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The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet [Kindle Edition]

Neil deGrasse Tyson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The New York Times bestseller: “You gotta read this. It is the most exciting book about Pluto you will ever read in your life.”—Jon Stewart

When the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History reclassified Pluto as an icy comet, the New York Times proclaimed on page one, “Pluto Not a Planet? Only in New York.” Immediately, the public, professionals, and press were choosing sides over Pluto’s planethood. Pluto is entrenched in our cultural and emotional view of the cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, award-winning author and director of the Rose Center, is on a quest to discover why. He stood at the heart of the controversy over Pluto’s demotion, and consequently Plutophiles have freely shared their opinions with him, including endless hate mail from third-graders. With his inimitable wit, Tyson delivers a minihistory of planets, describes the oversized characters of the people who study them, and recounts how America's favorite planet was ousted from the cosmic hub.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From Pluto's 1930 discovery to the emotional reaction worldwide to its demotion from planetary status, astrophysicist, science popularizer and Hayden Planetarium director deGrasse Tyson (Death by Black Hole) offers a lighthearted look at the planet. Astronomical calculations predicted the presence of a mysterious and distant Planet X decades before Clyde Tombaugh spotted it in 1930. DeGrasse Tyson speculates on why straw polls show Pluto to be the favorite planet of American elementary school students (for one, Pluto sounds the most like a punch line to a hilarious joke). But Pluto's rock and ice composition, backward rotation and problematic orbit raised suspicions. As the question of Pluto's nature was being debated by scientists, the newly constructed Rose Center for Earth and Space at the Hayden Planetarium quietly but definitively relegated Pluto to the icy realm of Kuiper Belt Objects (cold, distant leftovers from the solar system's formation), raising a firestorm. Astronomers discussed and argued and finally created an official definition of what makes a planet. This account, if a bit Tyson-centric, presents the medicine of hard science with a sugarcoating of lightness and humor. 35 color and 10 b&w illus. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


An eclectic delight. Readers will laugh at the collection of song lyrics and cartoons inspired by the great Pluto-versy. . . . Smile at the photocopied letters from elementary-school children.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
149 of 155 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dad's Planet September 15, 2009
My father discovered Pluto in 1930. Neil Tyson's book is an interesting and enlightening history of the discovery and the controversy surrounding the new definition of major Planets and Tyson's decision to omit Pluto from the depiction of our solar system at the new Rose Center in New York. Although I do not agree with all his points of view, I do applaud his endeavors in astronomy, writing and education.
Alden Tombaugh
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and Engaging! January 21, 2009
Once again, Dr. Tyson engages our minds with a timely topic much grander than our own existence. My [...] science students have been enraptured by this fiery debate. Dr. Tyson is a wonderful "EXPLAINER" who makes science come alive for those with little or no formal education in the field. His writing style is identical to his witty dramatic live lectures. Highly recommended!!
Dr. Tyson... I hope you know how much the younger Americans NEED you to continue your work. Your enthusiasm for science is contagious and that is just what Young America needs to take the reins of scientific research in today's ever-changing world. You are needed and LOVED!!

Mrs. Scarola
Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School
Pembroke Pines, Florida

P.S. My students REALLY want you to come visit us. There's NO SNOW here in SE Florida!
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76 of 89 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No graphics in the Kindle Edition February 23, 2009
Format:Kindle Edition
I rate the hardback book with 5 stars, but the kindle edition with only 2 stars because of the missing cartoons, photos, charts and graphics. The essay is still well worth reading, but you will miss a lot if you don't have the graphics. I ended up going to my local bookstore and purchasing the hardback when I realized that the Kindle edition had left out the 35 color illustrations and 10 black and white illustrations. I know that Kindle doesn't show color, but the color illustrations could have been reproduced in gray scale.

It is a great book, but a mediocre kindle edition.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perils of Solar System Definition February 20, 2009
Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the world's most famous scientists. He is an astrophysicist and a columnist for _Natural History_. In addition to his own research and technical writings, he has written popularizations like _Death by Black Hole_, and he has produced television documentaries on the cosmos. It was as director at the Hayden Planetarium that he inadvertently stepped into one of the biggest scientific controversies of recent years. It had nothing to do with religious antagonism against evolution or a universe more than 6,000 years old. It had nothing to do with global warming. What got the public up in arms against him was a celestial body smaller than Earth's Moon, an icy object five billion miles from the Sun that no one knew for sure existed until its discovery in 1930. Tyson and his team creating an exhibit for the planetarium did not include Pluto in its models of planets. When this was discovered, and when the decision to leave Pluto out was found to be deliberate, Tyson became possibly the most hated astronomer on the planet. In _The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet_ (Norton), he has reported his own role in the controversy. There are serious scientific themes here, but this is a fun book. Tyson doesn't seem like a person who would relish bothering anybody, but he is instead amused by all the fuss, and much of his book is hilarious. Nonetheless, he has used it (always the teacher) to give a history of our knowledge about Pluto, to illustrate the way science handles categories and conflict, and to demonstrate the astonishing difficulties of making a good definition.

