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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2009
There are definitely two sides to this book.

Neil Degrasse Tyson takes the scientific debate about Pluto's planetary status seriously and there is lots of real astronomy in this book. However, he is also an entertaining writer and catches the emotional attachment to Pluto as a planet that made its downgrading such a big deal, especially for children. He succeeds in bring the serious and fun elements together.

This book is an informative and accessible history of Pluto and of the changes in our knowledge of the solar system that have lead to a revisiting of our understanding of our little corner of the galaxy. There is enough of the detail to appreciate the real science, and to see the personalities involved in the debate about how to describe the findings to a wider audience.

He wants us to appreciate Pluto and its surroundings for what they are, and not just to learn a list of planets.

The emotional side of the debate makes the book stand out. This is a very human issue, and, through his role in the New York's American Museum of Natural History he became identified as the man who killed Pluto. The discoverer of Pluto had always defend his historic planet-finding moment. Thousands of school-children wrote in to protest at the potential downgrading of Pluto to dwarf planet. Their letters are scattered throughout the book and are great fun. Newspaper cartoonists had a great time with the topic too, and a great selection is included.

Over this book is a treasure-trove of good science and fun things, and well worth a read.
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"FOOFARAW: a disturbance or to-do over a trifle" - from the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary

"Science is not a democracy" - from THE PLUTO FILES

The recent fly-by of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft rekindled whatever residual interest remained in me from growing up in the 50s and 60s when the place was presented to impressionable minds as a cold, dark planet at the edge of the solar system about which little could be said. Ok, whatever. After all, it was the "John Carter of Mars" book series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, not "John Carter of Pluto." So, for me, an avid reader even back then, it was hard to care.

In May 1996, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of THE PLUTO FILES, was formally appointed Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. One of his first responsibilities was to serve as the project scientist for the design and construction of the Rose Center for Earth and Space, the home of a refurbished and re-conceived planetarium.

When it opened in February 2000, the Rose Center presented the objects in our Solar System as families of objects with similar properties. The traditional "planets" weren't counted-up as such, and Pluto was relegated to the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune as a "trans-Neptunian" ice ball with a de-emphasized planetary status. The fact of this downgrade was reported by the New York Times in January 2001 and all astrophysical hell broke loose.

Although the Center's final design was a committee decision, Tyson found himself at the sharp point of the excoriation for Pluto's relegation to the celestial doghouse. THE PLUTO FILES is Neil's narrative of the uncomfortable experience and appraisal of the controversy told against the backstory of Pluto's discovery in 1930 by an American amateur astronomer and the subsequent hold that world (as the "ninth planet") achieved on the United States' communal psyche.

From a previous reading of the Tyson's Death by Black Hole - and Other Cosmic Quandaries, I knew the author to be erudite, lucid, literate, and congenial. THE PLUTO FILES exhibits these traits as well as a wry humor. All in conjunction make for an enormously appealing read.

Perhaps the author's biggest service in writing this book is to provide a telling example of the reality that scientists in any field, ostensibly dealing with the observable traits and facts of our physical universe, will fight like cats in a sack over ego-connected "truths" about which they differ. That can be, in itself, an entertaining blood sport for the non-aligned observer. For that reason, THE PLUTO FILES is praiseworthy entertainment.

Pluto is what it is and where it is regardless of all the fuss. Since these two facts do nothing to help me perform my job, pay my bills, or deal with encroaching, age-related health maladies, I personally don't have a dog in the fight for calling it a planet, an ice-ball, or (in deference to our three cats) a cosmic fur ball. And I suspect that a survey of all U.S. citizens on the question would demonstrate a plurality of "Don't Care." But it's still fascinating to see the photos sent back by New Horizons that stimulate the imagination. Now that's an American space accomplishment the survey responders should be proud of!
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on 21 October 2012
the book is wonderful! it describes all the process of decision and has beautiful pictures and explaining drawings with excelent printing paper!
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on 15 May 2015
This is an interesting book describing the name 'Pluto' in American society
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on 4 August 2016
Great read
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on 11 January 2011
Okay, but a bit slight for a hardback. Also I bought it under a misapprehension - he claims to have led/been a leader of the campaign to get Pluto demoted, and it really a history of the academic political ins-and-outs of the process rather than a short history as it were, of Pluto. Also I regret Pluto going, all those wallcharts obsolete, I'm morally a bit uncomfortable with rewarding one of its nemeses. My fault not his!
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on 18 October 2015
I still have Pluto in my twelfth house, no matter what this shill is saying. File that!
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