Search Results : Isaac Asimov

Jan 022019
 

Published 39 years ago in 1979, Isaac Asimov discussed the possibilities of finding intelligent life in his book Extraterrestrial Civilizations. This has been on my reading list for quite a long time, but I just now got the notion to mark it off. Having read literally all of Asimov’s fiction, I thought it was time to read more of his non-fiction. Unwittingly, I finished this just a week or two before his birthday, which by the way was 99 years ago today!

I was thinking Extraterrestrial Civilizations would be a discussion on what civilizations might be like when if/when we discover them, or they discover us. It turned out to be more of a thought experiment, methodically laying out probabilities based on list of assumptions. Most of these assumptions were made with what scientific knowledge there was available at the time. Asimov was very careful to speckle the book with asterisks noting that if certain assumptions would change in the future, the predictions would be changed or invalidated. Continue reading »

Jun 042017
 

My favorite science fiction writer by far is Isaac Asimov (1920-1992). One of the main reasons I started this website was to document my re-reading of his Robot and Foundation books. I recount my introduction to his writing in my post celebrating his 90th birthdayThere I mention starting to read his autobiography. That actually was the first volume, In Memory Yet Green (1970) covering his life from 1920-1954. It was an out of print low quality hard back copy. I still have that volume, but for some reason I never got around to finishing it. My last bookmarked page was 167 of 708. His next volume was In Joy Still Felt (1980) covering his life from 1954-1978. I fully intended on reading both of those, then finally his third volume (for this review) I, Asimov: A Memoir (1992).

Since my post in 2010, I’ve shifted almost all of my reading to ebook formats. Unfortunately I could not find any of the old volumes on ebook. My physical copy of In Memory Yet Green sat on the shelf collecting dust, literally! Sometime last year there was a sale on this book on the Google Play Store for just a buck or two. I snatched it up immediately and put it on my short list to read after finishing John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series which I was in the middle of at the time.

For a while I was frozen with indecision. Should I dig harder and try to find the first two volumes in ebook format? Drudge through the physical copy I had and then find the out of print second volume? Luckily I checked out some of the reviews. This third volume isn’t just 1978-(present at time of publish), but covers his entire life. The format is also not strictly chronological, but jumps from subject to subject. I was hesitant at first, partially from having a tendency to want to read things chronologically, even if they are published out of order (see my reading project). The more I thought about it, the closer I came to realizing it didn’t matter! I could read the third volume, then go back and read the first two, and maybe the third again! There is actually a 4th autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life (2002) that was edited after his death by his second wife Janet Jeppson Asimov. I plan on reading as well, possibly before the first two volumes.

If you are at all interested in Isaac Asimov, or science fiction in general, you must read this book. Having already had a false start on In Memory Yet Green, I can say I enjoyed this format better. Most “chapters,” which I will call topics, are at most five to ten pages in length. This makes for easy stopping points. I found myself reading many topics throughout the day, with several back to back during my lunches, where I normally spend most of my time reading. Continue reading »

Jan 022014
 

I just ran across an article on Isaac Asimov’s predictions for 2014 from 50 years ago. I was thinking of a blog post to start out the year, and this popped out as a good opportunity. As anyone that reads this blog should know, Isaac Asimov is my favorite writer. His birthday is unknown for certain, but he chose to celebrate it on January 2nd. More information here. Anyway, back in 1964 at The World’s Fair, he made a few predictions. Some of the more accurate ones are below describing video phones, Robots, vehicular robots (Google car?), “Wall Screens” (not quite yet but very close), and a eerily accurate population estimate.

“Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.”

“Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”

“Vehicles with ‘Robot-brains’ … can be set for particular destinations … that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”

“Wall screens will have replaced the ordinary set; but transparent cubes will be making their appearance in which three-dimensional viewing will be possible.”

“The world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000.”

Some of the more comical misses are below:

“Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014.”

“The most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!”

I also have a prediction for today, the birth of a friend’s baby that is now one week overdue. It would be awesome to share a birthday with Isaac Asimov, right?

For the complete list and link to the original article, click the links below.

Via Open Culture

New York Times

Mar 122011
 

I ran across this ad recently for an amazing new product, promoted by my own favorite science fiction author, Isaac Asimov.

Radio Shack’s TRS-80 Pocket Computer turned my dreams into a reality. Now I can take the power of a true computer with me wherever I go.
— Isaac Asimov

The marketing guys chime in a few paragraphs later.

And it can also function just like a calculator — something a desktop computer can’t do.
— Radio Shack

Wait, what!? With a standard calculator included in just about every phone that I can think of, it is hard to imagine a desktop computer ever existing without that ability. Crazy, right? Now that I think of it, it wasn’t too far in the distant past that desktop computers couldn’t be used for voice communications, something a simple phone could do. So what does $169.95 actually get you?

From Dave Dunfield’s old computer page:

The machine was actually a Radio Shack branded version of the Sharp PC-1211, which features:

  • Sharp SC43177/SC43178 4-bit CPU running at 256khz
  • 1×24 character LCD display
  • 57 key “Qwerty” keyboard
  • 1.5k of RAM for user program storage
  • Pizoelectric buzzer

Be sure to check out the full breakdown at Dave’s TRS-80 Pocket Computer page

As a point of comparison, here are a few highlights of Motorola’s Droid 2 tech specs:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 480×854 Pixel display (Characters displayed depends on the font)
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • 8GB flash (expandable to 32GB)
  • Support for stereo bluetooth (not sure if actual speaker is stereo or not)
  • 100’s of other features like camera, video capture, streaming video, and get this includes the ability to make phone calls. Sadly though, it can’t make you breakfast… yet.

