How to die in space A journey through dangerous astrophysical phenomena

Paul M. Sutter, 1982-

Book - 2020

"So you've fallen in love with space and now you want to see it for yourself, right? You want to witness the birth of a star, or visit the black hole at the center of our galaxy? You want to know if there are aliens out there, or how to travel though a wormhole? You want the wonders of the universe revealed before your very eyes? Well stop, because all that will probably kill you. From mundane comets in our solar backyard to exotic remnants of the Big Bang, from dying stars to young galaxies, the universe may be beautiful, but it's treacherous. Using metaphors and easy-to-understand language, How to Die in Space breathes fresh life into astrophysics, unveiling how particles and forces and fields interplay to create the drama the heavens above us"--

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2nd Floor 523.01/Sutter Checked In
New York : Pegasus Books 2020.
Main Author
Paul M. Sutter, 1982- (author)
First Pegasus books cloth edition
Physical Description
xii, 354 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (page 329-343) and index.
  • Prologue: A Disclaimer
  • Part 1. Interplanetary Threats
  • The Vacuum
  • Asteroids and Comets
  • Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections
  • Cosmic Rays
  • Part 2. Interstellar Threats
  • Stellar Nurseries
  • Stellar-Mass Black Holes
  • Planetary Nebulae
  • White Dwarves and Novae
  • Part 3. Intergalactic Threats
  • Supernovae
  • Neutron Stars and Magnetars
  • Supermassive Black Holes
  • Quasars and Blazars
  • Part 4. Speculative Threats
  • Cosmic Strings and Miscellaneous Spacetime Defect
  • Dark Matter
  • Hostile Miens
  • Wormholes
  • Epilogue: A Final Warning
  • Endnotes
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

Astrophysicist Sutter has some advice for anyone interested in exploring our universe: don't. It's really dangerous out there, and How to Die in Space catalogs the many things that can kill you when you venture into space. Sutter uses this humorous premise to explain the current best understanding of the cosmos and the physics behind it, macro to quantum, covering everything from local hazards like comets and solar flares, to more distant threats like planetary nebulae and all the various ways stars can incinerate you as they die, to deeply mysterious monsters like white dwarves, quasars, and black holes. He even delves into purely theoretical ideas such as dark matter, wormholes, and the possibility of alien intelligence. He has a gift for explaining cutting-edge physics and quantum mechanical concepts with clarity in nonspecialist terms, often utilizing delightful similes. The tongue-in-cheek alarmist tone offsets Sutter's deep fascination, and his joy of discovery is infectious. This accessible overview of our bizarre universe will encourage readers to delve deeper and learn more.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

"You're not going to make it in space... space is nasty," writes SUNY Stonybrook research professor Paul Sutter (Your Place in the Universe) in the prologue to his wildly entertaining survey of the many materials, objects, and phenomena that can kill anyone who leaves Earth's comparatively safe confines. Those hoping to find a new home on other planets won't find much solace either, due to the sulfuric acid rain on Venus and the dense atmosphere of Jupiter, to name two perils. As for space travel, Sutter identifies asteroids, the magnetic fields of the sun (not to mention the heat), and exploding stars as just a few of the obstacles awaiting would-be explorers. Among the few things readers won't be left worrying about are hostile aliens, since there's no proof that extraterrestrial life, friendly or otherwise, exists. Sutter's tone is suffused with enthusiasm for his topic and with disarming humor (the black hole chapter opens with "Admit it, you skipped right here without reading any of the previous chapters"). Funny and informative, Sutter's gleefully bleak interstellar survey will foster a greater appreciation for humanity's home, and a deeper understanding of space. Agent: Lane Heymont, Tobias Agency. (June)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Sure, space travel sounds like fun--but there are countless ways to die out there. Comets, black holes, radiation, solar flares, neutron stars, supernovae--the universe is endlessly creative in devising phenomena that make leaving the comfortable atmosphere of Earth a risk. "Space is nasty," writes astrophysicist Sutter, who adopts an informal, humorous persona in this book-length warning to aspiring astronauts: "Let's sketch out the most dangerous parts of the solar system: The solar system. There, that was easy." It's a refreshing approach to a vast and complex subject, and the author doesn't skimp on the science despite his non-serious tone. He walks readers through the physics of familiar dangers such as asteroids ("rocks that are looking for a target") and unstable stars ("slumbering dragon[s], just waiting for the chance to awaken and begin breathing flame") as well as more exotic elements--e.g., the "deadly, poisonous embrace" of the white dwarf or "the infinite density" of a black hole's singularity. Sutter also covers what he calls "speculative threats," which include "relics of the ancient universe" such as dark matter, cosmic strings, or the alluring possibility of aliens and wormholes. The author's analyses are deeply researched and enormously interesting, and he navigates the nuances of new science and evolving knowledge deftly, with nontechnical readers in mind. In the end, Sutter shifts slightly from his doomsday focus to reveal his serious enthusiasm for humankind's future as intergalactic explorers. "I wrote these chapters to weed out the weak and unwilling. To scare some sense into them," he writes. "For the remaining, the more foolish and daring and curious than usual, this book is a guide. It's really an excuse to talk about all the wonderful physics happening in the cosmos….There is so much to learn, and we need to study it as closely and intimately as possible." Sutter's macabre humor and lucid science writing make this an entertaining read with mass appeal. (8 pages of color photos) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.