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Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End...

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  4,363 Ratings  ·  253 Reviews
A lively astronomy primer that uses cataclysmic scenarios to explain the universe?s most fascinating events.

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? Wit
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published October 16th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2008)
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AAAAAAAA!!! We're all going to die!!!!

Well, that's not exactly news. From the moment we're born, Death turns our hourglass and sits twiddling his bony thumbs, waiting as our grains of sand dribble toward the bottom.

But...there's a chance, however remote, that...

We're going to die HORRIBLY! Gasping for breath as our oxygen burns up, pulverized to death by a shockwave, or even SPAGHETTIFIED into nothingness by a Black Hole.

Each chapter begins with a Worst Case Scenario, made even scarier by the us
Todd N
Dec 27, 2008 Todd N rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008-xmas-gifts
I really enjoyed this book. It's a collection of esoteric topics in astronomy all tied together by one thing -- they could possibly destroy the Earth or at least most of the life on it.

Each chapter covers a particular threat -- asteroids and comets, solar events, death of the sun, stuff in our galaxy, etc. It ends with a mind bending chapter on the death of the Universe -- after the galaxies have dissolved and protons have started decaying.

I learned a lot from this book. If you were into astrono
Nov 09, 2010 Sam rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book! As one who has often been utterly confused by physics (especially the physics of space and time) but still completely fascinated this book has answered my physics prayers. Plait has managed to take an extremely complex subject and make it comprehensible to those outside the physics bubble (or maybe I should say universe...). Obviously this book does deal with huge scales of both time and distance but Plait uses everyday comparisons (well where he can anyway) to give ...more
Jul 30, 2012 Jill rated it really liked it
Came across this book, and it fit in with my current obsession of post-apocalyptic stories. This non-fiction book looks at different ways that stars, asteroids, solar flares, gamma rays, etc., can wreak havoc on our planet. Luckily, most of these are very unlikely to kill us. Plait does a good job of explaining extremely difficult scientific subjects; however, even a good writer such as Plait can have trouble keeping these explanations from being a bit dry, thus the four stars instead of five. A ...more
Jan 25, 2011 Leah rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. From the title, you can probably guess that this book appealed to my slightly fatalistic fascination with end-of-the-world, apocalyptic scenarios. I love pondering the unavoidable and the inevitable. And this book presents, of all the environmental, weather, and disease-related possibilities for humans to kill themselves, absolutely the most unavoidable events, with absolutely the most fatalistic perspective. Which is why I loved it.

Each chapter in this book is devote
Jan 14, 2012 Book rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Death From The Skies by Philip Plait, Ph.D.

“Death From The Skies" is the entertaining book about how the universe is trying to kill you. Astronomer Dr. Philip Plait, using the latest in astronomical knowledge, takes us on exciting journey through our universe and enlightens us on the various cosmological hazards that are present. This 336-page book is composed of the following nine chapters: 1. Target Earth: Asteroid and Comet Impacts, 2. Sunburn, 3. The Stellar Fury of Supernovae, 4. Cosmic Blo
Oct 17, 2010 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, astronomy
This is a fascinating, fun book to read. The author has kept the book light-hearted with an easy-going sense of humor.

I majored in astronomy and physics in undergraduate school, yet I still learned some interesting things from this book. I learned that an asteroid collision is perhaps the most threatening form of astronomical catastrophe for us. And interestingly, an asteroid collision is the most avoidable catastrophe--though not by nuking the errant asteroid. A much better approach is suggest
Judyta Szaciłło
Where do I start?

The book is uneven. I loved it at the beginning, was annoyed and a little bored in the middle only to turn fascinated at the end. It is quite well written, accessible piece of popular science, I admit. But there are serious drawbacks that don't allow me to give this book more than three stars:

1) Repetitiveness: reading about the effect of gamma-ray burst once is really enough. The seccond time is slightly annoying, the third and the fourth simply spoil the pleasure.

2) Pointless
May 24, 2011 Haley rated it really liked it
The book opens up with an average man named Mark, and proceeds to tell about his morning when an asteroid that ends all life on earth comes crashing down. Philip Plait presents some of the scariest end-of-the-world disasters, from supernovas, alien encounters, black holes, and even the expansion of the universe itself. Plait illustrates why outer space is not as remote as most think. Each chapter is a new scenario that looks into a different phenomenon, and explains how the planet would be affec ...more
Carol Brannigan
Jan 31, 2011 Carol Brannigan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference
Wow- what a read and what a way to knock humanities hubris down by about 10³. This book underlays the fascinating ways that our universe is trying to kill us. It starts with asteroids on up to the end of the entire universe (yes- it is inevitable but not for a very very very long time). Dr. Plait keeps a very conversational tone throughout the book which along with his "dumbing" down but not so dumb scientific explanations keep this book very easy to read but also doesn't make you feel dumb.

