Personally I was extremely annoyed that Pluto was recently demoted to the status of a dwarf planet. It’s really not fair to poor old Pluto, a planet that has steadfastly guarded the currently accepted outer reaches of our solar system since its discovery in 1930. It may yet be reclassified again as a new type of trans-Neptunian object, or TNO. I read all sorts of reasoning behind the demotion of Pluto, but as far as I’m concerned it’s been a planet since its discovery, it has its own moon (Charon) and should therefore stay a planet. Mind you, I’m no astronomer. Just a guy with opinions.
But of course, the more pressing issue now is that all the mnemonics that people have used to remember the planets in the solar system are wrong. We no longer need to remember Pluto as a planet, therefore the mnemonic doesn’t require the P at the end. The most common mnemonic, as far as I can tell, is “My very elegant mother just served us nine pizzas”. There’s also the less politically correct (perhaps Lewinsky inspired) “My very easy mother just sucked up nine politicians”. There are variations on the theme, obviously.
So, a mnemonic for the solar system without a P at the end? The obvious one would be the original without pizzas on the end, with the N for Neptune signified by something else. For example, “My very elegant mother just served us noodles” or “My very elegant mother just served us needles” if you prefer your mnemonic mothers to have a macabre and sadistic streak.
On doing a little research on the subject, however, I discovered that all the work had already been done. Those fine folks over at kottke.org already held a competition for a new mnemonic and got some cracking results. Read all about it here and choose your own favourite for future use. I get the feeling that the Michael Jackson one might stick.
And for those of you that read mnemonic and think only of really bad Keanu Reeves movies, this link is for you.
And as there might be some people out there that wonder what all the fuss is about, you don’t need me to tell you how important using the right words can be. Check this out, for example. Astronomers have opened a can of worms with this one.