What Others Are Saying

August 21, 2007

This is one task the political science textbooks obviously didn't address: What do you do when the dictator you deposed and imprisoned comes up on his release date? The answer, in regard to Manuel Noriega, tells as much about the process of nation-building in Latin America as it does international justice. The fact that Panama is not clamoring to bring Mr. Noriega back suggests Panamanian democracy, almost 20 years after the U.S. invasion and ouster of Mr. Noriega, remains shaky. If Panamanian institutions were strong and formidable, Mr. Noriega would be going home to face justice, and Panama would be ready to face up to its past. That it's not is a sad testament, because no country can really move forward until it fully faces its own history. It's not an easy process, as other nations in the hemisphere have shown, but it's critical.

- South Florida Sun-Sentinel

We have learned this month that Jupiter is no longer king of the planets. It has a much larger cousin about 1,500 light-years away. With the distinctly unregal name of TrES-4, this newly discovered planet orbits a sunlike star outside our solar system but is almost twice Jupiter's size - a veritable emperor of the planetary realm.

Only a year ago, many will remember, the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto - the smallest of our solar system's nine planets that we all studied in school - to "dwarf" status, causing heartbreak among Pluto fans worldwide. It's now considered too small to make the cut to regular planethood, although the New Mexico state legislature resolved earlier this year that "as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies, it be declared a planet."

In sticking to their guns, the legislators seem to be reflecting a certain unease that many of us feel over this news. Many people had grown attached to the idea that planets belonged to an exclusive club with few members. Suddenly that isn't so. With the number of known planets climbing constantly, it doesn't seem as if there will be certainty in the number at any point.

All we can be certain of is that, as telescopes get better, we will see further proof that our place in the universe is less special than we thought.

- Saswato Das, in Newsday

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