Bad company

By Phil Plait | August 3, 2009 3:00 pm

My first book, Bad Astronomy, is still around, selling at low levels of activity around the planet. I’m glad, of course, and love to see that it still carries some interest. I rarely see it on bookshelves in mainstream bookstores, but a lot of museums and such still carry it.

That’s why it was nice to get an email from BABloggee Robert Pruneau who found it being sold at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in England. That’s great! But it’s too bad about the other books near it:

Bad Astronomy book with others by Hawking

Couldn’t they find anything better to display next to my book? PUHleeze.

Oh well. As I’m sure the other author would agree, you can’t always pick your neighbors.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pretty pictures

Comments (41)

  1. T.E.L.

    The Barnes & Noble shops around where I live (there are several; it’s Indianapolis) tend to each carry one copy of your book about 50% of the time. That, or 1/2 of a copy 100% of the time.

  2. Brian Schlosser

    @T.E.L.: Is it the Quantum Edition? That version is 50% sold out…

  3. Is there any way you can let your legions of devoted followers know how many copies Death From The Skies has sold? Just curious?

  4. Oded

    I’m sorry to say but “A Brief History of Time” was absolutely abysmal.. Maybe it had to do with the Hebrew translation I read it in, but I already knew the major concepts, and I was still thoroughly confused after the book…
    “A Briefer History of Time” was somewhat better, but mostly because there was very little for me to be confused about, as I already knew most of the few facts in there… Also that one I read in English…

    Death from the skies on the other hand! I don’t remember a darn thing :( I should re-read it…
    I remember enjoying it though :)

  5. dhtroy

    Something tells me it will only be there for a Brief History of Time.

    HA! :)

    Ok, leaving now.

  6. Gammidgy

    After 15 years of living in/around London, last week I finally got around to visiting the Royal Observatory. It so totally rocks. The new planetarium is just awesome. My 7-year old is now in a quandary: whether to be the first female Astronomer Royal or the first girl on the moon.

  7. T.E.L.

    Brian Schlosser Said:

    “@T.E.L.: Is it the Quantum Edition? That version is 50% sold out…”

    I can’t even begin to explain the situation at Half Price Books.

  8. T.E.L.

    Fruit of the Loom should publish a book called A Timely History of Briefs.

  9. Greg in Austin

    You wrote a book?


  10. TS

    Fruit of the Loom could also publish a first person fantasy book called Briefs’s History of Time.

  11. whb03

    OK, I need a reality check here – either I am too dense to catch the humor, or Hawkins has somehow fallen out of grace with science. If so, when/how did this happen? Forgive my cluelessness here, set me straight.

  12. Same with me: I’m equally clueless. plz ’splain!

  13. I would say the ol’ BA is acting like he’s so great because he’s just so awesomely humbled to be placed next to Hawkings on a bookshelf (and, if reading all English-style, he’s coming first despite being after Hawkings on the spelling scale to b00t), and ultimately BA was being sarcastic. That’s how I read it.

    Though Hawkings writes informatively on science (though I see a debate about how well, I enjoyed Brief, wear boxers, and rarely brief) and BA writes informatively on science, so I see no reason why the book “Bad Astronomy” shouldn’t be on the same level as Hawking’s work. Now as for research papers, I’ve never read BA’s doctoral work, nor Hawkings, so there may be differences there, but I don’t have enough data to accurately make a claim one way or another.

  14. Wayne

    Lol at responses 1 and 2.

  15. Sorry to say Phil, but you’re in just as bad of company (if not worse) on my bookshelf. Death From the Skies is currently resting in between “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman” and The God Delusion.

  16. Yawa

    I didn’t want to be the first to say this to you and burst your bubble Phil, but you are a pretty Bad Astronomer.

  17. Caleb


    >> Fruit of the Loom should publish a book called A Timely History of Briefs.

    As long as the cover has a briefs-shaped universe diagram with string theory equations on it.

    -Elasticity of space-time
    -String theory
    -Heat death
    -Dark matter

    …the puns are endless.

  18. T.E.L.

    Caleb Said:

    “As long as the cover has a briefs-shaped universe diagram…”

    That would be a special case of the so-called “pants diagram”, with the bifurcations terminated so close to the vertex that you can almost see God’s b___s.

  19. Buxley

    Slumming again, eh Plait? =)


  20. Josh

    I ordered your book yesterday from Barnes and Noble with a gift certificate that I got for judging an elementary school science fair. I hope its worth the small amount of time it took me to figure out which projects were completed by students and which by their parents.

