Nine planets. Thatís right. Nine.

Quick. How many dwarfs are there and what are their names? Stick out your fingers and tally them off: Grumpy. Sleepy. Doc. Bashful. Happy. Sneezy. Dopey.

Seven. Count Ďem. Seven dwarfs. Thatís the way it is, and thatís the way it always should be.

Now, letís have a go at the commandments (if you have trouble here, just think about the title of the movie).

Well. That was easy. Of commandments, there are ten.

On to the Great Lakes. The memory clue here is HOMES. Huron. Ontario. Michigan. Erie. And Superior. Five Great Lakes. Always have been. Always will be.

We can also consider Santaís Reindeer: Nine, if you include Rudolph. The deadly sins: Seven. My favorite being gluttony. The days of the week: Another Big Seven, including one day to rest. Well ... two days unless youíre self-employed. But thatís another story.

Now, hereís the question that should get your knees quivering and your socks rolling up and down: Ready?

HOW MANY PLANETS ARE THERE?

Donít stop and think. Just answer. Starting with the one nearest to the sun, there are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Pluto. Nine planets, right?



We learned it in school. Our parents learned it in school. Our grandparents and their parents learned it in school. And our children are going to ... Oh, no. Wait. Whatís this I hear?

An article in National Geographic News tells us that at a meeting in Prague of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a bunch of soul-less sky scanning killjoys (No. National Geographic didnít call them that), voted to change the definition for the word planet.

ďA full-fledged planet,Ē the IAU proclaims, ďis an object that orbits the sun and is large enough to have become round due to the force of its own gravity. In addition, a planet has to dominate the neighborhood around its orbit.Ē

Pluto, according to these semantic thugs, is not big enough to dominate anything. That being the case, they have demoted it to ďdwarf.Ē

Dwarf? Didnít anybody ever tell those IAU butt-in-skies that it isnít the size of the dwarf in a planet; itís the size of the planet in a dwarf.

Or something.

Fact is, it doesnít matter how or even if Pluto measures up to the new definition. The truly important thing is that PLUTO IS OURS. It is inextricably intertwined in the poetry of our past. It was part of the miniature models of the solar system that we studied when we were in school. It was part of the mnemonics of our childhood. It was discovered before Walt Disney animated one, let alone all seven of Snow Whiteís Ho-Hoing little friends.

And now, what? The IAU wants to take Pluto away from us. Why? Did it move? No. Itís right where it has always been. Is it smaller? Bigger? Denser? Lighter? No. No. No. And no. Still ... those party-poopers from Prague have decided to give Pluto to Snow White. To turn it into a dwarf. A dwarf planet. An eighth dwarf.

Imagine this. You and your honey have been married for forty years. You have four children, six grandchildren, and three bulldogs. One day, an envelope arrives in the mail advising you that the minister who married you wasnít really a minister, your marriage certificate is a fraud, and you arenít really married at all.

Are you going to believe that?

No. Of course not. You are going to tear up the letter, rush over to city hall, find a judge, and go through the ceremony all over again. And you are going to do it without telling your children, your grandchildren, or your dogs. Why? Because, legalities notwithstanding, you know that you have always been married. Just as, revised definition notwithstanding, we know that Pluto will always belong in the sunís lineup of celestial orbs.

And if that isnít good enough for those high and mighty scientists, I have a simple solution.

In recent years, Nelson Mandela was given an Honorary Doctorate from Harvard University, Bill Cosby was given an Honorary Doctorate from Carnegie Mellon, and Paul McCartney was similarly acknowledged at Yale.

If Nelson, Bill, and Paul are good enough to be ďhonorary,Ē then Pluto is, too. It can be an Honorary Planet.

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and ... and ... and Pluto! Like a good marriage without benefit of legality, the once and forever the ninth planet from the sun has been grandfathered in.

Shelly Reuben is an Edgar-nominated author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit shellyreuben.com

Copyright © 2008, Shelly Reuben

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