Synopses & Reviews
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 tenth 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?
"Caltech professor Brown takes readers on a leisurely stroll across campus in this memoir of an astronomer's personal life and the years-long quest to locate new planetary bodies that has so occupied his attention. Tracing his life through the academic ladder, marriage, and parenthood, Brown clearly explains difficult scientific topics with humor and warmth. By focusing nominally on his discovery of Eris, the dwarf planet that resulted in Pluto's unexpected demotion, Brown ultimately pens a love letter to his young daughter, linking her development to the planetary timeline; 'Stars, planets, galaxies, quasars are all incredible and fascinating things, with behaviors and properties that we will be uncovering for years and years, but none of them is as thoroughly astounding as the development of thought, the development of language...' The scientifically-minded will be particularly amused by Brown's desire for accurate statistics regarding due dates and birth dates. Deftly pulling readers along on his journey of discovery and destruction, Brown sets the record straight and strongly defends his science with a conversational, rational, and calm voice that may change the public's opinion of scientists as poor communicators.
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"Brims with humor and charm...exhilarating." LA Times
"Brown's brilliant scientific memoir brings clarity and elegance to the complexities of planetary science. Brown is also a surprisingly self-effacing and entertaining genius. But what comes through clearest is his uncompromising integrity, his 'take-no-prisoners' belief in science. He puts principle above his own best interest... [An] out-of-this-world science memoir." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Damn Mike Brown for exploding the solar-system model we've been carrying around in our heads since elementary school. Praise him for showing us that stargazing, far from being a dead science, is a living, changing wonder." Benjamin Wallace, author of The Billionaire's Vinegar
"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
"My 6-year-old daughter was just learning the solar system when Pluto -- represented in her classroom mobile by a tiny purplish marble -- was suddenly disinvited from the venerable club of planets. Mike Brown, the monster who committed this act, has written an engaging memoir, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
, to explain exactly why the furthest ice-ball got its pink slip." Mike Brown, Bookslut
(Read the entire Bookslut review
In 2005, astronomer 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.
About the Author
Mike Brown is the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. In 2006 he was named one of Time magazine's 100 People Who Shape Our World as well as one of Los Angeles magazine's Most Influential People in L.A. He lives in Southern California with his wife and daughter.