  21. Supernova

    @Gammidgy (#6): I don’t see any reason why she can’t be both!

  22. alfaniner

    Immutable Law of the Universe: Any joke that can be misunderstood will be misunderstood.

  23. Dan I.

    Bad Astronomy has been a great resource for me. I tend to keep a copy next to me whenever I correct some kind of mistake. I’ve quoted whole passages (with proper citation of course).

  24. Jack Mitcham

    That’s better than my local Barnes and Noble. They have the book “2012!” in the Astronomy section, next to a biography of Wernher Von Braun and a book of Newton’s anti-counterfeiter career.

    Death from the Skies is near the bottom of the rack. I actually took a picture of the placement of 2012 on my phone, I should upload it to the intert00bs.

  25. Gary Ansorge

    Rest not upon your laurels. Get going on another book, say, one that includes excerpts of some of your more “exciting” blog entries, when you’re trying to instill a little critical thinking and the gnomes come out of the internet woods,,,great examples of how hard it is to make headway against woo,,,

    GAry 7
    PS: SOme of the more vociferous responses you’ve received are excellent examples of why woo is so hard to fight. Could be source material for a sociological PhD candidate. I can see the title now:
    WOO – The Never Ending Fight

  26. @ Gammidgy:

    Tell your daughter she is more than welcome to come work on my moon base, which had better be operational within another decade or so, or someone’s going to be upset.

    Oh, one requirement, tho…she will have to wear a purple wig, go-go boots and a mini skirt. Don’t worry, tho, the men have to wear tight black trousers and muscle shirts.

    Did I mention mine will be a very stylish moon base?

  27. Ordeneus

    and love to see that it still carries some interest.

    I’m reading it right now. I was expecting humour, but not to learn so much! Especially about the internals of dying stars, fascinating stuff, so yeah, still some interest!

  28. Alan

    @ kuhnigget
    “A blinding flash and a deafening report” ?

  29. Joe

    That “front of the pile” copy of A Briefer History of Time is defying the laws of gravity, it’s levitating!

    Apparently, The God Delusion was the Christmas best seller on Amazon the year it was released, how’s that for irony?

  30. I wonder how many of your books are sitting in bathrooms right now.

  31. Christina Viering
  32. LSandman24

    @ Naked Bunny:

    I can vouch for one, along with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s “The Pluto Files.” I’ve read both several times… I’ll not delve into specifics 😀

  33. Wayne Robinson

    I don’t know why, but I just bought it on the Kindle this morning (I already have it in paperback). It’s worth it just for its debunking of the myth that it is just the Coriolis effect that causes water to flow counter-clockwise in bathroom sinks in the northern hemisphere.

  34. JeffS


    Actually, Discover Magazine July 2009 issue has a pretty good article that provides some basic clarification. (Incidentaly, I read it while on jury duty last week while waiting to see if I’d be called. Loads of fun.)

  35. kingnor

    I work at a book store near your old stomping grounds in the bay area phil, i always make it a point to put your books on display (often with Sagans books).

  36. jh


    You’re near Hawking in my bookstore ,too.

    But in my bookstore here, they have Creationist books in the science section. For fun, I pick them up and move them back to religion.

  37. Charles Boyer

    Bought Bad Astronomy at the Alabama Space and Rocket Museum gift shop in Huntsville. Didn’t see it at KSC when I was there, but it would be quite fitting for it to be there.

  38. Navneeth

    Hawking, people! HAW-KING!

  39. T.E.L.

    I once read-in on a discussion where Poster-A kept calling the guy “Hawkins”. Poster-B tried to correct A, but he just said, “No, I’m pretty sure it’s Hawkins.” Poster-B came back with, “I’ve got the guy’s book right here in my hand, now, at this moment. It has his name printed right on the cover. I’m now reading it. It says Hawking.”

  40. Bill

    Well, I say it’s ‘Herkins’, and how DARE you elitists try to tell me I’m wrong?

  41. Na

    I recently left my country and headed to the US; and took my copy of Death from the Skies (I’d ordered it just to read on the trip) with me. I finished it just last week – what a great read! The bonus was that I went to Washington DC for the first time and my last day was spent at the Air and Space Museum (watching a film on black holes in the Albert Einstein planetarium no less!). The great thing was that I’ve never read anything on astronomy before (the book or this site) and understood everything in the film thanks to our Bad Astronomer! :) And when I was in the museum’s shop, I just happened to see ONE lonely copy of Death from the Skies – I guess the rest had been bought (or here’s hoping they were anyway).

    Thanks for the great read Phil!


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