by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON - The idea that our nine-planet solar system may soon join the obsolete world of eight-track tapes and slide rules should send science teachers, textbook writers and toymakers back to the cosmic drawing board.
"This is, of course, a huge headache for publishers," said Gilbert Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council, a New York-based research institute that follows educational textbooks. Last-minute changes are expensive, but won't break any publisher, he said.
For example, Pearson Prentice Hall has science texts for next year going before California's textbook approval board and will try to get the 12-planet revision in for the state officials to review, said Julia Osborne, the publisher's science editorial director.
"It's worth it because this is such an exciting thing," Osborne said. But 2006 textbooks are already at schools, she said, so for "most students this fall it will be out of date."
Because schools keep textbooks for five to 10 years, it will be about seven years before most school books have 12 planets in them, said Osborne and Sewall.
The world's astronomers are likely to open the solar system doors to three new planets: Ceres, Charon, and one nicknamed Xena to be renamed later.