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Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . Hardcover – October 16, 2008

4.6 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (October 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670019976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670019977
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author reviews just about every disaster of global proportions that this old universe has in store for us. This includes everything from impacts with space rocks, solar magnetic storms, gamma-ray bursts, and the ultimate fate from the expansion of the universe itself. While these and others are serious scenarios, the author maintains a cosmic wit as is demonstrated even in his section subtitles. For example, there's "Sirius Danger?," "The Hole Truth," and "Sunrise Sunset" which is of course followed by "Swiftly Flow the Days Millennia Eons." By the way, if you wade through all of the cosmic disasters (speaking of which disaster itself is derived from the Greek for 'bad star') you'll find in the end that you have learned a bit about almost every topic that I teach in my introductory astronomy classes. Note that there are not any color photographs, but you can find lots of those online or in any standard astronomy text. I'm sure that by only including black and white images, it helped keep down the book cost, which makes this volume reachable to a wider audience. I highly recommend the book as an enjoyable weekend read which can lead you to think, learn, and perhaps realize that there can be lots gained from analyzing doom and gloom scenarios, especially if you apply scientific reasoning, which includes critical thinking.
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Format: Paperback
If you are looking at this review and considering buying Death from the Skies!, that probably means you have some interest in astronomy--if you do, I promise you will love this book. It is probably the most engaging non-fiction book I have ever read--I couldn't put it down. Phil Plait uses teaser stories at the beginning of each chapter, describing what it would be like to experience the various cosmic threats he covers. These are incredibly effective at grabbing your attention. Each time I read a new teaser, I couldn't stop myself from reading the rest of the chapter. In addition, the chapters, though they are packed with science, are very accessible and full of wit. Plait has a great sense of humor, and a gift for clear explanation. You do not need any kind of background in astro, physics, or math to get what he is talking about. I took a lot of astro in college so the concepts in the book were already familiar to me, which may have helped me to plow through the book quickly, but I don't think that sort of background is crucial. Anyway, I was an art history major, so it's not like I am some great expert on astronomy. If you are interested, you will be able to get what Plait is talking about.

This book has really reawakened my interest in the cosmos--I've started reading more astro and doing stuff like watching Jupiter and its moons as they change positions each night, stuff I hadn't done in ages. In addition, the book gave me a sense of perspective on Earth's place in the universe. There are some very thought-provoking ideas here, especially in the chapter about the end of the universe, which gets a little philosophical (in a good way).
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Format: Hardcover
The book is quite a roller coaster ride that takes you through all the many ways that the universe can kill us. Yet, the author, Dr. Philip Plait masterfully explains the many concepts with wit and humor rarely encountered in todays popular science books. Even those who have a decent background in astronomy can find facts and information that are absolutely novel to their thinking. Plait echoes the spirit of Sagan with an approach that allows any lay reader to understand the ridiculously difficult concepts that must be simplified but not dumbed down. Moreover, the science in the book represents our very latest understanding about the cosmos. One very important fact that must be mentioned from the book is that there are many ways for the universe to kill us, but the two that are most likely to disrupt our lives are fully preventable and mitigable. There is absolutely no excuse for our ignorance regarding the next near Earth asteroid, or major coronal mass ejection/giant solar flare from destroying all that we've worked so hard to accomplish. This is the ultimate and greatest message of the book.
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Format: Paperback
Anyone worried about looking out their bathroom window to discover the birds gone along with an overwhelming stillness should not read this book. If you notice all the trees around you suddenly begin to smoke, don't bother running away. If just after sunrise you notice rocks begin to melt, don't bother turning on the air conditioner.

If any of these possible scenarios do not alarm you and you are looking for a laugh-out-loud read about the different ways the world could end, then this book is for you. Astronomer and author, Dr. Philip Plait enlightens us with many more scenarios describing what would happen to our planet just before biblical catastrophes such as the Sun dying, asteroid and comet impacts, gamma-ray bursts, black holes, and more.

Expect to get educated as well with terms any layman can understand but appreciate: "The Sun is about 93 million miles away. If you could build a highway and drive there, it would take over 170 years. Even an airplane would take two decades to fly to the Sun if it could."

Plait's "Death from the Skies" is a blast (pun intended).
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