You didn’t really think the Pluto “debate” had gone away did you? Actually, this time it’s not an angry plutonite, confused astronomer or the governor of Illinois causing a stir, it’s the fast-food behemoth McDonalds that has sparked some low-key controversy in the UK.
This is a good one.
According to The Register, in an effort to get kids more interested in cooking for themselves, McDonalds has produced a series of fun facts printed on the side of their Happy Meal boxes. I’m not sure how McDonalds can possibly promote home cooked meals by printing games on their cardboard dinners, but marketing has always been a mystery to me.
So one of these fun facts printed on a Happy Meal box says “the Solar System is made up of all the planets that orbit our sun.” Fun fact indeed — I’m glad to see some space science to make it onto fast food packaging! Oh, hold on, there’s something unsightly on the packaging too, which says, “there are 9 planets total.”
Nine planets? And things were going so well. Shame on you McDonalds.
Unless you’ve been living underground for the past few years, you’ve probably heard that Pluto was “demoted” to the planetary underclass by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2006 because the dwarf planet was unable to “clear its own orbit.”
I’ve always been a little “meh” about the whole thing to be honest. Yes, I love Pluto, I think it’s awesome, but do I care whether it’s called a planet, dwarf planet, plutoid, plutino, KBO, asteroid or a muffin? Not really. Pluto was demoted because the Solar System was getting a little crowded and the dwarf planet became a rounding error. After all, the discovery of Eris by Dr Mike Brown (a.k.a. the aptly named @plutokiller) in 2005 caused all kinds of strife for the confused world; Eris was bigger than Pluto.
So ever since the IAU voted that Pluto is no longer a planet, there’s been a lot of angry folk who are outraged at this “reckless decision.” For me, I see it as the scientific process doing its job: advancing and adapting. The Solar System has become a far bigger place than it was when Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Illinois resident Clyde Tombaugh, it seems inevitable that planetary classifications are going to change.
So what have I learnt from this little story?
The Register even went so far as accusing McDonalds of spreading “U.S. scientific propaganda” — a little strong don’t you think? As far as I can tell, the US has pretty much accepted dwarf planet Pluto in it’s new classification.
Could it be that perhaps the guy who researched the “fun facts” on the side of Happy Meal box was doing his research from a pre-2006 text book? I think that’s a far more likely scenario than McDonalds taking a political stance over the matter (despite what they say to the contrary).
Source: Cosmic Log