Wednesday, September 06, 2006

3 views of Lovejoy Fountain

Lovejoy Fountain Plaza, August '06

night, lovejoy fountain

Lovejoy Fountain Plaza, August '06

Yet more photos of Lovejoy Fountain, in downtown Portland. The rest of this post has nothing to do with the fountain, so if you came here for that reason there's no real point to reading the rest of this post. I mean, unless you want to, it's not like I'm trying to discourage you or anything, I'm just trying to be fair and help you out if you're short on time. So anyway, I hope you like the photos. In the interest of full disclosure, the first came out really dark and I had to sic the GIMP on it a little, so the resulting colors are more "poetic" than "accurate". So if you ever visit the fountain at midnight and it doesn't look exactly as pictured, don't come complaining to me about it. That's all I'm saying.

You might have noticed a trend in my recent posts here. Call it light-n-fluffy if you like, or obsessively geeky, or simply irrelevant, or whatever you prefer. I feel like I really ought to be touching on the issues of the day, but really, what's there to say when the president and his minions start invoking Godwin's Law? The "Munich" boogeyman rides again, just in time for the elections in November. What a coincidence! You can tear your hair out, or you can laugh yourself silly over the whole thing, but responding seriously to that kind of talk is, well, it's a waste of time, and effort, and brainpower, and electricity if it's going on the net, or trees if it's going to the local paper. And consider the inevitable increase in the overall entropy of the universe. It just isn't worth it. Just roll your eyes and be sure to vote against the bastards in November, every last one of them. Every. Last. One.

I probably ought to say something about the Steve Irwin thing while I'm at it. I was never a fan, and I didn't care for his style. He built a career out of tempting fate, and people tuned in to watch for the same reason they watch NASCAR, i.e. just in case a terrible accident happened. And now it has, a weird, freakish accident, Dale Earnhart style. On the other hand, it looks like his zoo in Australia lets you pet an echidna. As longtime Gentle Reader(s) know, that counts for a lot with me. Ok, "pet" may not be the right word when you're talking about a spiny creature with sharp claws, but you can touch it, anyway, whatever you want to call it.

I also ought to say a few words about Pluto getting demoted. I thought it was a stupid idea. I'd have set the bar at the size of Pluto, at least for the time being, and said anything that big or bigger in orbit around the sun is a planet. So we'd have 10 now instead of 8. Ten is a reasonable number. If it looked like we were approaching 15-20 planets, then it would be worthwhile to set up a "dwarf planet" category and start demoting the runts of the litter. Although really (as I've argued elsewhere) there are exactly 4 major objects in the solar system, which make up the vast majority of its mass. The Earth is much bigger than Pluto or Ceres, to be sure, but it has much more in common with both than it does with Jupiter. If we lived on Jupiter, I expect that we wouldn't consider the Earth a planet, but merely the largest known asteroid, and the largest in the class of "terrestrial asteroids". From a non-anthropocentric standpoint, the right answer is 4 planets, not 8 or 12. That's my answer and I'm stickin' to it.

As some news stories have noted, there's a precedent for demoting planets. Ceres was considered a planet for a while, even after the first few other asteroids were discovered. There's a great article from the US Naval Observatory titled "When Did the Asteroids become Minor Planets", which discusses how the demotion occurred. It took a while, in part, because people had to wrap their minds around the notion of things orbiting the sun that weren't planets. It wasn't just a semantic debate like today; a whole new mental category of object had to be invented.

Of course, these days nobody imagines that every little rock in orbit around the sun is a planet on par with Saturn. That would be silly. As a result of the demotion, astronomers are free to give the little rocks all sorts of whimsical names. Here's a recent selection, with asteroids being named in honor of:

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