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Death From the Skies of Cuba – No, not the Cuban Missle Crisis

It’s -35 degrees Celcius today outside with the windchill.  It’s cold.  I don’t usually complain about the cold, I can handle it pretty well.  But last week I spent a week of fun, relaxing, drinking and smoking cigars in the beautiful land of Cuba.  It wasn’t -35 degrees, in fact, it was the exact opposite.  It was plus 35 with the humidex.  It was nice.

My wife and I travel by plane about twice a year to relax and get away and by car about 3 times a year usually to visit friends (more often than not we go to CT to visit the Rogues) and do some shopping.  For every trip I bring a book and read it.  It’s my way of totally getting away and “relaxin’ to the max”.

I’ve been wanting to read Phil’s most recent book, Death From the Skies, since it’s been out.  I loved Bad Astronomy, it was one of those books that I just couldn’t put down.  And that doesn’t happen for me with non-fiction books (with the exception of Simon Singh’s Big Bang).  Because I loved Phil’s first book so much, I had huge expectations for DftS.  Which scared me, because usually when I have these types of expectations, I get disappointed (Star Wars prequels anyone?).

On the first day of my trip I sat on the beach, under the hot sun, with the waves of the ocean rolling behind me, an ice cold cerveza in hand, and cracked me open some Death from the Skies.  I stayed there for an hour or two reading and by the end of our beach time that day I was completely hooked on the book.  I also ended up with some pretty nasty sunburn on my chest, face and head, Death from the Skies indeed.

Throughout our trip I just couldn’t put the book down.  Phil’s writing is just at my level.  I’m not an astronomer, I don’t even consider myself an amateur astronomer (is there such a thing as an amateur amateur astronomer?).  But the subject matter fascinates me, I love space, the science behind it and I love to read about disasters, I’m the guy that slows to a crawl when there’s a car accident on the road.  I don’t know why.

The book is divided into chapters that each describe one of the ways the universe will kill us.  They start off with a small scenario, continue to explain the science behind them, and gives the likelyhood of it happening.  I was a little worried about the “science” part.  Don’t get me wrong, I love science, but I’m not a fan of the monotonous, drab and dry scientific talk and jargon.  I love the subject as long as it’s presented to me in a semi-entertaining way.  And in this aspect, Phil doesn’t disappoint.  Phil is able to get all the science and facts out  while still making you laugh out loud and insert words like “higgledy-piggledy”.  It’s a breath of fresh air and funny among all those hard facts and really keeps you interested. 

I don’t think I can fully wrap my head around the numbers in this book though.  They’re huge. Like 10 to the power of one googleplex huge.  It’s kind of unsettling to see a word like “only” just before a number in the trillions.

Death From the Skies is a roller-coaster ride.  You start off with “OMG IM GONNA DIE!!~1” and end with “Is that all you got universe?”.

I hope to see more books from Dr. Plait.  He’s full of awesome.  Thanks Phil for an awesome read.

Displaying some skeptical merchandise in Cuba.  Is that legal?

6 comments to Death From the Skies of Cuba – No, not the Cuban Missle Crisis

  • irishjazz

    Doesn’t Eta Carina just poke above the horizon there in Cuba? That would have made the gamma ray burst chapter just that much more exciting.

  • Jim Shaver

    Thirty-five degrees doesn’t sound like comfortable beach weather to me, Mike. Oh, wait a minute, you switched from Fahrenheit to Celcius. Because you went to Cuba. I get it now. Never mind.

  • IPVlazy

    Yeah, I have wanted to read that book for a while. Hopefully soon a can find some time

  • Yeah I usually can’t stand 35 degrees Celcius, we get that in the summer here when the humidity feels so thick you could cut it with a knife. But most of the time there was a nice cool breeze coming from the ocean so it was very nice. On some occasions the breeze died down and I couldn’t stay there very long, I was forced to go to the beach bar for some shade, and beer.

  • irishjazz

    A minor cultural observation…

    Showing the soles of your feet is, in many cultures, a significant insult on a par with a raised middle finger.

    When my wife was involved in resettling Southeast Asians in minority communities, there were hard feelings on both sides. The Americans carelessly pointed the bottom of their feet at the Asians, and the Asians refused to look the Americans in the eye.

    So while we in the frozen north look at you with envy while you are hanging on the sunny beach, people from Jordan to Malaysia are being flipped off.

  • Take THAT Jordan and Malaysia. 🙂

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