August 24th, 2006


Astronomy News

Pluto Demoted

Pluto is, officially and finally, no longer a planet. I admit, I'm bummed by this. Pluto has long been my favorite planet, just because it's so small and mysterious and it has a cool setup with its moon. Charon, the biggest moon, is large enough and close enough that it really forms a double system; the center of mass that the two bodies orbit about is actually above the surface of the planet.

If you're not sure how to pronounce the name Charon, well, you're not alone. The moon is named for the mythological ferryman who carried people across the river Styx and into Hades. His name is pronounced with a K sound: KAY-ron. But the astronomer who discovered the moon partly suggested the name because his wife was named Charlene (and went by Char for short). So he prounced it the same way as the start of her name, SHARE-run. Personally, I prefer the classical version.

And, if you didn't hear, you might be wondering about my calling it the "biggest moon". Pluto has two other moons, Nix and Hydra, which were discovered only last summer.

Finally, in followup to earlier news about misplaced moon landing tapes, it turns out one tape was out there. A rock video producer had requested footage from the Smithsonian and got a reel of moon landing video. This was left in his archive until he saw the recent news story. Will other tapes be similarly located?
Tardy Turtle: front

No Short-Term Whatchamacallit

Apple has announced a battery recall for certain models of laptop, including the iBook G4 which I own. The article doesn't mention serial numbers, it just says batteries manufactured by Sony are affected. (And the Apple website is currently down.)

So I figured I'd check my battery to see if it said Sony and, while I was at it, get the serial number for later. So I pull my laptop and power cable out of my carrying bag; by plugging the laptop in, I think you can remove the battery without the computer losing power.

I get the laptop upside down on my desk and get a coin for the little battery locking mechanism. Twist that, pop the battery out, record the serial number printed in little squint-inducing gray type.

Those of you with working memories have already deduced what comes next. I look down and, coiled idly on the floor below my desk, is my power cord.

I really worry about what I'll be like at retirement age. Life will be a voyage of constant discovery.