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Showing 1-10 of 68 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 114 reviews
on May 3, 2012
After reading and enjoying Plait's previous book "Bad Astronomy" I was naturally encouraged to give his next book a try. "Death from the Skies!" had an intriguing and irresistible premise and I was quickly hooked.

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.
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on March 18, 2016
One of the best books I have found on how the world - or at least the human race - might come to an end due to extraterrestrial causes. Plait doesn't give much space to the most likely hazards, asteroid or comet impacts, which have been thoroughly covered by other writers, and which he believes we can protect ourselves against with foreseeable technology. He gives more space to some things which theoretically could happen, but almost certainly won't, such as supernovas. (They aren't a significant danger, because only certain types of stars can become supernovas, and none of those are close enough to do us any harm.) He describes solar flares, which could wreck our electronics and cause untold misery, but wouldn't kill us off.

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.
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on June 3, 2014
This is an entertaining book from start to finish. The writing style is both entertaining and fun. What may not be apparent from the title is how much you can learn from reading this book. The author explains the physics of the universe, stars and planets very clearly and in a plain language. I learned a lot from reading this book.

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.
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on May 10, 2016
I like Phill Plait, and usually find this talks quite informative and entertaining, but this book was a bit of a slog. Despite its interesting topics, the material within it is quite technical and specific, but sadly not original. This is not the fault Phill Plait at all, it's just an observation from someone whose followed read and researched a fair amount on the subject presented within the book.

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.
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on March 31, 2014
Exciting, even though it is all true, it reads like a novel which makes it all the more exciting!! It is about all the things that can happen from the skies that could do earth in. The section on comets and asteroids alone made the book worth it. Dr, Plait does not write it as a scare tactic, and tells you the odds, often quite low, of this actually happening. For example, there are virtually invisible rogue black hole drifting around the universe. If one of them drifted into our solar system, we would be sucked into it, good-bye earth.
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.
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on August 18, 2015
Few science books I have ever read have been this entertaining, this informative and this thought provoking. I very much enjoyed the discussions of various disasters and stellar events, to the point where I find myself re-reading them over and over. The highlight for me is the creation of a supernova. Mr. Plait's description is so evocative that I can visualize the core collapsing below my feet. I also found the other chapters informative and fun including the discussion of hypernovas and supermassive black holes. His final chapter on the death of the universe is surprisingly moving and deeply philosophical.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 16, 2012
Death From The Skies by Philip Plait, Ph.D.

"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.

Positives:
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.

Negatives:
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!
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on August 9, 2010
Neat little book! It very cleverly and scientifically debunks the plethora of astonomical horror stories wandering around and popular on TV these days, while remaining light hearted and entirely readable. Anyone, anyone, can get at least an elementary grasp of the basics of astro-physics from this book, without either falling asleep or getting a headache; no prior Ph.D required. Anyone with a big ego best watch out for the last section, it really sets one into the enormity of the universe and time.
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on January 6, 2014
I absolutely loved this book , am not done with it as it is quite long, but I have been glued to my kindle during the holiday reading up on the far reaches of the galaxy and beyond !
Astronomy was my pet project when I was a teenager and I read up a LOT on it, so with this book I feel i have filled the blanks of knowledge up to present - it is so satisfying. While the subject can be considered scary, the way the author challenges our usual sense of measure is amazing and liberating, after a few chapters the earth and our daily preoccupations seem rather insignificant compared the universe at large. It also brings home the amazing odds of our home planet existing at all and life continuing to develop on it for such a long time !
Finally I like the dark humorous way of the author who is not trying to pretty thing up !
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on October 15, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book even though I don't think I took away much more than I already knew before reading. However that can hardly be taken against the author.

Though to be sure, with all of the fanfare in recent documentaries about the possible ends of humanity through cosmological events, this book in particular addresses the real concern--namely, the probability of each event. I won't spoil the ending.

I first got interest in these types of books by reading Bill Bryson's "a short history of nearly everything". I guess I should say if you enjoyed that book, you should read this, and vice versa!

Happy reading!
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