluto in the Solar system. Astronomers have been debating furiously about whether to call these new objects planets, like we did Pluto.

The International Astronomical Union has proposed the following “official” definition for “planet”:

A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet.

I do have to say it would be nice to have a definition that everyone uses… but I don't like this definition so much. First of all, I didn't think Pluto should be a planet. It doesn't resemble any of the other current planets in any way. This definition not only keeps Pluto a planet, but makes its largest moon, Charon, a planet as well. It also adds Ceres (an asteroid) and 2003 UB313 (a Kuiper Belt object slightly larger than Pluto).

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon, 2003 UB313

This part isn't so annoying, really. We could change the textbooks to have these 12 planets and be happy. But we are going to discover more objects that fit this definition. As we do so, we'll have to change the textbooks again and again. Ugh.

Personally, I thought we should drop Pluto from the list of planets and add Earth's moon (which I'd prefer to call Luna). Pluto probably wouldn't have been called a planet except we first thought it was the size of Earth, in 1930. Then I'd make a definition for “planet” something like: “Any object larger than or equal in mass to Luna which orbits a star and is not a star.”

I dunno… people were so worried about Pluto being dropped from textbooks, but now we just have to add 3 more to textbooks, and keep adding over time.

We should recognize our mistakes and correct them instead of making more mistakes.

As it ends…

I've decided not to provide my full technical review of “Back to the Moon,” because I don't want to ruin a good story like that… because the author already ruined the good story by writing the last chapter. The story was great and would have had a great ending without that chapter. Instead, after writing a story about one of his dreams, he has to shove in all the rest of his dreams into the last chapter to make sure they get out. The entire last chapter could have easilly made another book or two.

So for anyone who hasn't read this book yet, I recommend that you do read it, just not the last chapter.

Life would be easier…

Life would be easier if fish didn't have bones. At least, it'd be easier to eat them that way. I say this only because I'm trying to eat some fresh salmon that has lots of bones in it.

In fact, it would be easier if all the animals we eat didn't have bones. Hrm… Or blood vessels! I don't like eating chicken off the bone because I sometimes find blood vessels in there. Ew. Somehow eating an animal's muscles doesn't bother me, though.

By the way, in the future expect a technical review from me of “Back to the Moon” by Homer H. Hickam, Jr. It's a good story and all, but there are a few problems I've found with the technical aspects of it. I'm trying to keep a log of the things I notice, which I will clean up and post for ya.

Now I shall get back to reading that…