The New York Times best-selling author chronicles America’s love affair with Pluto, man’s best (celestial) friend.
In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union voted Pluto out of planethood. Far from the sun, wonder Pluto has any fans. Yet during the mounting debate over rallied behind the extraterrestrial underdog. Disney created an irresistible pup by the same name, and, as one NASA scientist put it, Pluto was “discovered by an American for America.” Pluto is entrenched in our cultural, patriotic view of the cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson is on a quest to discover why.
Only Tyson can tell this story: he was involved in the first exhibits to demote Pluto, and, consequently, Pluto lovers have freely shared their opinions with him, including endless hate mail from third graders. In his typically witty way, Tyson explores the history of planet recently been judged a dwarf. 35 color, 10 black-and-white.
The Pluto Files is a response to the whole argument and battle over what makes a planet a planet and where Pluto falls in that definition.
I found this book to be quite entertaining as much of it holds Tyson’s sort of tongue-in-cheek commentary style. It focuses mostly on the relationship between Pluto and the people, from it’s initial discovery to the demotion from planet-hood. It goes more into the social history of the planet as when this was published we didn’t have the plethora of info about Pluto that we do now. The main story regarding the demotion of Pluto was quite interesting to read about and to see how despite the fact that Pluto’s place in the solar system hasn’t changed that people still found it’s demotion as something wholly disrespectful. As humans we often place human qualities on objects and the planets are really no exception (I do it), but to see it in such a wide scale as with the Pluto debate is kind of cool and a little frustrating. I’m all for the redefinition of planets if it means we can streamline our understanding of it, though I do admit to being a little sad that I have to mentally remind myself not to include it anymore.
Some of the best moments in this are the letter Tyson receives from other people over the demotion, especially those from kids who took the demotion extremely personal. While this is a book on Pluto and it’s place in our solar system, this leans more towards social commentary.