13 March 2009

It's smaller than the Moon, and your mom

Apparently, I talk more about Pluto than I do about anything else in astronomy in the blog. To me, that betrays two things: I don't have a deep enough interest in astronomy to study it for a living, and I am passionate about how people are under-informed about this world's proper, albeit poorly named, status.

I'm breaking this rant down based on all the foolish reasons my home state's Senate has used to justify their resolution for Pluto being a planet as it passes "overhead through Illinois' night skies."
WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh is so far the only Illinoisan and only American to ever discover a planet;
This operates on the conceit that Pluto may be defined as a planet. If that is the case, then Eris must be defined as a planet as well. The discovers of Eris are all American, and one (Chad Trujillo) grew up in Oak Park, Illinois.
WHEREAS, For more than 75 years, Pluto was considered the ninth planet of the Solar System;
Yeah, and when Pluto was initially discovered, people thought it was the gas giant they were calling "Planet X" (not ten, ecks). It wasn't until Charon was discovered thirty years ago that we were sure Pluto was so small. Also, Ceres, along with three other asteroids, were considered planets for over forty years, losing the title when it was determined in the 1840s they weren't the only objects in that orbit. Pluto isn't the only object in a 2:3 resonant orbit with Neptune. Hence the creation of the "plutino" designation.
WHEREAS, A spacecraft called New Horizons was launched in January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015;
So the eff what? People want to know about this iceball. The spacecraft Dawn is going to a couple of asteroids (including Ceres) in 2011. We have sent probes to comets and asteroids (and have more planned) in the past. Why does this POS statement qualify as "whereas"? Why has my rhetoric escalated?
WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons: Charon, Nix, and Hydra;
Oh yeah, for reasons as inane as this. Mercury and Venus have no moons; does the Illinois Senate want to demote them? Eris is orbited by Dysnomia; that's why we know it is bigger than Pluto. Some of the asteroids have natural satellites around them as well. Whoop-dee-doo.
WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is more than three billion miles from the sun (sic);
OK, my opinion of the last three clauses show I probably don't know enough about legislation. I'm guessing these are either here as padding, or to properly define Pluto in the legislation. I like how the last statement ignores that Pluto's orbit is unlike any of the eight planets, signifying to me that it isn't one of the major non-stellar objects in the Solar System. Its orbit is very elliptical, and its orbital plane is far off of those of the planets. That tells me that when the cloud of stuff that formed the Sun condensed into a disk, the ice and rock that formed Pluto was not very involved in that particular coalescence.
WHEREAS, Pluto was unfairly downgraded to a "dwarf" planet (sic) in a vote in which only 4 percent of the International Astronomical Union's 10,000 scientists participated;
The first clause is seethingly subjective, especially for a Democratic-run body whose party claimed to want to get politics out of science during the Bush Administration. As for the second clause, have they never heard of union representatives? Do they expect a quorum of IAU members to descend on Prague? The UN General Assembly does not consist of the entire governments from each country, or even a representative from each branch of government. Some universities only had one professor attend this vote, because that's all their budget would allow. Would you prefer an online vote?
WHEREAS, Many respected astronomers believe Pluto's full planetary status should be restored;
Seriously? You pulled the "many" card? The same majority party whose constituents may hate it when the "many" card is thrown out by evolution opponents, or by those who don't think that climate change is a real concern?

This is journalistic laziness, and if it is considered germane for legislation, then I want no part of it.

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11 March 2009

A follow-up to past reverie, and the usual mini-rant

So, nearly four years ago I wrote this post, relating a story about drunken Japanese baseball fans dumping a statue of Col. Sanders into a river in Osaka. After 23 years, most of the statue has been recovered. I'd like to thank my recent favorite site, Deadspin, for the link. The Hanshin Tigers no longer have an excuse, just like the Detroit Tigers. Losing to an NL team that won 83 games, feh.

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12 December 2008

NFL overtime rules proposal

I haven't heard this idea floated around, but I think it may be a better way to determine the opening possession than a coin toss. Instead of starting the overtime period with a kickoff in the sense of the beginning of a half, we could have overtime be a direct continuation of the fourth quarter, the same way the second and fourth quarters begin. This way, there is no arbitrary coin toss that often determines who wins in overtime, and teams that couldn't put together a game-tying drive until the end of regulation would be penalized*, since the other team gets the ball to open the overtime period.

UPDATE AS I WRITE THIS–I just realized that the following situation would arise eventually: during a tie game, a team would advance the ball slowly enough that their drive could continue seamlessly to the overtime period. This would take eliminate the drama from some game-winning drives, e.g. the Patriots three Super Bowls were ended with field goals to break a tie. My proposed format ultimately reduces the need for a "two-minute drill" offense.

I welcome comments on this half-baked idea. I would rather have an NFL-style overtime over college football's format, but the opening possession needs to be better resolved. Home field advantage, or some concessions to the team that starts on defense?

*This idea came to me when thinking about the Bears weak but successful comeback against the Saints today.


05 November 2008

A weird admission

A couple days ago, I realized that I voted for each major presidential candidate before this year.

In 2000 I was heading to the Republican caucuses*, but I realized the folly of voting for GWB. The most sensible alternative was McCain before becoming an independent at the end of the night.

In 2004, I sent an absentee ballot from Japan to Illinois and made the obvious selection for the vacant Senate seat.

*I grew up in Naperville, give me a break.


31 October 2008

What's Salieri's take on Idaho high school football?

After reading anecdotes from the celebration on Broad Street after the Phillies won yesterday, this was the most appalling thing I read today.


23 October 2008

Jesus backs up his files

...and you can too, with this cross USB flash drive.


26 September 2008

An open letter to Twins fans

I know I'm on hiatus, but I've only spent the hiatus following baseball, and I need to vent.

I'm gonna try to refrain from writing a screed about the White Sox-Twins "rivalry" here. I'll just say I'm mad, I've seen these games before, and I have no one to blame for it but my own freaking team. Also, if the Metrodome would collapse tomorrow under its own suck, I wouldn't mind. Bring on Target Field!

Here's a question for the Twins fans I know. Is there any explanation for fans at the Metrodome throwing back a home run ball hit by an opposing player, other than they stole it from the Cub fans' own stupid tradition? When Justin Morneau hit a game-winning home run two rows behind me at the Metrodome last year, I wanted to catch and keep that ball. When Ken Griffey's 611th home run was caught on Wednesday, the guy had no qualms about flinging that back on the field.

Do some people think that's a tradition throughout baseball? Honestly?

Thanks for tolerating the vindictive nature of my question.

P.S. Justin Morneau's HR was caught by a Sox fan. He pretended to throw it back. Good times.