Sunday, October 23, 2011

A brief review of HOW I KILLED PLUTO

Upon hearing a suggestion from my cousin, I recently read the book How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown.  I actually finished it quite some time ago and have been meaning to mention it ever now I finally am. 

Mike Brown is the astronomer who is personally responsible for starting the events that ended up demoting Pluto from planet to non-planet.  He is responsible for asking how a planet is defined.  Before Mike Brown, no one really asked that question.  The planets were defined however we defined them in our heads...thus, Pluto was a planet because we all said it was.

The book is well-written, easy to read, and funny.  I never thought I would say that about an astronomy book.  Many reviewers have commented on the fact that Mr Brown writes a lot about how during his career, he also got married and started a family.  The comments from the field are that this has nothing to do with astronomy.  What I wanted to say about the book is that although that may be true, there was a passage that stuck in my head and I bookmarked in my Kindle, and it happened to be about his daughter.

But first, some backstory.  DH was asking me about Libby recently, and I told him that she is so special that sometimes I think she is not real.  That is not exactly how I feel, but it was the best way I could think of to word it at the time. 

Then I read How I Killed Pluto, and I found a page that expressed somewhat better what I was trying to say.  He says that the reason that all parents think their children are exceptional, is because all children are exceptional.  "Early childhood development is about the most exceptional thing that takes place in the universe.  Stars, planets, galaxies, quasars are all incredible and fascinating things...but none of them is as thoroughly astounding as the development of thought [and] language."  That is good approximation of what I would have liked to say.  To watch Libby learn how to think and talk is simply amazing to me, and I often can not believe what I am seeing.

So, I do not mind that Mr Brown writes about his family in an astronomy book.

I also told DH that Mr Brown makes astronomy seem really, really easy, except for all the math.  This made DH laugh so hard he almost crashed the car.

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