How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
narrated by Ryan Gesell
7 hours 48 minutes (and 288 pages if you’d rather read it)
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 demotion of Pluto from real planet to the newly coined category of “dwarf” planet. Suddenly Brown was receiving hate mail from schoolchildren and being bombarded by TV reporters—all because of the discovery he had spent years searching for and a lifetime dreaming about.
A heartfelt and personal journey filled with both humor and drama, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is the book for anyone, young or old, who has ever imagined exploring the universe—and who among us hasn’t?
This was an entertaining book to listen to. And it totally made sense at the time (unlike Einstein, my current sciencey listen). It also made me realize that I’ve forgotten the order of the planets (on the one hand, that’s kind of embarrassing, but on the other hand, I can’t say that I’ve had any reason whatsoever to spout off the order of the planets since high school science class, so maybe it’s good that the brain has freed up space for something else). For awhile there while I was listening I could once again tell you the order. But now? Please. That was 2 weeks ago. You expect me to remember that far back?
This book totally has its geeked out moments, but overall it’s an interesting way to get the full story on why poor Pluto got the planetary boot (which is something I’m still sad about, even after listening to Brown explain why Pluto really doesn’t deserve to hang with the big boys). Brown is surprisingly gentle with his readers, and he explains things so that they totally make sense. He also throws in the story of how he met his wife, got married, and had a daughter…all this was happening at the same time he was discovering planets that aren’t really planets and that led to poor Pluto being assassinated. Okay, fine…I agree that Pluto isn’t really worthy. But sometimes letting go is hard.
One of my favorite moments from the book was when Brown describes asteroids as the minnows of the solar system, and planets as whales. Not only did his explanation make perfect sense, but it provided a great visual, too. I think it also shows the talent that he has for making astronomy accessible to us science dunces.