"Death from the Skies" by Philip Plait

by lotech@evpl on Friday, March 13 2009, 11:13am. Viewed 1,892 times.

Sun up close; ball of fireThe subtitle of this book is "These are the ways the world will end..."   The cover features a glowing ball of fire, the Sun,  headed right for our planet!  I assumed this book wold be a humorous criticsim of extreme and erroneous doomsday views.  By reading this I could be amused, feel superior, and relieved at the same time!  However, feelings of amusement and superiority were not achieved as the humor is very low-key and but a thin veil disguising an instructive work covering a number of astronomical subjects, especially the life cycle of stars which necessarily involves chemistry and physics on a grand scale.

Each chapter has an introductory section describing a horrific catastrophe caused by an astronomical event; the section is followed by a scientific explantaion and the odds, usually highly unlikely, that these would happen in any time frame in which humanity should be concerned with the exceptions of solar flares and asteroid impacts.  Solar flares have the power to cripple satellites and stronger ones could even destroy electrical power distribution grids on earth.  Plait feels we can protects ourselves from these effects.  Impacting asteroids he advises should be taken seriously although he admits we need to research effective ways to avoid them; he discusses possible futuristic solutions.

While a skeptic as to extraterrestial life invading us, he does see the possiblity of our eventually terrafroming other planets (that is, making them more like earth) by creating human- friendly atmospheres on their surfaces with asteroids we slam into them and by adjusting the orbits of Earth and the other planets though asteroid manipulation.  This would all come in handy when the Sun changes its diameter during its natural development some millions of years from now.  No need to be alarmed at the moment; just someting to think about.

Plain makes a number of interesting points and his scientific discussion of the universe is instructive.  However my impression is that this book isn't the greatest of popular scientific writing, but the subject matter (the universe!)  certainly is interesting , and the author does have intriguing insights scattered throughout .

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on Friday, April 17 2009, 4:23pm

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