Sunday, July 31, 2011

GBC Book Review: Death From the Skies!

I originally found Phil Plait, Ph. D. through the magic of twitter and have been an avid reader of his blog, Bad Astronomy, ever since. Through the science blogging world that I like to pretend I pay attention to, I heard wonderful things about his book ‘Death From the Skies!’ which deals with the science behind the end of the world so I bought the paperback version in January.

Then it sat on my side table for six months. (I like to think that it was collecting lots of protons and electrons which arranged themselves in the form of dust.)

When I finally did get around to reading it (mainly because I still had a month to go before book five of The Song of Ice and Fire series was released *cough*) I loved it. From the very first sentence in which he asserts that the universe is trying to kill you (but don’t take it personally, it’s trying to kill everybody) to his final summation regarding the odds of these events occurring in our lifetime, the book was a complete joy to read.

Trust him, he's a Doctor. Well, he has a Ph. D. He's not that type of Doctor.

While it is very science-y (yes, that is totally a word) and Plait doesn’t shy away from going into a couple of head scratcher theories, the book is clearly written for the layman who has little to no knowledge of astronomy or astrophysics. The theories are laid out in relatively simple English and there is no assumption that you will remember the theory two chapters later (which I really appreciated when I put the book down for two weeks to work on a couple of projects).

The book, while about a very serious subject, is peppered with Plait’s sense of humour. It is not often that I can say a science book made me laugh out loud but this one definitely did. And despite its serious topic, I found the book oddly reassuring regarding the likelihood of meteor impacts and gamma-ray bursts.  (I still feel threatened by the zombie apocalypse but that’s why I’ve taken up running as a pastime.)

I can’t stress how much I enjoyed this book. The only downside is that I now I have questions regarding some of the theories which means that maybe it’s time I finally gave “A Brief History of Time” a go.

Or maybe I’ll warm up with a few simpler science books first.

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