The Millions Originals project continues today with a brand new ebook, The Pioneer Detectives by Konstantin Kakaes. The book is an exciting departure for The Millions, moving beyond the purely cultural realm with a work of long-form narrative journalism that explores an outer space mystery and tackles questions of how something becomes a scientific truth. Kakaes is a Bernard L. Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation, writing about science and technology, and is the former Mexico City bureau chief for The Economist. His work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and The Washington Post and appears frequently in Slate. Before becoming a journalist, he studied physics at Harvard University.
Dino, as I came to know him over the year I spent working with him on the book, started with a long-standing question in the world of astrophysics that, when he began his project, was nearing a resolution after decades of sometimes contentious study and debate in the scientific community. The question was this: Why was Pioneer 10, the first man-made object to journey through the asteroid belt and study Jupiter — a spacecraft now many millions of miles from earth — so far from where scientists’ calculations said it was supposed to be? The answer had the potential to upend the theories of Einstein and Newton and to make or break the careers of the scientists exploring it. Dino visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, interviewed the scientists pursuing what came to be known as “The Pioneer Anomaly,” and did extensive archival research. The result is a scientific police procedural, tracking the steps of those who sought to unravel this high-stakes enigma. His thrilling account follows the story from the Anomaly’s initial discovery, through decades of tireless investigation, to its ultimate conclusion. The Pioneer Detectives is a definitive account not just of the Pioneer Anomaly but of how scientific knowledge gets made and unmade, with scientists sometimes putting their livelihoods on the line in pursuit of cosmic truth.
The book was expertly shepherded along the way by its editor, long-time Millions staff writer and editor Garth Risk Hallberg. We hope you enjoy the result and continue to support The Millions Originals project.
The book is available right now for $2.99 on Amazon.com via its Kindle Singles store, and we are in the process of making it available via iTunes and other ebookstores.
Kakaes has a piece in Slate today that, while not an excerpt of The Pioneer Detectives, is connected to the topics covered in the book. You can also see a video of him discussing the new book.