Isaac Asimov - History

Isaac Asimov - History

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Isaac Asimov

1920- 1998


Isaac Asimov was born in Russiaon January 2, 1920. He moved to the United States when he was three years old. He went to public school and Brooklyn Boys High School. Asimov received a BA from Columbia College. He tried to get into medical school but failed. He received a Ma and Ph.D. in Chemistry. Asimov served during World War II as a civilian employee at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. After receiving his Ph.D. he was offered a position on the faculty of Boston University Medical school. He quickly found himself earning more from his writings but maintained his connection to the Medical School. Asimov began writing short stories at the age of 20.

Isaac Asimov used his command of science in his over 300 works. Much of his writings served to popularize the genre of science fiction. Asimov won an unprecedented four Hugo awards for outstanding contributions to the body of science fiction literature.

Isaac Asimov was born on January 2, 1920, in Petrovichi, Russia, then part of the Smolensk district in the Soviet Union. He was the first of three children of Juda and Anna Rachel Asimov. Although his father made a good living, changing political conditions led the family to leave for the United States in 1923. The Asimovs settled in Brooklyn, New York, where they owned and operated a candy store. Asimov was an excellent student who skipped several grades. In 1934 he published his first story in a high school newspaper. A year later he entered Seth Low Junior College, an undergraduate college of Columbia University. In 1936 he transferred to the main campus and changed his major from biology to chemistry. During the next two years Asimov's interest in history grew, and he read numerous books on the subject. He also read science fiction magazines and wrote stories. Asimov graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1939.

Asimov's interest in science fiction had begun as a boy when he noticed several of the early science fiction magazines for sale on the newsstand in his family's candy store. His father refused to let him read them. But

In 1937, at the age of seventeen, he began a story entitled Ȭosmic Corkscrew." By the time Asimov finished the story in June 1938, Astounding Stories had become Astounding Science Fiction. Its editor was John W. Campbell, who would go on to influence the work of some of the most famous authors of modern science fiction, including Arthur C. Clarke (1917–), Poul Anderson (1926�), L. Sprague de Camp (1907�), and Theodore Sturgeon (1918�). Since Campbell was also one of the best-known science fiction writers of the time, Asimov was shocked by his father's suggestion that he submit his story to the editor in person. But mailing the story would have cost twelve cents while subway fare, round trip, was only ten cents. To save the two cents, he agreed to make the trip to the magazine's office, expecting to leave the story with a secretary.

Campbell, however, had invited many young writers to discuss their work with him. When Asimov arrived he was shown into the editor's office. Campbell talked with him for over an hour and agreed to read the story. Two days later Asimov received it back in the mail. It had been rejected, but Campbell offered suggestions for improvement and encouraged the young man to keep trying. This began a pattern that was to continue for several years, with Campbell guiding Asimov through his beginnings as a science fiction writer. His first professionally published story, "Marooned off Vesta," appeared in Amazing Stories in 1939.


Asimov created the fictional Galactic Empire in the early 1940s based upon the Roman Empire, as a proposal to John W. Campbell, after reading Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when he was working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with Robert Heinlein. The concept evolved through short stories and novellas in Astounding Science Fiction magazine during the 1940s, culminating in the publication of the Foundation stories as a trilogy of books in the early 1950s. [4] [5]

As of 827 G.E. (Galactic Era, the number of years after its founding), the Galactic Empire comprises millions of inhabited worlds with 500 quadrillion residents. [6] According to the Foundation series chronology established in the late 1990s, it comes into existence approximately 10,000 CE, year one of the Galactic Era. (The establishment of the Empire was originally 34,500 CE, according to Asimov's unofficial unpublished early 1950s chronology.) The Galactic Empire was made possible by the ability of humans to travel through hyperspace. The space navy of the Galactic Empire is called the "Imperial Navy". [7] The empire's capital, named Trantor, is the closest habitable planet to the center of the galaxy, and the novels in the Foundation trilogy describe its fall, over a period of centuries, and a period of anarchy and decay, a parallel to the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.

Asimov posits that two foundations are instituted to restore the empire to its former glory. Through the use of psychohistory, a future science hypothesized by Asimov, a scientist on Trantor named Hari Seldon in about 12,000 Galactic Era predicts the fall of the empire, and institutes the two foundations. [5] [8]

The Periphery is a fictional location in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and refers to the outer rims of the Galactic Empire, including planets such as Anacreon and Santanni. Imperial control is weakest in the periphery, as planet governors there frequently possess their own fleets. Santanni revolts during Forward the Foundation. About 50 years after the First Foundation is established on Terminus, the emperor will grant the periphery autonomy. This effectively removes them completely from Imperial control, making the dissolution of the Empire far more apparent than it had been before.

