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How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
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How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  7,010 Ratings  ·  1,011 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 adding one more planet to our solar system, Brown’s find ignited a firestorm of controversy that culminated in the ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 24th 2012 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2010)
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Stephen
Poor Pluto
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singled out and ridiculed for his diminutive size, kicked out of the Planet Union, and left, weepy and alone, to wander the cold, outer fringes of the solar system with all the other heavenly misfits and riffraff. And who, you ask, was responsible for this astronomical atrocity…
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Yep, that’s right...Bill Gates...it figures.

Okay, it’s really Michael Brown, but you have to admit that the resemblance is spooky.

This book is eminently readable and is about as moist and non-stuffy a “sci
...more
Nataliya
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think in pictures - like I assume most of us do. My mental picture for the solar system has not changed in perhaps a quarter of a century, ever since I got my little grubby hands on the insanely popular 1987 Soviet world atlas for children, The World and Humanity.

In this mental picture there's an enormous Sun circled by nine planets, with tiny Pluto on the outskirts, a tiny dot next to its much larger siblings.


Here's that picture, with tiny Pluto in the right upper corner. A lovely flashback
...more
Chrissy
Dec 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read-wins
Okay, let's start with the disclosures first and get that out of the way. I was sent this book, so I didn't buy it, and I didn't pay for it. Okay? Got it? Good. Now, moving on.

Disclosure number two: I'm not a science buff... or an astronomy buff. I can probably point to the Dippers, maybe Orion on a good day. And, I know the planets by name... My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.

Nine.. uhh... what?

So, Pluto is gone. (Didn't figure I needed to brace you for the spoiler.. it IS in the
...more
Jim
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since this controversy flared up & finally fell off my radar. Like so many, I read a bit on it while it was happening, decided everyone was too goofy to have their facts straight, & so I tried to ignore it until it all shook out. One of my GR friends recently gave this book high marks, so I thought it was time to finally get the full story.

Science & scientists continue to amaze me. They know so much that it's mind boggling, but it's even more surprising when I find
...more
Cathy
Mike Brown loves the universe. He is also obsessive, modest to a fault, smart and has a wickedly dry sense of humor. This book grabbed me by my imagination and my heart and mind followed. Brown wove his personal story with the astronomical story giving it more resonance. What I really enjoyed were the machinations of the academic community and the side-story of the Spanish astronomer who “stole” his discovery. I know the academic world is as cut-throat, backstabbing and gossipy as Hollywood but ...more
Arthur Ryan
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, non-fiction
If you'd be interested in the love story of a man for his daughter as he watches her progress through the first days of her life, read this. If you're interested in how the contemporary science of astronomy works i, read this. If you'd be interested in a detective story about a team of researchers halfway across the world who nearly stole a major discovery, read this. If you'd be interested in the politics of 'killing' a planet that was accepted as part of the pantheon for more than 70 years, re ...more
Laurele
There are several misconceptions here: First, our solar system does NOT have only eight planets. Second, Mike Brown did not “kill” Pluto, and use of this word is extremely misleading and more about Brown’s ego, which he for some reason has centered around calling himself the “plutokiller.” Third, Eris was not discovered by Brown alone but by a team of three astronomers; one of the other two, Dr. David Rabinowitz, disagrees with Brown and signed a petition rejecting the IAU planet definition and ...more
Rohan
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a science lover, you will definitely enjoy this book. This book, as the title suggests, discusses about a very specific topic about discovering new planets and hence should not be considered as an introductory book on the topic of Astronomy. This book also provides a great insight into Astronomers daily life and their scientific practices. For an Astronomer, Mike Brown is quite funny and interesting.

The book covers good amount of detail about Author's personal life alongside his ques
...more
Marvin
Dec 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is perhaps the most entertaining book on astronomy I've ever read. I hesitate to even call it a science book. While there is lots of information on our solar system that I didn't even know, this is more of a personal journey for the author, chronicling his victories and his frustrations in his search for a tenth planet while committing planetary homicide along the way. It is Mike Brown's light humor and witty insight that makes this book work so well.

So what have I learned?

1) Planet demotio
...more
David
Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, astronomy
Very few books about science convey the excitement of discovery, the hard work, the drama and intrigue, and the thought processes that go on, inside the mind of a scientist. This fabulous book does a wonderful job with all this! Unlike many other popular science books that try too hard to be humorous, entertaining, and often silly, this book gives a light-hearted touch to a dramatic year in the life of a scientist.

