Riding Shotgun: Kill All Astronomers

Why I’m pissed off about this Pluto’s-not-a-planet thing.

They lied to us! There I was, an impressionable little child, and I was lied to like a virgin on prom night. Just because they were adults, they thought they knew better. They didn’t mind slipping a half-truth or three to the young-uns just to shut ’em up. Bastards!

Santa-who? No, this isn’t about Santa Claus. Screw Santa. I figured that shit out when I was six after I caught my Dad setting up the electric train set at two in the morning. I’m talking about Pluto.

That’s right — Pluto! Yeah, not a planet anymore. What the hell’s up with that? Stop that. Stop talking science to me. I don’t want to hear about the difference between a planet and a dwarf planet. Dwarf planets are planets too, motherfucker! And they prefer to be called “little planets,” thank you very much. Next thing you know, Jupiter will be considered too fat to be a planet. It’ll be an “obese planetary body” and be forced to buy two tickets when flying Southwest. And there are other “dwarf planets” in the solar system? And one of them is nicknamed Xena. What Lucy Lawless-obsessed telescope jockey made that call?

And what about that stupid saying that every elementary schooler but me memorized to learn the planets? My (Mercury) very (Venus) educated (Earth) mother (Mars) just (Jupiter) served (Saturn) us (Uranus) nine (Neptune) pizzas (Pluto). No more pizza? Or pie, or pickles, or whatever late night snack you used? Now what? Marvin’s vat-grown emu meat jellified sitting underwater now. More velociraptors engaged melba jujitsu samurai underwear neener-neener.

See, it doesn’t work.

The things this does to my childhood, I can’t even tell you. There are certain things we all learned growing up and, while we might not expect them to stay learned, we at least expect the things we learned to stay true. If there were two things I knew for certain as a child, it was that there were nine planets in the solar system and that the Ice Age killed the dinosaurs.

What?! Oh, those whores!

That’s right: No Ice Age! It was a meteor. They taught us that the the all-time awesomest animals ever to walk the planet died off because it got cold and they didn’t have fur coats. Pussies! Now, according to the folks at the U.S. Geological Survey, there is plenty of evidence that a massive meteor impacted the earth sometime around the end of the Cretaceous, blowing an Armageddon-scale cloud of dust and debris into the sky that blotted out the sun for years. Hands down, a much cooler way to die. It would have made playing “Global Extinction Event” with my toy dinosaurs a lot more fun. There are only so many you can fit into the ice-cube trays.

Oh, and the Brontosaurus? The yin to Tyrannosaurus’s yang? Doesn’t exist! Actually an Apatosaurus — they (and by “they,” I mean the same fuckers who just tossed Pluto on the trash heap of scientific history) screwed up. The former means “thunder lizard”; the latter means “lying douchebag that nobody likes because he’s no Brontosaurus.”

So, in closing, my assholes of the month? The International Astronomical Union. Some of its members seem confused as to why the world seems so sentimentally attached to Pluto as a planet. Perhaps if someone told them about the Brontosaurus, they would understand.

But they are scientists with no souls, and so I suppose they can be forgiven. But not by me. I will hate the Apatosaurus until the day I die, and the Apatosaurus is far more likable than the IAU.

And not by the Plutonians who, when they one day descend in their starfaring ships, will greet us all with fresh-baked peanut-butter pie and the cure to cancer, and then probe the fuck out of all the astronomers.

Article © 2006 by Steve Spotswood