In the years preceding the fall of Trantor, the periphery became any area outside the Empire. As this area became larger the Empire became less and less great.

As the Empire decreased in size and power, the stagnation that would ultimately cause the collapse of the Empire increased.

A complete list of Galactic emperors and their dynasties does not exist however, a number of names and their rule are known:

Name Dynasty Notes
Frankenn I Kamble The first Galactic Emperor.
Loris VI
Aburanis Introduced the "Law Codes of Aburanis."
Kandar V The Earth restoration project which was started in Pebble in the Sky ground to a halt due to his fall and ensuing problems, the Empire instead resorting to transplanting the remaining population to Alpha Centauri.
Agis VI Followed by Entun dynasty ca. 11,830 GE.
Manowell Entun Nicknamed the "Bloody Emperor."
Stannel VI Entun Father of Cleon I. Onum Barr stated that Siwenna prospered in his times.
Cleon I Entun Ruled from 12,010 – 12,038 GE. He was the last ruler of a relatively unified and prosperous empire, though its decline was apparent. He was assassinated by one of his gardeners over a promotion the gardener did not want.
Interregnum between 12,038 and 12,058 GE. Rule by a military junta.
Agis XIV Third cousin of Cleon I
Daluben IV Ruled during the time of the Seldon Trial.
Stannell VII Died 104 FE.
Ammenetic the Great Mentioned in Foundation and Empire, where Cleon II reminds that his grandfather was merely a pirate, and he now lives "in the luxurious palace of Ammenetic the Great." There is no information to position Ammenetic on the list of Emperors. and to assign him to a dynasty, except for the obvious fact that he must have lived and ruled before Cleon II.
Ricker Overthrown by Cleon II's father. Referred to as "the Usurper" by Cleon and his courtiers.
Cleon II The last strong Emperor. According to the introduction to Foundation and Empire, during his reign the Empire only controlled the inner third of the Milky Way galaxy - which nonetheless meant it still controlled three quarters of the galaxy's population and wealth. Many on Trantor itself failed to even notice the decline of the Empire as a result, paying little heed to the loss of the backwaters in the Periphery.
Dagobert VIII Final ruler of the Galactic Empire. Fled Trantor during the Great Sack by the rebel Gilmer.
Dagobert IX Resided on Neotrantor following the Great Sack of Trantor. At least one more Emperor presumably succeeded him, since the dynasty was stated to have survived for a century after the Sack.

Asimov's Galactic Empire was the first example after Olaf Stapledon's 1937 science fiction novel Star Maker of one of the eight stages of a "consensus cosmogony". This is also called the Science Fiction Cosmology, identified by Donald A. Wollheim in the 1950s. Science fiction writers needed only hint at this cosmogony in their stories for experienced SF readers to slot into their perception of future history and envisage the background to the tale, without the writers needing to expend time and space explicitly explaining it. These stages are: [9]

  1. The initial exploration, colonization, and exploitation of the solar system, including plots modeled on the American War of Independence where the human colonies on Mars, Venus, or other planets declare independence from Earth
  2. The first flights to the stars, with plots similar to those of the preceding stage
  3. The rise of a galactic empire, and possible contact, either friendly or hostile, with empires of alien species (in Asimov's Galactic Empire, only one intelligent nonhuman race is found it leaves the galaxy in "Blind Alley")
  4. The Galactic Empire at its height, with exploration occurring at its Rim
  5. The Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire, as explored by Asimov and later other authors
  6. The Galactic Dark Ages, an interregnum with worlds reverting to barbarism, as also partially explored by Asimov
  7. The Galactic Renaissance, where a new democratic Galactic Civilization arises, including the restoration of civilization to and communication with worlds that were isolated during the Fall—this stage was called by Stapledon the Galactic Community of Worlds, was called by Asimov the Foundation Federation, and is most commonly called by most authors the Galactic Federation
  8. The Challenge to God, an effort to solve the last secrets of the universe by transcending matter and morphing into beings of pure energy, the end of time, and the investigation of the beginnings of new universes—Stapledon covers this in the last part of Star Maker and Asimov covers it in his short story ”The Last Question”.
Empire series, Foundation Series location
Created byIsaac Asimov
GenreScience fiction space opera
Notable locationsImperial Palace, Galactic Library, Streeling University, 800 administrative sectors
Notable charactersHari Seldon, Cleon I, Cleon II, Preem Palver, Arkady Darrell

