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

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  4,083 ratings  ·  467 reviews
In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union voted Pluto out of planethood. Far from the sun, wonder Pluto has any fans. Yet during the mounting debate over rallied behind the extraterrestrial underdog. Disney created an irresistible pup by the same name, and, as one NASA scientist put it, Pluto was "discovered by an American for America." Pluto is entrenched in ou ...more
Hardcover, 194 pages
Published January 26th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 19th 2008)
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ugh... awfully light book on what really be a weighty tome. felt like a long article in time magazine or something, where it might scratch the surface of a subject, but you don't really get a whole understanding of the topic. filled with way too many 'extras': political cartoons, appendixes of song lyrics, full page portraits of the little girl who suggested the name, etc... i mean seriously, just get on with it. when you remove the quotes and pictures and figures, it's what, maybe like 50 pages ...more
deGrasse Tyson proves that while he might not be the smartest man in the United States, he is one of the best scientist at making what at first glance could be a daunting project for the uninitiated to read both understandable and enjoyable. With this the second of this Astrophysicists books and it has determined me to read anything that I can find under his pen. His delivery makes it easy to read some of the most complex subjects in a clear and easy to read manner.

While this book is about the
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a very entertaining science communicator and astrophysicist. This little book outlines the whole Pluto debate as it unfolded in the US (I don't think most people in other countries cared quite so much). It makes for entertaining reading, but I can't help but think 'seriously? It's science. Science changes constantly. And frankly, all the debate concerns is a linguistically constructed classification system. The universe doesn't really care.' Still, it is a fun and very acc ...more
Tyson is always a favorite guest on The Daily Show and this book was discussed on his last interview with Jon Stewart. Library to the rescue!

There are 9 chapters to this fairly short book, all done with wit and an obvious love of science. Tyson goes over Pluto's history, how Pluto was received in our culture, and the descent of how Pluto lost his status as our 9th planet.

Apparently Americans really love Pluto, not only because of it's association with Disney's dog, but because an American discov
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson was voted Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by people magazine - who would have known such a stud muffin was also an crazy intelligent, funny, and witty writer?!

This book details the history of Pluto's place in both science and people's hearts from the time of it's discovery and naming as a planet all the way to its demotion to a dwarf planet within the Kuiper Belt. Plus it is full of satirical comics and extremely angry and often misspelled letters from damn near homicidal t
Before reading this book I had no idea that the author was a major player/instigator in the whole 'Is Pluto a Planet?' situation from the first half of the 2000's. It's pretty amazing how this whole situation and debate blew up over how the Rose Center for Earth and Space decided to depict the planets in their exhibition. Rather than the traditional display of planets listed out from the sun, they categorized them by dividing the solar system up into zones of like objects. Going out from the su ...more
a stimulating, witty, and educational look at the kuiper belt object formerly known as a planet, neil degrasse tyson's the pluto files tracks the historical, scientific, and cultural ascendancy of our solar system's one-time ninth planet. tyson recounts the commotion that ensued following the hayden planetarium's omission of pluto in one of their displays in 2000 - which perhaps paled in comparison to the controversy subsequent to the iau's reclassification of pluto as a dwarf planet in 2006.

Another guilty pleasure. Neil deGrasse Tyson always writes well. This time he is less concerned with science education than he is with describing the shared cultural mania that resulted from rebranding Pluto a plutoid.

The story begins with the fallout of the exhibit he put together at the Hayden Planetarium in the new Rose Center for Earth and Space. His team presented the planets as members of families of object with similar properties rather than as orbs to be memorized. Pluto was firmly plac
I'm reminded of that quote from a child's review of a book that said: "This book told me more about penguins than I cared to know." Only substitute penguins for Pluto. I KID, I KID.

