It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's My Planet and I'll Cry if I Want To

A comment spotted on a particularly egregious thread at Pajamas Media:
33. Sven:

Anyone who uses the word “planet” in a non-astronomical sense deserves endless ridicule.


Image: NASA


Dan Olner said...

1. Is that a photo???

2. How much of those sorts of blogs are you reading? Surely that's bad for your health?

3. "Two down, two to go." Genius. Because, of course, every last attempt at global temperature tracking is bound to be outed as some kind of commie hoax. And anyway, you can't measure temperature (Louis' comments at Deltoid from 2004.)

Michael Tobis said...

1 - I'm pretty sure it's a photo. The person claiming copyright does not tell us who he is, though, or how he got it.

2 - I spend too much time on my RSS feeds so you don't have to.

3 - They are good at what they do, no question about that.

Tom Yulsman said...

I don't even know where to start with that comment. Is he saying the Earth is a planet sometimes but not other times? That "planet" is a social construction? That he he has his head stuck some place where the sun never shines? (But "sun" only in an astronomical sense?)

As for the photo, it looks to me that it was shot from the Space Shuttle. In my former incarnation as editor of a magazine called Earth (RIP), I regularly perused NASA's shuttle photography for pix like this to run as our centerfold shot. This one is among the most breathtaking I have ever seen.

Tom Yulsman said...

I found the photo. It was actually taken from the International Space Station.

It's one of these:

Someone Photoshopped the image and posted it to the Internet, where it has evidently been making the rounds. Definitely spectacular.

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks, Tom!

Unfortunately your link doesn't seem to work; I get an error message about an invalid thumbnail or such.

rustneversleeps said...

Don't know how Tom tracked that down, but it did remind of this really cool app from a company here in Toronto (I think):

If you plug in Michael's pic above - - you get these results:

Cool, eh?

Um. It turns out I originally heard about this app from, um...

Michael Tobis said...

Image attribution changed to "NASA".

Tom Yulsman said...

I think this is the original, un-cropped, un-Photoshopped image: (I hope that link works. It does for me.)

Don't ask how I found it. It took awhile. And I'm not sure why I bothered, other than it is such an achingly lovely image, and I guess I really didn't want to do the work I should have done late on a Friday afternoon...

In any case, definitely is one amazing app.

Dan Olner said...

Tom Yulsman: "I don't even know where to start with that comment. Is he saying the Earth is a planet sometimes but not other times? That "planet" is a social construction?"

I was thinking about that last night. My conclusion: using the term 'planet' in earthly discourse is - he believes - a trope of environmental ideology with no basis in political fact. So, yes, it's a social construction, and a dangerous one! It fits in with the general attack on 'environmentalism'. E.g. I picked up a lovely leaflet at a climate denial talk a while back by these people. It starts: 'green monitor is a campaign in which the activities of environmental groups are tracked and analysed. We intend to highlight the real harm done by these groups in the developing world, and alert people to the consequences of funding such groups'.

All the usual stuff: DDT, golden rice, palm oil, GM crops, BT cotton. All undiluted mana from capitalist heaven, thwarted by those dastardly, deluded planet-believers.

I love finding phrases that are so far out of my own frame of reference that it takes some mental gymnastics to see where they're coming from.

King of the Road said...

Simple explanation: "planet" used in non-astronomical context = Gaia -> moonbat alert.

Dan Olner said...

King of the Road said...

"Simple explanation: "planet" used in non-astronomical context = Gaia -> moonbat alert."

Oh yeah - that's roughly what I was trying to say in 50 times the number of words!

Michael Tobis said...

I think this picture is so moving because of the cumulus towers in the foreground, the most gigantic visible (non-astronomical) objects of our day-to-day experience, setting the scale. We perceive the size of the planet, huge but finite, in this perspective by connecting it with things we see in our daily lives.

We see the atmosphere in profile at the horizon, reminding us how thin it is.

And the vague hint of dustiness, and the possible contrails in the foreground, are enough to remind us that we are having an effect on this air supply, the only thing in the universe that can keep us (or, as far as we know, anything) alive.

I suppose we have to keep the economy going of course. Jobs, jobs, jobs! So it's a shame, a sad shame about the big round thing formerly known as our planet.

Anna Haynes said...

> "Anyone who uses the word “planet” in a non-astronomical sense..."

I think this falls into the "Republicans helpfully offering political strategy advice to Democrats" category - since (from NASA):
"British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle stated, "Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available - once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes known - a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose."

Hamstring it.

Dan Olner said...

Is that cloud a cumulonimbus incus? So it's hitting the stratosphere, and its tabletop is about 10km up...? It shows the demarcation amazingly.

This picture is my desktop now - well, a larger one via a tinyeye search. Thanks!