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Michael Brown

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The Planet Killer

We’d all like to think we’re unique, but you’ve got to envy Mike Brown. After all, he’s the only man in the world who can put ‘I Demoted a Planet’ on his CV. And as if that weren’t cool enough, he also wrote How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.

Yes, Pluto. That charming little planet that was the last of nine in our solar system, the list every student learned by rote early on in school. Well, turns out Mike, professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, wasn’t impressed. To him, Pluto was a ‘dwarf planet’. And five years ago, the International Astronomical Union met in Prague for one of their most contentious debates ever to, finally, agree with Mike. “Pluto is dead”, he told news crews gathered in his office to watch the debate. Not a sentence most of us are ever going to get a chance to say in our lifetimes.

But if Mike really has a talent, apart from killing off planets, it’s this. Translating geek-speak into regular English, making it clear and captivating at once, drawing in both laymen and professionals to share his passion.

And passion it is, far more than profession. It’s passion that causes him to awaken when the rest of the world is asleep and wrap himself up in the stars, trying to unravel their secrets. It’s passion that earned him a place on TIME magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People. And it’s passion that earned him the title that most amuses and amazes wife Diane—as one of Wired Online’s Top Ten Sexiest Geeks in 2006!

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