August 24, 2006 [LINK]

Solar system loses a planet!

No, this is not another side effect of global warming, it's just a question of classification. Pluto, the remote celestial body that was discovered in 1930, will no longer be regarded by the International Astronomical Union as the ninth planet in the solar system. There were several disqualifying factors, such as its small size (smaller than the Moon) and having an irregular orbit that brought it closer to the sun than [Neptune Uranus oops!] between 1979 and 1999. Many other potential "planets" have been discovered in recent years, raising the frightening possibility that American schoolchildren would be forced to memorize dozens of new planet names. As if they weren't under enough pressure from standards-based testing already! In the end, scientists determined that, for the purposes of establishing criteria to distinguish planets from lesser bodies, it would be much simpler to simply exclude Pluto. Meanwhile, a new category of "dwarf planets" is being established for Pluto and its ilk, as well as another, larger grouping yet to be named. See Washington Post. At the very least, this should dispel the popular myth that scientific knowledge is an assemblage of factual certainties. Almost everything -- including our understanding of evolution -- is subject to revision or refinement, eventually. [As this corrected blog post proves! ]

Apple tackles problems

Our Favorite Computer Company has had some bad press lately. Apple settled a lawsuit by agreeing to pay Singapore-based Creative Technology, Ltd. $100 million to license newly patented technologies which are similar to those used in the iPod. "Apple can recoup a portion of its payment if Creative is successful in licensing this patent to others." See

Also, a week after Dell computer announced a massive recall of laptop computers because of faulty batteries that are liable to catch fire or explode, Apple did likewise.

Finally, Apple issued a Report on iPod manufacturing last week in response to complaints about poor treatment of labor in the Chinese factory where iPods are assembled. Some violations were found, but overall conditions were found to be satisfactory.