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Margo Schulter

A possible compromise does occur to me which would recognize the points of both sides in the IAU debates.
Following a distinction in the biological discipline of taxonomy, one might define the eight "planets" of the new IAU definition as "planets _strictu sensu_" -- that is, planets in a strict or narrow sense.
Then one could define these eight planets plus Pluto and other "dwarf planets" as "planets _sensu latu_" -- that is, planets in a broad sense.
In other words, Pluto (and other dwarf planets) could indeed properly be called planets "broadly speaking," while "strictly speaking" there would only be only eight planets (as under the newly adopted resolution).
Borrowing the sensu strictu/latu distinction seems especially appropriate to me, because in biology it can address a situation where the historical concept of a given species, for example, has become narrower as scientific knowledge progresses; the "broad" and "narrow" definitions recognize both familiar usage and current refinements.
Another possible compromise: how about calling the two categories of planets (sensu latu) "major planets" and "dwarf planets"? The term "major planet" might have more familiarity and resonance than the proposed "classical planet," and adoption of this term would retain the recognition that Pluto, originally considered the ninth major planet, is now agreed to be in a different and intriguing class -- arguably a promotion.
A benefit of the heated debate, and the issues raised on all sides, would be to recognize that in science some taxonomic decisions can be knotty questions; and that it is possible, without discounting in any way the dynamicist perspective of the current new definitions, to recognize the broader sense of "planet" (including Pluto and reinstating Ceres) as well.
If one goes with "major planet" and "dwarf planet," then this revision would also fit the view that a "dwarf planet" is a kind of planet -- broadly speaking, of course.


An example perhaps of this group of so-called experts not being the best judge on the issue? But should we go to the other extreme and throw it out to non-experts and exploit the Wisdom of Crowds?

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