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

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

by Bob Berman


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316511353
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 02/19/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,255,949
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

Part I Cataclysms In The Heavens

Chapter 1 Cataclysms 101 3

Chapter 2 It Really Was a Big Bang 11

Chapter 3 The Death of Cousin Theia 20

Chapter 4 Spooky Things That Went Bang 29

Chapter 5 Blame It on the Supernova 41

Chapter 6 Armageddon Monument 53

Chapter 7 Tycho Versus Kepler: Dueling Detonations 65

Chapter 8 When Galaxies Collide 74

Chapter 9 Magnetic Violence 80

Chapter 10 The Lethal Antimatter Fountain 84

Chapter 11 Dangerous Bubbles 89

Chapter 12 The Exploding Galaxy Next Door 94

Chapter 13 Waiting for a Carrington Cataclysm 99

Chapter 14 Can We Trust Space Itself? 108

Chapter 15 The Final Supernova 123

Chapter 16 The 2017 Kilonova 129

Part II Cataclysms Of Earth

Chapter 17 The Oxygen Holocaust 137

Chapter 18 The Greatest Mass Extinction 141

Chapter 19 The Dino Saur Show Gets Canceled 147

Chapter 20 Snowball Earth 155

Chapter 21 The Plague 161

Chapter 22 Just the Flu 169

Chapter 23 The Second World War 175

Chapter 24 Nuclear Cataclysms 178

Chapter 25 A New State Capital? 188

Chapter 26 Secrets of Chernobyl 195

Chapter 27 The Hybrid Cataclysm 204

Chapter 28 That Thermonuclear Business 213

Chapter 29 Modern Meteors and Flipping Poles 228

Chapter 30 When It Sure Seemed Like the Apocalypse 236

Chapter 31 Invading Our Bodies Today 247

Part III Tomorrow's Cataclysms

Chapter 32 Collision with Andromeda 257

Chapter 33 Upcoming Cataclysms 265

Chapter 34 Holocene Extinction 271

Chapter 35 The Sun Has the Last Word 276

Acknowledgments 283

Notes 285

Index 297

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