This is going to multiple part post, the first section is going to discuss something that I feel the news media is missing from the Pluto story.
Pluto is it a planet or not? Have school kids been debating this idea? Nope, it has been scientists and engineers who have been spending time and energy to formalize a definition of what constitutes a planet and what isn’t a planet. No, this isn’t a rant about how scientists need to have better things to do with their time. In fact, I approve of this study by the International Astronautical Union or IAU to decide on a formal definition of what is a planet. There has never really been a formal rule for what is and is not a planet, basically the IAU decided on a case by case basis with no real set standards.
So where is the problem? The problems, which out of the five articles I read discussing the IAU proposal only the New York Times discussed this any amount of detail, which is that beyond researchers and scientists no one will understand the definition or accept it. Millions of schoolchildren will be naming planets inaccurately, planetariums will be providing incorrect information, museums the one place where information is supposedly sacred and unpolitical will in fact be giving out false information. Why, you might ask, why would institutions that pride themselves on being factual give out false information?
The answer is quite simple and everyone has experienced this at some point in their lives. These researchers and scientists will not be able to explain either the reasons behind the change or the change itself to the average citizen of the world. If this change can not be explained to the everyday people of the world, how can museums, planetariums, and schools hope to present and teach this same information. They can’t and thus they won’t. Instead they will settle for making it a footnote in lecturers and lessons, that the information just presented is not entirely accurate.
This problem should be evident to the news media, but they themselves I think don’t entirely understand the problem of information being presented in a bad way and not being accurately understood by the masses. Not because the information is bad or wrong in anyway, simply because people in many fields can not present information is easy to understand and small chunks. Chunks that those in the masses, namely you and I without a higher Physics or Math degree can understand.
Tomorrow I will present information from a study that will back up my hypothesis and further explore the relation between information being created from a study and information understood and accepted by the masses.