PLUTO V. ERIS

I have just returned from Asheville, NC where I saw a most amazing play. PLUTO V. ERIS. A play to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of the publication of Galileo’s The Starry Messenger.

Full disclosure, I probably would not have heard about this play if my daughter did not play a part.

A classic play in the sense that it’s form and presentation model a Greek classic play. Or perhaps a modern civil trial.

A number of gods and goddesses from myth and legend are gathered for a Council of Celestial Beings. Eris, goddess of Discord, is accused by Pluto, god of the Underworld, of treason and general mayhem. Testimony proceeds through dialog and deposition. The costumes of the gods and goddess are outstanding from the Polynesian and Hawaiian god and goddess that open the show to the giant planet giants that join in the testimony. The cut paper figures in the shadow puppet deposition video are worth the visit in themselves. Classic shapes. Classic themes. Great action.

As the play unfolds, the interaction of myth and earth reality are explored. In the end, there are choices to be made.

The Vance Elementary School in Asheville Planetorium is the near-perfect performance space for this play. The semi-circular stadium is reminiscent of the Greek and Roman theaters of ancient times. More so because the ceiling of the Planetorium is hung with models of the planets with Earth the size of a basketball and the others to match.

Just one more performance in this round on the March 27, 2010 at 8:00 PM. A great show and worth the trip. A website for more info. Contributions benefit the Vance Elementary NASA program. A website for more info. Contributions benefit the Vance Elementary NASA program.

3 Replies to “PLUTO V. ERIS”

  1. The IAU demotion of Pluto was definitely a change in the wrong direction. Only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial demotion, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by New Horizons Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern. One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is it says dwarf planets are not planets at all! That is like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear, and it is inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies. Also, the IAU definition classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is essentially useless. Pluto is a planet because it is spherical, meaning it is large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity–a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium and characteristic of planets, not of shapeless asteroids held together by chemical bonds. These reasons are why many astronomers, lay people, and educators are either ignoring the demotion entirely or working to get it overturned.

  2. Thank you Laurel for you great comments. I call one of my cats Little Bear because his tail and body resemble the Ursa Minor on the star chart that my home-schooled children saw growing up. We cannot change the course of the planets (or otherwise named celestial objects) but perhaps we can change the fate of the children. Your comments are helpful in understanding the issue.

  3. The IAU demotion of Pluto was definitely a change in the wrong direction. Only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial demotion, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by New Horizons Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern. One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is it says dwarf planets are not planets at all! That is like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear, and it is inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies. Also, the IAU definition classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is essentially useless. Pluto is a planet because it is spherical, meaning it is large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity–a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium and characteristic of planets, not of shapeless asteroids held together by chemical bonds. These reasons are why many astronomers, lay people, and educators are either ignoring the demotion entirely or working to get it overturned.

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