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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 31, 2006 / 7 Elul 5766

Pluto's demotion as cautionary tale

By James Lileks


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | We all took the demotion of Pluto poorly, it seems. Pluto was the scrappy little planet-that-could, the latecomer, the last stop on the way out. Why couldn't they have demoted Mars? Everyone hates Mars; we keep sending probes just to make sure it's not filled with vile intelligent beings intent on invasion.


Jupiter is impressive and reasonable; it doesn't throw its weight around, and that persistent red spot — a storm that has raged for 400 years — is handy whenever your teen complains about a pimple that lasts two days.


Saturn is beloved for its beauty. Uranus brings up feelings of muted resentment, because we still remember pronouncing it the old, naughty way. (When did that pronunciation change, incidentally? Probably around the time people started dropping the term "anal-retentive" into dinner conversation.) Neptune is just there, a loner. An underachiever, somehow.


But Pluto? Everyone loved Pluto.


It feels as if we must speak of it in the past tense, even though nothing's really changed. Pluto hasn't left; its demotion does not alter its mass or density. It's not as if it suddenly sped up its orbit out of pride when it was granted planet status in the '30s.


But it might as well be gone, and without it the solar system feels like a sentence that has no period. Without that jot of rock, the universe just trails off into an indistinct mutter of planetoids and comets and hobo rocks caught in the grip of the sun. This may be scientifically accurate, but it's emotionally unsatisfying.


The politics, however, are clear. As one wag noted, George W. Bush has now managed to lose one-ninth of the solar system. There's truth in that remark; the Pluto debacle does reveal the president's failings.


The scientific community long ago decided that Bush's mulish clinging to Pluto's status was a disaster based on cherry-picked intelligence. His insistence on staying the orbit was derided as fantastical delusion, particularly since Pluto's orbit is under constant influence from nearby Neptune. (Which is predominantly Shiite.) Democratic leaders, still smarting from the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to overturn a Florida law banning the term "dark matter" as hate speech, were in the forefront of the movement to cut Pluto loose. One prominent congressman insisted he was not in favor of abandoning Pluto, just turning our telescopes away so we didn't have to look at it anymore. He also proposed redeploying astronomers "over the horizon," where they could quickly turn their telescopes on Pluto if the need arose. When it was pointed out they couldn't see Pluto if they were on the wrong side of the Earth, he noted that questioning the critic's plutotism was a standard tactic of the "stay-the-orbit" crowd.


Hoping to mollify its critics, the administration pressured the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution that would not only assure Pluto's permanent status as a planet, but grant it a perfectly round orbit and an atmosphere. (The French promised to provide 50 percent of the necessary methane.)


Skeptics had pointed out that these things were manifestly impossible, but U.N. defenders asserted that the moral weight of the resolutions would be sufficient to compel the changes. The Security Council also voted to condemn any future Israeli probes sent to Pluto, as the landing on the surface would constitute an occupation.


In the end, however, the decision was made and forgotten.


The planets continued their elegant gavotte, heedless of the names mere humans gave them. People were reminded once again that science is not a fixed thing, but a malleable, evolving set of ideas that adapts to new challenges.


Intelligently designed as our science is, we must always keep a skeptical view. One day string theory explains everything; the next day string theory falls from vogue like narrow lapels or rockabilly, and another theory explains this wondrous cosmos.


In the end, Pluto is a warning, a cautionary tale. Many things we believe may turn out not to be so, after all.


Except for man-made global warming. Only an idiot doubts that one.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2006, James Lileks

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