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The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet (2009)

by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7426528,666 (3.79)57
An exploration of the controversy surrounding Pluto and its planet status from a renowned astrophysicist at the heart of the controversy.

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Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
The funniest astronomy book I've ever read. The important takeaway is just because you don't believe a fact doesn't make it any less true. When I first heard that Pluto was no longer a planet, nostalgia kicked in and I felt bad. But after reading this fun book, I'm just a little wiser about the components of our solar system. ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
I grew up believing in nine planets, despite the evidence that Pluto is nothing more than a large object in the Kuiper Belt and do not believe that it is better to be King of Kuiper than runt of the planets. There is a lot of interesting information in the book, and Hayden Planetarium director Tyson keeps the tone light, oscillating between science and public opinion; however, the book's wandering overall structure is too weak to justify a higher rating. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
An interesting look at the history of Pluto. A lot of this could have been snipped, as much of it was just collections of things collated here, but there is a lot of useful and interesting information. This is definitely aimed for younger people, and its a good introduction to astronomy and a study on why Pluto isn't a planet (vs. why planets are planets) that it's a good informative way for middle school age students to start to learn more about the solar system, Pluto, planets, astronomy, etc. ( )
  BenKline | Sep 12, 2020 |
I'm going to be comparing this book to [b:How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming|7963278|How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming|Mike Brown|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320532443s/7963278.jpg|11871989] by Mike Brown because I read these two books almost back to back and they're about the same thing. I found it interesting how both authors felt they were at the center of the Pluto controversy, but only mentions the other in passing. Thinking back, I don't remember either of them figuring prominently in my perception of the controversy, I just remember waiting to hear the vote from the IAU and then reading some responses to it afterwards, which may well have been written by one of these guys but I don't remember.

So this book is kind of just a compilation of some stuff that Tyson thought was cool or funny or interesting about Pluto and its planet-ness. There's some song lyrics, some letters written to him from children and adults about their views, some legislation written about the decision, some quotes from other scientists (and non-scientists...apparently some astrologers were mad that the IAU didn't invite an astrologer to be part of the committee to decide what constitutes a planet), news articles, editorial cartoons, etc. It was pretty amusing, I like all the things that Tyson likes, basically. It was also interesting to hear the process of creating museum displays, of deciding what information will probably be true years from now, what might be revised in a few years, and what might need to be changed very soon. As a person who can't muster much outrage about Pluto being reclassified, I thought the way that the Hayden planetarium laid out their controversial display of planets made sense. If you're focusing on certain characteristics instead of nomenclature, Pluto doesn't always fit with any of the other planets. Pluto is round, but it's made of different stuff, its orbit is quite different, and it actually has more in common with other Kuiper belt objects than it does with the planets. I liked reading the reasons that people, including other astronomers, didn't think that Pluto should be reclassified. A lot of people just fell back on tradition...Pluto has always been a planet, so it should stay a planet forever! Part of the trouble was that there wasn't even a real definition of the word "planet" for people to point to. But then there was a vote, and an overwhelming majority of voting members chose to "demote" Pluto (I put demote in quotes because, as a couple of the astronomers quoted in this book say, Pluto doesn't care what it's called - it will continue on being Pluto no matter what we do. Plus "demote" makes it seem like being a Kuiper belt object is less interesting or cool which seems unfair to the other Kuiper belt objects!). And, as all the media coverage from New Horizons showed, we don't care any less about Pluto now that we happen to call it something different! ( )
  katebrarian | Jul 28, 2020 |
Like all of Tyson's books, it's very well written, explaining any number of difficult subjects with clarity and ease, but unfortunately, with this subject, we devolve into a catalogue of cultural significance for the poor demoted Pluto and a very long list of rather humorous emails and letters all sent to Tyson because of his role in the decision.

If that's what you're looking for, then, by all means, enjoy this book!

But if you're looking for an in-depth rather than an adequate focus on Pluto rather than our cultural reactions to the planet, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.

I'm not saying this book wasn't fun... and the politics of science and all those pooooooor schoolchildren writing Tyson was both humorous and slightly off-putting at the same time... but it wasn't so much about science as it was about justifying (rightly so, in my opinion,) the need to pluto Pluto. RIP.

Or rather... go play with your new Kuiper buddies. ;) ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neil deGrasse Tysonprimary authorall editionscalculated
White, EricCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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To Plutophiles young and old
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At about four in the afternoon on February 18, 1930, 24-year old Clyde W. Tombaugh, a farm boy and amateur astronomer from Illinois, discovered on the sky what would shortly be named for the Roman god of the underworld.
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An exploration of the controversy surrounding Pluto and its planet status from a renowned astrophysicist at the heart of the controversy.

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Book description
Haiku summary
Planet Pluto? Not!
Pluto rules the Kuiper Belt
What about Eris?

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Average: (3.79)
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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393065200, 0393337324


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