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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
About half of the book deals with how the world most certainly will end - billions of years from now. I found that very interesting, but for some reason it didn't keep me awake at night. He gives lengthy explanations of the science behind the possible events he describes, which I found fascinating but might bore some people who just want an overview.
The universe is indeed a hostile place. It is amazing how well the Earth is designed for life including the placement within the galaxy, position within the solar system, the type of sun, elemental composition, protective magnetic field and many other features. We truly live on a privileged planet.
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 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.