At one point in the book, Mike Brown wrote that he received tenure at Cal Tech, bu
...more
Bruce Judisch
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
It shocked me to realize just over halfway through "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming" that such a book would orbit the top of my short list of all-time favorites. But it did—and it landed closer to the periapsis than the apoapsis. Why?

I’m not a scientist; indeed, my interest in astronomy, while healthy, halts one step short of an emotional attachment to Pluto. Hence, I suppose it was easier, unencumbered by a wounded celestial psyche, to embrace Mike Brown’s story of the stepchild pla
...more
Louise
Jan 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
When I was in first or second grade, one of my homework assignments was to write about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Since the my previous goal of being a police-person was shot down and laughed at, I had already been thinking on this subject for a lengthy (for a first grader) amount of time. I thought and I thought and finally, I got a great idea. I thought of something that would be fascinating to me a well as praise-worthy to my parents. When I let my parents read my essay entitled "Wha ...more
Clif Hostetler
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Even if Pluto is was your favorite planet (after all, it was named after a cartoon dog!) you will be charmed by this account of a scientists' life and work. From this writing Mike Brown obviously has communication skills which I'm sure makes him a popular instructor and lecturer at Caltech.

This book reminds us that astronomers are people too. In addition to a story about science and discovery, it’s a funny and moving memoir of mixing the astronomy pursuits with personal issues such as courting
...more
Andrea
You might have convinced me, Mike, but when I'm old and wrinkly I will still shake my withered finger at kids and croak:"Back in my day we had nine planets, and we liked it!"
Mike Puma
Nov 15, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I, someone who never wins anything, just won a copy of this book. How cool is that? Look forward to reading it and real review to follow. whoohoo!
Traci
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I actually really enjoyed this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, given that I liked the solar system the way it was, thank you very much, and because Pluto is my zodiac sign’s ruling planet (Scorpio, if you were curious, and yes everything you’ve heard is true), and because who the heck comes up with stuff like this anyway? I mean Pluto has been a planet since 1930 or so, so do we not have anything better to do than sit around and wonder if someone made a mistake in 1930? And as ...more
Maria
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I expected this book to be interesting, given that the demotion of Pluto to a dwarf planet a few years ago was a very emotional moment for scientists and laymen alike. This book surpassed my expectations. It it such a great read that for the first time ever, I felt compelled to write a review and recommend the book.

Mike Brown's voice is genuine, down-to-earth, and honest. He does a tremendous job of weaving his personal story into the story of how the solar system ended up with 8 planets. By the
...more
Allison Arthur
Jan 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Any scientist can write about his great discovery. Mike Brown writes about his in a way that makes you want to actually read about it. Instead of going on and on about his findings in scientific terms, he explains astronomy in a way that most middle school students could understand.

He adds interest to the story by not just writing about his discovery and how it changed history but also how it changed himself. He inserts details about his everyday life and how these details had an effect on his
...more
Tiffany
Sep 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tiffany by: Jaga
Shelves: science
As of page 119, it's a decent book. It's interesting as far as the astronomy/science/how-a-discovery-is-made perspective, but the book is titled *How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming*, and we didn't even really discuss Pluto (other than its history) until page 84. And then, just like an object being flung from Jupiter's gravitational field, we're off again not discussing Pluto for another 30-ish pages. I mean, I've enjoyed reading about Object/Planet X and the discoveries Mike Brown and h ...more
Marta
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, nonfiction
I absolutely loved this easy-breezy memoir about the hunt and discovery of new planets that led to a new understanding of our solar system. Mike Brown and his team discovered five of the largest non-planet objects in our solar system - at the same time when his daughter was born. He was just as fascinated with her as the universe - or even more. This makes the story very compelling. The science is very clear; we learn of scientific methods, astronomer politics, and how newly discovered planets a ...more
Dov Zeller
This is a great little book about the reclassification of Pluto to dwarf planet (and as Brown says late in the book, a dwarf planet is no more a planet than a stuffed dog is a dog or a chocolate bunny is a bunny) and the events leading up to it. It's an interesting and educational tale.

I always wished I had the patience and dedication to follow and make sense of constellations and wanderers of the night sky. Thus far I haven't managed to spend much time star or planet gazing, so it was especiall
...more
David
Jan 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, library-book
"When I was your age, Pluto was a planet."

