Texas as a benchmark for planethood

You know that scene in Armaggedon when the nerdy science guy is trying to tell the president how big the asteroid hurling toward the Earth is, and Billy Bob jumps in to say, “It’s the size of Texas, sir.” On top of totally putting that nerdy science guy in his place, Mr. Thornton’s character gave us all a handy benchmark for scaling celestial objects.

I’d hereby like to set the requirement that objects being considered for planethood must be at least one Texas. Insert your own joke about Texans here and get it out of your system. There is, of course, the minor matter of Texas’s size being defined in two dimensions, easily overcome: clearly, Billy Bob meant that the diameter of the object was as broad as the state of Texas. Running some basic Math:

Area = πr²
696,241km = πr²
r = 471

So a Texas-sized object would have a diameter of approximately 950 km.

Our newly appointed planets stack up as follows:

  • Eris: 1,300
  • Pluto: 1,195
  • Ceres 487

Accordingly, I believe it’s my duty to object to Ceres, as a scarcely Missouri-sized object, from being considered for planethood. I’ll be circulating a petition.


2 Responses to “Texas as a benchmark for planethood”

  1. This is a fascinating question! Two other commonly used yardsticks are: Rhode Island, and a cow. Whenever the talking heads on network TV discuss global warming, invariably the fact that “icebergs the size of Rhode Island” are calving away from the various massive ice sheets. No other state will do, even though Delaware is not very much bigger.

    The cow, however, has huge importance in basic ecology. Piranha ferocity is almost always measured in “cow” units, for reasons that appear to go back to a Presidential decree by Theodore Roosevelt. I believe that John McCain is very much against maintaining the cow standard for piranha ferocity, however, both Democratic candidates have come out in support of it. Make of that what you will.

    By the way, John Scalzi had a short story last year about Pluto’s unfortunate demotion. There was actually quite a spirtited argument between his daughter and another genre writer at a convention.

  2. […] low 0 search results. In their defense, I suppose, one could arge that Texas is, after all, the size of a planet, and look how long it’s taking those NASA guys to search […]

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