Science Book a Day Interviews Mike Brown

mebsmallSpecial thanks to Mike Brown for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming

Mike Brown is the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology and has been on the faculty there since 1996. He specializes in the discovery and study of bodies at the edge of the solar system. Among his numerous scientific accomplishments, he is best known for his discovery of Eris, the largest object found in the solar system in 150 years, and the object which led to the debate and eventual demotion of Pluto from a real planet to a dwarf planet. – From Mike’s Homepage

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#1 – What made you decide to write this memoir of your experiences of changing the status of Pluto as a planet?

It was just such a great story that SOMEONE needed to write it. So I thought perhaps that someone should be me.

#2 – Much controversy continues about Pluto’s place in the solar system.Why do you think this controversy continues? Why are so many people SO attached to Pluto?

I really think it is because people (still) don’t have a good concept of what the real solar system is like. They (still) see depictions where Pluto is nearly the same size as the Earth and they think “now why isn’t it a planet again?”

#3 – After 3 years, how has the book been received by your colleagues and the general public?

Mostly quite warmly. Scientists are always wary of scientists who write books, so there is a bit of that, too. But most reactions have been very positive.

#4 – Do we think about the Solar System differently compared to decades past? What is the influence of discovering more and more exo-planets?

In the past we really thought we understood how the solar system formed the way it did — and we thought that all extra-solar planetary systems would look just the same. They look, of course, incredibly differently, leading us to realize we know less than we think we did.

#5 – Are you writing another book that you can tell us about?

Not currently. My newest project is a massive online class about the solar system, coming in the Spring of 2014. It’s book-like in the amount of time that it takes, but with a very different set of goals and challenges. After that: who knows?

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