Two subjects I wanted to touch on briefly.
In Saturday's Independent there was a supplement about money, and how to save it. It looked at something that has come to be known as "The Latte Effect" - the hidden cost of living. Basically, this boils down to all those coffee's, sandwiches, newspapers, little bottles of mineral water, pointless magazines, etc., that we buy every day without thinking, not noticing how much it all costs.
As an example, this morning, I bought a bottle of milkshake, and a packet of crisps. Sometimes, I don't even feel hungry, I just buy these things for the sake of buying them. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's a sign of independence. I know, from my own experience, that when I started getting more independent with life, ie, when I started work, when I started not relying on my mother, and so on, that I started to do my own thing. It was like, "Yes! I have arrived! I am now an adult! Let me spend my hard earned cash!" - you get the idea.
Maybe we're all trying to be middle class. Certainly, as I leave work to go to the bus stop, I pass a newsagents (where I sometimes buy my middle class quality paper), a bakery (where I buy a ready made sandwich, just to save time, and not always because I am hungry), and a local supermarket (where I may treat myself to a few bottles of beer or a bag of doritos for later). But, I don't truely NEED these items. It's just another expression of how I feel I now belong in the world.
There are lots of categories for the cost of living, amount spent on rent, or taxes, or mortgages, or utility bills, but there's no category entitled: "Meaningless shit that we buy every day to indulge ourselves" - perhaps there should be. It really hits your wallet hard, and it's why I get to the middle part of the month with not a lot of money left, and it leads to me relying on friends an awful lot, which isn't fair. I mean, I always pay back what I borrow, but i don't like that kind of reputation, it leads to people thinking badly of you. Hence, I need to be more careful with my cash.
So, as you leave work tonight, or school, or whatever, and you're passing the shop, instead of buying that sandwich, wait till you get home, and MAKE yourself one, for 1/6th of the cost. You'll thank me for it when you get to the end of the month and you aren't skint.
Secondly, the newly discovered object way way WAY out beyond Pluto. Named Sedna, it's so far out from the Sun that it takes 10,500 years to orbit. However, because of its orbital intricacies (highly-inclined orbit to the ecliptic plane, a VERY eccentric orbit (closest approach, 70 AU, furthest *900 AU*), there is some confusion over whether it's actually a planet, and I agree.
However, if you look at the commonly used defintions today, for determining if an object is a planet or not, then, there could very well be a case for excluding Pluto from the official list of planets, and I agree with this also. Indeed, Pluto, and its "moon" Charon, could well be classified as a double planet system, because they orbit a central point in space between the two, rather than one orbiting a point of mass inside the other (as our own moon does). But because they have a high inclination, and an eccentric orbit (coming inside Neptune sometimes), they are more likely Kuiper Belt objects, cold lifeless worlds that are remnants of the early formation of the Solar System (ie, they didn't come together to make something kick-ass).
Last time there was a debate about this, it caused uproar. And besides, if there is a 10th planet, how will all the astrologers feel, knowing that they missed the movements of this "planet" and how much influence it has on our lives. They'd be out of a job!
There needs to be a clear definition layed down by the International Astronomical Union, because if one doesn't arrive soon, you'll get a major split in the astronomical world. Schools are going to be teaching different numbers of planets, (8, 9, or 10), and you'll get some astronomers counting more objects than others. Oooh it'd be like a great big fight.
Still, a pretty cool find, and all of this really does make me consider just how amazingly, hugely, infinitessemely large the universe is, and what could be out there.
Alternatively, we could all be living on a great big computer, made by rats, and Douglas Adams could be right.