- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (January 24, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385531109
- ISBN-13: 978-0385531108
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 203 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming Reprint Edition
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Though several reviewers admitted a grudge against Brown for picking off plucky underdog Pluto, they found his memoir a charming account of a scientist’s life and work. Given Brown’s popularity as an instructor and lecturer at Caltech, it is perhaps unsurprising that his book is accessible and enlightening. Critics were less certain about Brown’s decision to include so much of his personal life in the book. None actually said that Brown’s interludes about becoming a husband and father detracted from his story, but a few asked what they really added. Others, though, felt that this personal perspective perfectly rounded out Brown’s account of how he and his discoveries reshaped the solar system. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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A major parallel story in the book is how the author discovered what was briefly thought to be the Tenth Planet. His discovery precipitated the change in both its, and Pluto's, status. The story is nicely told, in such a way that the technical details are described in an understandable way; and the personal drama that goes along with it is well told, too.
If you like astronomy or are simply interested in how the universe works, I think you will find this a fun and informative book.
Deciding what is and is not a planet may seem simple enough to those who have never given the matter any thought, but Brown opens by reviewing just how challenging the issue has been throughout history. As a species, we've been looking at up the skies for a long, long time. Over that time, our understanding of what it was we were seeing has changed as we've learned more and more about our universe and how it works. It's only natural that such change will continue to occur as we continue to learn more and more about what we see when we look up. And that's what Brown presents us with in this book; while he takes a stand on Pluto's planethood, for me the real core of the book was the process of discovery, the broadening of the solar system and human understanding of it, and how what we are continuing to learn forces us to rethink what we thought we already knew. Easy to follow even for a lay reader, at times the book feels more like a novel than a recounting a scientific work due to the thrill of discovering new stellar bodies it contains as well as the human tension from his personal life during the same period that Brown intersperses with his work searching for new planets. I can therefore recommend the book even for people who don't care whether Pluto is a planet or not, because it isn't just about taking a position in that debate, but about discovery in space and what it means for us here on this planet.
With all the newly found objects each with two or three names, by the end of the book I was pretty confused, so I went to Wikipedia and pulled together the little table below. I'm including it since others may find it useful. Since the book was written, the size of pluto is now known very accurately since it was photographed by the New Horizon spacecraft . The press' #1 question is, 'Is any newly found kuiper belt object bigger than pluto'? The current answer is Eris is almost exactly the same size as pluto (2% smaller dia), but 28% heavier. Only the first four below (along with Ceres) are recognized by the IAU as dwarf planets. The mass of Makemake will be known soon because just days ago it was announced that Makemake has been found to have a moon.
Pluto dwarf planet 1,186 km (radius) .. 29 - 49 AU 248 yr .177 moon (mass)
Eris dwarf planet 1,163 km (radius) .. 39 - 97 AU 558 yr .23 moon (mass)
Makemake dwarf planet 715 km (radius) .. 38 - 52 AU 309 yr ---
Haumea dwarf planet 575 - 718 km (radius) .. 35 - 51 AU 294 yr .054 moon (mass)
Quaoar dwarf planet? 555 km (radius) .. 42 - 45 AU 286 yr .019 moon (mass)
Sedna minor planet --- .. 76 - 936 AU 11,400 yr ---
Mike Brown tells the tale about how the famous planet Pluto was "demoted" to the class of dwarf planet, through the actions of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and how his research was a major part of that decision.
It illustrates how science operates in the real world, while many people only see things through their emotional sunglasses.
This book is especially well written, humorous and informative. It presumes a little science understanding in advance, but it unlikely anyone who is completely ignorant of science will buy this book anyway.
Since NASAs New Horizons spacecraft is approaching rendevous with Pluto and her moons in less than three years, and carries on board a small capsule of the remains of Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, this book would be timely reading over the next year or so.
Treat yourself or someone you know who loves science to a fun time. Highly recommended!