Mike Brown, Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, talks about the firestorm of controversy ignited when the planet Pluto was demoted to a "dwarf" planet. How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming is an account of the most tumultuous year in modern astronomy-which he inadvertently caused--and explains important scientific concepts and inspires us to think about our place in the cosmos.
Today, Leonard talked to Professor Mike Brown about his book, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. In the book, Professor Brown recounts how his discovery of a 10th "dwarf" planet in the solar system inadvertently led to uproar in the astronomical community—and the eventual demotion of Pluto as a full-fledged planet. The conversation reminded us of a series of angry letters from Pluto defenders published in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book, The Pluto Files. (Mr. Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Natural History Museum, appeared on our show to discuss his book in December 2009.) These letters came from an unlikely source: third-graders. One letter writer accused him of being a “Pluto-hater”; another offered a carefully drawn picture of Pluto, just in case the director had had a hard time identifying it. Below, we’ve put scans of our favorites, courtesy of NOVA’s website. Let us know your favorite letter in the comments below!