I have to admit that the recent decision that Pluto wasn’t really a planet made me a little queasy. How does a teacher explain to a group of 4th graders that some things in their text books really aren’t true any more–but that they should still believe everything else. When I was in fourth grade that really would have freaked me out. I was the kind of kid who was just looking for an excuse not to believe anything in the textbook, and this would have been all the evidence I would have needed.
Somewhere I read that the average high school replaces its science texts every seven years, and you have to wonder how many new discoveries don’t get the press that changing all those models of the solar system did and just slip quietly right by.
I like Dave Warlick’s analysis of the reaction of the Wikipedia community.
Then the announcement came and the BBC posted a news flash that “Pluto Loses Status as a Planet“, Thursday, 24 August 2006, 13:34 GMT. In less than 60 seconds, the Wikipedia article is updated with the following line of text added.
On August 26, 2006, it was decided that Pluto was, in fact, ‘’not’’ a planet, lowering the number of planets from nine to eight.
Over the next few minutes new images were added, text changed, deleted, and added, and the article changed before the world. The content was ready to go regardless of the verdict. Between 13:34 GMT and midnight, the article was edited 90 times.
For all its faults, you gotta love the Wikipedia.