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Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . Hardcover – October 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Plait, an astronomer and author of the popular Web site badastronomy.com, presents in loving detail the many, many ways the human race could die, from temperature extremes and poisonous atmosphere to asteroid impacts and supernovae explosions. Such a state of destruction existed some 65 million years ago, when a giant meteoroid struck Earth, sending up so much flaming debris that the whole planet caught fire and the dinosaurs were wiped out. Solar flare activity could bring on another Ice Age. Worse yet would be a gamma ray burster, a collapsed star whose radiation would be comparable to detonating a one-megaton nuclear bomb over every square mile of the planet. Plait discusses insatiable black holes, the death of the Sun and cannibal galaxies—including our own. Balancing his doomsday scenarios with enthusiastic and clear explanations of the science behind each, Plait offers a surprisingly educational and enjoyable astronomical horror show, including a table listing the extremely low odds of each event occurring. He gives readers a good scare, and then puts it in context. Illus. (Oct. 20)
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Fans of disaster-from-space movies such as Deep Impact or Armageddon, or of science-fiction novels like Lucifer’s Hammer, will definitely want to check out this lively yet also rather scary book by a noted astronomer and creator of the clever Web site badastronomy.com. The book is basically a catalogue of astronomical catastrophes that could wipe out life on earth: asteroids, comets, supernovae, black holes, aliens, even our friendly sun. According to Plait, it is virtually inevitable that something will happen, perhaps not in the not-so-distant future, to kill us all—don’t forget, it’s already happened once, 65 million years ago (remember the dinosaurs?), and there have been several recent near misses. The thing to do is stop worrying about inevitabilities and start planning for them: find ways, for example, to turn asteroids off course before they hit us. The book is extremely informative: Plait explains not only what can destroy the planet but also how it would happen. It’s a crash course in astronomy as well as a cautionary tale about the (possibly brief) future of our world. --David Pitt
Top customer reviews
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If you're looking for a comprehensive, yet easy to follow, explanation as to how supernovae, black holes, meteoroids, and the such can destroy the earth, this it a great book to buy. If you're looking for the cliff-note versions of these same topics, watch Phill Plaits PBS Crash Course videos on YouTube. He covers most of these topics and more, plus his videos have pretty graphics.
I gave it 4 stars not because I found the book lacking, but because it was a bit of a chore to read.
The book details the many ways that civilization, humanity, all life, and indeed the very planet itself could be destroyed by astronomical events from asteroid or comet impacts to the end of the universe itself. Each chapter is introduced by a short fictional vignette which brings catastrophe down to a personal level.
As interesting as the premise was the real value of the book turned out to be the education provided. My personal astronomical knowledge had become quite dated over the past few decades. Plait's book was a great way to be brought up to date and left me seeking out more detailed works.
Plait's style of writing probably won't be to every taste but I found it engaging and inviting. The clever footnotes dealt out humor, irony, sarcasm, and much else in rapid succession.
The Kindle edition was well formatted and everything worked well. A curious feature was that the captions to the illustrations were rendered as text instead of being part of the graphic which made them searchable. The major flaw was the entirely useless "index" with page numbers completely omitted even though this edition tracked the print page numbers. Indices are somewhat redundant with searchable text but if included they should be useable. The appendix of nearby supernova candidates (in graphic format) is also too small for easy reading. The epilogue has a table in it which can best be read by reducing font size.
Highly recommended. I look forward to Plait's future books.
The style is to address each of these potential disasters, in a new chapter, as if you were going about your life as this disaster started. What would you first notice? What would happen next? Would you have any warning? All of this is embedded in the history of science and scientific education. Really an exciting and VERY informative read.
"Death From The Skies" is the entertaining book about how the universe is trying to kill you. Astronomer Dr. Philip Plait, using the latest in astronomical knowledge, takes us on exciting journey through our universe and enlightens us on the various cosmological hazards that are present. This 336-page book is composed of the following nine chapters: 1. Target Earth: Asteroid and Comet Impacts, 2. Sunburn, 3. The Stellar Fury of Supernovae, 4. Cosmic Blowtorches: Gamma-Ray Bursts, 5. The Bottomless Pits of Black Holes, 6. Alien Attack!, 7. The Death of the Sun, 8. Bright Lights, Big Galaxy, and 9. The End of Everything.
1. A well-written, well-researched book that is accessible to the masses.
2. A truly fun way to learn about astronomy and the dangers lurking in our universe.
3. Engaging and humorous tone used.
4. Great format. Each chapter begins with a vignette that is chapter appropriate.
5. Great use of illustrations.
6. Thought-provoking quotes, "Nothing feeds engineering progress like fear".
7. So many fascinating facts that will "blow" you away. I learned so much from this book.
8. The danger of asteroids, and an interesting discussion about the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
9. An education on the sun. Magnetic fields, flares, solar winds, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
10. Supernovas. The different ways stars blow up and the various features of it.
11. The various dangers resulting from novas, supernovas and hypernovas: X-rays, gamma rays and last but not least cosmic rays (CRs).
12. The topical neutrinos and other forms of light.
13. One of the great things about this book is the author's ability to tease the readers with how discoveries came about. As an example, the discovery of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs).
14. Neutron stars the heavy enlightening facts (you see what I did there, oh never mind).
15. An enlightening chapter about black holes. Absolutely mesmerizing.
16. What would a book about astronomy be without the great contributions from the one and only Albert Einstein?
17. A comprehensive look at gravity.
18. For horror fans...the process of spaghettification.
19. Educational brief history of our solar system.
20. Interesting look at the possibility of alien life. Are we alone?
21. The life and inevitable death of our sun. Enlightening indeed. The author does a wonderful job of breaking the life cycle of the sun by stages.
22. An education on galaxies. Our milky way and our neighbors.
23. Supermassive black holes (SMBHs)...oh yeah and every large galaxy has one.
24. The end of everything by stages.
25. The author does a wonderful job of summarizing the wisdom provided in the book. A table was provided that gives the odds of potential damage and our ability to prevent them.
26. An appendix about our nearby stars (less than 1,000 light-years) that will go supernova and all that entails.
1. The book should have had the illustrations in color. Astronomy is a topic that lends itself perfectly for it.
2. No bibliography but the author does make light of other books in particular is inspired by the "Five Ages of the Universe" by Adams and Laughlin.
In summary, who knew that astronomy could be so much fun? Dr. Plait has an engaging style that makes education fun. Astronomy is a fascinating topic and I learned quite a bit from of it. Science writing at its best don't hesitate to get this one. Highly recommended!