How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
Remember that whole debacle a while ago about Pluto no longer being a planet? It was such a kerfuffle! People took sides and got really passionate about it. I vaguely remember my mother-in-law wearing a pin that said something along the lines of “It is SO a planet, jerks.” Hopefully she’ll correct me on that if I’ve got it wrong.
The man who killed Pluto’s planetary status is Mike Brown, author of How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming which is the nerdiest and most fascinating book I’ve read all year. Brown is an astronomer whose original goal was to find another planet, not to disprove Pluto’s status. Essentially what happened (and this is a VERY watered down version) was that Brown discovered an object bigger than Pluto, which proved that Pluto is actually part of the Kuiper belt and not a planet after all. Or a dwarf planet, if you hate to leave ol’ Pluto out of the game. The science explaining all this is very approachable and easy to understand, which is good since the sum total of my knowledge of astronomy is the acronym to remember the names and order of the planets, which is now incorrect since Pluto isn’t a planet.
What was riveting (since I’m not as virtuous as to proclaim that I’m motivated by science all on its own) was the drama. The competition to find new objects between astronomers, the undermining and backbiting that can happen, the tension of worldwide astronomer associations haggling over details, and even the outright fraud had me on the edge of my seat. I already know what happened since I didn’t live under a rock in 2005, but it was just so darn exciting to get the inside scoop. I read this book months ago and I can still remember details over how the whole Pluto-not-a-planet shenanigan occurred. If this is what nerd soap operas would be like, then let me put on my fuzzy slippers and bathrobe and sit in my easy chair because I’m on board.
If you’re in the mood for some great non-fiction, this is the book for you. If you’re still mad about Pluto not being a planet, this will give you the real story. If you need something that’ll work your brain harder than your other beach reads, give it a try. What I’m saying here is that pretty much everybody will like it. If you don’t, come back and tell me. It won’t make Pluto become a planet again, but it’ll probably make you feel better to vent a bit.