Trantor is a fictional planet depicted as the capital of the first Galactic Empire. Trantor was first mentioned in Asimov's short story, "Black Friar of the Flame", later collected in The Early Asimov, Volume 1. It was described as a human-settled planet in the part of the galaxy not ruled by an intelligent reptilian race (later defeated). Later, Trantor gained prominence when the 1940s Foundation series first appeared in print (in the form of short stories). Asimov described Trantor as being in the center of the galaxy. In later stories he acknowledged the growth in astronomical knowledge by retconning its position to be as close to the galactic center as was compatible with human habitability. The first time it was acknowledged in novel form was in Pebble in the Sky. [10]

Trantor represents several different aspects of civilization: it is both the center of power in the galaxy and its administrative headquarters. It is also an illustration of what could eventually happen to any urbanized planet. Asimov used the Roman Empire as the creative basis for the Foundation series, so Trantor is in some sense based on Rome at the height of the Roman Empire. [11] [12]

Geography and history Edit

The earlier history of Trantor is recapitulated in The Currents of Space, mentioning the five worlds of the Trantorian Republic growing into the Trantorian Confederation and then Trantorian Empire (evidently modeled on the Roman Republic, originally ruling only part of central Italy, developing into the vast Roman Empire).

At the time when Currents takes place, Trantor controls about half of the worlds in the Galaxy, while the other half is divided into innumerable independent worlds and miniature empires – which naturally makes a Trantorian Ambassador a person of great consequence on any of the still-independent worlds. Later on, conquest of the entire galaxy made the Galactic Empire, with Trantor as its capital planet, a reality the planet no longer sending out ambassadors, but only royal governors to subject worlds. This situation had already existed for thousands of years at the time of Pebble in the Sky, the next chronological book on this timeline.

Its surface of 194,000,000 km 2 (75,000,000 sq mi, approx. 40% of Earth's surface area), implying a radius of around 4000 km (somewhere in between the Earth and Mars), [13] was, with the exception of the Imperial Palace, [14] entirely enclosed in artificial domes. [15] It consisted of an enormous metropolis (an ecumenopolis) that stretched deep underground, and was home to a population of 45,000,000,000 (45 billion) human inhabitants at its height (although Second Foundation mentions a figure ten times that of administrators alone), a population density of 232 per square kilometre (600 per square mile, similar to the current population density of Germany or Connecticut). Its population was devoted almost entirely to either administration of the Empire or to maintenance of the planet itself, including energy provided by "heatsinks" (geothermal core taps) and production of food via underground farming and yeasts, as described in Prelude to Foundation.

The Encyclopedia Galactica states further on Trantor: "As the centre of the Imperial Government for unbroken hundreds of generations and located, as it was, toward the central regions of the Galaxy among the most densely populated and industrially advanced worlds of the system, it could scarcely help being the densest and richest clot of humanity the Race had ever seen."

A Trantorian day lasted 1.08 Galactic Standard Days. [16]

One of the prominent features of Trantor was the Library of Trantor (variously referred to as the Imperial Library, the University of Trantor Library, and the Galactic Library), in which librarians index the entirety of human knowledge by walking up to a different computer terminal every day and resuming where the previous librarian left off.

Near Trantor were twenty agricultural worlds which supplied food which the world-city could not grow for itself, and the "Summer Planets", where the Emperor went for vacation. [17] Around 260 FE, a rebel leader named Gilmer attempted a coup, in the process sacking Trantor [18] and forcing the Imperial family to flee to the nearby world of Delicass, renamed Neotrantor. After the sack, the population dwindled rapidly from 40 billion to less than 100 million. Most of the buildings on Trantor were destroyed during the sack, and over the course of the next two centuries the metal on Trantor was gradually sold off, as farmers uncovered more and more soil to use in their farms. Eventually the farmers grew to become the sole recognised inhabitants of the planet, and the era of Trantor as the central world of the galaxy came to a close. It began to develop a dialect very different from Galactic Standard Speech, and the people unofficially renamed their planet "Hame", or "home". [19]

As revealed to the reader at the end of Second Foundation, not all these farmers were what they seemed, with the now-rustic Trantor serving as the centre of the Second Foundation. From Trantor, the Second Foundationers secretly guided the development of the Galaxy (roughly parallel to the city of Rome becoming, after the fall of its empire, the headquarters of the Papacy, with its enormous influence on the development of Medieval Europe). Indeed, their self-perception as leaders of the future Second Empire is captured in the Second Foundationers' use of the word "Hamish" to describe the farmers despite reserving for themselves use of the word "Trantorian". It is noted that it was the Second Foundation which ensured that the famed library would survive the sacking of Trantor and the destruction of its urban culture – especially significant, considering that the library was vital to the Second Foundation itself.

