Sports Night, Ep. 20

Ordinance Tactics

Natalie has read a news article that has peeked her curiosity. Before her boyfriend tries to break up with her (unsuccessfully, I might add) she offers this:

Natalie: Good news. Pluto isn’t being demoted as a planet.
Jeremy: I need to talk to you. Can we go in the editing room?
Natalie: Sure.
Jeremy: Thanks.
Natalie: It was going to be demoted as a planet. It was gonna receive minor planet status. But apparently there was an outpouring of protest. Doesn’t the whole thing strike you as funny?

When a fellow (less-qualified) producer, Sally, is considered for a promotion before her:

Natalie: Good news.
Dana: What?
Natalie: Pluto’s still a planet.
Sally: It was touch and go there for a while?
Natalie: Don’t underestimate Pluto. Pluto doesn’t know the word quit.

This show was recorded in 1999, when there were new-found ‘Pluto-like’ objects in the solar system, sparking debate about what necessarily constitutes a planet. For Natalie, she sees the humor in becoming emotionally attached to labeling something that travels as far as 7.3 billion kilometers from the sun. Perhaps she understands that science is about searching for an understanding. Maybe she sees the uncertainty of Pluto’s planetary status as a painful metaphor.

In 1999, “it seem(ed) that Pluto (was) a sentimental favorite to remain a planet among both scientists and the public. However, if more trans-Neptunian objects “were” discovered that (were) even larger than Pluto, the debate (would) begin anew,” according to a NASA article published at that time. Admittedly, I was disheartened to read how a scientist’s ‘sentiment’ might play a role in developing a cogent set of rules/definitions to guide the understanding of the public in the formation of our solar system, but other ‘Pluto-like’ objects have been discovered since and the scientific community (although not always reaching a consensus), is doing their best to get it right; at least they are trying.

Much of the public in the United States, however, remain sentimental.


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