Monday, December 21, 2009

Death from the Skies!

We're all going to die. Not in 2012. Not any time soon for most of us. But eventually something catastrophic will happen and life, indeed the Earth, as we know it cease to exist. Luckily, since nobody reading this will likely be around to witness it, we have bad astronomer Phil Plait to explain how it will all go down.

Plait walks us through several doomsday scenarios from extinction-causing impacts to being cooked by cosmic rays to encounters with alien life. In each case, the reader is given the basics to understand the disaster being explored, a detailed explanation of how it might happen, how the human race might prepare for or prevent the particular destruction (if at all) and odds of it happening.

This is first and foremost a science book, and Plait delves into the physics and astronomy with vigor. What exactly is happening at the centre of a star? How is a black hole formed, and what would happen if we fell into one? While some of it might be daunting, it's all written in an easy-to-read and engaging style, that at times feels more like reading good science fiction than science fact. Each scenario is prefaced with a vignette of how it might look if you were caught in the middle of it, and even the cover evokes warm memories of old sci-fi B-movies.

Death from the Skies! may be one of the best science books I've read. Educational and entertaining, it's a must read if you have any interest in astronomy and astrophysics - and possibly even if you don't.

The universe is a harsh and violent place, and sooner or later it will get us. Phil Plait teaches how it will happen, and somehow makes you wish you'll still be around to witness it.

Death from the Skies! by Philip Plait