Wednesday, February 15, 2017

BOOK: The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson, 180 pages

This was such a great book! Neil deGrasse Tyson, everyone's favourite astrophysicist*, has written a book (it's from 2009, so not recent, especially in scientific terms) about how Pluto got demoted, and his role in the controversy. I saw this marked down at Indigo and grabbed it up. I love reading about the story of Pluto and this will add to my classroom collection, including How I Killed Pluto, and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown, (review ) and some children's books I ordered from Scholastic.

Tyson has a great sense of humour and is able to make fun of himself and his role in the demotion. It actually started when he was hired to help produce a rebuilt Hayden Planetarium for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. (I would love to see this place!) As they try to demonstrate size in space, the oddball Pluto gets left out of a display because it is not a inner rock planet (like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) or an outer gaseous planet (like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune). It's an ice planet in the Kuiper belt and now we know there are a whole bunch more there.

Chapters called Pluto in Culture, Pluto in History, and Pluto in Science set the beginning. Then Pluto's Fall From Grace (due to the discovery of Eris) and Pluto Divides the Nation lead to Pluto's Judgment Day and finally, Pluto the Dwarf Planet. An updated chapter with the new pictures taken by the New Horizon's probe (launched in 2006) that flew by Pluto in 2015 would really add to the book.

There are lots of pictures, lots of letters from school kids sent to Tyson during the debate. Tyson lays out the different arguments fairly, even though his opinion is clear. This book was so thorough and easy to read, I highly recommend it!

*my opinion, but are there other astrophysicists in the running?**

**Maybe Fritz Zwicky, noted curmudgeon, lol