The Sun's Shadow

Stumbling to find a light switch in the dark

Pluto Is Not The First Planet We Lost…

I was reading through yahoo news and came across the on going saga of Pluto our former last planet in the solar system. Pluto has again been re-classified as now a Plutoid, it had been called a dwarf planet I believe all dwarf planets are now to be called Plutoids. Science has had to make changes like this before and infact this is not first time we “lost” a planet, more on that later, first I wanted to point out a few of the choice quotes from the linked article.

“I think it’s a planet. But me and my friends, we talk about it sometimes and we go back and forth,” said Natalie Browning, 9, sitting in a park in Manhattan with her family. “Right now, I’m not 100 percent. I’m just 75 percent” sure that Pluto is a planet.

Natalie’s mom, Bobbie Browning, said, “You’ve got kids with textbooks saying that Pluto is part of the solar system and a planet, and teachers have to say it isn’t [a planet].”

Yes, the text books are now out of date, and all kids should be given the proper information.

“Students who have just learned about the concept of dwarf planets must now be taught the new concept of plutoid,” said Janis Milman, who teaches earth science at Thomas Stone High School in Maryland. “This will lead to confusion in the classroom and resistance to learning the new terms, because the students will question, why learn something that might change again in a year or so?”

Wow, so we are not teaching children science is provisional? Pluto was not arbirarily re-classified, the point is Pluto doesn’t fit as a planet in the way the other planets do, and if we include Pluto as a planet then we are going to also need to include other objects in the solar system as planets too… as noted by the title of the post Pluto is not the first planet to have its planet designation reassigned.

“Time has always been taken in the classroom to ponder the origin of Pluto. When Pluto became a dwarf planet, along with Eris and Ceres, it made it easier to explain why an object of Pluto’s small stature could be classified,” high-school teacher Milman said. “Now we will just need to teach them more new definitions.”

Milman added that “dwarf planets” is an easier term for students to grasp compared with plutoids. “Objects of Pluto, Eris and Ceres’ size are too small to be called planets so they were called dwarf planets. That was easier for the students to understand,” she said.

This teacher got it exactly right she gets a GOLD STAR, for an extra one get them to understand Plutoids!

“My fourth graders still consider Pluto a planet,” said Bev Grueber, a science teacher at North Bend Elementary in Nebraska. “We do extensive oral reports on the planets to meet a state standard, and everyone jumps for joy when they get Pluto. Last year, I left Pluto out of the draw and they asked where it was, so they still consider it a planet regardless of what the space scientists tell us the definition of that planet is.”

Wrong and Ms. Grueber you need to explain the situation better to your students, allowing them to persist in a false notion is doing them a disservice.

I could go on here but what’s the point in cherry picking quotes I think you get my point here, science is provisional and needs to change as we get better more accurate information and should always continue to do so.

At one point there was another planet between Mars and Jupiter… Ceres its now a dwarf planet likely soon to be a Plutoid and by far the largest object in the asteroid belt. At the time of it discovery it in the 19th century it was considered a planet it wasn’t until 50 years after it discovery when scientist began to discover large asteroids the classification of Ceres was challenged and changed to dwarf Planet. This is the nature of science to refine our understanding, challenge our assumptions and correct or adjust what needs to be corrected. It happened to Ceres and it also happened to Pluto.

I grew up with Pluto we all did, I get it I liked it too my Solar Quest game is no longer accurate but hey science isn’t made possible by our likes and dislikes it is where the evidence leads us… and unfortunately for Pluto one of these things isn’t like the other…


June 19, 2008 Posted by | Astronomy, Education, Science | , , | Leave a comment

Texas Marching Towards the Darkness

Today’s NY Times has an article regarding the new face of creationism,intelligent design nope its not either of those which have been given the smack down from science already the latest tactic of the religious movement is strengths and weaknesses language to be put in to the HS biology text books.

“ ‘Strengths and weaknesses’ are regular words that have now been drafted into the rhetorical arsenal of creationists,” said Kathy Miller, director of the Texas Freedom Network, a group that promotes religious freedom.

The chairman of the state education board, Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist in Central Texas, denies that the phrase “is subterfuge for bringing in creationism.”

This is where the creationist/intelligent design/cdesignproentists are at since they have no actual science to support anything they claim. They are using semantic arguments  without clearly defined meanings as a way to mislead the public and ensure children and teenagers do not get a good science education. Dr McLeroy say this is not subterfuge for creationism, however why is evolution the only theory they what to teach the strengths and weaknesses?

   So what’s wrong with teaching the strengths and weaknesses for evolution or any topic? Really, there is nothing wrong with it, however prior to discussion or teaching of strengths and weaknesses a person should have an appropriate background in the science itself, that doesn’t mean you have to be a scientist.  HS Biology’s course of study is an overview of the general science and not an in depth study of it. Strengths and weaknesses of evolution are taught in higher level college courses where you have the background to properly address the material. I have no problem with the discussion of the limits of evolution and identifying the areas that need further study. The weaknesses part of strengths and weaknesses are the areas where our understanding of science have yet to explain some part of nature this makes science exciting this where new questions and ideas come from this is how science makes progress everything is provisional based on new and verifiable information. The implication as I understand it in the strengthens and weaknesses is that due to the weaknesses of evolution the theory is invalid (god of the gaps) or to be looked upon as flimsy instead of what it is really is which the unifying theory of Biology .

The constant issue creationists never address… regardless of any criticism that they generate for evolution (which have been refuted) they never put forth a positive theory that would better explain the evidence. They tried to masquerade Intelligent design as such a theory but is was refuted shown decisively in the Dover Trial. Instead of a positive theory or an attempt at science what you find are often lies an example of which is no transitional fossils have ever been found which is a joke since there have been many transistional fossil discoveries most recently the frog-amander. It is just demonstrably false.

I don’t want to wander off in further refuting the long refuted creationism(and various forms). This has been done over and over, my point for this post is how Texas is allowing not only their schools but there entire state to be high-jacked by religious fundamentalist who wish to impose their religious views on all people and this could have a further negative effect for the rest of the United States due to the purchasing power of text books that Texas has, this will undoubtedly weaken our already weak science education if it takes hold. If there is valid criticism bring it on lets get to the bottom of it, if you have an alternative hypothesis that better explains all the evidence and is supported by the evidence then please present it.

Any appeal to magic need not apply.

June 4, 2008 Posted by | Creationism, Education, Nature, Science | , | 2 Comments