Spell checking and the IAU

Not long after the proposed definition of a planet was published I saw a couple of reports that mentioned that pluton (the term the IAU have proposed to describe "Pluto like" objects) is a term used by geologists to describe a type of rock.

I admit that I wasn't aware of this until I read it, but after reading it I did think it a little odd that they'd try and overload the word in this way — it's not like geology and planetary science are fields that don't overlap.

Reading an article in Nature this morning it seems the committee were aware of the term but took a very curious route to deciding if they should overload it or not:

Owen Gingerich, an astronomer at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and chair of the IAU committee that created the definition, says that they were aware of its usage amongst geologists, but unaware of its importance to the field. "Since the term is not in the MS Word or the WordPerfect spell checkers, we thought it was not that common," Gingerich wrote in an e-mail to news@nature.com. The geologic definition of the word does appear in common dictionaries, including the Oxford English.
What a really strange approach to things! I'm loath to take a quote in isolation but the above really does seem to suggest that they used common spell checking software, rather than a dictionary, to decide if they should use the word or not.

File Under: Planet, Pluton, IAU, Spell Checking.

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