Science at home: The Pluto Files

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

I suspect that someday, when I’m not yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off my lawn, I’ll gather them ’round and tell them how, when I was their age, Pluto was a planet.

The demotion of Pluto from full planet status in 2006 surprised me, and I will admit to a pang of sadness upon realizing that my mnemonic device of “My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” would no longer work (“My Very Educated Mother Just Said Uh-oh, No Pluto?”). However, I didn’t begin to imagine just how much Pluto’s removal from our Solar System roster would upset the public and divide the scientific community.

Tomorrow, March 2nd, PBS premiers The Pluto Files, the inside story to “the rise and fall of America’s favorite planet” based on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book of the same name. If the program is anything like it’s preview, it should be a funny and interesting look at the little planet that was.

In addition to the program, PBS has released several short videos interviewing major news broadcasters on their opinion of Pluto and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Watch the clip below to hear Brian Williams proclaim that Tyson is not the boss of the Solar System, or him.

6 Responses to “Science at home: The Pluto Files”

  1. 1 Robyn March 1, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for the heads up! I’ll look for that tomorrow.

  2. 2 Linda March 2, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Looks fun, thanks Katie!

  3. 3 tburton1004 March 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    A delightful treat — not only a great illustration of how science works, but for me personally it was great to remember my own experience reading “The Search For Planet X” as a grade schooler, and how inspired I was by Clyde Tombaugh’s story.

  4. 4 Laurel Kornfeld March 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Pluto is still a planet, and there is no need for pangs or sadness. Tyson’s program made it very clear there is no consensus among astronomers as to Pluto’s status, and the debate is very much ongoing. The important thing to realize is something does not become fact just because a small group decrees it so. Only four percent of the IAU voted on this, and most are not planetary scientists. Hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern immediately signed a petition rejecting their decision. Pluto is large enough to be rounded by its own gravity, and it orbits the sun, which to many astronomers makes it a legitimate planet.

  5. 5 Linda March 3, 2010 at 7:52 am

    This was a great show, thanks! I did love the part where the Streater resident, defending Pluto’s demotion against the Illnois legislature’s decision to ignore it, says “It’s Science! You can’t just change it with a vote!” Awkward?

  1. 1 Pluto: The Biggest Dwarf Planet? « More to Explore Trackback on November 23, 2010 at 9:41 am
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March 2010

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