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“Bad Astronomer” Phil Plait to Speak at Convocation about Death From the Skies

October 5, 2012

Phil Plait, an astronomer and author/creator of the “Bad Astronomy” website and blog, will present Carleton College’s weekly convocation on Friday, Oct. 12. Titled “Death From the Skies!,” Plait’s presentation is based on his book of the same name, which explores various means of human extinction through astronomical disasters like asteroid impacts and supernovae. Convocation is held from 10:50-11:50 a.m. in the Skinner Memorial Chapel, and it is free and open to the public. This convocation won't be live streamed, nor will an on-demand video be made available. 

“Death From the Skies!” (Viking Adult, 2008) “uses cataclysmic scenarios to explain the universe’s most fascinating events.” Plait attempts to explain astronomical concepts in relatively simple terms and uses threats to Earth to illustrate the phenomena that shape our universe. While admitting that the odds of each event happening (including death by black hole, death by comet, death by alien conquest and many other forms of death) is very low, Plait reminds us that outer space is not as remote as we often like to imagine.

Plait is best known for “Bad Astronomy,” a website and corresponding blog on the Discovery Channel’s website, which is designed to educate the public about astronomy and debunk popular misconceptions about the field. His subjects include the conspiracy theories surrounding the Apollo 11 moon landing as well as such topics as “Debunking the Planet X Nonsense.” The website also seeks to discredit inaccurate portrayals of astronomy in movies like “Deep Impact” and “The Core” and in other aspects of popular culture. Plait’s first book, “Bad Astronomy” (John Wiley & Sons, 2002), is based on the website, which has also been featured in Science magazine and won a Weblog Award (or “Bloggie”) in 2007 (as well as being a finalist in 2006). Plait is also a fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which promotes the use of reason in investigating the so-called “paranormal.”

Plait, who received his doctorate from the University of Virginia, is a former contractor at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, working for ten years with the Hubble Space Telescope. He taught for ten years at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif., working on public outreach programs for satellites like GLAST, Swift and XMM-Newton, before leaving in 2007 to write full-time. Plait has been featured on numerous websites and television programs as well as hosting a three-part documentary miniseries on the Discovery Channel in 2010, “Bad Universe.” In 2001 a colleague named an asteroid in the solar system’s asteroid belt “165347 Philplait” in his honor.

For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton College Office of College Relations at (507) 222-4308. Skinner Memorial Chapel is located on First Street between College and Winona Streets in Northfield.