Thursday, August 17, 2006

How Big is Too Big?

Recently, a global coalition of astronomers proposed a definition of the term "planet" that would, once and for all, settle the questions of whether Pluto deserved to be a planet and what other objects deserved that coveted status. This is all well and good, but in their haste to hammer out this definition, the astronomers neglected to indicate a maximum size for a planet. Sure, they got a minimum size, but not a maximum, and without that, how can we tell a brown dwarf from a bloated Jupiter-clone?

Enter Martin Davis of Arvada, Colorado. Martin may be "just" a high school student, and he may not have a degree in astronomy (yet), but he has a spectacularly simple solution to the problem. That solution: don't bother having a maximum size for planets! Instead, if the center of a potential planet's orbit around a star is within that star, then the object is a planet. If, however, the center of the orbit is between the star and the object, then the system is considered binary.

Now, I don't understand a word of this, but it's obviously brilliant! This is the kind of thinking that's going to get Martin a Nobel Prize in short order and will have him dating a string of adoring supermodels the second he turns 18. Good going, Martin!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So what this high school student is saying is "size doesn't matter"?