I picked this book up last year thanks to this CBR6 post and I agree 100% with Lollygagger’s review!
The Pluto Files is a lightweight but nevertheless educational examination of the history, cultural clout, and scientific pedigree of Pluto–or, the Kuiper belt object formerly known as our solar system’s ninth planet. Neil deGrasse Tyson, with humor and grace, frames the science in his narrative: in his role as director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium, they discretely omitted Pluto in one of their new displays, choosing rather to group each planet with similar objects/other planets, rather than focus on the “planet” classification alone. Although it took a year for anyone (save a small patron who noticed immediately and sent a charming letter to the author, included) to notice, this was the first step towards the drama surrounding Pluto’s classification as a dwarf planet in 2006.
I thought it was interesting how attached to Pluto Americans are, specifically. Tyson muses on how it was an American who discovered Pluto, how the cartoon dog shares both a name and beloved place in Americon iconography, and how, surprisingly, American scientists were the most likely to care if Pluto was “downgraded.” Scientists of other nationalities apparently don’t have such an attachment to poor Pluto!
Tyson’s storytelling is great and the science is easy to understand. It’s full of trivia (how do planets get their names, anyway?), includes copies of letters from whole classrooms of children debating Pluto’s status, and, most importantly, makes science fun and accessible. He describes the drama, both in the court of public opinion and the scientific arena, and gives equal time to his “opponents” (that is, those who feel Pluto should remain a planet) without being condescending or flippant, but also convincingly makes his case for the reclassification.
Definitely a good way to start this year’s reading list!