Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chris Impey's "How it Ends: From You to the Universe"

This is a fun survey of how things end from the death of an individual, to the death of humanity, to the death of a species, to the death of the biosphere, to the death of the sun, to the death of the galaxy, and finally to the death of the universe. Quite a scale and scope for an investigation. But it nicely brings many bits of information together and is quite informative.

The book is readable. The style is solid with only a few bits that drag. But I was greatly disappointed by the quality of the editing. Pictures were missing, textual errors slipped into the final print, and generally the quality was not what you would expect from a published book. When I wrote proposals to be read by at most a dozen people I put more effort into quality control than went into this book. It is shocking. Especially when a publisher can afford expensive tools to check for spelling and print errors and presumably pay to have the final copy proofread.

To give you a very small taste of the text, here's a bit from the section on the death of the earth & sun:
At least we know what we're facing. On a timescale of a billion years, we'll see the merging of the continents (again), a drop in the level of carbon dioxide to below the level needed to support life, followed by the oceans boiling, the surface baking and being sterilized, and then the eventual death spiral and disintegration as our planet falls into the Sun. Astronomers have seen the future and it's not pretty. In 2008, a white dwarf called GD 362 was found to have rocky debris orbiting it, the probably remains of shredded planets.
If you want a quick survey of the demise of you and your world, this book's for you. This is a fun romp through some real science about you and the world around you. It will excite you with some information that you probably don't know and will hopefully make you interested enough to follow it up and learn more. Science is infinitely interesting and informative. While I enjoy fiction, I find books like this are actually a more "gripping story" than most fiction. This stuff is real! And leading edge science is more mind-blowing than any fantasy you can read.

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