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The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson Review

Title: The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet

Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson

First published January 19, 2008

194 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9780393065206 (ISBN10: 0393065200)

Rating: 3.88


In The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, Neil deGrasse Tyson takes us on a journey through the controversy surrounding the demotion of Pluto from planethood in August 2006. Despite being far from the sun, Pluto has a dedicated fan base who rallied behind the extraterrestrial underdog during the mounting debate.

Disney even created an adorable pup by the same name. As one NASA scientist put it, Pluto was “discovered by an American for America,” and its removal from the list of planets came as a shock to many.

Tyson, who was involved in the first exhibits to demote Pluto, explores the cultural and patriotic significance of Pluto’s place in our view of the cosmos. Only he can tell this story, having received endless hate mail from third graders and heard from passionate Pluto lovers who freely shared their opinions with him.

With his trademark wit, Tyson delves into the history of this recently judged dwarf planet, uncovering the reasons behind its fall from grace.

About the Author

Neil deGrasse Tyson grew up and received his education in the public school system of New York City, culminating in his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. He later earned his BA in Physics from Harvard University and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia University.

In 2001, President Bush appointed Tyson to serve on a commission of twelve members tasked with studying the Future of the U.S. Aerospace Industry. The commission’s final report was published in 2002 and contained recommendations to Congress and government agencies to support transportation, space exploration, and national security.

President Bush appointed Tyson again in 2004 to serve on a nine-member commission on the Implementation of the United States Space Exploration Policy, known as the “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” commission. The group charted a course for the successful realization of the new space vision as part of the American agenda.

In 2006, the head of NASA appointed Tyson to serve on its prestigious Advisory Council, which provides guidance for NASA’s ambitious visions within constrained budgets.

Dr. Tyson has authored dozens of professional publications and continues to write for the general public. He wrote a monthly essay for Natural History magazine from 1995 to 2005 titled Universe.

Among his fifteen books are his memoir The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist and Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution, co-written with Donald Goldsmith. Origins is the companion book to the PBS NOVA four-part mini-series Origins, which Tyson hosted on-camera.

The program premiered in September 2004.

Tyson’s other notable books include Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries, which was a New York Times bestseller, and The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, chronicling his experience at the center of the controversy over Pluto’s planetary status. The PBS NOVA documentary The Pluto Files, based on the book, premiered in March 2010.

In February 2012, Tyson released Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, his tenth book containing all of his thoughts on the past, present, and future of space exploration. From 2006 to 2011, Tyson hosted PBS NOVA’s spinoff program NOVA ScienceNOW, which offers an accessible look at science on the frontier of understanding our place in the universe.

In the summer of 2009, Tyson launched StarTalk, a pilot program funded by the National Science Foundation that brought science to commercial radio with the assistance of professional comedians. StarTalk is now a popular podcast and enjoyed a limited-run television series on the National Geographic Channel.

It combines celebrity guests with informative yet playful banter, aimed at those who may not have thought they could enjoy science. In its first year on television and in three successive seasons, it was nominated for a Best Informational Programming Emmy.

Tyson has received twenty-one honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given by NASA to a non-government citizen. His contributions to public appreciation of the cosmos were recognized by the International Astronomical Union through the official naming of asteroid “13123 Tyson” and by zoologists with the naming of the native Indian leaping frog species Indirani Tysoni.

In a lighter vein, People Magazine named Tyson “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” in 2000.

In 2017, Tyson published Astrophysics for People In A Hurry, which became a domestic and international bestseller. This easy-to-read book offers an introduction to all the latest news in the universe that you may have read or heard about, all in one place.

Editoral Review

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson is a non-fiction book that explores the history and cultural significance of Pluto, the dwarf planet that caused much controversy and sparks debates within the scientific community and the general public. The author, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is an astrophysicist, cosmologist, and science communicator, who is well known for hosting TV shows and podcasts that popularize science and inspire curiosity in the universe.

In The Pluto Files, Tyson takes readers on a journey through the discovery of Pluto, its classification as a planet, and its eventual demotion to a dwarf planet. He shares anecdotes, interviews and personal experiences to illustrate how Pluto became a cultural icon and how its status impacted public opinion and scientific debates.

The book also touches on topics such as planetary science, astronomy, space exploration, and the role of media and social media in shaping public perception. Tyson’s writing style is engaging, witty, and informative.

He manages to convey complex scientific concepts and historical events in a way that is accessible and entertaining to a broad audience. He uses a storytelling approach and a mix of humor and seriousness to capture the reader’s attention and keep them engaged throughout the book.

One of the strengths of The Pluto Files is the way Tyson connects the scientific and cultural aspects of Pluto’s story. He shows how scientific discoveries and advancements are not only based on objective knowledge, but also influenced by social, political, and emotional factors.

He also highlights the importance of critical thinking and open-mindedness in the scientific process, and how scientific knowledge evolves and changes over time. Another strength of the book is the way Tyson presents different perspectives and voices that shaped the debates about Pluto.

He avoids simplifying the issue into a binary argument of right or wrong, and instead shows the complexity of the scientific and societal process. He also acknowledges his own biases and limitations, making the book more honest and relatable.

However, one of the limitations of The Pluto Files is that it may not appeal to readers who are not interested in science or astronomy. The book assumes some prior knowledge of basic scientific concepts, and the focus on Pluto may not be relevant or interesting to those who do not care about planetary science.

Additionally, some readers may find the book repetitive or fragmented, as it includes many short chapters and anecdotes that may not contribute to a cohesive narrative. In conclusion, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson is a well-written and insightful book that explores a fascinating topic from a multidisciplinary perspective.

It is an excellent read for anyone interested in science, history, culture, and critical thinking. I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, based on the quality of writing, the depth of research, and the relevance of the topic.

However, I would only recommend this book to readers who enjoy non-fiction and have a basic understanding of science.

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