The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet covers Pluto’s discovery, the controversy over whether it should be called a planet, and the IAU’s (International Astronomical Union) decision to call it a dwarf planet. It is amusing that their definition for planet references the Sun, which leaves exoplanets in a bit of a lurch, technically. I was surprised to learn a few things in this book, or at least to be reminded of things that I may have forgotten, which is always a plus, and Tyson doesn’t inject needless personal stories into the text (he has republished a bunch of cute cartoons though).
Most of what I found amusing was just the back and forth arguments between the scientists as well as some of the things like the legislation introduced in California to condemn the IAU’s decision which included the following:
“WHEREAS, Downgrading Pluto's status will cause psychological harm to some Californians who question their place in the universe and worry about the instability of universal constants;”
Some of the people having fun with Pluto’s lack of inclusion among the planets were amusing too, like the other things that might happen if this becomes a trend in other areas, suggested by Eric Metaxas in an op-ed for the New York Times:
“GREAT LAKES TO BECOME FIRST FRESHWATER OCEAN
TEXAS DECLARES ITSELF A SUBCONTINENT
METER AND YARD SHAKE HANDS”
This book predated the New Horizons fly-by of Pluto, so we’re left without any awesome photos of heart-shaped geological features, but it’s still fun and informative.
I read this for booklikes-opoly square Tomorrowland 36 “Read a book with either an image of or from space, or where the author’s full name contains all of the letters in SPACE”. There’s a picture of a nebula as well as an illustration of Pluto (pre-iconic heart photo, remember?), so I’d say it fits the space nicely. Tyson is also wearing a space-themed tie on the cover. At 180 pages (including the appendices), this adds another $4 to my bank, leaving me with a total balance of $164.