The problem of naming things properly, and thereby classifying them, shows up all the time in biology, but is rarer in astronomy.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pluto Praugnosis looks favorable January 24, 2009
A contemporary topic, Pluto's planetary reclassification calamity has been both an emotional and a scientific issue ever since the N.Y. Times revealed that the Rose Center (Hayden Planetarium) had left Pluto out of the planetary lineup. Dr. Tyson has been in the thick of it even before the story broke. His account of the events and colorful comments that ensued is enjoyably portrayed throughout the book. As in his other books, his effervescent writing style makes this book an easy read even though he includes a lot of names and facts pertinent to the history if Pluto and its new status. It is a short 160 page book filled with many color images and illustrations, which allowed me to read it in only one day. Many, if not most, of the images are quite humorous adding to the enjoyment. Young and old will enjoy will enjoy this book!

Regarding the ongoing, though likely diminishing, debate about Pluto's status, I liked his statement, "You're having an argument over something you generate rather than what is fundamental to the universe." Science is about organization of objective discoveries, and subjective views should always play a subordinate roll. This includes those warm fuzzies we feel for certain traditional views, including Pluto's prior rank as planet. Science is not about a consensus of our feelings, but whether or not quality science is being conducted. Dr. Tyson presents the objective evidence of both sides fairly, and gives lucid reasoning for his position, which I suspect most scientifically-minded folks will eventually concur with his views.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of Pluto
Great piece on everything you probably didn't want to know on Pluto. I really liked it but was left fizzling out by the end due to the wealth of information brought to light... Read more
Published 19 days ago by Nick
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Pluto a real Planet or an oversized Asteroid?
This was a really interesting read. Although you might find that Tyson deals more with personal mail he has received and some of the discussions with other astronomers takes a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by William D. Curnutt
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny and enjoyable to read
It is funny, witty, and informative about the process of demotion of Pluto from Planet to dwarf planet. It has a lot of pop culture references which i did not expect. Read more
Published 3 months ago by CW
5.0 out of 5 stars Unexciting but Informative
This book explains the furor over the demotion of Pluto to Dwarf Planet status. It tells who did it. It tells why they did it. Read more
Published 4 months ago by John in Michigan
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm very satisfied.
interesting book, promptly delivered. I'm very satisfied.
Published 5 months ago by Bruce
5.0 out of 5 stars Neil deGrasse Tyson rocks
Like apparently everything this guys says and writes, The Pluto Files is very, very interesting.

Neil deGrasse Tyson rocks.

Published 5 months ago by rogelio rodriguez
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 6 months ago by Abe
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
Informative and entertaining, like everything Neil deGrasse Tyson does.
Published 8 months ago by RG
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Never knew that reading about Pluto could be so interesting.
Published 8 months ago by Amazon User 819
4.0 out of 5 stars The Meteoric Rise and Asteroidal Fall of the Ninth Planet
This quick and engaging book examines the history of Pluto in the human understanding of our solar system: its initial detection up through the the reclassifying of it as a 'dwarf... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Troy Blackford
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More About the Author

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, director of the world-famous Hayden Planetarium, a monthly columnist for Natural History, and an award-winning author. He lives in New York City.

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How much credit does Tyson get for the demotion?
It's been a while since I've read the book. Years before Pluto's demotion, Tyson had taken Pluto out of his museum exhibits and received a lot of flack for it. He has solid scientific reasons for doing so, and stands by them, and since his planetarium receives many visitors, he deals with angry... Read More
Feb 3, 2013 by AZ |  See all 2 posts
Good points indeed. Still I think we have an interesting time ahead for Pluto. New Horizons should send pictures back in 2015 and the new sky telescope that was sent up this week may provide us with clues to the Ice Dwarfs and beyond. Even if Pluto is not a planet there may be one beyond it... Read More
Dec 16, 2009 by Paris in Winter |  See all 3 posts
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