Joe Biden Gets a Dwarf Planet

Joe BidenAs you probably know, I’m a fan of Joe Biden. But this isn’t because of his policy ideas. He’s quite all right in that area, but there are a number of things I don’t like. For example, he has always been a “tough on crime” guy, and that has led to our extreme prison problems and the racial inequality that has gone along with them. But Biden is probably the best retail politician in America. No one seems as genuine as he does.

It’s always strange to me that conservatives paint him as a joke—like the Democratic version of Dan Quayle. But in Biden’s “gaffes,” I see authenticity. It may be part of his political brilliance, but all these unscripted moments just highlight that he is basically a decent guy. We don’t get comments about how God wanted a woman to be raped. Just the same, if you actually look at Bidens “gaffes,” there isn’t much there. Just as with Quayle, the media are always circling, looking for something they can grab to further their ultimately thin narrative.

Biden does demonstrate a certain friendly ethnocentrism. In the 2008 campaign, he said of Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” That definitely boarders on racism and it is the worst thing I’ve ever heard him say. But generally, what are called gaffes are just kind of odd and often charming. That’s certainly the case with most of those on Time‘s Top 10 Joe Biden Gaffes. For example:

Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be Vice President of the United States of America. Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close personal friend. She is qualified to be President of the United States of America. She’s easily qualified to be Vice President of the United States of America. Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me. But she’s first rate.

All this is to say that when it comes to politicians, Joe Biden is one of the better ones. So it was with much delight that I learned that scientists are calling the detached trans-Neptunian object 2012 VP113 “Biden.” Clearly, they have nicknamed the object because of the “VP.” But it rather fits because the object is unusual. It orbits at a huge distance from the sun: never closer than 80 AUs (distance from the earth to the sun). That’s the largest of any object known. For contrast, Pluto gets within 30 AUs from the sun. It is assumed to be an ice planetoid with a diameter of roughly 300 miles—about a quarter the size of Pluto. And given that it is probably spherical, it would be considered a dwarf planet.

VP113 and Sedna
The paths of 2012 VP113 (red) and Sedna (orange), with the Kuiper Belt (blue) and the planets (purple)

I think it would be totally awesome if the name Biden sticks. It just makes sense. We have a planetoid zipping around the solar system, doing its own thing without much of a care what other people think. I’m fond of saying we should build statues to great people like Richard Stallman and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Well, Biden needs his own dwarf planet!

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