Big Mac bosses in little “planet” blunder


By Michael MacLeod

FAST food clown Ronald McDonald has been slated by scientists for conning kids into believing Pluto is still a planet.
The tiny space rock was officially judged to be too small to qualify as a planet three years ago.

But space geeks have spotted a recent batch of McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes still stating: “There are nine planets in total.”

Now burger bosses admit they are “aware” of the International Astronomical Union’s (IAU) ruling.

Members of the 10,000-strong IAU took over two years debating how many planets were in the solar system.

And in August 2006 it was declared that the scientific community should now regard Pluto as merely a “dwarf planet.”

But a batch of “fact”-filled McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes offer a different opinion.

They say: “The Solar System is made up of all the planets that orbit our Sun. There are 9 planets in total.”

Cambridge professor Paul Murdin OBE said giving young space enthusiasts out-of-date information was “a shame.

The editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics said: “McDonald’s have got this wrong.

“It’s a shame they didn’t check their facts.”

A spokesperson for the fast food firm said: “We are aware of the debate about Pluto.”

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  1. The problem really isn’t that McDonald’s is “conning kids into believing that Pluto is still a planet.” Actually, the problem with the Happy Meal blurb is the claim that “there are nine planets in total.” As you note, the IAU vote tried to draw a line at eight planets in our solar system, but the fact is that the line should not be drawn that sharply. There are probably scores of worlds in our own solar system, known and as yet unknown, that share important features with the four giant and the four terrestrial planets on the IAU’s list. The IAU’s designations of “dwarf planets” and “minor planets” were a backhanded way of acknowledging that. It’s particularly sad that the “nine planets only” message (which could just as easily have been the equally wrong “eight planets only”) was directed at kids who have a good chance of being planet discoverers themselves in the next few decades.

  2. Well, the IAU can say what it wants, and the rest of us can think what we want. If the IAU wants to push a planetary definition that’s not just counterintuitive to the average person but done without consensus in the astronomical community and in violation of their own bylaws, they can, and the people at McDonald’s and a lot of other people can also ignore this definition. The IAU is reaping what it’s sown.

  3. McDonald’s is NOT conning anybody. Like many, including hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern who signed a formal petition rejecting the IAU definition, McDonalds is aware of this definition and actively rejects attempts to impose one interpretation on the world as fact. McDonald’s doesn’t have this wrong; the four percent of the IAU who voted on the nonsensical definition that demoted Pluto do. Their definition makes no sense in saying dwarf planets are not planets and in classifying objects solely by where they are while ignoring what the are. An alternate, broader planet definition favored by Stern and like-minded scientists, is that a planet is any non-self-luminous spheroidal body orbiting a star. The spherical part is important because it means a body is in large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity, a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium. By that definition, our solar system has 13 planets and counting: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. If anything, McDonald’s should add Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris to their Happy Meal boxes. Shame on the IAU for trying to force one interpretation of an ongong debate on the world as gospel truth when it clearly is not.

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