On t
May 17, 2011 Sesana rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
A very fascinating subject, presented very nicely. Each potential disaster is given its own chapter, starting with a short, fictionalized worst-case scenario, to show how bad this could really be. And then there's science, written in a very approachable and informative way. There's the usual suspect here, like asteroids and black holes, but I'm not sure I'd even heard of gamma ray bursts before reading this book, so that was especially cool to read. Oddly enough, despite being a book entirely ab ...more
Jun 12, 2009 Chris rated it it was amazing
I've always found the end of the world fascinating. So many cultures have put together their own ideas of how the world will end, from the Norse Ragnarök to the Christian apocalypse to the Hindu cycle of creation and destruction. We live in a world that was, for a long time, unpredictable to us and on many occasions seemed to be outwardly hostile. Our ancestors faced floods and earthquakes and disease, with no idea of where these things came from, why they happened or how to stop them. And so th ...more
Dec 21, 2010 Doug rated it liked it
Death from the Skies!'s nine chapters all follow the same pattern: a brief, moderately sensationalized depiction of an astronomical disaster followed by a somewhat more sober discussion of the event, with an emphasis on how likely and/or subject to mitigation it is. The book more-or-less progresses from near-term potential events (like an meteor collision) to long-term inevitabilities (the eventual death of the sun, and way beyond). Plait's enthusiasm is palpable throughout -- he just loves this ...more
Aug 27, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rebecca by: Author's blog
Shelves: nonfiction
I'll be honest with you -- I like pop science books, magazines and blogs even when I know the subject. (Read: they are about astronomy*.) Part of it is reading to see how others explain a subject, which helps me learn things. Part of it is that the narrative for explaining the science to others is different than the research narrative -- while I could easily find out plenty on stellar evolution of a solar-type star -- how the temperature and size and mass changes -- and climactic models of the E ...more
May 07, 2011 Nicholas rated it it was amazing
If you aren't reading Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog over at Discover magazine, you should be. His writing is an awesome example of how real science can be just as awe-inspiring, cool and interesting as the "science" that underlays our most exciting and captivating science fiction stories.

Are you a fan of disaster movies? Then, Death from the Skies is for you. In this short volume, Plait uncovers the real science behind a host of truly dreadful end of the world scenarios from asteroid impacts t
Dec 09, 2009 Jamie rated it really liked it
The full title here is Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End, and in it astrophysicist (or something along those lines) Phillip Plait takes on the bombastic topic of global annihilation. Specifically, he looks at all the ways Earth could destroyed by threats from outer space, dedicating a chapter to each threat. Topics include being hit by an asteroid (or meteor or meteorite or whatever it would be called at that point), blasted by a too-close supernova, having our electri ...more
Dec 23, 2011 Stephen rated it it was amazing
By anyone's standards, 2011 was a banner year for disasters, with Earth's ful inventory of catastrophes on display. Flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, hurricanes, and tornadoes filled newspaper headlines all year. In the wake of all this, some might be tempted to look to the heavens for relief -- to the placid, twinkling stars above. Too bad that twinkling is probably a gamma-ray burst on its way to vaporize you.

The perils of the heavens are the subject of Phil Plait's second wo
Feb 28, 2013 Dan rated it really liked it
My most recent read was from astronomer Phil Plait, who writes the Bad Astronomy blog over at Slate. "Death from the Skies" chronicles all of the possible ways that our planet, and life as we know it, could be destroyed by non-terrestrial natural events. This is definitely not light reading nor does it always perk you up, but it is funny, highly informative, and humbling. Plait's description of our solar system, galaxy, and universe help you to appreciate our position in the cosmos. But how do w ...more
"სიკვდილი ზეციდან" იმდენადვე სასიამოვნო და სასარგებლო წასაკითხია როგორც თქვენი ფავორიტი დოკუმენტური ფილმის ყურება კოსმოსზე, რომელსაც ამშვენებს არა მხოლოდ კარგი გრაფიკა და ლამაზი სიმულაციები. არამედ საინტერესო ისტორია, ნამდვილი მეცნიერული პერსპექტივა, აღფრთოვანება, ჩაფიქრება უსასრულობასა და უკიდეგანობაზე.
სამყარო არა მარტო მრავალფეროვანი და ლამაზია, არამედ საშიში. მას შეუძლია თვალის დახამხამებაში გაგვაქროს, გაანადგუროს ის მცირე ადგილი სადაც ჩვენთვის სასიცოცხლოდ მნიშვნელოვანი ბალანსი იქმნება კოსმოს
Brian Hodges
Sep 14, 2009 Brian Hodges rated it really liked it
This is pop-science at its most fun. What better way to learn about the world of astronomy than by learning about all the ways the Universe might kill all life on Earth? "Death From the Skies" uses this setup as the jumping off point to teach the reader all about black holes, the Big Bang, gamma ray bursts, the life cycle of stars and the eventual end of the Universe.

Far from being a treastise of doom and gloom, or worse, a sensationalist tabloid piece designed to ignite hysteria and sell books
Dylan Manfredi
Nov 15, 2015 Dylan Manfredi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: space
Death from the skies is a amazing book written by one of my favorite astronomers, Phillip Plait. The way he writes is great. He often adds humor after generally scary facts really lightens the mood. Let me elaborate on "scary facts". Depending on the kind of person you are you might not find some of this things that scary. Form example if you are like me, someone who worries about the smallest details or things that are well out of my control then reading this book might not be the best idea, or ...more
May 27, 2011 Andy rated it it was amazing
Luckily, my favorite astronomer continues to not let me down. Phillip Plait is a renowned skeptic (former president of the JREF) and astronomy blogger who takes on with much gusto (and success) the mission of bringing science education to as wide an audience as possible.

