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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hey! Give me back my planet-finder!

There's a Unitarian Universalist footnote to the news that Pluto is no longer a planet: The discover of the ill-fated astronomical entity formerly known as the ninth planet was, of course, a Unitarian. Poor Clyde Tombaugh. His widow, 94-year-old Patricia Tombaugh, tells Reuters that he would have accepted the scientific community's decision that eight is enough with equanimity: "Clyde would have said, 'Science is a progressive thing and if you're going to be a scientist and put your neck out, you're apt to have it bitten upon.'" I still say ouch.

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 24 August 2006 at 5:59 PM

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August 24, 2006 06:00 PM | Permalink for this comment

And what's next, famous-UU watchers? The news that oxygen isn't really an element?


August 24, 2006 08:31 PM | Permalink for this comment

Which leads me to the question:

What did "My Very Excellent Mother Just Serve Us Nine" of?



August 25, 2006 04:32 PM | Permalink for this comment

Hey, if you read the article on Tombaugh, you find out that he was continuing the work started by Percival Lowell. You would have to think that with a name like Lowell there has to be a Unitarian connection there as well.

Oh, and if you are interested in the whole Pluto controversy: folk-singer Christine Lavin has a song about it!

... and it is a doozy!


August 25, 2006 05:13 PM | Permalink for this comment

And what's next, famous-UU watchers? The news that oxygen isn't really an element?

Maybe. Or else the news that pulmonary circulation is a myth, or else the news that Pluto isn't really a god either.

Ron Robinson:

August 25, 2006 07:53 PM | Permalink for this comment

On a somewhat more serious, or autobiographical note, when the news came about Pluto being de-planeted, it reminded me of the days as a young teenager in love with the cosmos reading a young adult book about the discovery of Pluto by Tombaugh, and his status as an amateur scientist, and it thrilled me with the possibilities and imagination of what we, I, might be able to do. The sense of discovery was so enticing and a part of what being a teenager meant to me. I can almost, almost still see that little book on Discovering the Ninth Planet or whatever it was called, blue and white with the small planet pictured or drawn. The one farthest out. The horizon that made us wonder what was beyond it. I have to think that a lot of the astronomers who voted this week on Pluto might have been equally inspired by what Tombaugh did, and maybe from that same book, to pursue what they have and got them where they ended up being able to vote on such matters. There's some theology in there.


August 27, 2006 08:55 PM | Permalink for this comment

Just my luck. I, being a professional astronomer teaching his first intro astronomy lecture class, have to teach with one planet missing before the semester starts... but is it really? I just want to point out that Pluto did not stop being a planet. I merely acquired and adjective: Pluto is a dwarf planet now, and it will always be a part of my solar system, thank you very much. It is merely semantics, of course, just like in the UU merger when hundreds of thousands of Unitarians disappeared and/or became Universalist. Then they all attached the adjective Unitarian to confound cultural critics everywhere.

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