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

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3.88  ·  Rating details ·  6,233 ratings  ·  649 reviews
When the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History reclassified Pluto as an icy comet, the New York Times proclaimed on page one, "Pluto Not a Planet? Only in New York." Immediately, the public, professionals, and press were choosing sides over Pluto's planethood. Pluto is entrenched in our cultural and emotional view of the cosmos, and Neil ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 2nd 2014 by W. W. Norton Company (first published January 19th 2008)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Bradley
Apr 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Like all of Tyson's books, it's very well written, explaining any number of difficult subjects with clarity and ease, but unfortunately, with this subject, we devolve into a catalogue of cultural significance for the poor demoted Pluto and a very long list of rather humorous emails and letters all sent to Tyson because of his role in the decision.

If that's what you're looking for, then, by all means, enjoy this book!

But if you're looking for an in-depth rather than an adequate focus on Pluto rat
...more
Trish
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to read something by Neil deGrasse Tyson for a long time. I like how he can break complex matters up and present them in a way that children and laymen can understand them (there is a famous quote saying that you yourself have only understood a matter if you're capable of explaining it in simple terms).

This is probably the lightest of books by this author and people should know that going it. It's "only" about Pluto and that whole mess after it got declassified from "planet" to "dwarf p
...more
Kaethe Douglas
Here's a topic that isn't often covered: how museums design their exhibits. You know what else isn't often covered: how science happens. There are myriad books about discoverers and discoveries, and many about new fields as they develop. But this is the only time I can recall reading a book on the evolving science behind an issue like Is Pluto a planet? And although the book isn't specifically targeting a young readership, I think it could be wonderfully popular with middle school readers, becau ...more
Ken
Jan 22, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Vonia
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit I did not thoroughly read this. I am not a science person at all (Yes, I realize I appear to be Asian). Most of the information went over my head. I recognize that Tyson is not only one of the foremost scientists today, but also one of the more easily understood ones. I suppose I am that dense when it comes to the hard sciences. Give me psychology, sociology, philosophy, I would stun you with my brain. Start giving me numbers and symbols, the solar system, energy, elements, gravity, I wi ...more
Dj
May 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Heidi Burkhart
Jan 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Everything that you could ever want to know about Pluto. I think it may be an effective teaching aid if teachers used excepts in their lessons.
Carolyn Stein
Feb 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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
...more
Amanda
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Bry
Jun 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Nancy
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Shay Dawn
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: g, non-fiction
I was going to write a real review... but nah.

I like the little comics and the included letters. I liked the beginning enough, but as the book went on, it started to drag. Maybe it was because the book tried to be everything*, and it just didn't work out. In trying to be everything, the tone was really hard to follow.

*funny, poignant, historical, scientific, cultural, popular, informative, defensive, autobiographical, newspaper report...
Lance
Entertaining book on the object formerly known as the planet Pluto

While I have not read anything by Mr. Tyson in the past and I had only known him by references on the Big Bang Theory TV show, I still found this book on Pluto both informative and entertaining. Informative by telling the reasoning and procedures to define Pluto as a dwarf planet and entertaining to read the reactions to it - everyone from elementary school students to respected journalists are covered. An enjoyable read.
Christina
Apr 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
...more
Porter Broyles
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
deGrasse Tyson’s job is to explain things to the masses. To this extent his work is, by design, somewhat fluff and superficial. There is nothing wrong if that is you purpose. He has a fun personality that comes across in his writing.

That being said:

While defending the IAU’s vote, he wrote:

On “the surface, this argument sounds convincing, but most pollsters would give their eyeteeth for their sample to represent 4 percent of a complete population. So the question should be, What are the chances t
...more
AndrewP
Nov 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
jeremy
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
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.

in
...more
David
Apr 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, history
Basically, this book explores the history of humanity's relationship with Pluto. From discovery, to Disney's hopping on the new planet (at the time) bandwagon, to the AMNH's scandalous reclassification in its exhibits, and eventual demotion to dwarf planet. Offers a look into how people can get let emotion get the better of them on even such mundane matters as the scientific definition of celestial bodies.

As this book was written and published several years before New Horizons' encounter with Pl
...more
Meredith
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
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
Owen
Feb 21, 2018 added it
This was a fun and informative read, and it shows us that you can love Pluto and still believe it's not a planet. I like Dr. Tyson's perspective that objective fact is more important than the labels we apply to it.
Geraldine
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Even though I really enjoyed this book, I am still mad at Tyson for "demoting" Pluto.
Jennifer Ozawa
Fun as hell, but really short. I love Tyson’s style and would have loved more background.
Chris
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
...more
Jennifer
I had finished with my formal education by the time the great debate on whether or not Pluto was a planet was being discussed. I never really looked into the topic and was interested to learn more. Neil deGrasse Tyson writes this book with humor and candor, including anecdotes from his own life and a history lesson that includes a trip to Disney. I especially liked the cartoons and correspondence from concerned science fans of all ages. This book also has 9 chapters, which I feel is a proper hom ...more
Cynda
5 Stars. NGT once again writes a book that rocks my world.
NGT writes in the manner as he speaks. His style remains
Casual
Concise
Knowledgeable
Informative
Descriptive
Humorous.

I questioned why Pluto had been demoted to minor planet/planetoid/asteroid status. I was missing Pluto. Now I am in agreement that Pluto is not a planet and never was. Find out if you agree with a developing understanding of what constitutes a planet and if you agree that Pluto be recognozed a large spherical asteroid, maybe a
...more
Joan
Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mattr76
Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Michelle (In Libris Veritas)
The Pluto Files is a response to the whole argument and battle over what makes a planet a planet and where Pluto falls in that definition.

I found this book to be quite entertaining as much of it holds Tyson’s sort of tongue-in-cheek commentary style. It focuses mostly on the relationship between Pluto and the people, from it’s initial discovery to the demotion from planet-hood. It goes more into the social history of the planet as when this was published we didn’t have the plethora of info about
...more
Greg
Oct 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Darren
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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That's no exuse: errors by NDT? 1 3 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

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