Isaac Asimov once again tackles the mysteries of the unierse—and conquers them all in true Asimovian style—in seventeen new essays.
Here is the Good Doctor holding forth on all manner of heavenly bodies: everything from hyperasteroids and the five rings of Uranus to the staellites of the planet Mars and miniblack holes that disappear.
Then drawing on his infinite wisdom he explains the race for absolute zero; the case of the perfect gas; and the dawning of a new age in mathematics—heralded by the death of the slide rule and the birth of the pocket calculator.
Not to mention essays on the fifty million civilizations in our Galaxy that are more advanced than our own; the continent of Antarctica and how it came to be discovered; evern a rather philosophical consideration of the subtle differences that distinguish life from death.
All flights of speculation, prognostication, and enlightenment that only Asimov could conjure.
Had not Ed Seiler and Rich Hatcher obsoleted it, one of the main reasons for owning this F&SF essay collection would be its definitive—as of 1979—listing of all of the F&SF essays—as of 1979—what they‘re about and where they can be found. Of course, the listing only includes 238 essays, and the series officially includes 400 (with the 400th being something Janet Asimov patched together after the Good Doctor’s death). Still, it was wonderful to have when the book originally came out.
Of course, this is still a worthwhile volume (what F&SF essay collection isn’t?). The first two essays are dear to the heart of fans (like me) who are fond of “The Feeling of Power” and An Easy Introduction to the Slide Rule, those of us who are old enough to remember when one learned long division with the expectation that one might be called upon to actually use it in daily life.
Also outstanding are some essays at the end of the book which deal with the problem of how many civilizations there might be roaming the Galaxy, and why the heck aren’t more of them hanging around here. (Asimov did not believe that UFOs consisted of extraterrestrials hanging around here.) This was a theme to be treated more thoroughly in Extraterrestrial Civilizations.
In between we have essays on the arctic and antarctic (not surprising for a man who had just written The Ends of the Earth), cold temperature physics, Phobos and Deimos— all kinds of stuff.
All in all a solid collection and one more than worth the effort to obtain or read.