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?
Caltech professor Brown takes readers on a leisurely stroll across campus in this memoir of an astronomer's personal life and the years-long quest to locate new planetary bodies that has so occupied his attention. Tracing his life through the academic ladder, marriage, and parenthood, Brown clearly explains difficult scientific topics with humor and warmth. By focusing nominally on his discovery of Eris, the dwarf planet that resulted in Pluto's unexpected demotion, Brown ultimately pens a love letter to his young daughter, linking her development to the planetary timeline; "Stars, planets, galaxies, quasars are all incredible and fascinating things, with behaviors and properties that we will be uncovering for years and years, but none of them is as thoroughly astounding as the development of thought, the development of language..." The scientifically-minded will be particularly amused by Brown's desire for accurate statistics regarding due dates and birth dates. Deftly pulling readers along on his journey of discovery and destruction, Brown sets the record straight and strongly defends his science with a conversational, rational, and calm voice that may change the public's opinion of scientists as poor communicators.