I'm delighted to announce that in the July 2016 issue of Apex Magazine, released today, I have an interview with Andrew Fazekas, The Night Sky Guy, about his new book "Star Trek The Official Guide to Our Universe: The True Science Behind the Starship Voyages." If you follow the first link above you can find out the rest of the contents and buy the issue for the incredibly low price of only $2.99.

(And you want this issue. I've already read some of the stories in here and they're most excellent.)
Today is the 30th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12 noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.

Today is the anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.
On September 29, 1988, over two years after the United States manned space program had been grounded due to the Challenger tragedy, mission STS-26 launched into space. The space shuttle Discovery, now retired, took our hopes and dreams back into space with it.

A few weeks later (I forget the exact date although I suppose I could look it up somewhere), I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Sally Ride, America’s first woman astronaut who went into space. Dr. Ride had been scheduled to give a talk at Radcliffe, and as the talk was open to everyone, including Harvard students, I made a point of attending. I was a sophomore Physics major, and also a space enthusiast, even if I had been born too late to appreciate the Apollo program and the Moon landings. Like many of my generation, the shuttle program was ours, and we followed it with the fervor a previous generation had followed Mercury and Gemini.

The auditorium was filled, of course, but not overflowing, and I was surprised that an astronaut of her stature had not brought out even more people. As it was, Dr. Ride was there to speak about the role of and opportunities for women in science, and her visit had been advertised mostly by posters in the Yard. It’s possible that some who might have attended just didn’t know, or weren’t interested in the topic. It’s too bad for them, for they missed an amazing and enthusiastic talk.

The first thing I remember about seeing Sally Ride was how incredibly, well, slight and tiny she was. Her presence had loomed large when the media reported on her. I recall that she was featured on the cover of People magazine, with huge 1980s-style hair, and I guess in my mind she was this towering figure. I was shocked to discover that she was so much smaller than I, given how insignificant I felt in her presence. But she more than made up for it with her eyes. One look into her eyes and you could tell this was an astronaut with the sharpest mind in the program.

Ride began her talk by apologizing, but given recent events she was less interested in sticking to the topic advertised and more interested in discussing the space program. And she did, using the launch of Discovery as a springboard to explain how important a manned space program was for the country and the human race in general.

There was a Q&A session at the end of the talk, and somehow I gathered up the courage to approach the microphone and ask her a question. I even recall my question, one quite fitting for the science fiction geek that I am. I asked Ride why NASA hadn’t chosen to refurbish Enterprise instead of spending the money to build a brand new shuttle; wouldn’t it have been cheaper? Ride gently explained to me that the Enterprise was actually little better than a balsa wood model and it would have taken even more money to make it ready for space.

After the talk ended, Dr. Ride said she would stick around for more questions, and I was one of a group that gathered closer for more conversation. Now comes the part I’ve always been proud of. Among the group of us was this guy, much larger than either Dr. Ride or myself, who kept trying to get her attention by calling her “Sally.” This annoyed me on her behalf. Perhaps he felt a certain familiarity with her because he felt he knew her from the media, but I thought it was disrespectful. This was a woman who had earned a Ph.D. from studying astrophysics and lasers; she deserved to be addressed properly. I spoke over this man, called her “Dr. Ride,” and I was pleased when he followed my lead and began calling her Dr. Ride as well. When that happened, she flashed me a quick smile, and I like to think I did a tiny bit that day to promote the cause of women in science.

I never met Dr. Ride again, but I continued to draw inspiration from her life story. I’ll be sure to share it with my daughters when they are old enough. I might not be a woman, but Dr. Ride was just as much as role model for me.

May she soar in peace.
Nomi and will miss the Transit of Venus this evening. We saw it back in 2004, and so the novelty is gone. We figure we'll catch the next one. :-)

In the meantime, here's my notes and observations from when we saw it eight years ago at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; they had opened up their roof for viewing, and had a 9-inch refractor in a dome for us to use.


