Read Recently — March 2015 — Night’s Plutonian Shore

How I Killed Pluto and why it had it coming by Mike Brown
The Pluto Files: the rise and fall of America’s favorite planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson

I picked both of these books up together because they were right next to each other on the shelf and begging me to take them both. Then I read them, not together or exactly right after each other, because there were three fiction books between them, but close enough.

Y’all probably know who Tyson is; even I know who Tyson is, but Brown is not exactly a household name. He’s an astronomer and Professor at CalTech, and he discovered several important (FSVO Important) Kuiper-belt objects, at least one of them larger than Pluto.

Both books essentially make the point that Pluto never should have been considered one of the main planets to begin with. It’s just the first Kuiper-belt object to be discovered. When Ceres, the first asteroid to be discovered was discovered (the word ‘discovered’ is now in my mind undergoing that phenomenon where you spell out a word so many times that it starts to look weird) it was declared a planet, and then the next, and the next. For a brief period of time, Jupiter was the 9th planet! Fortunately, once astronomers realized that the asteroids were just chunks of space debris, the whole belt was de-planetized, and the only traces left are the elements named after Ceres, Pallas, et al. If the Kuiper belt had been discovered at the same time as Pluto, we never would have had all this fuss.

Tyson points out that Pluto was the first and only planet discovered by an American, and guess what country put up most of the fuss?

Tyson’s book is glossy and full of pictures, as well as large quotes by other people. Brown’s book is the same thickness, but denser and full of his own words. They’re both good books, but Brown’s is better and, frankly, more educational. Brown writes more better, IMHO.

Both books are recommended, and in fact I recommend you read them one after the other, as I did.


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