Thursday, January 22, 2009

Science Education

I got to do a little consulting work on my daughter's science project. She is covering some of the stuff that light does, and my input was pretty much limited to "More sparkles! More sparkles! What? You think we are entering some kind of national glitter shortage?"
But I had the opportunity to go through Gwynyth's science book, too.
The book is titled originally enough "South Carolina Science", and the first chapter on evolution included this charming graphic:

Yes. That is Jesus riding a dinosaur.
Probably a baby dinosaur. It is adorable.
I decided to find out what other things I could discover in the world of South Carolina Science.
Pluto = Not a planet.
Fine. A lot of people seem to make a big deal about that, though.
Pluto has a lot of planet-like stuff going for it. It's got Earth beat for number of moons, for instance.
It orbits the same star we do.
It rotates to experience a night and a day cycle.
But there are distinctions which make a lot of nerds behave a little hatefully toward it.
It was only first officially documented in 1930 after hiding from astronomers for a quarter century, which probably pissed them off to begin with.
Also, it is small. The small are almost always picked on mercilessly. It is the way of nerds and the way of the cool kids.
But really, I think the whole matter is actually none of our business.
What Pluto is or isn't is between Pluto and Charon and Nix and Hydra.
It isn't like Pluto is coming into my living room and making my child watch it be a planet with its moon. Pluto seems pretty content just staying out of the way of the more mainstream planets.
It should be afforded the same rights as those planets, though, since some of those aren't really shining examples of planetness.
Jupiter? Giant ball of gas.
Mercury isn't one to judge based on size, either.
The least we can do, while we are slapping labels on things, is to make them all read the same thing.
Calling Pluto a planet doesn't make Earth an irregular-shaped lump of frozen methane.
At least I hope it doesn't.

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