Nomi and I got on line at 4:38 AM. We were soon joined by [livejournal.com profile] farwing. They brought us upstairs at a little after 5 AM. Nomi witnessed the sunrise first at 5:14 and then we started to observe Venus as a little dot on the Sun, at around the 4:30 position, at 5:21. At 5:28 AM I saw it projected onto a piece of paper with a telescope. At 5:37 AM I saw it through a refractor, and noted a lot of atmospheric haze. At 5:44 AM I saw it through the 9-inch refractor in the dome.

At 5:47 AM they sent us back downstairs. At 6:08 AM I saw it through eclipse shades. At 6:13 AM we saw it with binoculars, but by 6:35 AM the Sun was hidden by clouds, and remained that way for the rest of the transit.

At 7:02 AM we watched the webcast in Phillips Auditorium, live from the Canary Islands. They switched to the NASA feed from Athens, Greece at 7:15 AM. We saw Third and Fourth Contact, and the times were different for optical and the H-Alpha filter. By 7:23 the transit appeared done.


And here's the link to Nomi's post from that day:
http://gnomi.livejournal.com/82953.html
As I noted over on the [livejournal.com profile] savepluto LiveJournal blog, six years ago today the New Horizons spacecraft was launched toward Pluto. Hard to believe we're only three and a half years away from seeing Pluto up close...
Over on the [livejournal.com profile] savepluto blog, the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet (or SP3) marks the fifth anniversary of Pluto's demotion:

Five Years Ago Today, Pluto Was Demoted

Go read it and contemplate the universe we live in.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.
Last night, thanks to the Boston Skeptics organization, Nomi and I got to meet Mike Brown, the man who discovered Eris and indirectly led to the demotion of Pluto's status as a planet.



Nomi S. Burstein, Mike Brown, Michael A. Burstein Nomi S. Burstein, Mike Brown, Michael A. Burstein
Photo ©2011 D. Moskowitz. All rights reserved.



The Boston Skeptics had arranged for Mike Brown to give a talk last night at Tommy Doyle's in Cambridge. We had only found out about the talk on Tuesday morning, but thanks to a good friend who volunteered to put our kids to bed, we managed to clear our schedule to attend. But when the National Weather Service predicted a significant snowfall starting yesterday afternoon, we weren't sure if we were going to make it to the lecture.

The roads turned out to be clear, and we made it to the pub just as things were getting started at 7 pm. Brown was already there, and willing to sign books even before his talk began. We brought our copy of his book over to him and introduced ourselves. It turned out he had already heard of us and was as delighted to meet us as we were to meet him. He was very gracious and personable, and his talk demonstrated quite clearly why he had won a teaching award.

The space was somewhat small and crowded, and not designed very well for his talk, I'm afraid. The screen for his presentation slides didn't face the main body of the room, so it was hard for us to see. Having arrived just at 7 pm, Nomi and I had difficulty finding seating, but a nice scientist named Jason allowed us to sit at the table with him and his two friends.

Brown discussed his research in the outer solar system. He had a graphic that showed just how big in comparison all the planets are to each other and to the objects in the Kuiper Belt, making it clear why Pluto is such an outlier. He talked about the telescopes at Palomar Observatory that they use to photograph the sky, and how they look for those tiny objects that are so far away. Back when Clyde Tombaugh found Pluto, Tombaugh used a blink comparator, a device that allowed him to compare two photos of the same portion of sky from two different nights to see if any points of light had moved. Brown relied on something similar, except in his case a computer went through a slew of photos and would present him with likely candidates in his morning email. I wonder what Tombaugh would have thought of that.

Brown seemed very respectful of those of us who still feel that Pluto should be considered a planet. He understands where the impulse comes from, and in a way, if Pluto were still a planet it would be better for him. After all, he'd be able to go down in history as the discoverer of the tenth planet (and eleventh, and twelfth, and thirteenth, etc.) Instead, he's going to be the discoverer of a lot of astronomical bodies that he himself points out are rather insignificant to the solar system.

