Cover of The Planet That Wasn’t
Book 175 Science Essays 1976
Good Taste The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories
3 spaceships-and-suns
Asimov fan
3 spaceships-and-suns
Target reader

Here is the latest collection of thoughts, speculations, arguments, and notions from Isaac Asimov—his twelfth book of essays compiled from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, where all them originally appeared.

Dr. Asimov has chosen to arrange these pieces in order of increasing controversiality. They range from fascinating observations on astronomy, chemistry, and biology to challenging opinions about science, technology, religion, mythology, and the future of man. Along they way he manages to offer fresh perspectives on an astonishing variety of subjects—the planet that wasn’t (Vulcan), the canals on Mars (nonexistent), rainbows and Isaac Newton, the smell of electricity, ozone and the freon menace, the colonialization of space, flying saucers, cholesterol, and the Star of Bethlehem.

As always, Dr. Asimov brings his own special wit, wisdom, and enthusiasm to any topic that captures his attention. The result is a delightful, enlightening, provocative anthology from the most popular science writer of our time.…

It is hard under the worst of circumstances to dislike an F&SF essay collection; this one is no exception. While every essay here is good and worthwhile there are, as usual, some that stand out.

The first several essays are included among the standouts, since they deal with the (then) recent discoveries regarding the various planets as advanced probes skimmed past them.

We also have some social commentary in the form of “The Wicked Witch is Dead” and “The Nightfall Effect” on witches (obviously) and popular opposition to space exploration (shades of “Trends”!). “The Rocketing Dutchman” is a calm and reasoned explanation of Asmiov’s attitude regarding UFO’s.

The two most important essays, however, are towards and at the end: “Thinking about Thinking,” on the nature of intelligence and its measurements, and especially “The Judo Argument,” which debunks many of the popular anti-science pro-God arguments littering the intellectual landscape. (Unlike Asimov, I am myself not an atheist—but I share his annoyance at the shoddy logic so often used to prove God’s existence.)

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