Monthly Archives: September 2006

Pluto is Not a Planet: Stu’s Argument

When I first heard the talk (which I believe happened many years ago) about Pluto not being a planet, I had two main thoughts:

  1. They’re right. It’s not a planet! (though this was not immediate… I had to think about it for a bit)
  2. I’m okay with them calling it a planet for tradition’s sake.

Many other thoughts came later, such as:

The scientific community isn’t much for tradition

Isn’t every natural (as opposed to man made) object orbiting the sun considered a planet?

Hmm… I guess they’re called “planetoids.” Or are they? Crap, I can’t remember.

Well, after some thought on the matter, I decided that Pluto was not a planet, and here’s why:

First off, all the outer planets were gas planets. Pluto was a solid. On top of that, it was tiny. Smaller than our own moon in fact. The fact that it had a moon itself helped the “it’s a planet” case a little, but not enough for me.

Second, it’s orbit is really weird. Here’s a layout that shows it’s distance from the Sun compared to other planets:

Ignore the red line. That’s the projected path of the New Horizons spacecraft.

Note that Pluto’s orbit is much farther “off center” than the others. So far off, in fact, that for part of its orbit it is actually closer to the Sun than Neptune.

If you were to rotate the above image 90° on the x- or y-axis (not around like a clock (z-axis), but “back”; like the way a clock’s hands would move if looking at it sideways), you would see that the 8 “traditional” planets orbit the Sun on the same plane. All the planets’ orbits vary “vertically” slightly, but do so very little. Which brings me to point #2. Pluto is the only “planet” that doesn’t orbit the Sun on that plane:

These two things I’ve know for most of my life. However, with the “Is Pluto a planet?” debate heating up, I decided to study up on the little ice ball a bit more. And that’s when I discovered what would be a bit of a clincher for me.

Turns out that Charon is not actually a moon of Pluto. I had always thought that Charon orbited around Pluto. After all, that’s what a moon is, right? An object that orbits around a planet. Well, turns out that Charon does NOT orbit around Pluto, nor does Pluto orbit around Charon. The truth is they orbit around the empty space between them. Some refer to this phenomenon as “dual planets”, a definition that suits me just fine. This occurs because the two objects are tidally locked (sometimes called gravitationally locked) to each other. By contrast, a moon would be tidally locked while the body it orbits around is not. Not all moons are tidally locked however.

So why have we called Pluto a planet for so long? I believe much of it comes from how Pluto was discovered. Way back in the 1920′s, astronomers miscalculated the mass of Neptune. These miscalculations made it appear as if there were some unseen gravitational effect on Neptune, causing unexplainable variations in its orbit. The most obvious explanation was that there was another planet (it had to be large enough to cause the variations on an object as huge as Neptune), so everybody was looking for this so-called “planet x.”

Clyde Tombaugh (whose story is rather fascinating in itself) was an amateur astronomer that, while looking for planet x, stumbled across Pluto quite by accident. Though Pluto’s status as a planet was debated early on, it was eventually decided that this was the fabled planet x, thus it was determined (though it be falsely so) to be a planet.

Decades later, thanks to a flyby of Neptune by Voyager 2, Neptune’s true mass was discovered and we all found out that there were no unexplained variations in its orbit, and therefore no outside gravitational effects acting on it.

Furthermore, Pluto’s orbit doesn’t ever bring it anywhere near Neptune, nor does Pluto (even combined with Charon) have anywhere near enough mass to affect Neptune’s orbit regardless of how close it ever got to Neptune.

There is some new data that makes Pluto an even more fascinating object. Turns out that there are two other “moons”: Nix and Hydra. Does that mean they both orbit around the “dual planets”, orbiting around both Pluto AND Charon? That would be pretty interesting. I have as of yet to find any information regarding the orbital behavior of these two newly discovered moons known as Nix and Hydra:

Anyway, to summarize: Pluto is NOT a planet! Thank you, and good day to you all.

Will the Real eBay Please Stand Up?

I read a recent article regarding a relatively new online auction site called World Auctions.

Now I can’t image why, but apparently eBay is suing World Auctions for trademark infringement. eBay says that World Auctions looks too much like eBay. Is it just me, or is eBay just seeing things that aren’t there. I mean seriously, I don’t see the resemblance!

Can I Have Another Saladin?

There are many sensible Muslims in the world today, but none carry the needed influence to talk sense into the much larger number of Muslims that think violence solves everything.

I guess I should just be glad that the majority of these so called “senseless” Muslims live on the other side of the world where I don’t have to deal with them. But they are still a thorn in the side of the world.

A few days ago, Pope Benedict said that Islamic holy war was against God’s nature and invited Muslims to join in a peaceful cultural dialogue.

