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Pluto and the Platypus: Tales of an Odd Ball and an Odd Duck
MRIC 2007/08

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"Pluto and the Platypus: Tales of an Odd Ball and an Odd Duck"

October 23rd
Matthew Slater - Philosophy

Abstract: In the past 15 years, our knowledge of the solar system has increased significantly. Many large bodies in the Kuiper Belt and beyond have been discovered. Just a year ago, in light of these discoveries, the International Astronomical Union voted to "demote" Pluto from planet to "dwarf planet". Many described this move as reflecting our discovery of Pluto's proper categorization. I argue that things are nowhere near this simple. We might better regard it as a classificatory decision. Many interesting questions arise from this stance (what constrains such decisions? what do they reflect about the objects so classified?). Perhaps we can learn from another protracted episode of the taxonomic confusion: the furor surrounding the platypus.

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