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Saving Pluto For the Sixth Grade

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.


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