Abolish April Fools: The Pluto Connection

Abolish April Fools. There. I’ve said it.

I despise April Fools. Always have. I despise it as part of my self-assigned role as protector of gullible children (having been one, and still being one to some great degree).

To illustrate my view of what is wrong with the holiday; I’ve written a little playlet of a typical April fools exchange:

Lunch Lady: There’s a bug on your face!
2nd grade girl: What? (shrieks / cries)
Lunch Lady: April Fools!

The fact that middle aged woman in a position of authority can trick an 8 year old is not my point. My central theme or gist, if you will, is the sheer absence of humor in the entire April Fool’s genre.

Take for example this year’s highly publicized Google hoax of an Internet Protocol-enabled toilet. I repeat: an Internet Protocol-enabled toilet. An Internet Protocol-enabled toilet.

That’s it? That’s the concept?

Google has a fairly credible web page (I needn’t provide a link) with good documentation of the "project". It was clearly meant to be absurd, and yet…I am underwhelmed. All for the sake of an IP Toilet joke? Even if you look for another level of humor (and there are a couple), it’s still not that clever.

The popular version of the Origin of April Fools, as we all are sick of hearing, is the changeover from the Julian calendar to the more familiar Gregorian system we now use. Old-school holdouts clung to the tradition of celebrating new years in April, and were derided as fools, even though mensuration (you read that word correctly) landmarks such as “new year’s day” are by definition arbitrary.

Indeed, the Gregorian system is only an incremental timekeeping improvement. It may someday be superceded by a better solution, which would necessarily include calculations for the interactions of mechanical forces (entropy, gravity, local effects) and even Einstein’s time dilation of bodies traveling at relativistic speeds. Why, we're childish fools for ignorantly holding on to the outdated and naive Gregorian calendar! But it works for us. We are January fools!

I say all this to make a point. Abolish April Fools. It has served its purpose.

Or if you, yourself, must cling to outmoded traditions, adapt April Fools into a portable teaching tool. As April Fools travels through time, alter its message to heap scorn on the luddites du jour (if you’ll permit a bilingual mixed metaphor).

In the spirit of April Fools being used as a tool of didactic ridicule, I propose Pluto Fools Day. If you really want to tease children—which seems to be the whole point of this endeavor-then “Pluto Fools” fits the ticket. Children love Pluto, and hate the idea that it has been de-planetized. For them, it is an idea of sentimentality, not scientific rigor. The decommissioning of Pluto makes very good scientific sense, but children have not been educated to understand the distinction. Science deals in facts, but science itself is not a box of facts that you collect immutable and minted like baseball cards or comic books.

Science is a recursive process of observation, questioning and testing that ultimately leads to deeper levels of understanding. Science is not scripture, and must never become such, or else the process is irretrievably broken. Pluto can be a planet one day and a dwarf planet the next, as our undestanding of the universe grows and matures.

Therefore, when anyone—child or not—expresses disappointment that Pluto is no longer a planet, you may wish to point at them and taunt “Pluto Fools! Pluto Fools!” and run away. Your childish behavior will somehow have contributed to our collective understanding of the universe. Aren’t you proud of yourself? The meme pool will thank you.
--Mark Wynkoop

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