Life on Earth can seem pretty hazardous, but if you ask astrophysicist Paul Sutter, it's still safer than anywhere else in the universe.
Sutter, a frequent Space.com contributor, explores all the dangers the universe has on offer in his new book, "How to Die in Space: A Journey Through Dangerous Astrophysical Phenomena" (Pegasus Books, 2020).
From solar flares to wormholes, black holes to dark matter and supernovas to hostile aliens, Sutter touches on a host of astrophysical threats, both known and theoretical. (Read an excerpt from "How to Die in Space.") Sutter sat down with Space.com to share some highlights from writing the book. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Related: Best space and sci-fi books for 2020
Space.com: How did this book come about?
Paul Sutter: I wanted to write this book because I wanted to talk about some really cool astrophysics like stars blowing up, and stars being born and exotic stuff from the earliest moments of the formation of the universe. But as I was writing, as I was researching, I realized that, wow, this is all pretty high-energy stuff. It's all pretty nasty.
As cool as it is, I would hate to actually visit it, because there's a good chance I would die. And that became the genesis for the thread for the entire book: that the universe may be beautiful, but it's actually very, very dangerous.
Space.com: How did you decide which topics to include in the book?
Sutter: I knew from the start that I wanted to take a kitchen-sink approach to this, where I wanted to touch on as many different topics as possible because it's an amazing universe out there and there's a lot going on.
Each one of the topics I could dig down and write an entire book on, but I did want to make it high-level, I wanted to include a lot of things and show the connections between things, how certain kinds of forces and particles operate in very, very different ways and very similar ways throughout the universe to produce the amazing variety of dangers in the universe.
Space.com: What was your favorite topic to write about and why?
Sutter: Oh, picking a favorite topic is like picking a favorite kid, which you do, but you don't tell anyone about. It was really, really fun, I will admit, to write the chapter on wormholes and explain how wormholes don't actually work and they're a very, very bad idea, and generally should be avoided. It was also really fun to explore all the nuanced ways that stars die, and how each one is beautiful in its own way and tragic in its own way, and of course, dangerous in its own way.
Space.com: Are there any topics you considered including that didn't make the cut?
Sutter: I think I managed to get everything in, even if something doesn't get its own chapter. When I ran across something cool, I worked it into some chapter. So at least there's some broad overview of everything.
Space.com: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
Sutter: I hope readers have a lot of fun, I hope readers learn a lot about the universe, and I hope readers stay at home.
Space.com: Can you expand on that?
Sutter: The very first chapter in the book starts with the vacuum of space and how it can immediately kill you in a very grotesque way, and it gets worse from there. So, I encourage everyone to enjoy our universe from a very safe distance.
Space.com: Are there any particularly fun tidbits you stumbled on while researching and writing the book?
Sutter: I've written about wormholes, I've talked about wormholes before but one of the reasons I really enjoyed writing that chapter is, as I read paper after paper on wormholes stretching back, from the 1970s until the present day, I was amazed at how hard physicists have been working to try to get wormholes to work and how nature just won't let us and you can see the frustration in the history of the articles and it was fun to share that frustration.
Space.com: And that's in the last section of the book, the one about speculative threats. Could you talk a bit about that section in general?
Sutter: That was a very fun section to write because so much of the book was known or largely known. Of course, we have questions about everything, we haven't figured out everything about how the universe works, but we generally know what powers say, a solar flare or a supernova. And then we get to the speculative threats.
If we were doing an intergalactic voyage, I felt compelled to talk about some of these things that we're not sure if they exist, we're not sure if they are going to be threats, we're not sure if you're going to encounter them. And so it gave me a chance, an opportunity to give a little bit more fun, to get a little bit more whimsical, to talk about aliens, to talk about cosmic strings, to talk about jumping into a wormhole and explore that this is real research, this is real science, but it is very hypothetical right now.
Space.com: What do you hope readers take away from that section?
Sutter: What I hope people get out of the speculative threats is to recognize and appreciate that we live in a very large, very old, very mysterious universe and that, yes, we've learned a lot in astrophysics and cosmology and astronomy. But we have a lot more still left to learn, and the universe is very much capable of surprising us.
Space.com: What are you excited about right now in space?
Sutter: As I state in the beginning of the book, anything that I write about could change in a moment's notice. I am personally very excited for the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which will launch one of these days, I guess, and will tell us a lot about the formation of stars and the formation of planets.
I'm very excited by exoplanet-hunting missions and the possibility of life outside the Earth. I'm very excited for things like LIGO and the continued detection of gravitational waves and getting more and more understanding about how black holes work and don't work and stretch the limits of known physics.
Basically, everything that's happening in astrophysics, I'm excited [for] in some form.
You can buy "How to Die in Space" on Amazon or Bookshop.org.
