Pluto has been a point of contention in the Broussard household since… well, probably since the early part of the 2000s. I was one of the early adopters of the “Pluto isn’t a planet” stance and by the time the IAU proclaimed Pluto to be a dwarf planet, I had my sister onboard. My dad didn’t really care either way, though he expressed his tacit agreement on the “dwarf planet” bit. My mom, though – sister to the MIT astrophysics grad – remains a stalwart defender of Pluto’s planet status. So, after it came up in a conversation thanks to Tony Weinbeck showing a Daily Show clip in my Structure of the Universe class, she bought me Neil deGrasse Tyson’s The Pluto Files for Christmas.
Too bad it backs up my side of the argument. There’s really not much too this book – the text itself is about 160 pages and there’s some appendixes… everything is in pretty big type, too. This is a book meant for all ages which I personally found to be a good thing. Tyson is a smart, funny, and knowledgeable author – he knows his shit and the people who he’s friends with know theirs. Some of the conversations and correspondence he shares are FUNNY: grown men and women having real serious arguments about Pluto? Astronomers arguing that its The American Way and Pluto should be kept no matter what because of the dog…. that’s comedy.
Do I wish that he’d spent a bit more time on the Kuiper Belt and the objects out there, like Eris? Sure – but then again, that’s not the point of the book. The point of the book is to talk about Pluto. Did I learn anything or have my mind changed by the book? No, not really – I knew most of the pertinent history about Pluto and about the Kuiper Belt and about the arguments between “planet” and “not a planet” statuses. Some of the salient details, especially those involving the Hayden Planetarium rebuilding (that space is one of my favorites in any museum EVER), were new and interesting to me… but then, I’m a nerd.
This was a fun toss-off read. It’ll be a good go-to text in case someone (…Mom) wants to argue about Pluto – but past that, its just a good look on the shelf. “Ask me about Pluto, go ahead.” That’s what it says.