Customer Reviews for

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Fun and easy read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Just the right amount of science, intrigue, humor, drama and a healthy dose life, love and family. It was a nice departure from the more dry astronomy books I've read lately. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some science mixed i...
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Just the right amount of science, intrigue, humor, drama and a healthy dose life, love and family. It was a nice departure from the more dry astronomy books I've read lately. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some science mixed in with fun.

@ Pbaum: You make valid points about some of the errors in the book (Thor being one) but you must consider who the target audience is for this book. This isn't a scientific draft, this is a book that laymen and older children can read and actually grasp. If the title and cover art didn't get that accross to you I don't know what would. Lastly, when you reference Keck not being the largest telescope, you are correct but with a caveat. You fail to mention that at the time Mike Brown made his discoveries Keck WAS the largest telescope(s). The GTC didn't come on line until July 2009, almost five years after the discoveries were made. You're splitting hairs where it isn't necessary.

posted by CFHinLA on October 9, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Detailed Review Including Factual Errors

This book reflects the degree to which the general public disregards real science and scholarship. It starts off as a wonderful read. We quickly are drawn into a story. Brown describes personal experiences, such as living in a cabin, meeting his future wife, going on th...
This book reflects the degree to which the general public disregards real science and scholarship. It starts off as a wonderful read. We quickly are drawn into a story. Brown describes personal experiences, such as living in a cabin, meeting his future wife, going on their honeymoon, the gestation and birth of his first child, confrontations with bloggers and with fellow scientists, and other adventures. Sometimes the author broods under the dome of a famous telescope. References to science seem to be thrown in to provide a nice title, give the story a little flavor, and make sure that the protagonist appears very successful at some chosen profession. For this reader the spell was broken on Page 19, as I read, "And it is no wonder that all our basic units of time are based on the sky." Most scientists know that the basic unit of time is the second, and its astronomical connections were severed more than 50 years ago. The book continues with ".A year traced the time it took for the sun to go all the way around the sky to reappear at the same location again." The description is for what is called the sidereal year, and it differs from what is known as the tropical or solar year that we use in our ordinary calendars. Next are the sentences, "The seven days of the week are even named after the seven original planets. "Thor was the Norse king of the gods, like Jupiter, and Friday is the day of Venus in the guise of the Norse Frigga, the goddess of married love." The proposition that Thor was the "Norse King of the gods" will be noted as an error both by scholars of Norse Mythology familiar with the Prose Edda and probably by anyone who has read the Marvel Comic Thor. Thor is not even the ruler of Asgard. That is the role of his father, Odin. The Norse name for the planet Venus was Friggjarstjarna which can be translated as 'Frigg's star'. Saying that Friday is named for the goddess Frigg is different from saying it is named for Frigg's star or a planet. Within a single page of the book my feelings had gone from enjoyment and trust to wondering whether or not anything I read was true. I winced at grammatical and typographical errors and inconsistencies. On page 74 I read "I was flying out to Hawaii to use one of the the (sic) Keck telescopes-the largest telescopes in the world-to take a first really good look at Object X." The Keck telescopes on Hawaii are 10 meter instruments. Larger still are the 10.4 meter Gran Telescopio Canarias and 11.9 meter Large Binocular Telescope. Issues of care and scholarship turned out to be systemic. I found the most interesting and disturbing idea on pages 242-243. Here Mike Brown states that he would never write down a precise definition of "planet." Instead he believes that there should be only an imprecise description of the concept of a planet. Essentially he worries that a precise written definition is legalistic, flawed, and would require adjudication for any conflict regarding its application that might arise. I believe there are flaws in all of our definitions and concepts, and discussions about these flaws are important. Having nothing written in precise form tends to hide important issues. Books that accurately portray scientific investigation are important. Although this is not such a book, they are available. Examples include the works of Richard Feynman, Bernd Heinrich, and Donald Kroodsma.

posted by pbaum on February 17, 2011

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  • Posted October 9, 2011

    Fun and easy read.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Just the right amount of science, intrigue, humor, drama and a healthy dose life, love and family. It was a nice departure from the more dry astronomy books I've read lately. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some science mixed in with fun.

    @ Pbaum: You make valid points about some of the errors in the book (Thor being one) but you must consider who the target audience is for this book. This isn't a scientific draft, this is a book that laymen and older children can read and actually grasp. If the title and cover art didn't get that accross to you I don't know what would. Lastly, when you reference Keck not being the largest telescope, you are correct but with a caveat. You fail to mention that at the time Mike Brown made his discoveries Keck WAS the largest telescope(s). The GTC didn't come on line until July 2009, almost five years after the discoveries were made. You're splitting hairs where it isn't necessary.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 17, 2011

