"Kid, let me ask you a question," my friend, Karl, said one day. "Your answer could have a major impact on our relationship."
This sounds serious, I said. What is it?
Karl searched my eyes for a second, took a deep breath, and said, "What do you think about Pluto?"
I thought for a minute. The planet or the dog?
"I don't know why I even try!" he said, throwing his hands up and turning back toward the television. We were sitting in First Editions, our favorite literary bar, watching the footage of Pluto the New Horizons spacecraft had been sending back as it flew by. Karl had been there three beers longer than me, and was in one of his moods.
"Well, you did say 'the planet,' so I guess that's okay."
What are you talking about? I said.
"The planet Pluto," Karl said. "The thing named after the Roman god of the underworld."
I thought it wasn't a planet anymore. Karl glared at me. Why are you even upset by this?
"My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas."
"My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas. The thing! The thing we learned in school to remember all the planets."
I always thought it was 'my very excellent mother.'
"It doesn't matter!"
Well, she's serving pizzas, so that's pretty excellent.
He banged his fist on the bar. "It doesn't matter! What matters is that we're even debating this idiotic issue."
You're the one who brought it up!
"Not us," Karl hissed, waving his hand between us. "Them!" He waved his arm toward the door to encapsulate the rest of the planet.
Who is 'them,' Karl? I asked carefully. If he started talking about government mind control, we were going to have a problem.
"The IAU. I can't believe their hubris and sheer arrogance at downgrading Pluto to no longer be a planet. As if they're the arbiters of what's a planet and what's not."
Who's the IAU?
"The International Astronomical Union. They're some kind of astronomy club."
They're more than that, I said, finally getting it. They're the professional astronomers association. They've got members all over the world, and they all have Ph.D.s in physics and astronomy.
"Well, you can't spell hubris and arrogance without Ph.D." he plonked his beer down for effect.
Actually, you'd have the P and the D left over.
"It doesn't matter! My point is, who appointed these bozos as the official deciders of what the rest of us have to follow?"
Well, for it to be a point, it should be a statement, not a—Karl was glaring again. Why is it so important for Pluto to be a planet?
"Because it just is. The planet was discovered in 1930, and remained a planet for almost 73 years, until these astronomy bozos took a vote — they voted, can you believe it?! — and decided that Pluto would no longer be a planet. Look, I know Ph.D.s like to puff themselves up with self-importance, but to decide that you were the final say in how the world should view the galaxy? That takes some asteroids."
But what about the dwarf planets? Thanks to the IAU's reclassifications, we have some new planetary bodies we can add to the mix.
"Oh yeah? Like what?"
I looked it up on my phone. Well, there's Ceres, Eris, Haumea, and Makemake.
"Make-make? Like it rhymes with bake-bake?"
No, mah-kay-mah-kay. I think it's named after a god on Easter Island. And they're looking at almost a dozen more candidates, which means we could add some more planets to our list.
"So are they all cast out with Pluto to the farthest reaches of our solar system?"
Actually, no. Ceres is between Mars and Jupiter. But, yes, the rest are out with Pluto. So, the complete list of planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. So now, I guess your teacher's saying is 'My very excellent mother—'
Fine. '—educated mother, Clarice, just served us nice pizzas (with) ham, mozzarella, and eggs.'
"Bleah! Who puts egg on pizza?"
I have. It's really good. I was at an Italian restaurant in Holland, and I had a pizza with everything including a fried egg.
"What do you expect from the Dutch?"
It was an Italian restaurant. I figured if anyone knew how to make proper pizza, it was the Italians.
"Oh yeah, and who appointed them arbiters of what goes on a pizza and what doesn't?!"
The Italian Gastronomical Union. They even voted on it.
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