Although he feels that Pluto should not be a planet, it turns out we do have a few points of agreement. He and we both feel that the term "dwarf planet" is a bad one, and he also has issues with the way the term "planet" is currently being defined by the IAU.

Brown also spun a brief tale of alternate history that, as a science fiction writer, I found fascinating. He pointed out that the discovery of bodies like Pluto, Eris, and Sedna relies a lot on the good luck of looking in the right place at the right time. He suggested that had Eris's orbit been different, and had it been discovered only a few years after Pluto, that perhaps we wouldn't have this controversy over Pluto's status today. After all, when Ceres was discovered in 1801 it was thought to be a planet, but as soon as many other small bodies were discovered nearby it got demoted as well and became known as the largest asteroid instead. Had Tombaugh or others managed to find other Pluto-like objects in the outer solar system in the early twentieth century, then perhaps we wouldn't have this debate today. But, Brown acknowledges, he does prefer what really did happen, as otherwise he wouldn't have been the discoverer of Eris.

All in all, a lovely evening, and it was wonderful to have the chance to meet him.


Mike Brown's Message to Supporters of Pluto Mike Brown's Message to Supporters of Pluto
Photo ©2011 M. Burstein. All rights reserved.

As I noted over on the [livejournal.com profile] savepluto blog, Nomi and I plan to be at the Mike Brown lecture tomorrow night in Cambridge, assuming the weather cooperates.


Mike Brown, the astronomer who discovered Eris and who didn't necessarily want to kill Pluto but ended up doing so, will be speaking at Tommy Doyles Irish Pub & Restaurant at 96 Winthrop St. in Harvard Square tomorrow night starting at 7 pm. He will be lecturing on his new book "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming." The president and vice-president of the Society for the Preservation of Pluto As a Planet will be there to show our support for Pluto...and to get our copy of the book signed. :-)


People tend to assume we go to these talks with large signs protesting the demotion of Pluto. In reality, we know that in the end, people like Mike Brown and Neil deGrasse Tyson are on the same side as we are, at least for the important part, which is promoting astronomy among the general public. Tyson can testify to how respectful we were at his talk a few years ago, and how delighted we were to meet him. We're looking forward to meeting Mike Brown tomorrow night.
On this day in exactly 115 years, there will be a Transit of Venus visible from Earth.

If you can't wait that long, there will be one coming up on June 6, 2012.

Here's what Nomi and I did for the last Transit of Venus.
A few days ago, NASA announced that they would be holding a press conference today at 2 pm EST about an important astrobiology discovery. Ever since, there's been rampant speculation among the blogosphere and the news media as to what this announcement might be.

I was hoping for the possibility of life on Titan; but it looks like it may instead be news about life here on Earth incorporating Arsenic instead of Phosphorus into its biochemistry.

Either way, we'll know for sure very soon. The press conference starts in fifteen minutes...
Last week, in the midst of all the other things keeping Nomi and me busy, we managed to have lunch with Brother Guy Consolmagno (LJ: [livejournal.com profile] brotherguy) when he was briefly in town. He asked us if we knew of any Jewish sources that mention the star of Bethlehem, or anything about Judaism and astrology of that time, and I'm drawing a blank. I've done some searching, but I can't find any Jewish sources that discuss or mention the star of Bethlehem. Brother Guy is looking for this information for something he's working on; can anyone help us out?

ETA: Brother Guy clarifies what he's looking for in this reply to this post.

Michael A. Burstein and Sean Sullivan Michael A. Burstein and Sean Sullivan
Photo copyright ©2010 by Nomi S. Burstein. All rights reserved.



The picture above is of me and Sean Sullivan, a friend who has photographed space shuttle launches in the past and is doing again this Friday for the Aiken (SC) Standard.

