August 23, 2006

Astronomers rely on MS Word Spell Check for Their Scientific Research

Posted at August 23, 2006 3:16 PM

This is truely bizarre. In case you are unaware, astronomers are about to decide on a definition of "Planet", which could cause Pluto to be demoted from planet status.

One possible proposal classifies Pluto and the other Pluto-like objects in the outter reaches of our solar system as "Plutons". This is angering geologists since the word pluton is used for a common rock formation that exists in most Geology 101 curricula. How could the astronomers miss this? Well it seems they relied on MS Word and Word Perfect to determine of the word was in common use amoung geologists.


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



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