Let me whip out my calculator on my i7 Desktop Computer! The Droid 2 has a 3,906.25 times faster processor (just based on clock rate, not actual computational power) and has 5,592,405.33 times more storage. That seems crazy right? The TRS-80 pocket computer came out in 1980, about 20 years ago. I wonder how people will feel about our state of the art smartphones in 2020? That is assuming we haven’t been taken over by robots gone wild, destroyed ourselves with nukes, or succumbed to a raging nano-plague. But that is all just science fiction.

Isaac Asimov promotes Radio Shack's TRS-80 Pocket Computer

Isaac Asimov promotes Radio Shack's TRS-80 Pocket Computer

Mar 062011
 

I’ve said here many times that Isaac Asimov is my favorite author. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I read “The Last Question,” Asimov’s favorite short story written by himself. Last night I stumbled across a story called “The Last Answer.” At first I thought, “hey, I’ve read this before,” then did a double-take. It was “Answer,” not “Question.” This story focused on the afterlife instead of entropy. They are both good stories, however I agree with Asimov in his opinion that “The Last Question” is better. I highly suggest reading them both, but I’m not sure what order to recommend. I’ll list the links in order of publication, so you decide. Read both stories before looking at the comments on either one, because they are filled with spoilers.

“The Last Question” – Isaac Asimov (1956)

“The Last Answer” – Isaac Asimov (1980)

Jan 092011
 

I just got a Stumble to Pharyngula’s science blog that has a link to a YouTube video of Isaac Asimov. He is speaking about what he thought the top science story of 1988 was. I like running across videos of him speaking because it is nice to put a voice and face to my favorite author. The video goes out of sync about half way through unfortunately. Check it out!

Via Pharyngula

Jan 022010
 

Nobody is sure when exactly Isaac Asimov was born due to poor record keeping. January 2nd, 1920 was the day Isaac Asimov decided to celebrate his birthday. Along with creating the Three Laws of Robotics, Asimov also unintentionally coined the term robotics. It was first used in print when his short story “Liar!” was published in 1941. He was constantly writing in just about every area of literature. I have primarily read his Science Fiction, but he has done textbooks, humor, mystery, non-fiction, and more.

My first exposure to Asimov’s writing was when my father gave me an old worn out copy of I, Robot. I tucked the book away for a few years and eventually got around to reading it. I was so enthralled with the robots that I eventually read every robot book by him and other authors. This naturally led me to read the Foundation series which I also enjoyed, but I’ve always preferred the robot series. The Robot and Foundation books make up the biggest reading project I have ever completed. Aside from those, I’ve read a bit of his autobiography and plan on sampling some of his other writing in the near future.

By the time I discovered Asimov, he had already died. I wonder how much more he could have written had he not contracted HIV from a blood transfusion he received during heart surgery. He died of myocardial and renal complications on April 6, 1992, but the true cause of his death wasn’t publicized due to the stigma of HIV/AIDS at the time. His work has greatly influenced my love of Science Fiction, and for that I am thankful.

For more information on the life of Isaac Asimov, please visit the official Wikipedia post

Sep 272009
 

Book Cover

In 1992, the year of his death, Isaac Asimov was awarded the Hugo Award for best novella for writing Gold. This story, along with many others was published in 1995. Along with 14 other short stories, there are collections of essays called “On Science Fiction,” and “Writing Science Fiction.” Interestingly enough, I found the essays much more interesting than the stories themselves. I think this is partly because I have read a TON of his fiction, but haven’t got around to reading his non-fiction.  I’ll give a brief overview of the essays, saving the stories for later. Continue reading »

Jan 022008
 

Happy birthday Isaac Asimov! I started casually reading “In Memory Yet Green,” last month in my spare time. I would take it with me to places I expected to wait like the doctor’s office or something like that. It has been satisfying to finally get to know the author of my favorite science fiction series. According to this first volume of his autobiography, there is no real record of Isaac Asimov’s birthday. He was born in Petrovichi, Russia around 1920 and chose arbitrarily to celebrate his birthday on January 2nd.

Sadly, Isaac Asimov died of heart and kidney failure complications due to AIDS on April 6, 1992. He contracted HIV from a blood transfusion during a heart bypass operation in 1983. This link to HIV and AIDS wasn’t revealed until later when Janet Asimov published “It’s Been a Good Life,” in 2002.

It is a shame that such a talented author died before his time, but not before he wrote or edited over 400 books and countless essays and letters. I would have loved see how he continued his Robot and Foundation novels in the future. Hopefully I will find time to read some of his non-fiction this year, which most of his writing consists of. For a start, I received “Yours, Isaac Asimov: A Life in Letters,” for Christmas. I’m sure that it will be very interesting. If you haven’t read anything by Asimov, you should visit your local library or run a creative Google search. You’ll be in for a treat.