The ScienceBlogs Book Club

Originally posted by Mike Dunford
On March 6, 2009, at 8:24 AM

A few weeks ago, I read, enjoyed, and reviewed Phil Plait’s Death From the Skies. After I caught my daughter looking at the book a couple of times, I managed to bribe convince her to write a review of the book. The result is the following review. I fixed the formatting a little bit, but I had absolutely no role in the development of the text.

i-efdfc294bae87482cd8c3331579e27d9-plait.pngDeath From the Skies

When I got death from the skies I thought that it would be about people getting an unpleasant visit from flaming meteors, I was wrong. It was about the ways the world will end. I then got depressed and then got an unsettling rush of emotions all at once. Now many people are convinced that I’m bi-polar! But seriously, the book is good. I’ll give it that much.

I like that the book isn’t full of made up stuff. I like that it has something to do with people getting a wake up call from meteors as well. But what I like the most is that Philip Plait addresses it calmly. He says it as calmly as saying that dinner is ready. So that makes me a little calm instead of losing my mind and making my will with crayons.

What I hate about the book is that the calmness in his voice makes it a tad bit more depressing. It’s like he doesn’t care about the world ending. I also hate that the book isn’t a fantasy or sci-fi book. I don’t like non-fiction that much, but it makes sense. But that’s MY opinion about the book.

In YOUR opinion this book could be boring, fantastic, ok, perfect, imperfect, etc. But that’s for you to find out. I’m not the kind to tell you straight out about something. So my advice is to buy the book. But to be on the safe side (since I don’t have a lawyer just yet) say that this is a good book again. So visit your local Barnes and Nobel’s, get a Starbucks coffee of your choice, find this book, get a seat, and read a few pages of it. If you like it buy it. If you don’t then don’t buy it. It’s that simple!

PS I’m serious about the bi-polar thing.


  1. #1 Frank Adams
    May 18, 2009

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this page turner ["Death From The Skies! These Are The Ways The World Will End" by Philip Plait, Ph.D.] … until I reached page 270. I had a passing acquaintance with many of the ideas illuminated by Plait because anyone well-read should be familiar with the Universe in which we reside. Can you imagine living in a house knowing little about it or its history? But at page 270 I was slammed by the fact that even a learned professor can be led astray by political correctness: first sentence, top of the page (Viking edition, hardback) – “When an astronomer … ‘she’ doesn’t mean … ‘she’ is also implying …” (emphasis added). Are all astronomers female? Are female astronomers the only astronomers capable of meaning things and implying ideas? The language used by the writer is both imprecise and exclusivist with the result that it becomes divisive, sexist and detracting. The correct terminology is “he” which grammatical construct includes all people whether of the male or female sex. This is the historical context of the language having long sufficed to describe the total included class and I find it amazing that learned people fall into the trap laid by those pushing certain agendas that divide people and devalue learning.
    Why is this seeming quibble important? If a person of such educational stature as Plait cannot differentiate such elementary distinctions in the discussion of such topics as cerebral as astronomy and its cousin cosmology, then those esoteric theories become even more suspect because the astute reader is left with doubt – is the author writing fiction or truth? (If the error were in the theory itself room for doubt is diminished considerably since it is in the substance of the argument for which we are presumably to be persuaded. When the error is in conveying of the ideas, then doubt is increased by magnitudes as to the substance.)
    Further, on page 310 the author acknowledges no belief “in the supernatural of any kind”. How utterly self-serving and even laughable! It always amuses me that such science writers insist on parading the perfunctory, “pious” disclaimers (deliberately aimed at the supposed religious whom the politically correct hold in great contempt) in order to polish credentials. In this book the reader will find ideas, thoughts and theories that are offered as plausible but denied as having any hint of the supernatural even as those musings lean far more toward the science fiction than should be comfortable to one writing serious science. I found myself looking to see any hint of a creator hiding behind the multitudinous alternate universe explanations for that which remains inexplicable only because humankind has not yet the capacity to explain origins and endings. The skitter around the philosophy of existence in the name of being “scientific” has been the elephant in the room for far too long and does a grave disservice to both science and philosophy (as expressed in religion).
    The book is a fun read. However, because we are exposed to these two fundamental mistakes by the author it remains unworthy of serious discussion until unspoken denials are faced by those who must admit they are pushing a certain slant upon the readership, i.e. (anti)religion gussied up as superiorly scientific prose.