Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pluto explained: Dr. Stuart Robbins on Reality Check Podcast

Dr. Stuart Robbins of the Exposing PseudoAstronomy podcast and blog is two parts into a three part podcast series on Comet Hale Bopp dealing with the alleged companion craft of the comet that helped lead to the unfortunate mass suicide of the Heavens Gate Cult.  I plan to cover all three episodes once the trilogy is complete.  However, Dr. Robbins has done a guest appearance on The Reality Check podcast.

The Reality Check is a Canadian-based effort produced by the Ottawa Skeptics.  The show has been in production since 2008, and has had a number of hosts and panelists.  The current hosts are Darren McKee, Adam Gardner, Cristina Roach, and Pat Roach.  I have listened to Reality Check a few times in the past, and it's a good show.  It has not made it into my normal queue of shows.

Pluto giving IAU the finger
source: author 
The bulk of the episode centers on Dr. Robbins explaining why Pluto was seemingly demoted from august planet status to a less impressive dwarf planet.  Over a period of twenty minutes or so, Robbins went through the history of how the term planet came to be known, the history of planetary discovery, how the asteroid Ceres was once considered a planet, and the discovery of Pluto.  Robbins then explains the discoveries that occur over the course of the twentieth century that led to questioning whether Pluto should still be considered a planet.  How the new discoveries led the International Astronomical Union deciding to define the definition of a planet, and how the new definition is not perfect.

All of the above was quite interesting, and Dr. Robbins as an actual working astronomer clearly has a grasp of the question and how to explain it as well.  Needless to say, I have a sentimental attachment to Pluto the planet, but given the definition, Pluto just is not a planet.

Stuart's guest segment was followed by a game hosted by Pat asking the panelists a series of 9th Grade science comprehension questions.  While listening, I managed to guess them all correct, but I must stress for two of them that I GUESSED them correctly.  This was a fun bit in the style of Fact or Fiction from the SGU.  The final segment of the show was discussion regarding a piece covered by CBS News on the alleged unsafe amounts of arsenic found in less expensive brands of wine.  The panel breaks it down and points out the flaws in how CBS covered the story, and the errors made by those promoting this idea that was taken up by CBS News.  It was a nice skeptical exercise to end the show.

All in all, I enjoyed the episode.  I might try to listen to Reality Check more often.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks. I noticed that you were kind enough not to mention that I missed the first question.

    TRC is in my regular rotation of podcasts because I like the very basic format: 3-4 short segments per episode that address something random that I never would otherwise have thought to look into, but always (well, ~99% of the time) with critical thinking involved in looking at the claim.


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