Email Meghan Bartels at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
Go here to read the rest:
- Widespread Report on the Global Refracting Telescope Market 2020-2028 with the Leading Players Celestron, Vixen Optics, ASTRO-PHYSICS, ORION, Barska,... - September 8th, 2020
- UK Part of New NSF Physics Frontier Center Focused on Neutron Star Modeling in 'Gravitational Wave Era' - UKNow - September 8th, 2020
- University subject profile: physics - The Guardian - September 8th, 2020
- This triple star system warped the protoplanetary discs around it, new research says - CTV News - September 8th, 2020
- Scientists discover first 'intermediate-mass' black hole in massive merger - Big Think - September 8th, 2020
- Looking skin deep at the growth of neutron stars - Washington University in St. Louis Newsroom - September 8th, 2020
- Scientists detect massive galactic collision between black holes that "aren't supposed to exist" - Boing Boing - September 8th, 2020
- China's secretive 'space plane' makes successful return to Earth - CNET - September 8th, 2020
- New High-Res Images of The Sun Show How Creepy Sunspots Look in Closeup - ScienceAlert - September 6th, 2020
- The End of the Universe Will Probably Be Fairly Disappointing - WIRED - September 6th, 2020
- Zooming In Tight on Dark Matter Equivalent of Being Able to See a Flea on the Surface of the Moon - SciTechDaily - September 6th, 2020
- Indian astronomers discover one of the farthest star galaxies in universe - Livemint - September 6th, 2020
- Astronomers Spot a Black Hole so Massive They Werent Sure it Could Exist - Gizmodo Australia - September 6th, 2020
- Space discoveries that will blow your mind | News | helenair.com - Helena Independent Record - September 6th, 2020
- How neutrons and protons arrange themselves in the nucleus? - Tech Explorist - September 6th, 2020
- Warped gas disc torn apart by three stars directly observed for the first time - ZME Science - September 6th, 2020
- Kentucky by Heart: Many Kentuckians have made their mark in fields of science and technology - User-generated content - September 6th, 2020
- Q&A with Astrophysics Professor, Viktor Ambartsumian International Science Prize winner Adam Burrows - The Daily Princetonian - August 17th, 2020
- Astro Bob: Hubble helps solve the mystery of why Betelgeuse faded - Duluth News Tribune - August 17th, 2020
- The Alternative to Dark Matter May be General Relativity Itself - Astrobites - August 17th, 2020
- This is the way the universe ends: not with a whimper, but a bang - Science Magazine - August 17th, 2020
- The Week of August 17, 2020 - FYI: Science Policy News - August 17th, 2020
- Nearly $13 million in federal funding awarded to University of Rochester for Physics Frontier Center - WWTI - InformNNY.com - August 17th, 2020
- The Last Supernovae - Universe Today - August 17th, 2020
- Astronomers find Milky Way look-alike galaxy 12 billion light-years away - BusinessLine - August 17th, 2020
- Dark Matter Breakthrough Allows Probing Three of the Most Popular Theories, All at the Same Time - SciTechDaily - August 17th, 2020
- Exploding Black Dwarfs Could Be the 'Last Interesting Thing to Happen in the Universe' - Gizmodo UK - August 17th, 2020
- Security Inspection Equipment Market is slated to grow rapidly in the coming years Astrophysics, Smiths Detection, Garrett, C.E.I.A., Rapiscan Systems... - August 17th, 2020
- Lovely Professional Universitys Aerospace Engineering student wins international award - The Tribune India - August 17th, 2020
- Minecraft, Bollywood Dance, and Astrophysics Help College Students Connect With Kids Online - NBC Bay Area - August 10th, 2020
- UR #26: Improved Methods for Ground-Based Follow-Up of Young Stars and Planets from the ZEIT Survey - Astrobites - August 10th, 2020
- Investigating the far-flung reaches of the universe - Times Higher Education (THE) - August 10th, 2020
- Alien life bombshell: Scientist says we will find intelligent life 'within our lifetimes' - Daily Express - August 10th, 2020
- Space roar: NASA detected the loudest sound in the universe, but what is it? - Space.com - August 10th, 2020
- From exploring immigrant identities to treating cancer: U of T awarded 29 Canada Research Chairs - News@UofT - August 10th, 2020
- A deep, giant cloud disruption found on Venus - EarthSky - August 10th, 2020
- Astronomers Sink Their Teeth Into Special Supernova Exploding Stars Produce the Calcium in Our Bones and Teeth - SciTechDaily - August 10th, 2020
- Mysterious 'fast radio burst' detected closer to Earth than ever before - Live Science - August 10th, 2020