No, I feel very informed about Pluto as a planetary object, and this was really a fascinating read, but I have to say, I came out of this book with Dr. Tyson's same conclusion: WHY DID THIS CAUSE SO MUCH CONTROVERSY? The book ends with a cartoon of a news bulletin proclaiming Pluto was no longer a planet, with a pict
Audio. This book came on 4 cds, but I think it could have been 2, comfortably. There was a lot of repetition - of content that was phrased identically more than once - so much so that I kept checking that I hadn't repeated a track/disc. Perhaps that doesn't comes across as strongly in print? Anyway, it was a fun little read, very much popular science. I liked the overarching theme of the difference between science (as in scientific thought and logical rigor) and popular science (culturally-led, ...more
I picked up this short, beautifully designed book after following all the public brouhaha over Pluto's downgrading to a "dwarf planet" expecting mostly an overview of that scene. The second half of the book does provide this, but the first half is basically a history of Pluto's discovery, and frankly, I found this part rather boring. But that's mostly because I have a pea brain that can't follow science very well. For me, the hands-down highlight of the book are the letters from children--printe ...more
Even though I really enjoyed this book, I am still mad at Tyson for "demoting" Pluto.
As a Pluto fan, yes, the planet. I have always wanted to read this book. Neil deGrasse Tyson was the man seen in the front of the controversial reclassification of Pluto. I still remember seeing websites with kids letters and politicians trying to get their 5 cents in on the topic. Pluto as it turns out is the most popular planet. Here is a history of its discovery, its growth in the consciousness of America and the World. The beginning of the cracks, and the fall from planetary grace.
As a laym
Neil DeGrasse Tyson is becoming one of my favorite popular science authors - I enjoy his Teaching Company courses, and he was perfect in the COSMOS reboot. His delivery of intriguing topics blends interesting facts with passionate excitement and fervor that is contagious, and all too rare in the scientific education community.

I found this book to be an interesting recount of the historical rise and fall of our ninth "planet" (it's size is actually less than 0.24 percent that of Earth!), from it
I received this book as a gift when it was released, and the "demotion" of Pluto was still a fairly hot topic. I wasn't terribly interested as I considered the whole thing pretty silly. My reaction was, "Pluto doesn't care what we call it" and "planet is a term humans invented, so there's no real scientific value." In fact, my opinion was that the term planet should only apply to the classical wanderers of the sky, and thus exclude Uranus and Neptune as well. Anyway, with the impending fly-by of ...more
Dec 06, 2014 Joan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teachers of science and high school students
This book was not quite what I had expected, but that is more my fault since I was expecting more science than I got in this book. This is a mostly quite personal description from Tyson's point of view of the fuss made by American's over the change in status of Pluto. As Tyson pointed out, ultimately it really wasn't all that important in that it didn't change any of the realities of the world....Pluto is still the same physical spacial body it was before the change in status...but acknowledges ...more
I really liked the whole 'setup' of the book. Containing newspaper and website articles, cartoons, emails, various opinions. It seems to me a really good way to present the subject in a way that can create to the reader the assumption that all things in the content happened a week ago and are still happening. As a whole it forms a view of how various institutions and people reacted in live time. And it achieves in a satisfying level what every remarkable book describing past events should hope ...more
What was the biggest story of 2006? The arrest of the shampoo bombers in England? Small fries. The first World Baseball Classic? YAWN! The death of Don Knotts? Nothin'.

No, as interesting as they were, none of these generated nearly as much public interest and argument as the much ballyhooed "demotion" of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union in August of 2006. Poor little Pluto, hanging out there on the edge of the solar system, got bumped down to "Dwarf Planet," rousing much ire from pe
I read The Pluto Files because I am interested in space science and I am a fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson, and while it is a nice little book, it does not have too much to offer.