Sean contacted me last week because when he goes to photograph shuttle launches, he likes to bring items of sentimental value that people would like to have brought along. Sean asked me if I had anything that I might want him to keep in a plastic bag hanging from one of the camera tripods, and the moment he asked, I knew what I would want him to bring.

It's a little hard to see in the photo because of the flash, but the box I'm holding contains a Nebula nominee pin and a Hugo nominee pin. Whenever writers are nominated for Hugo or Nebula Awards, they receive lapel pins to wear even if they don't win. In my own short story writing career, I've received a bunch of these pins. The Hugo pins all look like little rockets. The Nebula pins (at least, the original ones) display a galaxy with stars flying out of it, artwork done by Bob Eggleton.

Sean didn't realize that the Nebula Awards were taking place in Florida this year, nor did he know that SFWA has arranged for members to view the shuttle launch. As I mentioned before, I'm unable to attend the banquet this year, which is doubly disappointing as I'm also missing a shuttle launch. But thanks to Sean, two of my award pins will be present, and who knows? They may bring me luck.

In fact, we've got one more item going with Sean to Florida. Nomi lent him one of her tripods, so when we get it back, we'll be able to tell people that we own a tripod that was used to take pictures of the May 2010 space shuttle launch. How cool is that?
Tonight's Nova episode, "The Pluto Files," follows Neil deGrasse Tyson around as he discusses Pluto's status with various people all over the country. I thought that it would be a good time to link people back to my post a year ago, when Nomi and I confronted Dr. Tyson in our role as the main officers of the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet:

Mabfan's Musings: Talk: Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Demotion of Pluto (February 27, 2009)

If you don't want to go back to the post, here are some of the relevant pictures from that fateful night:


Back, back! Back, back!
Neil deGrasse Tyson defends himself from the defenders of Pluto. Photo copyright ©2009 by SP3.




Dr. Tyson's Message to Supporters of Pluto Dr. Tyson's Message to Supporters of Pluto
Photo copyright ©2009 by SP3.



But We All Share a Love for Astronomy! But We All Share a Love for Astronomy!
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Burstein, and Nomi S. Burstein may disagree on Pluto, but we all agree that Dr. Tyson is a gentleman. Photo copyright ©2009 by SP3.

As reported over on the SP3 blog at Hubble Images of Pluto, yesterday, NASA released some new images of Pluto taken with the Hubble Space Telescope, that reveal Pluto to be "a complex-looking and variegated world with white, dark-orange, and charcoal-black terrain." Pluto's many changes show it to be "not simply a ball of ice and rock but a dynamic world that undergoes dramatic atmospheric changes."

Follow the link above to other links to NASA's Hubble photos of Pluto, including a video.
Today is the 24th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy, the day when the space shuttle exploded and NASA lost seven astronauts: Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. Their sacrifice is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery.

For the people of my generation, the Challenger tragedy was our equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Because a schoolteacher, McAuliffe, was on board, many schools had chosen to show the launch live to their students over television. The launch took place around 11:30 AM EST, and seventy-three seconds into the flight, the shuttle exploded. People were confused at first, but it soon became clear that NASA was experiencing what they euphemistically refer to as an LOCV: loss of crew and vehicle.

I didn't see the explosion live, but I still remember that day vividly. My own story is as follows. I was in 11th grade at the time at Hunter College High School. One of our school's Chemistry teachers, Francine Salzman, had applied for the Teacher-in-Space program but not been accepted. So we were all keenly aware of the meaning of the launch.

The school's lunch period took place from 11:10 AM to 12noon, if I remember correctly, and after eating lunch I went to hang out in the school library with friends. I was sitting in the front area of the library when my friend Christina Sormani walked in and asked if I had heard the news about the shuttle. I said no, and she told me that it had blown up during the launch. I protested that she was kidding, and she assured me that she wasn't.

