Planet X

So, okay, when you fly in from Planet X and land outside town in 1951, what you need is 1) a bubble helmet 2) pajamas 3) a GIANT voice translator and 4) comfy green gardening gloves.

Oh, also, MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE GRANDMA IN THE SHIP! She tends to wander.

A horrible monstrous creature with a head as big as two men put together... a skin with the shine of a new shilling...eyes no better than a dead codfish!

As IMDB has it:

“…an agent of Planet X, peacefully disposed, has landed to make preparations for further landings of X-people when the planet reaches its closest proximity to Earth.  The Man from Planet X, using a mesmeric ray, captures the scientist, his daughter, the assistant and several townspeople.

This one is even more hilariously subliminal.  Check out that “rocket”!  Whoopsie!

And guess who that is – yes, it’s Margaret Field, mother of Sally Field! Looks like The Strange Man from Planet X likes her…he really really likes her!

Margaret Field, with dignity restored

I didn’t know until very recently about the kooky theories surrounding Planet X — not in 1930, I mean, but right now, today. While I won’t link to any of the real loonies directly, a quick read of the Wikipedia entry on the Niburu collision should give you a sense of what kinds of lunacy people are capable of committing to. (In sum, the belief involves a NASA conspiracy to cover up the existence of a giant 10th planet on a collision course with Earth.) The most strenuous advocates of this belief appear to be either deeply delusional — I mean, mentally ill — or outright charlatans.  Charlatanism is entertaining, but untreated mental illness ain’t.

Happily, the forces of good are hard at work.  The excellent Phil Plait, of Bad Astronomy fame, is on the case against the Planet X conspiracists.  Of course, demonstrating logical fallacies, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and the like to a group of conspiracy theorists is sort of like describing soccer to your cats: they might appear to be listening, but their behavior never seems to change.

But someone’s got to stand up to the kooks.  One more hurrah for the scientists among us!  And as Phil Plait says:

News traveled fast.  The day after Vesto Slipher made his announcement of Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery, papers around the world ran front-page headlines calling the “trans-Neptunian object” a “planet”.   Notice that while the cautious astronomers at Lowell Observatory hadn’t declared the object a planet themselves, the public did it for them.

You have to think Slipher knew this would be the case.  After all, finding a planet solved all kinds of problems for the observatory staff — most of all, the problems of expectation.  The Lowells, including Percival Lowell’s widow Constance, were keen to end the search with a success story.  They’d poured plenty of money, and a lot of heartache, into the project.

How terrible if Lowell had spent all those years just chasing ghosts.

(They don’t write them like this any longer, do they?)

These early reports are typically breathless.  Observations in the next few weeks would bear out Planet X’s apparently small size.  Rather than being 1200 times the size of Earth, Pluto is smaller than Earth’s moon.