Top 10 Gifts for Scientists or Science Lovers!

It’s the giving season and there are lots of great gifts out there, but it seems ideas and decisions are in short supply. So I’m here to give some great suggestions for the scientist or science lover in your life! Based on personality type, here are the 10 best science gifts:

For the book lover, like Joanne Manaster, I recommend Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects by Amy Stewart.

Flash Cards

For the mom, like Carin Bondar, I recommend The Nerdy Baby’s ABCs Flash Cards.

For the science writer that no longer sees the inside of a lab, like Ed Yong, I recommend a nice piece of art such as Petri Dishes 5 by the talented Michele Banks.

For the marine biology lover, like Christie Wilcox, I recommend Blue Planet.

For the star gazer, like Phil Plait, I would highly recommend the book The Pluto Files by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

For the kid at heart, like Brian Krueger, I recommend a plush or bobble head famous scientist.

For the bug lover, like Bug Girl, I recommend a handmade plush insect sculpture, like the ones by Weird Bug Lady.

For the fashion forward, like Michelle Clement, I suggest a nice piece of jewelry and recommend this piece: silver DNA earrings.

For the funny one, like Brian Malow, I recommend something wearable that says: not only am I funny, I want everyone to know so I’m wearing this shirt.

For the person who has everything, like no scientist I know, a great gift would be a membership to the local science museum!

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The Pluto Files

While in Dallas for a few days over 4th of July at the National Federation for the Blind’s 2010 national conference, I read a short book that I think you’ll really like.  Written by my favorite living scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet (find this book) is the story of America’s love for Pluto which reigned as most beloved planet in our night skies for 76 years.  Of course, Pluto is still the most beloved celestial object, but 4 years ago it was stripped of its planetary status.  The Pluto Files follows Pluto from discovery through demotion.

Neil with Pluto

Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930 at the Lowell Observatory.  Before it was discovered, it was predicted to exist based on Neptune’s orbit and was known as Planet X, which may be familiar to you if you are a fan of old-school Merrie Melodies cartoons.  About a year after it’s discovery and naming, the name Pluto was also given to a relatively new character in the world of Disney.

As technology advanced, scientists learned that there were other objects in our solar system that were even bigger than Pluto!  All of a sudden, a decision needed to be made: introduce these objects as full-fledged planets or give them their own class and put Pluto in there with them.

As a very public figurehead of the first mainstream exhibit to not put Pluto next to Neptune, deGrasse Tyson was soon hated by the American public who didn’t want to give up what they held as constant in their life, i.e. that there are 9 planets.  The IAU, which is in charge of naming celestial objects, eventually debated and voted on the fate of Pluto, as well as Eris (which is larger than Pluto), Ceres (which was at one time considered a planet), a few others that have been found and probably more yet-to-be-found.  The IAU came up with a definition for a planet, and Pluto didn’t fit the bill.  Instead of promoting Eris and Ceres, both, along with Pluto, were given dwarf planet status.

People protested, sent hate-mail, and refused to follow the new rule.  The Pluto Files is a great account of atmosphere at the time.  PBS aired a good companion piece, which you should watch too.  It can be viewed on PBS’s website or instantly from Netflix.

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Supplementary materials for this post are as follows:
@ScienceGoddess swoons over #sciencehottie Neil deGrasse Tyson with her video review.
Short, humorous clips from The Pluto Files.
Live action/animation of an explanation for Pluto’s demotion.
A song by popular folk-indie artist, Lisa Loeb, about 11 planets.
Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter and Facebook.

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