Seventeen essays in which the amazing Isaac Asimov once again displays that he is the master of all he surveys.…

Here is the Good Doctor reading between the lines of the Periodic Table; explaining why there are Ice Ages—and when another cometh; playing with the tilt of the Earth’s axis; and speculating on upon the properties of some (as yet) undiscovered elements.

Not to mention explanations of how the Antarctic waters fertilize the Earth; reuminations on the planet beyond Pluto—and predictions as to when, and how, it will be discovered; a look at the brightest objects in the Universe: quasars (and which of these is the brightest); and a staunch defense of Asimov’s own corner of the Universe: New York City.

Whether he’s breaking apart atoms or whizzing through space, Asimov presides over it all with his customary ebullience and brio!

Another solid entry in the F&SF essay collection series, this contains the usual miscellany of well-written essays on interesting topics—geography, astronomy, and so on. Some of the essays are particularly memorable, such as “It’s a Wonderful Town!” in which Asimov defends his beloved home city from the callousness of the rest of the country (and gets some smug satisfaction from the fact that his callousness might have cost Gerald Ford the 1976 presidential election).

The most memorable, however, is the final essay, “Asimov’s Corollary”—a corollary to a “Law” made up by some guy with the unlikely name of Clarke. Clarke’s Law (actually, one of three) states that “When a distinguished by elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.” This is often used, Asimov found, to defend all kinds of pseudoscientific silliness or put artificial limitations on the range of scientific progress (like the common canard about bumblebees being unable to fly). This affords Asimov the opportunity to discuss the implications of Clarke’s Law and how it works in the real world, and the result is an important look at a facet of Asimov’s personal philosophy of science.

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