How it Ends: From You to the Universe Paperback – 17 Jun 2011
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A scientific view of the apocalypse unfolds in this tour of terminations. . . . Impey entertains as he informs about the facts of life and death. "
Eminently readable. . . . Impey injects humor throughout. "
About the Author
Chris Impey is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona. In addition to his critically acclaimed books How It Began and How It Ends, he has written two astronomy textbooks and has won many teaching awards. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
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Chris Impey has and this book provides some interesting answers and reflection.
If you're an American or a citizen of another developed nation, your life will probably end as a result of cancer or heart disease. But don't be expecting to make it to 100 or more unless that's in your family history.
From the individual, Impey glides gently into our future as a species. Here is very helpfully guided by some great insight including from J. Richard Gott. Though Gott is a physicist, he's also a great thinker and in his book Time Travel in Einstein's Universe Gott came up with what he called the Copernican principle which says that if we're seeing something, odds are we're not in a very privileged position.
To be more clear, the Copernican principle posits that if we want to predict the future duration of a thing we assume that we are either observing that thing 2.5 percent into its life or more than 2.5 percent before it's demise. In this way, Gott predicts humanity will last at least another five thousand years and maybe as many as another 11 million years.
Of course, our fate is bound up with that of our planet and our biosphere. Here Impey draws on great insight from the likes of Peter Ward whose 2000 book Rare Earth shocked the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Community by suggesting that Earth, and intelligent life along with it, might not just be rare but maybe even close to one of a kind. In terms of the future, what that means is that all the things that frustrate the emergence of life elsewhere might contribute to the likelihood of its demise here.
In this regard, Impey gives very thorough descriptions of verious forms of celestial threats to our planet from asteroid impact to solar flares. Spoiler alert: Our biggest threat aside from ourselves is probably from asteroids.
Beyond Earth, Impey discusses the time frames of natural solar demise and of the possible eventual fate of creation itself.
Along the way, Impey is a fun accessible guide and a great teacher. As mentioned, he relies on great resources and provides very excellent food for thought.
I highly recommend this book!
It has to be said that focussed mental effort is needed to comprehend Impey, but also that the book is perhaps a uniquely informative account for non-experts of the state and history of our universe. Anyone who is (a) smart and (b) intellectually curious should certainly attempt it.
There is surely no more accessible and authoritative account for the lay person of how the universe came to be what it is. Some people may of course prefer the simpler story in Genesis.
Ironically, Chris Impey's How It Ends is really a quest to discover where we are going. Impey does this consistently by exploring the lives of larger structures such as the Fate of species, Beyond Natural Selection, The Web of Life, Threats to the Biosphere, Living in the Solar System, the Sun's Demise, Our Galactic Habitat and finally, How the Universe Ends.
We are immediately shaken by the reality that Impey bestows through his work. Yet, our eyes are opened to the vague concerns we all foster in the back of our minds. Of course, the amount of time involved for nature to carry out her demise is daunting to comprehend. But scientists are grappling with ever more unsettling ideas than things phasing out. Impey concludes that even though life may seem distressing, it's still great to know that we are alive.