Friday, February 29, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The more I read about science-- "science," the more I am convinced that there really are no big questions out there anymore that remain to be answered, but scientists don't want to admit that and end up working at Starbucks, so they have just resorted to making things up to keep their jobs.
Exhibit A in my case against science was the very convincing proof that velociraptors never existed until scientists saw "Jurassic Park," realized that the entirely-fictional-velociraptors in that movie were cool, and decided to pretend that there really were such creatures. I guess we're just lucky that those same scientists didn't get around to seeing "Godzilla," since you can arrange those bones any old way you want to and we'll never know the difference.
Exhibit B now comes from the discovery of 73 million new planets in our solar system. Okay, maybe it's not 73 million, but it's a lot. 12. Or maybe 53. Or more. Maybe even the Moon is a planet! Maybe I am a planet.
(No weight jokes here. I've been working out. And doing yoga. It's all winter weight. My sweater just looks bulky. Leave me alone.)
Scientists, bored yesterday, decided to recast what makes a planet a planet. They abandoned the old definition of a 'planet.' A planet was defined (by NASA) as "a heavenly body other than a comet, asteroid, or satellite that travels in orbit around the Sun; also such a body orbiting another star." (Interestingly, a "planet" was defined by "Wikipedia" as "Adam Sandler's butt." All hail the knowledge of the masses!).
That definition -- which was very straightforward, and understandable, lacked a certain something, that something being "continued attention and employment for scientists." So instead, it was scrapped in favor of the new definition, in which a planet is "anything we say it is; we're the people with advanced degrees, so just shut up and go watch Tyra while sending us more research grants."
Under that definition, you can see how the number of planets can grow exponentially depending on how many children a scientist has in college at a given time. Whatever the actual number of planets in our solar system turns out to be, it will almost certainly need more money thrown at the problem.
And under the new definition, scientists have expanded the number of planets already to 12, including Pluto-- which famously became not a planet just last year but is now included because people missed it, and including the asteroid "Ceres," which is included because it's round. And the planets now include Pluto's moon, Charon. But not our moon. Yet. Maybe other moons, someday.
Oh, and the new planets are not quite planets, they are plutons. Keeping up with this? I hope not, because if you understand it the scientists will change it again to justify their existence. So pretend you don't get it and send them money.
But you're looking at that list and saying Wait a minute, hold on a sec, that's not 12 planets. Even adding Pluto back in and those other things I've never heard of, that's only 11. And you're right. There's also a new mysterious 12th planet, and, no, it's not Oprah's ego. It's "a far-out Pluto-sized object known as 2003 UB313."
That probably won't be its formal name. Here is what 2003 UB313 looks like:
And here is an artist's rendering of life as seen from the surface of 2003 UB313:
So you can see that 2003 UB313 is clearly a major planet, and probably friendly to us.
If you wanted further proof that science is just a bunch of screwed-up guys making it up as they go along in order to get publicity, consider this: Although the new definition includes 12 planets, the new award-winning mnemonic device to remember the planets includes only 11 planets. Here's the saying:
My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants.
Why'd they leave out Charon? Huh? Answer me that. I think they left it out for the same reason the stars never tell you the baby's name on the same day it's born -- because delaying that news gets an extra day of publicity. So J.Lo gives birth and they announce that and we all thrill to it, and then when the publicity dies down, J.Lo says Oh, by the way, the babies' names are Hector and Waverly and we all go nuts again.
That's what scientists are doing. While we'll all spend the day committing that saying to memory and reciting it, and singing along with the upcoming Lisa Loeb song about it...
...that's for real, she's really writing a song about it...
the scientists will sit back and wait until we're done with that and then they'll bump Charon into it and there'll be a whole new round of publicity with scientists and planets on the cover of "US SCIENCE WEEKLY" (Best and Worst Beach Bods and Periods of Orbital Frequency!) and we'll all fall for it again.
Haven't we had enough? Isn't science done? Can't they quit just making things up and messing with our heads? If they're worried about having to find real jobs, hey, I can sympathize -- I spend 98% of my day trying not to do any actual work, and the other 2% figuring out how to translate that into a raise. So I won't insist that they all start working the drive-through at Hardees's, even though that would mean that "fast food" would again be "fast." They could work on something else, instead, like discovering a way to make a snack chip that doesn't turn my fingertips all yellow. (Sweetie says the answer to that is to eat them without putting my fingers in my mouth, but if science has a purpose, it's to find a way to let me eat with putting my fingers in my mouth, right?)