Some days the only thing that gets me through the onslaught of bad news is listening to Tim Minchin songs and reading Phil Plait’s blog, Bad Astronomy. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/
Dr. Plait is an astronomer who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as an author and lecturer. He’s written two books and I highly recommend them both: Bad Astronomy and Death From the Skies! They are written in a fun, light-hearted manner, but the science is all spot-on (as you would expect.)
I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about astronomy, in a non-science major kind of way, but Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing “Hoax” taught me a lot. It covers everything from the Coriolis Effect to UFO’s. One of the most interesting chapters was the one that lists all the arguments of the people who believe the moon landing was a hoax and then tears them apart. The chapter titled Bad Astronomy Goes Hollywood: The Top-Ten Examples of Bad Astronomy in Major Motion Pictures was great fun, too.
Death from the Skies!: These Are the Ways the World Will End . . . , his second book, really appeals to that part of us that loves to see things blow up. He tells us in great (and amusing) detail how the universe could kill us, covering asteroid impacts, supernovae, black holes, gamma-ray bursts and many other horrific possibilities. Someone from the Syfy Channel is probably combing through this book right now looking for ideas for more movies of the week.
His award-winning Bad Astronomy website is an oasis of sanity and often beauty. He posts gorgeous photos of space as well as short videos of things like the aurora borealis or sunspots forming on the sun. He covers astronomy news and debunks pseudoscience as well. If you need a break from high gas prices, the latest natural disaster and 2012 election news, check out his site and remember that, in Carl Sagan’s words, “The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.”