In the Asimov canon, where events of this time are depicted mainly from a Foundation perspective, the Fall of Trantor is mentioned only as a piece of faraway news and in various later short references. However, Harry Turtledove attempted to fill in the details in his "Trantor Falls", focusing on the efforts by the Second Foundation to survive during the sacking of Trantor (published in the 1989 Foundation's Friends, where various writers took up the Foundation universe).

Food production Edit

According to the original Foundation Trilogy (1951), Asimov states (by way of the Encyclopedia Galactica), "the impossibility of proper administration . under the uninspired leadership of the later Emperors was a considerable factor in the Fall." To support the needs and whims of the population, food from twenty agricultural worlds brought by ships in the tens of thousands, fleets greater than any navy ever constructed by the Empire. "Its dependence upon the outer worlds for food and, indeed, for all necessities of life, made Trantor increasingly vulnerable to conquest by siege. In the last millennium of the Empire, the monotonously numerous revolts made Emperor after Emperor conscious of this, and Imperial policy became little more than the protection of Trantor's delicate jugular vein" (Encyclopedia Galactica). [20]

In Prelude to Foundation (1989), Asimov indicates that this was not always so: originally, most of Trantor's basic food needs were fulfilled by Trantor's "vast microorganism farms". [21] Yeast vats and algae farms produced basic nutrients, which were then processed with artificial flavors into palatable food. [22] The subterranean farms, however, depended entirely on care provided by tik-toks (lesser robots), and their destruction following an abortive uprising (chronicled in Foundation's Fear) left the Imperial capital largely dependent upon food brought from other worlds. Foundation's Edge mentions algae growing on Trantor, which is called a totally inadequate source of food, so it is possible some of the later Emperors attempted to rectify the situation with limited success. Trantor is, of course, again able to produce its own food after the sack by Gilmer, with the increasing amount of usable land as the metal on the surface was removed and sold.

Races on Trantor Edit

Although by 22,500 years in the future, there had been much racial intermarriage and most people were multiracial, according to Asimov, in the Galactic Empire as a whole as well as on Trantor itself, there were still some recognizable populations primarily descended from the original races on Earth. What we call Caucasians were called Westerners, what we call East Asians were called Easterners, and what we call Black people were called Southerners. No one could remember why these names were used because no one remembered human origins on Earth. Seldon himself openly wondered why there were no "Northerners". [23]

Administrative sectors Edit

Trantor was divided in over 800 administrative sectors, averaging 50,000,000 people each, in 240,000 km 2 (93,000 sq mi), about the size of Uganda or the U.S. state of Kansas. The known sectors are:

  • Dahl—One of the poorer sections of Trantor. [24] The main job of the lower class is heatsinking, where workers supervise the conversion of heat from the planet's core directly into electric power by sinking extremely long rods into the inner core of the planet (the three other major sources of electric power were hydroelectric dams on the underground rivers, fusion energy, and solar energy from Trantor's sun, both from rooftop solar arrays and from solar energy satellites orbiting Trantor that beamed microwave energy to the surface) 'heatsinkers' were generally looked down upon by other Dahlites, though they were better paid than anyone in Dahl due to their difficult working conditions. Naturally, most Dahlites hated the Empire and its soldiers (colloquially labelled 'sunbadgers'). Dahlites were black-haired, and fairly short males wore large, thick mustaches, considered a sign of virility, and all carried knives (considered to be primitive weapons). Rather than using 'Mr.', 'Mrs.', or 'Dr.', as forms of address, Dahlites always used 'Master' and 'Mistress' (never 'Doctor'). Known Dahlites: Yugo Amaryl, Mother Rittah, Raych Seldon, Jirad and Casilia Tisalver.
    • Billibotton—A slum in Dahl, on the lower level. This was where Mother Rittah lived, and where Hari Seldon and Dors Venabili met their future adoptive son, Raych Seldon. Billibotton was (in)famous for its complete lawlessness. Without the help of Dors, Seldon never would have left it alive.

    Retroactive continuity Edit

    • In the original Foundation Trilogy, there is no indication of Trantor being divided among wildly diverse cultures likewise, the surface is described as covered with towers rather than domes. Its depiction in Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation may be considered another example of retconning.
    • Although some have been confused by the apparent conflict between Trantorian self-sufficiency in terms of food supply in Prelude and the subsequent characterization in Encyclopedia Galactica of the planet as dependent upon twenty agricultural worlds for food, there is no conflict. Prelude depicts an earlier period of Imperial history, and as subsequently explained in Foundation's Fear, the food situation on Trantor changed precisely because its subterranean farms were shut down in the wake of the abortive tik-tok rebellion. That book directly establishes that it was this decision that made Trantor dependent on the produce of twenty agricultural worlds—ironically, the same worlds over which Neotrantor would hold its last, feeble sway.

