Bad Astronomer Phil Plait brings us a great assortment of ways the world
might end. Death from the Skies! describes all the fabulous ways that the universe can bring about the destruction of a planet,
from asteroid and comet impacts to black holes, supernovas, and alien invasion.
Thrill! to the dreadful consequences of deadly solar flares!
Shudder! at the intimate description of how very close we are to being snuffed out by our own sun!
Tremble! at the fact that our planet is often perilously close to being hit by asteroids!
Shiver! with the knowledge that there's nothing Bruce Willis can do to change this!
Plait describes in down-to-earth terms how these mechanisms of our
universe work and what it takes for them to go wrong and kill us all.
Each chapter starts with a description of an exciting and deadly event and how it could spell doom for our fragile planet
- and yes, it reads like a movie pitch for a 1950's thriller. Following this fantasy is the mechanical details of the events so fantastically described in the intro. It's all very scary on the surface, but more than that, the information fascinates
- like the way the sun works and how sunspots occur, and why this produces solar flares. We really live in an amazing universe, and it all makes you feel really small and fragile, but hang on.
The final chapter of the book tucks the reader into bed after the horrible bedtime story before, diffusing all the fears built up to this point. For instance, Plait suggests that we have only a one in three billion chance of being invaded by aliens (and killed or probed by them), and those odds are pretty good in our favor. The universe is a marvelous thing, but it doesn't likely have it in for us.
Death from the Skies! is excellent for those who love science and space, and it doesn't talk over our heads. Plait is an educator and a nerd; he loves this subject matter and it shows. The details are explained in plain
English and in an entertaining way. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!