With the New Horizons probe reaching Pluto in just a few more days, it seems like a good time to address a couple of questions:
1. Is Pluto a planet?
I say YES! My opinion has no basis in science -- it arises strictly from a combination of irrational prejudice and childhood nostalgia. And I think if we're going to kick Pluto out of the society of planets, there a few other pieces of debris that should also be expelled, namely Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. After all, the Solar System basically consists of four enormous planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune -- and a bunch of rocks. My colleague David Weintraub informs me that I won't get very far with a definition of "planet" that excludes the Earth, but I think we should be more open-minded.
2. What's the best science fiction story about Pluto?
My favorite is "Wait it Out" by Larry Niven. An astronaut is marooned on Pluto and freezes solid. But instead of dying, he finds his nervous system turned into a superconductor, leaving him conscious enough to wait for rescue. This is not only the Pluto story I remember most vividly, it's the only story about Pluto that I can recall clearly. Any other favorites out there?