The Pope went on to quote 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus:

Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

The Pope further said:

The emperor goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. The emperor certainly knew that Sura 2, 256, reads: ‘No force in matters of faith’. It is one of the early suras, from a time — as experts say — in which Mohammed himself was still powerless and threatened.

But Mohammed himself grew quite a lust for blood as his influence and power increased. Funny how that happens huh? Thus Mohammed spent a large part of his career as prophet in violence raiding caravans, beheading non-believers, and coercing conversion by the sword.

It’s no wonder Islam has grown up to be what it is today.

So how did Muslims (the crazy ones) react to the Pope’s call for a peaceful dialog between Islam and Christianity, and a stop to coerced conversion through violence?

Just imagine yourself sitting there and hearing the Pope call on Islam to stop the violence. “Hey, I have a great idea, let’s prove to the world that we really are a bunch stark mad raving lunatics with nothing but violence on our minds!”

As one Vatican spokesman said, “It’s a bit sad and ironic that the reaction to the Pope’s call for a stop to violence… is violence!”

Thus, influential Muslims have come back to essentially threaten to kill all non-Muslims until there is no one but Muslims left. Gee, what a shock. Seriously, that’s the last thing I expected… no really, seriously.

But what will they do when there is no one left to kill? Ever see the episode of Tom & Jerry where Jerry finally gets rid of Tom? At first he’s happy. But after some time, he realizes that his life has no purpose.

Well crazy psychotic Muslims (by that, I mean to leave out the sensible Muslims), have fun suicide bombing your way to victory. And when you get to heaven, where your Earthly wives inherit the great heavenly glory of watching you deflower 72 virgin women and 28 young boys, leave out a bowl of raisins for the rest of us would ya?

Will the world ever stop pretending that Islam is a peaceful religion?

I’ll try to keep hope alive that another Saladin, who will be honorable and merciful, will rise up to lead Islam and work together with Christianity for peace.

Christianity had their share of violence and terrorist acts. Perhaps Islam too will outgrow this (albeit very long lasting) “phase”.

Have You Forgotten?

I was working the swing shift at eBay, so I typically slept in later than normal. It was about 9:00 am when my wife came back home from shopping. She came down into the room and told me, “The World Trade Center is gone!”

I sat up in bed and said, “What?” She repeated herself and I just figured she didn’t know what she was talking about. “Do you know what the World Trade Center is?” I asked her. “How can it be gone?”

She told me that a plane or something flew into them. My first thought was that it was some horrible accident. I got up to turn on the television. I knew that something this tragic would be on every channel. I watched the TV the rest of the morning.

I was scheduled to work at 1:00 pm that day. I listened to the radio on my way in. As I pulled into the business park where the eBay building is located, I saw that every flag at every building was at half mast. I pulled into the parking lot and took several minutes before getting out of my car and going in the building.

Everybody knew a war was coming. I wished to God that I was healthy so I could re-enlist. Then I could fly around in this sweet helo (notice anything interesting about it?):

If you can’t see what I’m talking about, here’s a hint: take a look at the camouflage pattern.

May we never forget!

Rocket Test Flights

Earlier today, I took a couple new rockets for test flights. Sadly, I forgot my camera. However, here are a few pre- and post-flight images.

We had a visitor the yesterday, hanging out at the bottom of our porch:

Here is my two-stager right after completion. It’s about 30″ tall.

We did a one stage test flight which was successful, then a two-stage flight that went perfectly! It went over 1,000 feet and managed to land on the roof of a school. Luckily, we were able to recover it.

I was in the mood for a taller rocket, so I got this 41″ beastie for my son:

Its first flight was successful. We used a C6-5 motor and it was actually pretty cool. It moved slower than our other rockets, made lots of smoke, and still got good height.

Still waiting on an “E” engine to launch my son’s broken rocket into the stratosphere. That will happen soon I hope.

I’m Converting to Islam

I mean, why shouldn’t I? A stark mad raving lunatic (otherwise known as al-Zawahri) has invited me to convert.

And heck, he even got some piece of *#@! American traitor named Gadahn to yada-yada about how great it is to run around killing his fellow Americans, oppressing women, fantasizing about having 72 submissive virgins and young boys as sex slaves, eternal erections, and so forth.

Which leads me to wonder: what is the reward for a faithful woman of Islam? As far as I can tell, there is no motivation whatsoever for females anywhere to be Muslim.

Well, I was about to make the conversion when I discovered that my heavenly reward is actually just a bowl of raisins.

Poor Gadahn. All that work for a handful of shriveled up grapes. Speaking of shriveled up, I expect he’ll also be disappointed that his “eternal erection” will only last a week at best (and will no doubt be incredibly painful), at which point the whole thing becomes gangrenous and falls off.

Convert to Islam? Mmmmm… thanks for the invitation crazy-person al-Zawahri and traitor Gadahn. But I don’t like raisins, and I like my *ahem* just the way it is.