Earth-shattering : Violent Supernovas, Galactic Explosions, Biological Mayhem, Nuclear Meltdowns, and Other Hazards to Life in Our Universe
by Berman, Bob

A heart-pumping exploration of the biggest explosions in history, from the Big Bang to mysterious activity on Earth and everything in between

The overwhelming majority of celestial space is inactive and will remain forever unruffled. Similarly, more than 90 percent of the universe's 70 billion trillion suns had non-attention-getting births and are burning through their nuclear fuel in steady, predictable fashion. But when cosmic violence does unfold, it changes the very fabric of the universe, with mega-explosions and ripple effects that reach the near limits of human comprehension. From colliding galaxies to solar storms, and gamma ray bursts to space-and-time-warping upheavals, these moments are rare yet powerful, often unseen but consequentially felt.

Likewise, here on Earth, existence as we know it is fragile, always vulnerable to hazards both natural and manufactured. As we've learned from textbooks and witnessed in Hollywood blockbusters, existential threats such as biological disasters, asteroid impacts, and climate upheavals have the all-too-real power to instantaneously transform our routine-centered lives into total chaos, or much worse. While we might be helpless to stop these catastrophes-whether they originate on our own planet or in the farthest reaches of space-the science behind such cataclysmic forces is as fascinating as their results can be devastating.

In Earth-Shattering, astronomy writer Bob Berman guides us through an epic, all-inclusive investigation into these instances of violence both mammoth and microscopic. From the sudden creation of dazzling "new stars" to the furiously explosive birth of our moon, from the uncomfortable truth about ultra-high-energy cosmic rays bombarding us to the incredible ways in which humanity has harnessed cataclysmic energy for its gain, Berman masterfully synthesizes some of our worst fears into an astonishing portrait of the universe that promises to transform the way we look at the world(s) around us.

In the spirit of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carlo Rovelli, what emerges is a rollicking, profound, and even humbling exploration of all the things that can go bump in the night.

Bob Berman, one of America's top astronomy writers, is the author of Zapped, Zoom, and The Sun's Heartbeat. He contributed the popular "Night Watchman" column for Discover for seventeen years and is currently a columnist for Astronomy, a host on Northeast Public Radio, and the science editor of The Old Farmer's Almanac. He lives in Willow, New York.

The universe is a weird, warped, violent place. And that's the good news.Life is hard, and it'll be harder still when Andromeda goes sliding into the Milky Way in an inevitable collision of galaxies, even if "colliding galaxies are mostly smoke and mirrors." Fortunately, writes science writer and Astronomy columnist Berman (Zapped: From Infrared to X-rays, the Curious History of Invisible Light, 2017, etc.), this won't happen for "sometime sooner than four billion years from now." From the point of view of Earth, if there is an Earth, it'll just be a sort of weird warping of space and time. Cataclysm is the universe's constant; as the author writes, it's a "a bumper-car ride" out there, but more than that, it's a place where the collision of worlds produces startling effects. One example is our moon, which, by the increasingly regnant theory today, was born when a Mars-size planet with oxygen smacked into Earth, blowing a chunk out to become a satellite of our home. Against t his backdrop, the current wave of mass extinctions of life on Earth has many precedents in our planet's history, which doesn't make it any more palatable. Berman writes with verve and vigor about such things as the Snowball/Slushball catastrophe, the Cambrian explosion, the meteor collision that produced the Chicxulub Crater ("giant tsunamis the height of sixty-story buildings spread across the Caribbean"), novas and supernovas and H-bomb tests, and all manner of suchlike terrors. Sometimes the prose can get cutesy, in the catchy way of pop-magazine writing: "And although the jury may be out on the success of the Big Bang…we members of Homo bewilderus can shrug it all off with a ‘Don't blame me, I wasn't even there' innocence." But mostly, Berman's book is a pleasing excursion into the hows and whys of how the universe—our universe, anyway—took shape and how it works—except when it doesn't. Just the book for a bright teenager interested in astro n omy and geosciences. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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