Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review: How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown

I am often asked why I read so many science books. The answer is simple: I ended my formal science education in high school, and books, news articles, and magazines are my only means of keeping my knowledge current. I read the Health, Science, and Medicine sections of the New York Times religiously, have a few science magazine apps on my tablet, and always peruse the "popular science" shelf in the New Books section at the library. I ran across How I Killed Pluto (and Why It Had It Coming) by Mike Brown that way.

Mike Brown is an astronomer whose life's goal was to find new planets. He devoted much of his career to scanning the outer reaches of the solar system, eventually stumbling across three planet-like objects that were even further away from the sun than Pluto (two were smaller, one was larger). Rather than hailing himself the discoverer of three planets, he concluded that none of them were truly planets and that Pluto wasn't one, either. How I Killed Pluto documents Brown's research, the development of his thoughts on the subject, and the inevitable drama within the scientific community and the media circus that followed it.

I really liked this book. Brown is an engaging writer who is skilled at distilling complex ideas (and procedures!) into language the reader can understand. Though I wasn't nearly as upset at Pluto's loss of status as some of my contemporaries, it's good to know that it happened for several very good reasons.

4 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. Hey do you follow maphead.wordpress.com? He does science books sometimes too (though more politics and what not). Anyhoo, great reason to read science books. I really ought to read more too. Glad this was good!