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Comets: Creators and Destroyers
By David H. Levy
Read By Randy Davidson

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Comets: Creators and Destroyers
By David H. Levy
Read by Randy Davidson
National Library Service, RC 47099
APH, (1999)
This audio book contains 1, 4-track cassette.
Genre: Science - Astronomy

Reviewed by Fritz du Trey - May 13, 2001

Look, in the sky. Is it a plane? Is it a flying saucer? No! It's a comet and you better duck cause it might mean the end of life on earth! Or at least some life. According to current theories, it was a comet that spelled doom for the dinosaurs and it's only be a matter of time before we are next...

In Comets: Creators and Destroyers, David H. Levy, of Shoemaker-Levy 9 fame, gives you a basic overview of what comets are and how they have impacted, both literally and figuratively, the Earth. In all, Levy has discovered twenty-two comets and he is, obviously, passionate about his chosen field. In this book he discuses the physical make up of comets, how they are formed and travel. He also discusses the role that comets might have played on getting life started on the Earth and why there is not intelligent life on the other planets.

While comets may give life, they also seem to take back what they give. According to Levy, in the past comet impacts altered life on earth, and these alterations lead to the extinction of the dinosaurs and other species. Other topics covered include the possibility of earth being hit again with a life threatening comet. Levy describes a chilling scenario were a Shoemaker-Levy 9 sized asteroid to hit the earth. Shoemaker-Levy was an asteroid that hit Jupiter in 1994, and the scars of that impact are still visible today.

Throughout time, comets have affected the human psyche. Our forefathers viewed comets as omens, both good or bad. Apparently we have not, as a species, outgrown our superstitious associations with comets. One example is how the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet was seen as a signal to ascend to the mother ship by some cultist in California.

Along the way, Levy also talks about how he got interested in astronomy and how he, and other astronomers, perform their jobs. He also explains why amateurs are just as likely, if not more so, than professionals, to discover new comets. He also shared a very important secret. The true sign of a dedicated astronomer is that they always name their telescope, even their first little, low powered, kiddie telescope! Besides discussing the history and study of comets, he also talks about the importance of mapping all the earth threatening comets. This is important so that we would have some warning if one was on an intercept course with Earth. With enough warning (we would need years) we might be able to defend ourselves from the threat - otherwise it is duck and cover and hope for the best!

This was a great book. The reader, Randy Davidson, has a wonderful reading voice. His tone was conversational which fit in well with Levy's style of writing. His language is relaxed and there is very little technical jargon in the book. In addition, all scientific matters are explained clearly, without talking down to the reader. I could easily imagine that Levy was personally showing me the wonders of the heavens, and telling me about all the wonders that he has seen.

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Editors note: To the best of my knowledge, this audio book is not available commercially. It was recorded especially for the Library of Congress' National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). To borrow this tape you need to be a qualified user of the NLS. You can find more information about the NLS via there website at:

Also, this book was never issued in large print. However, the paperback, standard print version of Comets: Creators and Destroyers is still in-print.

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