    Bondanella (listed in Further reading) analyzes Asimov's Galactic Empire as an example of the influence of the myth and history of the Roman Empire upon modern fiction. Asimov himself wrote two non-fiction books on the subject of the Roman Empire, aimed at the mass market and young readerships, The Roman Republic in 1966 and The Roman Empire in 1967, reflecting the positive view of the Roman Empire that then prevailed, as it was considered the prototype of the rising American Empire.

    After the cinematic release of the first Star Wars trilogy, another parallel to the Roman Empire that presents the negative view of the empire that became widely prevalent in late 20th and early 21st century popular culture as a result of the negative view of the American Empire resulting from the Vietnam War, Asimov revisited his Galactic Empire and wrote further novels in the Foundation series.

    Other writers to have been influenced by the Roman Empire include, of course, those who have written novels set in Asimov's universe of the Galactic Empire, such as David Brin's Foundation's Triumph, and Robert Silverberg, who wrote of an alternative universe in which the Roman Empire never fell, and who edited Far Horizons (listed in Further reading) which contains several examples of Asimov's influence upon science fiction. Brian Herbert's and Kevin J. Anderson's Dune: House Atreides (1999) is, similarly, a Greek parallel to ancient Rome. [27]

    Other works to have been influenced by Asimov's Empire include Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis, whose galactic empire, and the scholar-empire that succeeds it, are clearly based upon Asimov's Galactic Empire and the Foundations, albeit that Kingsbury was not granted permission [ citation needed ] to set his work directly in Asimov's universe. Seed calls this work "perhaps the most remarkable homage that any SF writer has received from another SF writer". [28]

    Asimov's Galactic Empire, its decline, fall, and rebirth, in particular, is characterized by Perelman as a simple repetition of the history of Western Civilization from the fall of the Roman Empire to the 20th century, borrowing freely from Toynbee, and a validation of postwar American culture of the 1940s and 1950s, with the Second Galactic Empire being "definitely suburban". [29]

    Other writers to explore the cycles of civilisations in their works include James Blish, who studied the works of Oswald Spengler and whose novel Cities in Flight (which includes 4 novels: They Shall Have Stars, A Life for the Stars, Earthman Come Home, and The Triumph of Time) portray the rise and fall of the galaxy as an inevitable cycle, of which (unlike in other dystopian SF stories of the 1940s and 1950s) the use of machine technology is merely a symptom not the actual cause, and culminate, as in Wollheim's eighth stage, with the end of the universe and the birth of a new one. [5] [30]

    Colin Manlove characterizes Asimov's description of the Galactic Empire, its people, its culture, its history, and its planets, laid out in the Foundation novels as an aesthetic monotony: "persons are usually seen as typical rather than special, even as clichés … the mutant Mule […] is not given a personality, he is merely a powerful anomaly … Nor do we hear much of landscapes, apart from Trantor and one sea-scape … we do not know how one planet differs from another, as, say, Ursula K. Le Guin differentiates the desert Anarres from the lush twin Urras … Nor are we given details of battles, lingering accounts of love, different customs of civilisations. There are no animals, only man. … Thought-processes and conversations largely fill the trilogy, and nearly all these are confined to finding things out and with gaining power." [31] [32]

    Inspired by Trantor Edit

    There have been some serious attempts to illustrate a planet like Trantor in the Star Wars films by George Lucas, the first being Coruscant. Coruscant is a planet-covering open-air city, while Trantor's buildings are all subterranean or under domes [33] due to worsening weather conditions. [34] Asimov's Trantor thus differs from Coruscant in that Trantor is more practically adapted to inclement weather, although weather control devices are used on both planets.

    The planet Helior in Harry Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero satirises Trantor, highlighting the problems of atmosphere, waste disposal and navigating about a world-sized city. [35]

    In the Runaway series of adventure games, Trantor is home planet of this universe's alien species. However, no connection besides the name are made to the original. [ citation needed ]

    "TrantorCon 23309" [36] was proposed by Larry Niven at Worldcon in 1976.

    The Warhammer 40,000 sources [ specify ] mention dead cities upon the quarantine planet of Proxima Trantor.

    Weber's World, the administration planet of the United Planets in the Legion of Super-Heroes's time, is said to be in the Trantor system. [37]


    By Sheila Williams

    Have you ever wondered where George R. R. Martin&rsquos Daenerys Targaryen first appeared on the printed page? Where Kim Stanly Robinson first staked his claim on &ldquoGreen Mars&rdquo? Who first published Octavia E. Butler&rsquos Hugo and Nebula Award winning short fiction? What magazine was home to the first professional fiction publications of Jonathan Lethem, Kelly Link, and Allen M. Steele? Well, these and many other significant milestones can all be found in the pages of Asimov&rsquos Science Fiction.