Perhaps some of us remember the group with that title on Facebook a few years ago. It was one of many reactions, and one of the more lighthearted, to the news that Pluto had been demoted. From now on the solar system had eight planets. Mike Brown is the astronomer who made the discoveries (or led the team making the discoveries) that served as one of the main catalysts for Pluto losing its status. He tells the story in this great book.

I think I learned m
...more
Alan
Sep 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over the period of several years Mike Brown, an astronomer at CalTech, discovered large objects in the Kupier Belt (the asteroid belt outside of the orbit of Neptune) that led astronomers to consider the question, "What is a planet?" and "What does this mean for Pluto?". It took years, but eventually astronomy's governing body voted in the status of these newly discovered bodies...were they to be considered planets or not...and what does this mean for Pluto, which is of a comparable size and loc ...more
Chris Aylott
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I picked his up, I was worried it would be a retread of Neil DeGrasse Tyson's excellent The Pluto Files. It's not. Pluto is just the hook for Brown's memoir of what it's like to be a modern-day astronomer, looking for big things in a solar system that seems (at first) to be mostly explored.

This book is a joy to read, full of wit and cutting-edge science. Brown is a gifted writer who can explain not only what an astronomer does but how he thinks, drawing you into his wonder at the universe a
...more
Katie Nelson
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m incredibly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Honestly, the only reason I read it is because my son recommended it to me. He assured me I would like it and he was right! Not only was it fascinating from a scientific point of view, but it was also a very interesting read. I enjoyed the history behind these amazing discoveries. I also loved the personal touches he included about his young daughter. Fabulous book!
Powder River Rose
Excellent subject that is superbly written and narrated. Intelligent yet light, easy to understand and quite funny. I’d say it’s perfect for all ages especially anyone interested in Pluto. I was hooked from beginning to end and then looked to see if Mike Brown was offering any online classes or lectures anytime soon….sad to say, no.

This is a truly fascinating discussion of not only Pluto but the solar system and, who knows, maybe a sequel is in order following NASA’s New Horizons pictures that
...more
Chad Sayban
More reviews at The Story Within The Story

Basically, nine plus one equals eight. Really? In the case of the discovery of the mythical tenth planet…yes! When in 2005, Cal Tech astronomer Mike Brown fulfilled his lifelong goal of finding Eris, a planet slightly larger than Pluto far off on the edge of the solar system, he had no idea the controversy that his discovery would spawn. Stranger yet, Brown was on the side of booting Pluto – along with Eris – out of the planet club. The result was that t
...more
Joan
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: science students, esp astronomy students
This is the book I was wanting to read about the scientific explanation for Pluto's demotion. Or, in line with the title, about the guy who declared Pluto is dead. A comment he actually made to the media at the time of the announcement by the IAU....which comes off as not very much a good guy in this book. This guy is an astronomer at Caltech. In spite of the way he dismisses himself, obviously a very good astronomer since only the best are going to make it at a place like Caltech. Here he descr ...more
Christopher May
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Why did poor Pluto have to get the boot? What did Pluto ever do to you?"

I wonder how many times that the author and astronomer, Mike Brown, heard these and similar questions? Thankfully, he's given us this memoir detailing what happened, why it happened and why the correct decision was made regarding Pluto.

Brown's description of his discoveries including Eris (the dwarf planet nearly the same size as Pluto that initiated the whole debate that resulted in Pluto's demotion) is that incredibly rar
...more
Kara
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

For the first few chapters I was going to give this book 2 stars, due to this man being obviously a clueless troglodyte who had no idea how other humans acted.

Then I was going to give it 3 stars for being just OK, but kind of a snooze feast with all this endless definitions and, frankly, boring history.

Ah, but then, then, Brown shows us the living, beating, wounded, happy heart that beats within any human who has fallen in love, and I could practically see the love glowing off the page as he des
...more
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NOTE: There is more than one author with this name on Goodreads.

Youth and education

Brown is a Huntsville, Alabama native and graduated from Virgil I. Grissom High School in 1983. Brown earned his A.B. in physics from Princeton University in 1987, where he was a member of the Princeton Tower Club. He did his graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley where he earned an M.Sc. in astr
...more
More about Mike Brown...

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“Pluto is dead.” 5 likes
“Finding out that something you have just discovered is considered all but impossible is one of the joys of science.” 4 likes
More quotes…