- Half of All the Calcium in the Universe: Unprecedented Observations Shine Light on a Dying Stars Final Moments - SciTechDaily - August 10th, 2020
- Rapid Changes Detected in a Black Hole May Explain Origin of the Most Energetic Radiation in the Universe - SciTechDaily - August 10th, 2020
- What is Astrophysics? | Space - August 10th, 2020
- Astrophysics - Wikipedia - August 10th, 2020
- NASA Astrophysics | Science Mission Directorate - August 10th, 2020
- Astro-Physics - Buy Telescopes - August 10th, 2020
- An Epic, Planet-Scale Wave Has Been Hiding in The Toxic Clouds of Venus For Decades - ScienceAlert - August 10th, 2020
- Beyond the Fermi Paradox V: What is the Aestivation Hypothesis? - Universe Today - August 10th, 2020
- 'Roaming reactions' study to shed new light on atmospheric molecules - UNSW Newsroom - August 10th, 2020
- From the Italian Renaissance to the stars: an exciting approach to fulfilling GEs > News > USC Dornsife - USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts... - August 8th, 2020
- This Is How It All Ends - The New York Times - August 8th, 2020
- Ben Collins The Stig Top Gear | Surrey - Surrey Life - August 8th, 2020
- Mega Science On The Cover: Class XI Maharashtra Physics Text Shows Gravitational-Wave Detection By LIGO - Swarajya - August 8th, 2020
- Scientists May Have Just Found The Youngest Neutron Star Ever - Forbes - August 8th, 2020
- 'Roaming reactions' study to shed new light on atmospheric molecules - Science Codex - August 8th, 2020
- 'A space race of sorts': Stanford Space Initiative hopes to cross into space with a 'rockoon' - The Stanford Daily - August 8th, 2020
- From the Manhattan Project, a legacy of discovery and a national burden - Stars and Stripes - August 8th, 2020
- Beyond: Dilhan Eryurt and the Formation of the Sun - Astrobites - August 7th, 2020
- Whats The Loudest Sound In The Universe? - Gizmodo Australia - August 7th, 2020
- Airport Automated Security Screening Systems Market Manufacturers Overview 2020-2027 over the Worldwide Regional Analysis of Industry Trends and... - August 7th, 2020
- From the Manhattan Project, a legacy of discovery and a national burden - Stripes Korea - August 7th, 2020
- Security Inspection Equipment Market 2020 Analysis by Geographical Regions, Type and Application Till 2025 with Top Key Players:Astrophysics, Smiths... - August 7th, 2020
- 7 safe and socially distant things to do in Denver this weekend - The Denver Channel - August 5th, 2020
- Mystery radio signal sent to Earth from closest ever point within Milky Way - New York Post - August 5th, 2020
- Dark Energy Survey census of the smallest galaxies hones the search for dark matter - Stanford University News - August 5th, 2020
- MLB Has Made No Changes To The Baseball And Doesnt Plan To For 2020 - Forbes - August 5th, 2020
- 'The Umbrella Academy 2': Who Plays Lila on the Netflix Series and What Else Has She Been In? - Showbiz Cheat Sheet - August 5th, 2020
- Christopher Keane to serve as chair of the APLU Council on Research - WSU News - August 5th, 2020
- Physicists Measured The Central Engine That Powers Solar Flares For The First Time - ScienceAlert - August 5th, 2020
- Cosmic tango between the very small and the very large - ScienceBlog.com - August 3rd, 2020
- Telescope Market Report 2020: Acute Analysis of Global Demand and Supply 2025 with Major Key Player: Celestron, Meade, Vixen Optics, TAKAHASHI,... - August 3rd, 2020
- NASA Is Blasting Just the Biggest Balloon Into the Stratosphere - Popular Mechanics - August 3rd, 2020
- The universe is nearly 10 percent more homogeneous than expected - Tech Explorist - August 3rd, 2020
- Stadium-sized balloon to carry NASA telescope to the edge of space - New Atlas - August 3rd, 2020
- Security Inspection Equipment Market to witness Massive Growth by 2025 - Bulletin Line - August 1st, 2020
- Differences between discs of active and non-active galaxies detected for the first time - Science Codex - August 1st, 2020
- Megaripple Migration Offers Insights into Martian Atmosphere - Eos - August 1st, 2020
- Football Stadium-Sized Balloon To Carry NASA's Cutting-Edge Astrophysics Observations Telescope To Stratosphere - Swarajya - July 31st, 2020
- Oldest surviving light reveals the universe's true age - Space.com - July 31st, 2020
- Top 5 Stargazing Sites in the DMV Region (Your Backyard Is the 6th!) - Our Community Now at Colorado - July 31st, 2020
- Russia Accused Of Firing Anti-Satellite Weapon From One Of Its Satellites In Space - Forbes - July 31st, 2020
- Astrophysics Black holes had been created initially of all the things they usually had been partly light-bringers - Pledge Times - July 31st, 2020