    Asimov&rsquos was founded in 1977 by Joel Davis and Isaac Asimov. Then known as Isaac Asimov&rsquos Science Fiction Magazine, it hit the newsstand with the Spring issue as a quarterly publication. The magazine immediately picked up a large number of subscribers and by the next year, it had expanded to a bi-monthly. By 1979, Asimov&rsquos had become a monthly. The magazine is now released six times a year, each edition a substantial 208-page double issue.

    Isaac Asimov was the editorial director, but he insisted on hiring excellent personnel to edit the magazine. Asimov&rsquos founding editor, George H. Scithers, had already received the Hugo Award for his fanzine, Amra, when Isaac picked him to run Asimov&rsquos. Both Isaac and George viewed the magazine as a market that would welcome beginning authors alongside well-known professionals. Authors whose careers George launched include Barry B. Longyear and S. P. Somtow. Barry Longyear&rsquos novella, &ldquoEnemy Mine&rdquo (September 1979), won Hugo and Nebula awards and was made into a movie with Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett, Jr. In addition to publishing award-winning stories, George won two Best Professional Editor Hugos before retiring from the magazine in 1982.

    Kathleen Maloney took over as editor in 1982. Although she didn&rsquot stay long, she managed to publish Connie Willis&rsquos Nebula Award winning &ldquoA Letter from the Cleary&rsquos&rdquo (June 1982) and to take me on as editorial assistant (also June 1982!). Kathleen left the magazine later that year and Asimov&rsquos talented managing editor, Shawna McCarthy, took over the helm.

    While remaining a welcoming home for new writers, Shawna&rsquos Asimov&rsquos acquired an edgier and more literary and experimental tone. Shawna published much of Connie Willis&rsquos award-winning work as well as stories by Octavia E. Butler, Robert Silverberg, George R. R. Martin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Lucius Shepard, Karen Joy Fowler, John Varley, Nancy Kress, Bruce Sterling, Esther M. Friesner, James Patrick Kelly, Kit Reed, John Kessel, Michael Swanwick, Roger Zelazny, Pat Murphy, Gardner Dozois, and many others. Shawna won a Hugo for Best Professional Editor in 1984.

    Shawna McCarthy left the magazine at the end of 1985 and Gardner Dozois took over as editor with the January 1986 issue. Gardner had actually worked on the magazine as an associate editor for six months in 1977. And one of his two Nebulas had been awarded to his August 1983 Asimov&rsquos short story &ldquoThe Peacemaker.&rdquo Gardner continued to publish many of Shawna&rsquos stalwarts as well as authors like Robert Reed, Jonathan Lethem, Greg Egan, Judith Moffett, Terry Bisson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick, Allen M. Steele, Joe Haldeman, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Geoffrey A. Landis, and Neal Barrett, Jr. In 1986, Gardner published the magazine&rsquos first novel serialization, Count Zero by William Gibson, and he later serialized two novels by Michael Swanwick and Harlan Ellison&rsquos screenplay for I, Robot. Gardner won an unprecedented fifteen Hugo Awards for his work as a professional editor before retiring in 2004.

    Having served Asimov&rsquos under almost every known editorial title, I took over as editor in chief with the January 2005 issue. Familiar bylines continue to appear in Asimov&rsquos. In addition to many of the authors listed above, some like Paolo Bacigalupi, Kij Johnson, Ian McDonald, Frederik Pohl, Lisa Goldstein, Paul McAuley, Rudy Rucker, Chris Beckett, Alexander Jablokow, and Ian R. MacLeod, had earlier publications in Asimov&rsquos. Other established writers, such as Carol Emshwiller, Elizabeth Bear, Brandon Sanderson, Aliette de Bodard, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ken Liu, Christopher Barzak, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Lavie Tidhar, Dale Bailey, Will McIntosh, Suzanne Palmer, Megan Arkenberg, and Daryl Gregory made their first appearances in Asimov&rsquos over the past decade. Authors making sales to Asimov&rsquos early in their careers during this period include Ted Kosmatka, Felicity Shoulders, Henry Lien, William Preston, Alice Sola Kim, Derek Künsken, Jeff Carlson, and Steve Bein.