I realized she was serious and I started to cry. I cried so much that Tina thought I personally knew one of the astronauts. I didn't, of course; at the time, like all of us, the only one I could actually name was McAuliffe. But I was crying for them nevertheless, and for the dashed hopes and dreams of an entire human race that yearns to go to the stars. I knew that this would cause a major setback in our space program; and I could only hope that it wouldn't crush it entirely.

That afternoon, when we got home, there was an ironic coda. My father had been applying to the Journalist-in-Space program, and on that very day we received the postcard from NASA indicating that all his applications materials were in. And years later, in 2003, McAuliffe and my father were my own inspirations as I applied unsuccessfully to be an Educator Astronaut.
One of my favorite scientists is being featured again.

Planetary scientist Dr. Carolyn Porco is the leader of the Imaging Science Team on the Cassini mission and director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations. I first heard of her from her work on the Voyager missions and I had a chance to meet her in person a few years ago when she spoke at the Boston Museum of Science.

Today's New York Times features this article on her, An Odyssey From the Bronx to Saturn's Rings, in which it is revealed that she's now working on New Horizons and consulting for the next Star Trek film. Go read it.

I publicly offer my congratulations on her recent achievements, while at the same time note how glad I am that there continue to be such excellent role models for women (and men!) working in the field of planetary science.

My previous blog posts about Dr. Carolyn Porco (read the second one for the story of when we heard her speak):
Dr. Carolyn Porco at the Museum of Science (April 13, 2004)
Enceladus, Dr. Carolyn Porco, and the Power of the Internet (March 10, 2006)
The Necessity of Space Exploration (February 20, 2007)
Tonight, the space shuttle Discovery is lifting off for a two-week mission. As part of the mission, the astronauts will be delivering replacement parts to the International Space Station.

I'm feeling a little bit wistful about this mission for one rather odd reason. Friends of mine may recall that back in 2003 I applied for the Educator Astronaut program. (Looking back, I see that I didn't really blog about that much, but the four posts I did make are listed at the bottom for anyone who wants to read them.) I made the first cut, but then NASA decided that my medical profile did not meet their standards. (Given my nearsightedness, I can understand that.)

People may see where this is going. In 2004, NASA selected a class of Educator Astronauts, and I was not among them. Five years later, two of those astronauts, Joseph M. Acaba and Richard R. Arnold II, are getting ready to go into space on their first mission, STS-119.

Both of them are extremely qualified to be astronauts, of course. According to their entries on Wikipedia, Acaba studied geology in college and graduate school and served in the Marine reserves, and Arnold studied Environmental Science and worked as an Oceanographic Technician for the United States Naval Academy. Also, both had distinguished careers as teachers before they were selected to be astronauts. To be honest, I'm proud that my former profession is being represented tonight by astronauts such as these two men.

Still, I can't help but imagine that in some other universe, I'm getting ready to go into space myself.


My Educator Astronaut Posts from 2003:

Sean P. Fodera, the New York Regional Coordinator of the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as Planet, visited his son's classroom to discuss Pluto and blogs about it in My Presentation on Pluto's Planetary Status:


I briefly explained the history of how planets get discovered, and how improving technology has made it easier to find objects in space. They were amazed that anyone could have spotted Pluto from Earth with 1930s telescope technology, or that comparing fuzzy photos could work for detecting the far-off planet....

I discussed the controversy over Pluto's demotion, explaining how the new definition of planet is not accurate, and how less than 5% of the IAU actually voted on the matter. The students had trouble understanding the voting part of it, since they all seem to assume that if something is voted on, it must be fair. So, I presented an example. "Let's say that when your teacher and I went to this school, it was decided that every year the 6th grade class would get to go to the circus. Now, years later, someone decides to take a vote about whether to keep going on the circus trip. Instead of all 50 of you voting, only three of you vote. One votes 'yes', and two vote 'no'. 'No' wins, but it's not exactly a fair vote, is it? That's what happened to Pluto." Eyes lit up, and lot of heads started shaking.


Go read!

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