Comment Archives: stories: Life + Outdoors: Field Notes

Re: “The Curious Case of Pluto

The author seems to have a sense of glee at the demotion of Pluto. Rubbing it in, as it were. All with old arguments and without any historical account of how the vote in 2006 went down. Only 232 or so members of the 10,000 strong IAU voted to demote Pluto in Prague on the last day of the General Assembly. Members who the Executive Committee and their lackeys knew were for Pluto's demotion were asked to stay for the surprise vote. The fix was in. Pro-Pluto speakers who happened to be at the session were cut off in mid-sentence. I watched the entire session on video.

Dwarf stars like our sun are still considered stars. Dwarf galaxies are still considered galaxies. Dwarf planets should be a subcategory of planets, like rogue planets should be. The definition of planets needs a redux.

The writer, instead of being excited about 2015 being the year of the dwarf planet, viz., Ceres, Charon, and Pluto, seems to gloat in the old hackneys arguments of Pluto haters who claim to have killed the planet and have stooped so low as to actually behead a Disney doll of Pluto.

The demotion of Pluto has nothing to do with Science. It was political, and it will not last. I am Ceres.

Posted by Mike Wrathell on 02/26/2015 at 12:20 PM

Re: “The Curious Case of Pluto

Pluto is still a true planet. There is absolutely no reason why the IAU definition, which constitutes one view in an ongoing debate, should be given privileged status as the "official definition" when the reality is it is just one of many currently in use.

Pluto is not suspect as a planet. Why should an object have to orbit in the same plane as Earth to be considered a planet? That type of thinking goes back to the pre-Copernican view in which Earth was seen to have a privileged position. The ecliptic is not even the path of the Sun; it is the path the Earth takes around the Sun. Mercury also has an elliptical orbit that is inclined to the ecliptic. Does this mean Mercury isn't a planet?

Pluto's orbit may be eccentric, but it is stable. Pluto will not crash into the Sun or into any other planets. Significantly, astronomers have discovered many giant exoplanets with orbits around their stars that are far more eccentric than Pluto's around the Sun. Does that mean these giant objects are not planets? Some hot Jupiters have close orbits that are not even stable, meaning they will eventually fall into their stars.

Many astronomers and planetary scientists never stopped viewing Pluto as planet. Only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial demotion, and most are not planetary scientists but other types of astronomers. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition of hundreds of professional astronomers led by New Horizons Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern. Ironically, Stern is the person who first coined the term "dwarf planet," but he did so intending to designate a third class of planets in addition to terrestrials and jovians, not to designate non-planets.

Stern and like-minded planetary scientists prefer an alternate definition, the geophysical planet definition, according to which a planet is any non-self-luminous spheroidal body orbiting a star, free floating in space, or even orbiting another planet. The only size that matters is that the object is big enough and massive enough to be squeezed into a round or nearly round shape, a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium. Pluto well exceeds that threshold, as does its moon Charon. Since Pluto-Charon orbit a barycenter outside of Pluto itself, that makes them a binary planet system.

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Posted by Laurel Kornfeld on 02/26/2015 at 9:36 AM

Re: “The Curious Case of Pluto

In my opinion, there's nothing to argue about here. I just wonder why some people are constantly trying to "denigrate" the 9th planet?

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Posted by Pavel Rezvushkin on 02/26/2015 at 5:53 AM

Re: “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Thanks for keeping books in our mind, especially in the health issue! Another local institution is the Northcoast Great Books Discussion Group, started in 1993. The rather advanced for its time website is We are coincidentally reading Don Quixote next month, so it would be a great time for folks in Northern Humboldt to join in the discussion.

Posted by Solomon Everta on 01/25/2015 at 5:56 AM

Re: “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Someone was puzzled by my byline. Groucho continued, "Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Posted by barryevans on 01/17/2015 at 9:36 AM

Re: “To Sleep, Perchance to be Brainwashed

Another good reason to keep my sons on a regular sleep schedule, and me too! Good article.

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Posted by Kama Hicks on 12/04/2014 at 9:35 AM

Re: “To Sleep, Perchance to be Brainwashed

The question "What is sleep" is the challenge now being presented to research scientists, and the winning answer(s) are to be chosen by thousands of eleven-year-old school children.
Discussed at:

Posted by JimPell on 12/04/2014 at 9:20 AM

Re: “The Kelsey Trail

Hi John, I'm indebted to you, I used your comprehensive and fascinating presentation on the Kelsey brothers extensively when writing my earlier story,…
Glad you like this one! Only so much I can do in 500-odd words...