    Personnel change has not been limited to Asimov&rsquos editors. The magazine started out life with regular editorials by Isaac as well as monthly puzzles by Martin Gardner, and a regular round-up of upcoming SF conventions by Erwin S. Strauss. Our long-time book reviewer was Baird Searles. Martin retired from the puzzle columns when Shawna McCarthy left the magazine, but along the way, we added book reviews by Norman Spinrad. Sadly, both Isaac and Baird passed away in the early nineties. In 1993, the editorialist mantle was passed to the superb author Robert Silverberg and he&rsquos been writing &ldquoReflections&rdquo columns for us ever since. Also in 1993, we picked up some new book reviewers, and twenty years later Peter Heck and Paul Di Filippo are still sending their reviews our way. In 1998, we added James Patrick Kelly&rsquos bi-monthly column about what&rsquos new &ldquoOn the Net.&rdquo Every so often, we feature nonfiction &ldquoThought Experiments&rdquo by authors like James Gunn, Ray Kurzweil, Allen M. Steele, Aliette de Bodard, and many others. Our award-winning poets include Robert Frazier, Bruce Boston, Jane Yolen, Megan Arkenberg, William John Watkins, Laurel Winter, and Janis Ian.

    Since 2008, the magazine has also been a very popular digital download available from a variety of popular vendors &ndash see them here.

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    Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

    Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He has works published in nine o Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

    Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He has works published in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (lacking only an entry in the 100s category of Philosophy).

    Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation Series his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series, both of which he later tied into the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series to create a unified "future history" for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He penned numerous short stories, among them "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time, a title many still honor. He also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as a great amount of nonfiction. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.

    Most of Asimov's popularized science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include his Guide to Science, the three volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery.

    Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly he described some members of that organization as "brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs" He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, the magazine Asimov's Science Fiction, a Brooklyn, NY elementary school, and two different Isaac Asimov Awards are named in his honor.


    1 The Psychohistorians


    The story begins on Synnax, with Gaal Dornick. Gaal always had wanted to go to Trantor, the capital planet of the 12,000 year old Galactic Empire. Though it has endured for so long and appears outwardly to be strong and stable, the empire has been imperceptibly declining for centuries. The only one who realizes this is Hari Seldon, a mathematician who has created the science of Psychohistory by which it is possible to predict future events by extrapolating from historic trends. He has set up a project which is increasingly harassed by Imperial officials from the Commission of Public Safety, the actual rulers of the Empire. They finally arrest Seldon and Gaal Dornick, a young mathematician who has just arrived to join the project.

    At Seldon's trial more details come out. Seldon predicts that Trantor will be destroyed within 300 years as the climax to the fall of the Galactic Empire, leading to a 30,000 year period of anarchy before a Second Empire is established. The purpose of his project is to influence events so that the interregnum period will be only 1,000 years and not 30,000. This will be done, he says, by the production and dissemination by his team of an Encyclopedia Galactica which will contain all human knowledge. The commission is satisfied that Seldon's project is not a threat to the Empire but wants to quiet him. He and his team are exiled to Terminus, a small planet on the periphery of the galaxy, to work on the encyclopedia. Several fascinating conclusions are reached during Seldon's conversation with Dornick: for example, that the Psychohistorians of Trantor maneuvered the Commissioners to move the Foundation to Terminus and that the Foundation is an active rebellion against the authoritative Empire, which Seldon says "has lost whatever virility and worth it once had."


    The Psychohistorians is the only part of the Foundation Trilogy that was not originally published in Astounding Magazine and was, in fact, the last part of the trilogy that Asimov wrote (though, chronologically, it describes the earliest events). Asimov wrote this story circa 1950 when the series was being prepared for publication in book form by Gnome Press, who felt that the series began too abruptly. However, most people do not know that there was another, very brief, opening[1] that originally preceded Foundation (which was later published as The Encyclopedists), which was the first story written. The story is also notable for predicting the pocket calculator more than two decades before it was made possible by integrated circuits.

    2 The Encyclopedists

    (published May 1942 as Foundation)

    Fifty years after the events in The Psychohistorians, Terminus is faced with the first of the "Seldon Crises," the events which will force it into choices that will eventually lead to the Second Empire. Four nearby provinces of the Empire have rebelled, forming independent kingdoms. Those kingdoms are fairly barbarous and the leaders of the most powerful, Anacreon, begin threatening Terminus, which they covet for its strategic location vis-a-vis their rivals and for its advanced technology. Terminus has no mineral wealth - steel is so valuable that it is used to coin money - and so the Anacreonian envoy, Anselm Haut Rodric, proposes to implement a form of feudalism in exchange for "protection" from the other kingdoms.

    The Foundation's Board of Trustees is blind to the danger, spending all of its time working on the encyclopedia. The Mayor of Terminus City, Salvor Hardin, does perceive the danger, but he lacks the legal authority to act, all power under the Foundation's charter being vested in the Board of Trustees. Hardin had the good fortune to have been trained by Dr. Bor Alurin, the only Second Foundationer (see Second Foundation) to have settled on Terminus, as a psychologist. Hardin did not complete his studies under Alurin, a notoriously uninstructive teacher, as he grew tired of theory. Thus, he was unable to become a psychological engineer, so he entered local politics instead. He realizes that the key to beating this crisis is to play the "Four Kingdoms" off each other.

