Pluto, Vulcan and Phoenix Real Estate

avatarthumbnail.jpgIf you happen to have some time to spare, I highly recommend picking up a copy of David Weintraub’s “Is Pluto a Planet?” Even if you’re not one of those folks inclined to look up at the skies in wonder, the history of our knowledge of the solar system and the nature of human thought is amazing.

And what you come to realize is we really don’t have any idea what we’re talking about. We think that we do but we’re not even close.

Some of you, I am certain, looked at the book’s title and thought to yourself, “wasn’t this already resolved? The power that be declared Pluto’s not a planet a couple of years ago.” You would be correct, though there’s an excellent chance you’ll be proven thoroughly incorrect in the future.


If Pluto is reinstated, it will probably be thanks to discovery rather than debate. Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, believes that revelations within and beyond our solar system over the coming years will make the IAU’s controversial definition of a planet untenable.

“We are in the midst of a conceptual revolution,” he says. “We are shaking off the last vestiges of the mythological view of planets as special objects in the sky – and the idea that there has to be a small number of them because they’re special.”

Go back a century and a half, give or take a decade, and many leading astronomers were convinced of the existence of a planet located between Mercury and the Sun. This unseen planet even was given a name – Vulcan. It’s existence was postulated because the math for Mercury’s orbit didn’t work without another source of mass between itself and the Sun.

As it turned out, the math was correct but our understanding was not. Einstein, he of the theory of relativity, declared the issue wasn’t mass but rather a subatantial disruption in the space-time continuum – a concept essentially unheard of and unconsidered before.

To summarize, the leading astronomers promoting the existence Vulcan didn’t know what they were talking about. They didn’t know what they didn’t know. No one did.

It might also interest you to know that at various points in mankind’s timeline, we thought the Sun revolved around the Earth, that the Moon was a planet and that asteroids such as Ceres also were planets. Over time Copernicus’ heliocentric view won out, the Moon was demoted to a moon and Ceres and the other asteroids lost their status as planets.

(Glance through the above NewScientist article and you’ll see some may want to promote Ceres back to planetary status again.)

At the time of the various declarations, the leading minds were certain they were right. They didn’t know what they didn’t know, so they didn’t know that they didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about.

Which, of course, dovetails nicely into a discussion of the Phoenix real estate market. Everyone “knows” there is another wave of foreclosures coming because the math points in that direction. There’s been no sign of that wave yet, but we “know” that it’s there.

Some pundits are calling for massive price declines across the board across the country without any analysis of what already has taken place in some areas. There are parts of Phoenix, for instance, where homes are available at 1970s prices. And no, that’s not an exaggeration.

Many “know” that buyer interest is being fueled solely by the $8,000 tax credit being offered through November and that said interest will taper off after the expiration of the tax credit.

It’s possible that any of these “known” quantities could be right. It’s also entirely possible that none of the so-called experts know what they are talking about.

When in doubt, I’ll lay my money on the side of two-plus millennia of known knowledge turning out to be incorrect in the face of future events.

[tags]Phoenix real estate[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at