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How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming Hardcover – December 7, 2010
"The Grid" by Gretchen Bakke Ph.D.
Charting the history of our electrical grid, Bakke helps us see what we all take for granted, shows it as central to our culture and identity as a people, and reveals it to be the linchpin in our aspirations for a clean energy future. Learn more
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Top Customer Reviews
Mike Brown is a CalTech astronomer who has been looking for objects past Pluto and found over a dozen of them. That's where the problem lies. Most of objects are half the size of Pluto, and Eris is about 25% bigger than Pluto. So it stands to reason that either Eris is our new 10th planet in the solar system, or since it behaves a bit strangely like Pluto, then Pluto isn't a planet (since it moves in an irregular orbit, etc.) The logic makes sense, and Dr. Brown explains it from both sides and fully understands that growing up, all of us learned that Pluto was a planet, and that changing that would result in uproar. He's fair and balanced in his logic and reasoning and explains it very well.
Dr. Brown doesn't romance the life of the astronomer: they work odd hours, have to deal with weather, the moon, long hours poured over maps and plates to determine if objects move or not. They're obsessive creatures with understanding spouses (Dr. Brown mentions his spouse a lot, who sounds like a great person and adds "Astronomy wives" to the long list of suffering spouses who deal with a spouse with a crazy profession.)
There's an interesting background to what it means to actually discover something. I didn't know that there was a proper naming nomenclature behind finding objects. Giving Eris the original name of Xena (after the "Warrior Princess" TV show) lead to vigorous discussion. If it was a Kuiper belt object, then it should be named after a creation deity.Read more ›
By coincidence, Amazon delivered this book just as I was re-visiting perhaps the best scientific discovery book ever written: The Double Helix, so I had the Gold Standard fresh in my mind as I dove into this one.
Mike Brown is a good writer. There are three separate stories in here. There's the discovery of the "tenth planet" and the eventual (correct) decision to instead demote Pluto, which is a fascinating tale.
Then, just when you think the fat lady is about to sing, outrageous cheating, lies, international intrigue, and clever 21st Century detective work appear out of nowhere.
And then there's what was going on in the author's life at the time, the whole back-story of how he got into astronomy, and how his discoveries affected him and his new family. All of that is an integral part of the story, and besides, you might be as amused as I was that this very bright man, quite capable of discovering planets and accurately describing how his wife and he came together, yet still somehow believes that HE was the one doing the courting.
In case you worry that the whole thing might be too touchy-feely, let's head down into the astronomy for a moment. I was delighted that the storied but almost-forgotten wide-field Schmidt telescope at Palomar (the source of the first and still-relevant star map of the Northern Hemisphere) became the workhorse of the whole endeavour.Read more ›
Like many people, I watched with interest the 2006 showdown that culminated in the announcement that Pluto was no longer a "planet". I'd been taught since childhood that Pluto was a planet, and in some ways it seemed a little sad for it to be stripped of its status. Ultimately, however, the decision seemed reasonable given what very little I knew of the situation. The year came and went, Pluto was demoted to "dwarf planet" (a category it would share with several other small bodies), and life went on. When this book came available on Amazon Vine, I was quick to snatch it up because I was sure the in-depth story would be interesting, but if you had told me at the time that I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning madly turning pages as fast as I could read, them I would have been skeptical to say the least.
"How I Killed Pluto" is a truly delightful read, and a wonderful page-turner. Professor of planetary astronomy and author Mike Brown writes in a distinctly clear and clever manner, and the science on display here is astonishingly easy to follow - if Dr. Brown teaches as clearly as he writes, then it must be a delight to be one of his students. The book follows Brown's discoveries of several bodies in our solar system, including the "tenth planet" (for a very short time, at least!) Eris, as well as his increasingly firm opinion that the objects he is discovering are not truly planets - and, by extension, neither can be Pluto.
It's surprising to see someone with so much to gain from a looser planetary definition (as Eris' discoverer, Brown would be the only living human being to discover a planet!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quick read and entertaining story about the present and recent history of how various objects were discovered. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Amazon Customer
A lovely narrative by one of today's best known explorers of the Solar System. Brown's story of finding mirrored joys in the discovery of distant worlds and in the birth of his... Read morePublished 20 days ago by Schuyler Erle
Such a good narrative of the personal events behind the thoughtful, calculated process of scientific discovery. There were so many quotes I highlighted to share with my class! Read morePublished 23 days ago by RJ
If you're interested at all in astronomy, or are curious about why Pluto is no longer considered the 9th. planet you should read this book.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
If you like astronomy, this is fun book, a quick read, nicely mixing Brown's professional work with stories of his love life and a new baby. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Donald E. Fulton
The price of this tragic waste of perfectly good trees being as low as 17 cents speaks for itself. The author apparently forgot that the subject was supposed to be about the planet... Read morePublished 3 months ago by BryM
My wife and I read this book together. We both enjoy science. It was really interesting to learn the story of the demise of Pluto. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Robin A. Lyman
Absolutely fantastic. Brown describes his story in his witty style and tackles the issue of scientific integrity over the emotion of pluto. I read it in just a weekend.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Late in this book, author and planet-hunter Michael Brown tells of an encounter with a Pluto-as-planet supporter, who asked, rather rudely I thought, what his daughter would think... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Craig MACKINNON