    Detailed Review Including Factual Errors

    This book reflects the degree to which the general public disregards real science and scholarship. It starts off as a wonderful read. We quickly are drawn into a story. Brown describes personal experiences, such as living in a cabin, meeting his future wife, going on their honeymoon, the gestation and birth of his first child, confrontations with bloggers and with fellow scientists, and other adventures. Sometimes the author broods under the dome of a famous telescope. References to science seem to be thrown in to provide a nice title, give the story a little flavor, and make sure that the protagonist appears very successful at some chosen profession. For this reader the spell was broken on Page 19, as I read, "And it is no wonder that all our basic units of time are based on the sky." Most scientists know that the basic unit of time is the second, and its astronomical connections were severed more than 50 years ago. The book continues with ".A year traced the time it took for the sun to go all the way around the sky to reappear at the same location again." The description is for what is called the sidereal year, and it differs from what is known as the tropical or solar year that we use in our ordinary calendars. Next are the sentences, "The seven days of the week are even named after the seven original planets. "Thor was the Norse king of the gods, like Jupiter, and Friday is the day of Venus in the guise of the Norse Frigga, the goddess of married love." The proposition that Thor was the "Norse King of the gods" will be noted as an error both by scholars of Norse Mythology familiar with the Prose Edda and probably by anyone who has read the Marvel Comic Thor. Thor is not even the ruler of Asgard. That is the role of his father, Odin. The Norse name for the planet Venus was Friggjarstjarna which can be translated as 'Frigg's star'. Saying that Friday is named for the goddess Frigg is different from saying it is named for Frigg's star or a planet. Within a single page of the book my feelings had gone from enjoyment and trust to wondering whether or not anything I read was true. I winced at grammatical and typographical errors and inconsistencies. On page 74 I read "I was flying out to Hawaii to use one of the the (sic) Keck telescopes-the largest telescopes in the world-to take a first really good look at Object X." The Keck telescopes on Hawaii are 10 meter instruments. Larger still are the 10.4 meter Gran Telescopio Canarias and 11.9 meter Large Binocular Telescope. Issues of care and scholarship turned out to be systemic. I found the most interesting and disturbing idea on pages 242-243. Here Mike Brown states that he would never write down a precise definition of "planet." Instead he believes that there should be only an imprecise description of the concept of a planet. Essentially he worries that a precise written definition is legalistic, flawed, and would require adjudication for any conflict regarding its application that might arise. I believe there are flaws in all of our definitions and concepts, and discussions about these flaws are important. Having nothing written in precise form tends to hide important issues. Books that accurately portray scientific investigation are important. Although this is not such a book, they are available. Examples include the works of Richard Feynman, Bernd Heinrich, and Donald Kroodsma.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

    Ashton

    Hai. I gtg go eat.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

    Savannah to prim

    Can u tell people to come and talk here from the other zomie book?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2014

    Prim

    I dont think theyll listen to me....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    Cyrus

    Okay ill be back then!! *disappearz*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    Sun

    Sits silently.

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  • Posted March 15, 2013

    This here was a fun, easy read, serving as both a memoir and inf

    This here was a fun, easy read, serving as both a memoir and informative on the situation surrounding Pluto.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2013

    Matthew

    Never mind

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  • Posted April 30, 2011

    Interesting yet informative!

    In How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, author Mike Brown tells readers about the solar system, a topic that is a usually extremely boring subject matter. However, Brown manages to insert his own person experiences into the book which makes it an interesting yet informing read. Normally, science fictions novels are like a textbook with only facts and definitions. How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming was so interesting that at times I forgot I was actually reading a science fiction novel! What makes it such an interesting book is that while learning about topics such as the Kuiper belt and the dwarf planets, Brown also tells readers about what was going on in his life at the time of these discoveries. Learning about him finding his wife and having his first child really makes the whole book more interesting for readers. Not to mention that fact that Brown is actually quite hilarious! Another thing that makes How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming a worthwhile read is how we can now associate a man with the death of our well loved ex-planet, Pluto. I started this book for one reason- my science book project. I never thought I would enjoy reading this book as much as I did. I would recommend it to anyone, even people not remotely interested in the solar system!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Light hearted real story of planet discovery and the change of Pluto's status

    A bit of insight into how our understanding of the universe is changing--fast.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2011

    Introspective love letter to science and family

    To most people, science is perplexing and human relationships even more so. Mike Brown's memoir about his discovery of several scientific breakthroughs share center stage with his family and the birth of his daughter. He uses this book to explain the science behind his discoveries but also the people behind them. It is a joyful read, light without being simple and endearing without being mushy. He is genuinely passionate for science and his family and this fantastic book cannot be missed. I highly recommend it!

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  • Posted February 10, 2011

    Accessible and Funny

    If you're a professional scientist, how do you describe the intriguing details of astronomy without leaving people utterly in the dust? Brown does it. I particularly enjoyed describing his family life, and how it strangely interacted with his role in "whacking Pluto" from the list of planets. His sense of humor is very appropriate, and there's a disarming humiility to his voice. It's a great book. Read it.

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  • Posted February 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Funny and informative

    Great book. Brown invited the reader to ask questions and engage in the debate... what IS a planet? The book followed the time line of Mike Brown's discoveries, career, marriage and birth of his daughter. It was a great insight into the world of astronomy and the story of one very unique and funny astronomer.

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  • Posted January 25, 2011

    What a great book that I couldn't put down!

    Brown is a wonderful teacher explaining advanced astronomy in layman's terms. He uses simple examples and suggestions to detail the theories and ideas that he puts forth. His book gave me a clearer understanding of our solar system and I was fully drawn into his world through his passion for the subject. His humor and self-deprecating wit made the book even more enjoyable. It's a great, easy read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2010

    I absolutely LOVED this book!

    I've never thought of a Caltech professor/astronomer as funny but this guy is LOL-funny! Interspersed with the story of how Pluto was downgraded he tells his personal story about finding his wife, falling in love, having their little girl and fatherhood. As you learn about astronomy in ways that you may have missed in school, you learn about a man who chose to do the right thing over the chance for fame in future history books. I hope he's in there anyway. He deserves the best. And all future children deserve to have this example taught to them. The book is well written, easy to follow and...did I mention funny? You won't be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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