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Alan Stern gives the IAU a piece of his mind

New Horizons’ principle investigator yesterday told the International Astronomical Union what he thinks of their definition of a planet:

“It’s bulls—,” he told Tech Insider (and said we could quote him on that).

The problem, Stern said, is that the reclassification largely stemmed from the opinions of astronomers, not planetary scientists. His beef here is that astronomers study a large variety of celestial objects and cosmic phenomena, while planetary scientists focus solely on planets, moons, and planetary systems.

“Why would you listen to an astronomer about a planet?” Stern said. He compared it to going to a podiatrist for brain surgery instead of a brain surgeon. “Even though they’re both doctors, they have different expertise,” Stern said. “You really should listen to planetary scientists that know something about this subject. When we look at an object like Pluto, we don’t know what else to call it.”

Stern’s opinion is not unique among planetary scientists. I have interviewed many, and read reports by others, which consistently say that they object strongly to the IAU’s definition. To them, if a object has enough mass to force it into a sphercial shape, it is a planet.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

5 comments

  • D.K. Williams

    Planet Pluto. Period.

  • Jamie Menzing

    Neil ‘coup’ Degrasse Tyson will not be happy with your opinion. That arrogant ass said he didn’t care if the IAU classified Pluto as a planet. He wouldn’t recognize it because Pluto is a Kuiper Belt object. It’s difficult to do proper work when Hollywood scientists stick their know it all attitude on television.

  • Tyson’s existence and success, poor scientist as he is, speaks more badly of today’s society than it does of him. He is the person our media and public has decided to anoint as their representative of science. Worse, even after he is exposed as having done faulty work, falsifying quotes and facts, he continues to be supported and touted.

  • I find it somewhat bothersome that we as collective conciosness continue to fight and squabble over such mundane and what I call needless bullying.. I just think mankind could be putting it’s energies into something better than trashing on Neil regardless of any opinion.. I’m actually surprised that everyone’s not talking about the Kardashian empire or why Bruce’s transgender? I mean really people can we please get it together here. A higher state of conciosness is within our grasp please let’s work together for a main purpose and way of life that doesn’t have to do with mass marketing starvation and viagra mixed with depression and nicotine? Let us learn to become the amazingly beautiful lifeforce we deserve to be. #GLOBALPEACEoneLove

  • So I guess to you, telling the truth and getting the facts right doesn’t matter. Tyson is your hero, and he can do whatever he wants, no matter how egregious, and you will support him blindly.

    This doesn’t seem to me to a very good basis for a just society. Blind loyalty to bad behavior will only encourage bad leaders who will do bad things. You might want to think about this a bit.

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