Book Review: How I Killed Pluto and Why it had it Coming
This book is about how the author, Mike Brown, takes action that eventually results in Pluto not being a planet. It was published in December of 2010. As far as I can tell, the intended audience of the book is essentially people who are interested in Pluto and why it got reclassified. The main issue that Mike Brown addresses is that if you want to do something, you should try your very hardest to do it.
The book is set mainly in Pasadena, CA, where the author lives. It is interesting, but not coincidental that he lives where a lot of telescopes are located. The action begins in 1999 and culminates in 2005, when Pluto is demoted. This story could not really have taken place any time else, because people would still want to accept Pluto as a planet.
At the start of the story, the author makes a bet with his friend, Sabine, that someone will find a planet within the next 5 years. The story then goes back to when the author was a child, slowly learning more about the solar system. Mike Brown is a professor in planetary science at California Institute of Technology. He wants to search for planets and he learns about a telescope which is still using film. This telescope can cover huge areas of space, more than any telescope with a digital camera. Mike Brown finds lots of objects like Pluto, none of which should be classified as planets. He doesn’t even think that Pluto should be considered a planet. Therefore, when he announces the discovery of a 10th planet, Pluto, as a planet, dies due to the ensuing controversy.
One of the things that I liked about the book was that the book wasn’t entirely about science. In the book were extensive references to his family life and other references to his daily life. He did not live a typical life of the time. “I lived in a little cabin in the mountains above Pasadena. I have a feeling I was the only professor at Caltech at the time who lacked indoor plumbing…” (p. 29) The following is an interesting reference to his family. “Looking at the sonogram, Diane and I, along with our doctor, were the first people to see the tiny movements of a little heart beating.” (p. 111)
A prominent theme of the book would be: You should chase your dreams wherever they lead you. Mike Brown did this in his first attempt at writing a book. Even though it took him 5 years to write it, I would recommend this book to people who like Pluto planetary investigation.