A lively astronomy primer that uses cataclysmic scenarios to explain the universe’s most fascinating events.
Death From the Skies!
According to astronomer Philip Plait, the universe is an apocalypse waiting to happen But how much do we really need to fear from things like black holes, gamma-ray bursts, and supernovae? And if we should be scared, is there anything we can do to save ourselves? With humor and wit, Plait details the myriad doomsday events that the cosmos could send our way to destroy our planet and life as we know it. This authoritative yet accessible study is the ultimate astronomy lesson.
Combining fascinating—and often alarming—scenarios that seem plucked from science fiction with the latest research and opinions, Plait illustrates why outer space is not as remote as most people think. Each chapter explores a different phenomenon, explaining it in easy-to-understand terms, and considering how life on earth and the planet itself would be affected should the event come to pass. Rather than sensationalizing the information, Plait analyzes the probability of these catastrophes occurring in our lifetimes and what we can do to stop them. With its entertaining tone and enlightening explanation of unfathomable concepts, Death from the Skies! will appeal to science buffs and beginners alike.
Chapter 1. Target Earth: Asteroid and Comet Impacts
Chapter 2. Sunburn
Chapter 3. The Stellar Fury of Supernovae
Chapter 4. Cosmic Blowtorches: Gamma-Ray Bursts
Chapter 5. The Bottomless Pits of Black Holes
Chapter 6. Alien Attack!
Chapter 7. The Death of the Sun
Chapter 8. Bright Lights, Big Galaxy
Chapter 9. The End of Everything
Epilogue. What, Me Worry?
"[Plait] describes each doomsday scenario with glee….Yet for all that, his book is strangely comforting….Comprehensible and engaging."
—Washington Post Book World
“Plait is one of the world’s favorite astronomers. He is an entertaining writer, jocular and jaunty, which produces a delightful clash with the ideas in this book, which, since it is a scientific look at the unpredictable but inevitable end of the Earth and of us and all our progeny, ought to be a real downer. It’s not at all. The enthusiasm Plait has for his subject is not any morbid fascination with the upcoming bang or whimper, but with how much we know now about the universe around us, and he conveys this enthusiasm with pages full of wonder. This is a fun way to learn about cosmology. Readers will come away with admiration for all the learning and informed speculation encompassed here, but also, if you are like me, an increased sense of wonder and value.”
— Commercial Dispatch
“A surprisingly upbeat look at all the ways the universe can destroy us….Eminently readable basic science with an irresistible hook.”
—Kirkus (Starred Review)
“Fans of disaster-from-space movies or of science-fiction novels 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 extremely informative…a crash course in astronomy as well as a cautionary tale about the (possibly brief) future of our world.”
“Plait 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. Balancing his doomsday scenarios with enthusiastic and clear explanations of the science, Plait offers a surprisingly educational and enjoyable astronomical horror show. He gives readers a good scare, and then puts it in context.”
"Reading this book is like getting punched in the face by Carl Sagan. Frightening, yet oddly exhilarating."
—Daniel H. Wilson, author of How to Survive a Robot Uprising
"These Doomsday scenarios are as gripping as any science fiction, but-- amazingly-- each one is grounded in carefully researched science. Plait's message is simple: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow -- or five billion years from now -- we die!"
— Simon LeVay, Ph.D., author of When Science Goes Wrong: Twelve Tales from the Dark Side of Discovery
“Phil Plait has done it again. He brings his unique and funny voice of reason and sanity to bear on making sense of a deadly universe. If things worked the way I wanted them to, any reporter about to do another "sensational" story on deadly meteors would consult this volume and BANG! Common sense would find it's way into the news. How strange would THAT world be? On his blog and in his books, Plait is an important source of sanity and critical thinking, with just the right sense of wonder, reminding us that the universe is an amazing enough place without having to make crap up about it.”
— Adam Savage, from Discovery Channel's Mythbusters
“Phil Plait scares the reader witless with one cosmic doomsday scenario after the next, right on through the death of the universe itself. But it's not all bad. You're smiling throughout as he displays his special blend of expertise and wit.”
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, author of Death By Black Hole”