Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Who Are the "Plutophiles?"

After reading Time magazine's interview with Neil de Grasse Tyson, I would like to comment on a statement Tyson makes regarding "Plutophiles," a term he uses for supporters of Pluto's planet status. Tyson is wrong when he says "Plutophiles" are only Americans. I have heard from and read writings by people from all over the world who want to see Pluto reinstated as a bona fide planet, not a dwarf, people from Australia, England, Canada, New Zealand, Egypt, the Philippines, Morocco, India, Pakistan, and many other locations.

But one does not have to take my word for it. There are Internet groups and web sites all over the world organized by people who want to see Pluto reinstated as well as see dwarf planets categorized as a subclass of planets. There are astronomers worldwide, some of whom are IAU members, others who are not, who reject the IAU demotion of Pluto. Some of them were at the Great Planet Debate.  One can see names from around the world in Dr. Stern's petition of 300 professional astronomers who rejected the IAU decision, which can be found here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/planetprotest/

Tyson also overly emphasizes the connection with the Disney dog, to which he attributes much of the public's fascination with Pluto. This is quite a supposition and assumes he knows the motivation of people who want to see Pluto's planet status reinstated. What he does not take into account is that many "Plutophiles" are amateur astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts (both adults and children) whose interest in Pluto the planet is completely independent of Disney. Of the many adults and children with whom I have corresponded or whom I have met, none even mentioned Disney in connection with their convictions about Pluto.

I tried to email Gilbert Cruz, writer of the interview, but all four attempts resulted in a bouncing email address. If anyone has contact information for him at Time magazine, please share it with me.

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