DEATH marches on

By Phil Plait | April 17, 2009 3:23 pm

When my first book, Bad Astronomy, came out, it was reviewed in a bunch of professional science magazines and such. I haven’t seen any similar reviews of Death from the Skies!, which is a little weird, as the second book has more of a science edge. Hey, editors from Science, Nature, Scientific American, what gives? The folks listed below sure got it right.

Nancy Atkinson holding my book

And I’ll start off with a perfect example: my friend Nancy Atkinson from Universe Today finally got around to writing a review of Death, including a picture of me I had forgotten she took and which made me laugh. I remember the moment that picture was taken; we were all exhausted writing up the fire hose of information from the press conferences at an astronomy meeting in St. Louis. The important thing though? Nancy loved the book. She has excellent taste.

The Evansville Vandenburgh Public Library reviewer liked it, too.

The Library Journal(!) called it one of the best science books of 2008, and even gave it a starred review.

The Melbury Gentlemen’s Club found it oh-so clever and erudite.

Bonus: Nonfiction Lover reviewed my first book!

So where can you get this triumph of non-fiction literature? You can buy a copy here, and also help out a great organization, the James Randi Educational Foundation (of which I am the President).

CATEGORIZED UNDER: DeathfromtheSkies!

Comments (18)

  1. Davidlpf

    It really was a great book to read.


    Editors from Science, Nature, Scientific American respond in unison:

    You wrote a book?!

  3. Davidlpf

    I all forgot about that.

  4. I bet if you had changed it to:

    Death from the Skies
    By Dr. Phil

    it would be on the NY Times best sellers list.

    I felt dirty writing that! 😮

  5. Davidlpf

    It should be by Dr. Phil and as seen on Oprah.

  6. Unchek

    The real reason Nature, Science, et al. responded so favorably to “Bad Astronomy” is because it addressed an urgent itch the science community could not scratch without outside help: the moan hoax baloney. And you did a great job in that book showing us what kind of baloney it was.

    While there is some background concern about dying from cosmic events, it’s more of a fun science book than anything. “Death From the Skies” just doesn’t scratch the same itch your previous book did.

    If you really want to make your next superbook™, write one that addresses the anti-vaccination movement in a similar manner as “Bad Astronomy” did the moan hoax movement. It’s still possible it won’t be as big a success because you don’t have the market cornered on anti-vaccination (or a doctorate in a relevant field) in the same way you did the moon hoax, but I think there’s still a pretty big need for such a book and you would be the right person to write it.

  7. Unchek

    Whoops, typos. “moan hoax baloney” should be “moon hoax baloney.” A “moan hoax” is a much more common type of hoax but also in a totally different subject.

  8. Davidlpf

    “Today on a special Oprah Phil Platt and Jenny McCarthy discuss Autism”

  9. unquiet_mind

    Hey Phil,
    Did you know your first book was selected as an Outstanding Title! (emphasis not mine) of 2002 by CHOICE? (That would be Choice; Current Reviews for Academic Libraries.) Oddly, tho, no review of Death :-(

    –a lib sci student

  10. coolstar

    Wow, yet another reason to have a blog: SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION. When you were a lowly college prof did you force your students to BUY your notes for your classes at the college bookstore? :).

  11. I got my copy recently, and have yet to finish it.

    On my blog I recently linked to a (truly awful) science fiction story that I wrote when I was twelve, in which my favourite sentence is “The Explorer was returning to Alos for a refuel only to discover that the planet had been blown up“. Your book is better, by countless orders of magnitude.

  12. actuator

    I recently read Death From The Skies! and thoroughly enjoyed it. In the last 54 of my 66 years on the planet I have read millions (O.K., dozens) of books about Astronomy and Cosmology and have come to what most will consider a weird conclusion. I think the universe is an infinitely recycling structure based on the premise that mathematically, quantum behavior is based on two numbers. One being that ever present constant, the speed of light. The other being the variable we call temperature.

    As you describe, at the hot, soupy beginning of universal inflation, temperatures are apparently so high that the quarks are unable to get together to form the particles that eventually become the atomic structures for the hydrogen, helium and lithium that make up the early universe.

    In describing black holes you also indicate that the temperature in a singularity is about as close to absolute zero as you can get. (Hawking’s theory of radiation notwithstanding, maybe it really is absolute zero). In an email exchange where I posited my belief in a different way, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson indicated that the universe will eventually achieve the temperature of absolute zero.

    It would seem that it is logical to believe that the behavior of quanta at absolute zero would be the opposite of their behavior when the universe is at its hottest. Rather that fly about with no ability to interact to form structures, they would clump together as they do in black holes, actually touching. (Based on what I read, it would seem that even in neutron stars there is empty space and things though densely squeezed do not actually touch.)

    In this scenario of a universe whose incredible size is hard to conceive, all quanta would be trapped in singularities. (I suppose you could say all matter would be “dark matter”.) The mass/gravity of these countless objects would attract them to one another resulting in mergers and in increasingly massive objects exerting greater attractive force on those that have yet to merge. Eventually everything merges into that all inclusive singularity which could be called the critical mass of the universe and “BANG”, it starts all over again. Oh, and there would be no energy released in the mergers as all activity occurs within event horizons from whence energy cannot escape, so temperature does not increase.

    Dr. Tyson indicated that scientists wanted to be able to test and observe in order to prove theories. With only a B.S. in History and an MBA to my credit, I’m hard pressed to come up with a way to test this. I think, however, that it is not an illogical idea. Based on your book, we’re not likely to be around to observe the actual events and devising tests for this sort of thing is outside my expertise.

    BTW, has this been theorized by others? I’ve not seen it in all my reading.

  13. Blashy

    Audiobook… get on the bandwagon! I guarantee you the guys from TWIT, Security Now! and Macbreak Weekly (all podcasts from the family) will end up reading the book and choosing it as one of their picks of the weeks.

    I would love to “read” it (meaning listen to it).

  14. Don Sakers

    I reviewed DEATH in the current (June 2009) issue of Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact (review at

  15. Zach

    Phil, you have a review of Death in the June 2009 edition of Analog SF, too.

  16. angel

    It’s Vanderburgh county, not Vandenburgh. They’re very picky about that down in southern Hoosier-land.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar