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Friday, August 25, 2006

"My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas"
Gail Heriot

Now that Pluto has been demoted to a "dwarf planet", it may be necessary to come up with a new mnemonic device for naming the planets.  I've heard "My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nachos" suggested, but it doesn't work as well, since nachos, unlike pizzas, are not usually delivered.

Pluto's demotion surely illustrates an important difference between scientists and lawyers.   Lawyers would have come up with a way to define "planet" that would grandfather in Pluto and yet avoid the possibility of having to recognize 3,000 oddball planets.  Maybe the lawyerly solution would not have been as neat and elegant as the scientific solution and maybe it would have caused problems somewhere down the road, but in the grand tradition of Edmund Burke it would have avoided distressing an elderly widow lady.

Pluto was my favorite planet.  I guess now it's my favorite dwarf planet.

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Gail Heriot


It's the old problem with reducto argumentation; You get to the point where you prove that any standard that labels Pluto a planet would take in 3000 other bodies, and somebody says, "So what?"

So what? What's the problem with calling 3000 bodies "planets"?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Aug 26, 2006 5:34:22 AM

Shouldn't that be "planet of restricted growth"?

Posted by: dearieme | Aug 26, 2006 10:35:41 AM

The definition should have been that a planet is any one of the following: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, or an analogous object orbiting a star other than the sun. The idea that there are nine planets is much too firmly engrained. Whatever definitional consistency these scientists were looking for isn't worth upsetting that.

Of course that mean that the definition of planet wouldn't really serve any legitimate scientific function, but I doubt the official definition is of much legitimate value either.

Posted by: FXKLM | Aug 26, 2006 10:49:10 AM

My dad taught me an evidently pre-1930 mnemonic, Men Very Early Make Jars Stand Upright Nicely. With Pluto added he added "Period," but now the old mnemonic works again. I don't know why he learned a Plutoless mnemonic, since he was born in 1940, but he did.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 28, 2006 11:22:57 AM

"Man Very Early Made Jars Serve Useful Needs"

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Posted by: | Mar 9, 2007 4:39:40 AM

Who gives a shit if nachos are not usually delivered. Mnemonic devices, like people, are both personal and sometimes or often illogical, and if one works for you, use it. Besides, the key word is sent not delivered. Mother "sent" us pizzas, not "delivered" or "had them drop-delivered" or whatever. Now, I'm making the argument that pizzas are not normally sent. Anyway, I received plenty of bagged nachos in my college care baskets that my mother SENT me.

Gawd, I hate being sick. All tired, weak and cranky as hell. Sorry.

Posted by: Cigarettes | Sep 24, 2008 5:05:30 PM

I'm always wondering why the universe keeps creating spheres in every creation, been a supernova, galaxy, planet, star, it is always a sphere, maybe we should pay attention to the sacred geometry that the ancient cultures use.

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