As a chronicle of the public outcry over the American Museum of Natural History's decision to not include Pluto among the planets exhibited at the Hayden Planetarium, it's interesting. As a discussion of the curious obsession among some people of Pluto, it is also interesting. And as a way to get the reader thinking about wh
The first half of the book functions rather well, as an examination of Pluto, its discovery, origins of the name and its cultural impact on America, and inevitably Neil deGrasse Tyson's role in Pluto's demotion in our categorization of the universe. As the second half loses steam as the book begins pulling more headlines, quotes, letter's from students and song lyrics that reference Pluto my interest started to wane. While the later certainly illustrates the extent of the sentimental value that ...more
Feb 13, 2009 Caitie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who watch too much Discovery Channel
Recommended to Caitie by: Jon Stewart
Shelves: nonfiction
I read this expecting to be convinced that Pluto was not a planet, and I totally was. But by the end of the book Dr. Tyson also managed to convince me that it doesn't matter either way. I enjoyed this very much, and the account of the scientific community's back-and-forth on Pluto was fun and rather a lot more human a depiction of scientists and scientific deliberations than I'm used to reading. I tend to idolize scientists as these strange, dispassionate, inherently rational creatures who live ...more
What a fun astronomy book. I read a lot of dry ones, so it was a nice break from that while still giving lots of information. I admit to being one of the people had had initially had a visceral reaction to changing the status of Pluto, but I was also ready to give the actual specialists a chance to figure it out and then explain why they came to the conclusions. It makes such obvious sense now, but I can see that the struggle is real to explain to the average person that science names things to ...more
Ashley Fournier
Excellent book. I listed to the audiobook, and it was well-narrated, informative, humorous, and enjoyable. I would recommend this for anyone interested in cosmology, space, planets, or simply learning new things.
This is interesting, not so much for the science but for the anecdotes of how the public reacts. I thought the book could have been structured more strongly -- even though it is non-fiction, you can still tell it with a story arc and a resolution.
Just a fun book. It has some good background on the history of Pluto and the struggling between calling it a planet and calling it something else.
Devone Jackson
The Pluto Files is book about Scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson and his struggle against society to protect his right to speak on what he feels about the Planet Pluto. Mr. Tyson personally feels that Pluto is not a planet and world goes crazy at this idea. People constantly harassing him through phone calls, emails, and letters. New York Times had their fair amount of talk about Mr. Tyson. It got so bad to the fact that there was meeting that together a group of important scientist to come up with ...more
Bob Anderson
Are you the kind of person who’s interested in trans-Jovian terrestrial planets, dwarf planets, minor planets, large spherical icy Kuiper Belt Objects, or any of the other ways to refer to Pluto which have got so many non-astronomers hot and bothered? Than this is a good book for you! As much a short cultural history and memoir as a popular science book, The Pluto Files contains not just diagrams and photos of the object itself but also the angry letters and passionate editorial cartoons given i ...more
Dan Curnutt
This was a really interesting read. Although you might find that Tyson deals more with personal mail he has received and some of the discussions with other astronomers takes a large chunk of the book. But with that said the book is very informative.

The main controversy came when a new Planetarium that Tyson was working with decided to not include Pluto in their displays of the "planets" of our solar system. The main reason was because they were not convinced that Pluto can hold planetary status.
This is a nice little book about the process that resulted in the downgrading of Pluto from full planethood to a status of Dwarf Planet by one of my favorite people, Neil deGrasse Tyson. From his perspective as the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and as one of the scientists involved in the reclassification of Pluto Tyson gives us a nice, easily readable and humorous account of this process. It was one of those rare times that what should be a strictly scientific process got caught up with t ...more
James F
This is an account of the dispute over the redefinition of Pluto as a dwarf planet rather than a planet. It is very simply written; the bibliography is divided between "General Books" and "Children's Books" and many of the books in the first section are also in our children's section or are part of series that I would call YA; if our library had a YA nonfiction section that is where I would put this. It is very amusing, though also sad -- scientists as well as the general public reacting in emot ...more
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That's no exuse: errors by NDT? 1 1 Jun 26, 2014 04:51AM  
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Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia.

Tyson's professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our
More about Neil deGrasse Tyson...

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“When your reasons for believing something are justified ad hoc, you are left susceptible to further discoveries undermining the rationale for that belief.” 16 likes
“the stated authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” 1 likes
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