Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mike Brown

Mike Brown is the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. In 2006 he was named one of Time magazine’s 100 People Who Shape Our World as well as one of Los Angeles magazine’s Most Influential People in L.A. His new book is How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.

From his Q & A with Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor:

Q: Did you like Pluto as a kid like so many people do?

I think my experience was typical for a kid who loved planets. I had a poster of the solar system on my wall that showed all of the planets and pictures of them. Pluto was always an incredibly appealing place: the little artist's pictures were crazy, and it was fabulous.

Q: How much influence do you think the Disney dog has on people's perceptions of Pluto?

That's part of the appeal of the word Pluto. As a kid, I'm sure that I heard "Pluto" as much from the cartoon from the planet, if not more from the cartoon. It becomes an even more integral part of your life.

Q: Pluto was discovered back in 1930. Why did astronomers think it was a big planet, not a tiny rock?

It couldn't be seen very well, and even with the biggest telescopes, you can't make out of the disc of it.

At the time, astronomers were convinced that it was massive, and it was hugging Neptune and had to be a planet. Once you get the idea...[read on]
Read more about How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.

--Marshal Zeringue