Thursday, August 31, 2006

I, Pluto

In case you live in a cave, Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. I don’t know if this is similar to “gender reassignment” or not, but now it’s been demoted to “dwarf planet.” It’s lost its full planet ranking.

I wonder if that means a reduction in pay as well? Hmmm.

I’m always curious about how perfectly good planets get reassigned. What happens? Do they fall out of favor like so many Soviet leaders? Has Pluto been delinquent in its planetary duties? Just what the heck are planetary duties, anyway?

It’s not a new trend, though. This kind of term reassignment has been going on in biology for years. Every year the powers that be change anatomy terms. It’s no longer the mitral and tricuspid valves in the heart, they’re left and right atrioventricular valves (in some texts). What was so awful about mitral and tricuspid? Did some important anatomist have a lisp?

I think I know who’s behind this sort of nonsense, though — authors and publishers of text books. Think about it! In a science as dead as gross anatomy (not a lot of work is getting done in the field, these days) what else are you doing to do? Sell more books! If we can con the powers that be into changing the names, all the text books have to be changed, and we get to sell new editions to unsuspecting college students and school boards!

Hey, this happened at my school. One of our top anatomy and physiology professors helped put together an (admittedly cool) anatomy text book and voila! The school makes them a required text for all anatomy classes. Better yet, it’s the fist edition. Next year, when they fix all the typos, they can sell the second edition and kill the secondary textbook market.

Okay, so I’m being a bit facetious, but hey. How do you think Pluto must feel?

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