Posted by barryevans on 11/21/2014 at 1:42 PM

Re: “The Kelsey Trail

great article Barry. For a more detailed look at the down side of the Kelsey Brothers in California take a look at:…

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Posted by John Parker on 11/20/2014 at 11:03 AM

Re: “Gutenberg's Legacy:

Thanks for this Geoff--I appreciate both pixels and paper, for all the reasons you mention (especially pixels for travel on my ipad mini). Carr's book is a great read, whether one agrees or not. I was annotating constantly. e.g. this: "...we are training our brains to pay attention to the crap." (Carr quoting Michael Merzenich.

Posted by barryevans on 11/01/2014 at 11:55 AM

Re: “Gutenberg's Legacy:

It is more than "ironic" that Carr's book is available on Kindle. That is the new printing press of our day. I come from the era of the print culture and I am now with my feet in both camps. I have seen no credible studies that support Carr's thesis. Bookmarks Magazine is quoted as saying "Many bought into his argument about the neurological effects of the Internet, but the more expert among them (Jonah Lehrer, for one) cited scientific evidence that such technologies actually benefit the mind." Citing "neurological evidence" is always a dangerous game because the technology and science in that field is a quickly moving target. There are many studies of universities using openly licensed, free electronic books in place of traditional textbooks and there is no significant difference in the success rates of students in those courses. In fact, because the stress of the textbook cost is eliminated, retention rates actually go up. Some of those studies were performed here at College of the Redwoods via the Kaleidoscope project. Much of the date can be found at Lumen Learning.… I personally enjoy reading on the internet - in an ereader, I can annotate, bookmark and easily share what I am reading with others. I can carry a dozen books with me to the cafe. I can also look up words and ideas. In fact, sometimes it is a more engaging experience. Also, some books are not available in our library - I don't have the luxury of driving down to the special collection in Stanford or Harvard. But much of what I need, I can find through Google Books. Anyway, I am a big McLuhan fan - always good to see someone writing about Gutenberg! :-)

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Posted by Geoff Cain1 on 10/30/2014 at 7:50 PM

Re: “Test Your Science Quotient

I found 2 meter deep powdery plankton.and tunnel.

Posted by Zoltan Welvart on 09/22/2014 at 6:05 PM

Re: “Baron Versus Mountain

La Grange Mine is now a Eagle Rock Quarry and under the direction of the Army Core of Engineers and they do a great polution...critters and trees.

Posted by Audra Homicz on 08/22/2014 at 12:02 PM

Re: “Test Your Science Quotient

I think the finding of plankton on the International Space Station as reported in Tass is interesting… My comment on it is:- This finding on the International Space Station makes it clear that the earth is surrounded by an aura of life, at least in the form of plankton. Though the particular type of plankton has not been identified, it has been established that it is not the type of plankton, which would have possibly been picked up from the delivery launch area of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan . Were the plankton picked up before launch, doubtless the extreme heat would have destroyed them. The ISS has been orbiting the earth since 1998 at an altitude of between 330 km / 205 mi and 435 km /270 mi It is clear that if they are first lifted from the sea into the atmosphere by rising air currents and winds, when those winds dissipate that the plankton carries on at their own steam as though drifting in the seas. The oceans have been here some 4,400 billion years, it must be posited that what ever means the plankton has used to make it into space onto the ISS, has been going on since that time. The unthinkable alternative is that the deeps, of space, is full of this life form, which of course will give the evolutionists new material, other than asteroids, with which to rework their theories of the seeding of life on earth.

Posted by Nat Turner on 08/21/2014 at 7:49 AM

Re: “Replicants, Unite!…
--this is Nick Bostrom's take on Hans Moravic on Rene Descartes "it's just a simulation anyway!" thoughts.

Posted by barryevans on 06/19/2014 at 9:02 PM

Re: “Whispers from the Birth of the Universe

Only I can talk to the dead.

Posted by Zoltan Welvart on 06/03/2014 at 7:56 AM

Re: “Homer's Wine-dark Sea (Part 1)

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Posted by Rosemary Carla on 05/03/2014 at 8:09 AM
Posted by barryevans on 04/28/2014 at 8:15 AM

Re: “Cancer: Evolution While-You-Wait

That is, SECOND leading cause of death (just). CDC reports for 2010 in the US:

Heart disease: 597,689
Cancer: 574,743
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
Alzheimer's disease: 83,494
Diabetes: 69,071
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364

Posted by barryevans on 04/10/2014 at 7:40 AM

Re: “Ben Kelsey: Arcata Founding Father, Trail Builder, Indian Killer

The March 18, 1850 Alta California lists Ben as being there but in the group opposed to killings....and that Sam Kelsey was one of the leaders. Sam is also named as a leader of this group in the paper on March 4, 1850.

Posted by Jim Goldrup on 04/09/2014 at 4:53 PM

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