I suppose many of you have probably heard this by now and I haven't been saying much on it, but it looks like the debate on the status of Pluto is over for now. As of this morning Pluto is no longer a planet and our solar system only has eight planets.
Many astronomy blogs have been mentioning this debate for some time now but I've refrained from commenting for a number of reasons. The first one was that I was waiting for the dust to settle and the vote to be taken before I went out on a limb and made any definative statements.
The second, and perhaps more important, is that I really don't think it's important from a scientific standpoint.
In all fairness, terms like "planet" are just labels. Ultimately the label isn't important as the object itself. The only reason we use labels at all is because it's convenient to have a single word to quickly transmit the concepts without having to go into very specific details. But where we draw the boundary lines is the tricky part.
To illustrate this point, take the word "star" as example. I'm willing to bet that when you read that word, the first image that pops into mind is an concept of a nice round star similar to our sun. Such stars are happily going about their life due to fusion. However, when you think about it some more, there's a lot of things that don't really fit this image, but none the less, are called stars: white dwarves, neutron stars, etc...
Thus, when doing science, these convenient but vague labels generally aren't sufficient, which is why extensive sub grouping is required: main sequence stars, giants, subgiants, variable, etc...
That's why I can't really find myself being too concerned with the status of Pluto as "planet" or not. The entire concept of planet is so overarching that it's not really useful in a scientific sense. But, even if we got down to the nit picky sub groupings, it still doesn't matter to much what we call it, but really, what its properties are.
So scientifically, I don't really worry too much about the designation. Therefore, I can't really say I understand the public outcry. Scientists are the ones that need a quick classification scheme, thus we're the ones that need to worry about such designations. For the general public, there's no good reason I can fathom that they should really care in the least.
The only reason that I can figure out is that it stems from a sense of ethnocentrism, since Pluto was the only (former) planet discovered by an American, and we really want our own to have made such important contributions. But ethnocentrism is a lousy way to make a definition.
So there you have it; My personal opinion on the whole matter. In short, who cares?
"That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."