Megacatastrophes! Nine Strange Ways the World Could End, by David Darling and Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Oneworld, RRP£10.99, 256 pages

According to a (possibly misread) Mayan prophecy, the world will end on December 21 2012. The end of the world is always nigh if you believe some crank or other, but the astronomer David Darling and professor of astrobiology Dirk Schulze-Makuch have tackled some of the more plausible doomsday scenarios.

Despite the light-hearted tone, jaunty cover and fun title of this popular science book, there are some seriously horrible ways to go here. Nano-technology could turn the entire planet into grey goo, an exploding star could incinerate us, a meteor the size of Manhattan could turn the world into a wasteland, aliens could invade, a plague could wipe out 1bn people or the Large Hadron Collider could tip us into a different reality.

Megacatastrophes! is short, accessible and entertaining stuff that brings often complex and abstract threats frighteningly to life.

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