In that spirit, this book is aimed at the layperson. Not even knowledge of scientific notation (exponential) is presupposed. It also has the whole doom-and-gloom appeal, which serves as a pretty good hook, but when it comes down
Oct 04, 2012 Jacob rated it liked it
I really like Phil Plait. His blog (Bad Astronomy on is enlightening, and from what I've seen on Youtube, he's an entertaining speaker. We need more people who can take science to the non-scientists in a relatable way, and Dr. P is at the forefront.

Having said that, the book is okay. I definitely learned some new things, especially about gamma ray bursts, cosmic rays, and the heat death of the universe. There's a lot in here that isn't really new, though. If you've read or watched Cos
Evanston Public  Library
There's pulp fiction and pulp science fiction, but is there a genre called pulp science nonfiction? If there is, Plait's book certainly qualifies. With a lurid cover in eye-catching, fiery orange (that's the burning asteroid hurtling toward Earth), and a title that screams terror and destruction, this lively book will take you on a cheery tour of the many ways the universe is out to get us. Perhaps a meteor will barrel down to obliterate us. A nearby star going supernova would engulf the solar s ...more
Sep 06, 2009 Celeste rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of pop-sci, or anyone will nagging fears about the Apocalypse
Recommended to Celeste by: Dr. Phil Plait himself!
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Entertaining refresher course on astronomy, cosmology, and even a bit of earth science. The author presents the many ways that the universe could wipe us out (or at least severely inconvenience us): from asteroid strikes, solar flares, GRBs, nearby supernovae and wandering black holes to the ultimate death of the sun, galaxy, and the entire universe. I've been reading Phil Plait's "Bad Astronomy" blog for years. I think I first became a fan after reading his dissection of the horrible science in ...more
Feb 09, 2010 Kim rated it it was amazing
Another fantastic science book for the non rocket scientist. It was a fantastic and slightly terrifying look at what will probably and not so probably destroy us in the end. It might be a supernova or an asteroid or a black hole, but whatever it is, it will be terrifying and hopefully quick and relatively painless for those of us alive at that time.

Each chapter presents a new horrifying method of terror that the universe can unleash on us. The science behind gamma ray burst that may fry our atm
Dec 18, 2010 Andrew rated it it was amazing
An interesting book, it looks as if Phil Plait started it as "what are the chances of an astronomical event damaging society?" and finished it by wrapping up the history of the universe. If you want to cut to the quick, flip to the end where he has a chart with the probability of the following in each person's lifetime:
* asteroid impact (1/700,000)
* solar flare or coronal mass ejection (CME): not measurable
* supernova (1/10 million)
* gamma ray burst (1/14 million)
* black hole (1/1 trillion)
* ali
Bill Holmes
Despite the sensational title, "Death from the Skies!" is actually a witty and authoritative introduction to astronomy, cosmology and eschatology (the way it all ends). Potential sources of doom range from threats that we can avoid or mitigate (asteroids, comets, solar flares) to "not very likely to happen, but we're toast if it does" (a nearby supernova, a gamma ray burst, a black hole) to "inevitable, but not in the lifetime of our species" (death of the sun, death of the galaxies, death of th ...more
Jul 22, 2012 Clint rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Great book! It started out awesome with some stuff about asteroids, but I knew most of that anyway from the Bill Bryson science book. Then the book got kind of boring for awhile, but starting with the chapter about aliens, it rocketed back into awesome and didn't let up till it was done, and the last chapter, about the death of the universe, was the coolest pop science I've ever read. I got a little tired of the chapter intros where he wrote some death scenarios, and I got a little tired of him ...more
Holden Attradies
Phil is the king of making Astronomy fun and approachable, whilst not talking down to you (well, not to much).

I went into this book having heard a lot about it on podcasts and web sites via the skeptic community so I wasn't expecting too many sunrises, but I got a few. The first half of the book was just about what I expect and I adored it (I adored it all by the way), but the second half really caught me off guard. I'm still not sure why exactly and after I've let the book digest in my brain fo
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Philip Cary Plait, Ph.D. (aka "The Bad Astronomer") is a US astronomer, skeptic, writer and popular science blogger. He is a well known author and public figure in the fields of astronomy and science.

Plait gained his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Virginia in 1994. He began his career with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. His first foray into public life was with his blog that des
More about Philip Plait...

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“They say that even the brightest star won't shine forever. But in fact, the brightest star would live the shortest amount of time. Feel free to extract whatever life lesson you want from that.” 19 likes
“I am using the word theory as a scientist means it: a set of ideas so well established by observations and physical models that it is essentially indistinguishable from fact. That is different from the colloquial use that means "guess." To a scientist, you can bet your life on a theory. Remember, gravity is "just a theory" too.” 15 likes
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