The solar system most of us grew up with included nine planets, with Mercury closest to the sun and Pluto at the outer edge. Then, in 2005, astronomer Mike Brown made the discovery of a lifetime: a 10th planet, Eris, slightly bigger than Pluto. But instead of its resulting in one more planet being added to our solar system, Brown's find ignited a firestorm of controversy that riled the usually sedate world of astronomy and launched him into the public eye. The debate culminated in the demotion of Pluto from real planet to the newly coined category of "dwarf" planet. Suddenly Brown was receiving hate mail from schoolchildren and being bombarded by TV reporters - all because of the discovery he had spent years searching for and a lifetime dreaming about.
Filled with both humor and drama, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is Mike Brown's engaging first-person account of the most tumultuous year in modern astronomy - which he inadvertently caused. As it guides readers through important scientific concepts and inspires us to think more deeply about our place in the cosmos, it is also an entertaining and enlightening personal story: While Brown sought to expand our understanding of the vast nature of space, his own life was changed in the most immediate, human ways by love, birth, and death. A heartfelt and personal perspective on the demotion of everyone's favorite farflung planet, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is the book for anyone, young or old, who has ever dreamed of exploring the universe - and who among us hasn't?
©2010 Mike Brown (P)2010 Random House
"Finally I have someone to whom I can forward the hate mail I get from schoolchildren. After all these years, the real destroyer of Pluto has confessed. Part memoir and part planetary saga, How I Killed Pluto invites you into planetary scientist Mike Brown's office, his home, and his head as he tells the story of how his research on the outer solar system led directly to the death of Pluto, the planet." (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium and author of The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet)
“Romance, intrigue, laughter, skullduggery, and most of all: science! Mike Brown has done more than anyone to reshape our view of the solar system, and this first-person account of his discoveries is an irresistible page-turner. You’ll have so much fun, you won’t even notice how much you’re learning.” (Sean Carroll, author of From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time)
“Science is at its best when it shakes up our thinking, and when it comes to planets, Mike Brown has grabbed on with both hands. Whether you think Pluto is a planet or just another ice ball, you’ll find Brown’s tale of exploring the outer solar system a charming and even endearing read. If Pluto is indeed dead, then its sacrifice was not in vain.” (Philip Plait, author of Death from the Skies!)
When I bought this book it was a bit of an experiment. I enjoyed all the 'fuss' when Pluto was demoted from planetary status, but I wasn't sure an entire book about it would be interesting. It is. Very. Ryan Gesell does a top notch job of narration, and Brown's weaving in and out of his work and home experiences (how he meets and falls in love with his wife, and the birth of their first child) seems to keep it all in perspective. The universe goes on in both the grandest and most humble of ways. There are even some villains thrown into the mix. If you're at all interested in astronomy, or just the excitement of discovery, this is a must listen. Five Stars.
This book is about the death of a planet, and the birth of a family. I loved the way Brown juxtaposed his explorations of the universe with his own personal experiences building his family. It works. We see Brown the brilliant astronomer, and Brown the doting husband and father. We also see how those two roles sometimes conflicted, like when the early arrival of his beloved daughter almost jeopardized his planet discoveries.
Nicely read as well. Highly recommended.
My favorite genres are absurdist humor, Sci-fi & modern fantasy, but, as you can see, I'll read just about anything. Don't mind the typos.
Interesting story about how Pluto was downgraded to an asteroid from a planet and the 3rd grade hate mail that followed. Well written and narrated.
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, is far more interesting and entertaining than I originally envisioned. I just thought I would learn something about astronomy and I got far more than I bargained for. This is really a memoir in which Mike Brown, CalTech astronomer, tells about his dissertation, his research, astronomy in our solar system and even more. The writing is strong and not scientific. It is easily accessed by all readers. Along the way, Brown reveals how his research sent him a wife, the birth of his daughter in the midst of astounding discoveries, and how Pluto was dropped as a planet. If you are looking solely for a scientific treatment of the demise of Pluto, per se, this is not it. If you want to be informed about the science and politics that lead to that decision, you will find it here. The reading of Ryan Gesell is excellent.
Who would have thought an astronomer's memoir would be so engaging? The passion that fueled the drudgery of sifting through huge amounts of data and systematically searching infinity is a tough sell, but the author manages it deftly with a humour and affability that forgives the frequent detours where he stops to marvels at the more terrestrial delights of love and fatherhood. Definitely a worthwhile listen, and it's always nice to have a reminder to look up from time to time to contemplate the heavens.
I usually listen to books while I am hiking, or doing work around my house. Perhaps this is why there was an unusually long lag - months in fact - between when I started this title and when I ended it. I started it one night when I was just surfing the web. Perhaps this also says a bit about the first quarter or so of the book. Clearly I didn't feel a compulsion to continue immediately after Mike sets up his life and his work.
Then I took a long hike, and decided it was the perfect time to finish this book.
It really was.
It seems my previous stopping point had been right before things got interesting. It wasn't just about discovering new large bodies orbiting our sun (can't call them planets anymore). I learned about the politics of naming celestial bodies and about Inuit creation myth in the process. I discovered what happens when a number-oriented scientist becomes a father and applies the scientific method to taking care of a baby. (I even looked at the website when I got home). I got so worked up about an apparent theft of intellectual property that I could scarcely wait to get down the mountain and tell my husband what happened. When NASA's pic of the day allowed the user to zoom in to beyond microscopic level and then zoom out to past our universe (theoretically speaking), I was proud to say I knew what Sedna and Eris were.
And I agree with why Pluto was killed as a planet. Maybe you will too.
Perhaps not enough for a book here- I think I may have been more satisfied had it been reduced to Magazine Cover Story size. The Title of the book "gives away" the final decision related to the book's ultimate debate, and exemplifies the authors humorous writing style. I liked the "Astonomy 101" lessons that I took from the book, but grew annoyed at the excessive descriptions of the authors new-born daughter. (We ALL know that OUR kids are wonderful/funny/intelligent- I'd rather waste hours hearing about YOURS!)
This is an extremely engaging and entertaining listen. It shouldn't be, since Mike Brown's career revolves around spotting tiny little moving dots among seas of other dots. Yes, those little dots are worlds, but we'll probably never see them as anything other than dots in our lifetimes. Against the odds, Brown's narrative successfully communicates the excitement of discovery. He also explains in a clear and articulate way why Pluto shouldn't be called a planet - and more importantly he makes you care!
My only gripe is that there's too much stuff about the author becoming a father. At first it seems fine, as he makes childbirth feel thematically coherent with the discovery of new worlds. But after an entire chapters was devoted to him goobering about his kid, I started to feel like I was being talked at by one of those parents who backs you into a corner at parties and drones about their kid's school grades. Enough! Thankfully, he recovers his sanity toward the end and remembers that he's writing a book about planets.
The reader is pitch perfect.
Interesting and engaging memoir of an astronomers trials and tribulations both in his career and personal life. Enjoyed it more that I thought I would!
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