    At the ceremonial opening of the time-locked vault at the Seldon Museum, a holographic image of Seldon appears and announces that the Encyclopedia Galactica project had always been a fraud from its inception: the real purpose of the settlement of Terminus was to place the Foundation out of reach of the Empire for the near term. In addition, he reveals that the true goal of the Foundation is to further science in a galaxy consumed by interplanetary strife. The Board of Trustees are devastated, but fortunately for the Foundation, Hardin has engineered a bloodless coup leaving him in control of the planet, free to carry out his strategy. The first Seldon Crisis has been resolved in accordance with the plan.

    3 The Mayors

    (published June 1942 as Bridle and Saddle)

    Three decades later, relationships between the Foundation and nearby systems are based in technology transfer and Scientism, a religion which the Foundation sets up around its technology to control the several larger systems that surround them. Only the priests, educated on Terminus, have the knowledge to use the technology--but they think it is mystical, not scientifically explainable. The Priesthood system, while an effective hold on the Four Kingdoms (Anacreon, Smyrno, Konom and Daribow) surrounding Terminus, caps any possible scientific rebellion and delocalization of knowledge: the most brilliant students of the sciences remain on Terminus as research students and finally citizens, drastically enhancing the scientific superiority of the Foundation.

    The Imperial Cruiser redone for Anacreon

    Salvor Hardin remains Mayor of Terminus, although his political dominance is being challenged by "The Actionist Party," a rival political party demanding "direct action" to challenge the military dominance of the surrounding systems. A bellicose warlord, the Prince Regent Wienis, from Anacreon, the largest of the four kingdoms, tries to take over the First Foundation by force of arms and the fortuitous recovery and salvage of a mighty warship, an old Imperial frigate restored by Foundation fleet technicians as an attempted appeasement. However, Seldon's inevitable psychohistory does not permit this, as the people of the Kingdoms already look to the Foundation for authority, while the secular power of the Kings is already a sub-function of priestly, and therefore Foundation, control. Seldon, appearing again in the time vault after the second crisis is resolved, warns the Foundation that the "spiritual power" of science, while sufficient for defense, is not sufficient to sustain a rapid political expansion. But leaves it to them to figure out the next step.

    4 The Traders

    (published October 1944 as The Wedge)


    Approximately 75 years after the events of the previous story, Limmar Ponyets is dispatched to Askone, a world rich in raw materials which has thus far spurned any commerce with the First Foundation, due to Askonian society's ban on atomic technology and as part of its religion of ancestor worship. Ponyets's job is to negotiate for the release of Eskel Gorov, a Foundation agent who was sent to find a way to initiate trade with Askone. This was a violation of that planet's law, and Gorov is scheduled to be executed by lethal gassing.

    The Grand Master (their elderly leader) is firm about not accepting any technology from the Foundation and about proceeding with Gorov's execution. However, Ponyets convinces them to release Gorov in exchange for 500 pounds of gold made by a transmuter he has jury-rigged out of a "food irradiation chamber," presumably a more advanced version of a microwave oven.

    Of greater import, Ponyets accomplishes Gorov's mission of creating an opening for Foundation trade. He blackmails a member of the governing council, Pherl, to buy all of his cargo, which consists of many devices and machines forbidden by Askonian law. This council member, who does not believe in his culture's superstitions against technology, buys the transmuter from Ponyets, not knowing that it has microfilm recorder to record him using it. As a result, he has now an incentive to work towards the legalization of those machines, so that he can begin using and selling them to recoup his loss. It is indicated that Pherl, who is young for someone so important in government, will be the next Grand Master shortly thanks to the transmuter's gold, further hastening Askone's susceptibility to Foundation trade and the controlling religion that it brings with it. Ponyets and Gorov head back to Terminus with two shiploads of tin, which Ponyets was able to extract from Pherl as part of their bargain.


    Though The Traders takes place before The Merchant Princes, it was actually written and published later. Asimov went back to write it to make the transition from the Foundation's religious control to its economic influence more understandable and believable. This was made easier because there is a reference in The Merchant Princes to what happened on Askone. (It is briefly indicated that Askone first allowed trade with the Foundation and was soon inundated with missionaries and lost its power to the Foundation.)

    Interestingly, the character of Limmar Ponyets is named "Lathan Devers" in the original story. Lathan Devers is the name of the trader who is heavily featured in The General, which was first published as The Dead Hand and was the first of the two stories that were reedited into Foundation and Empire.

    5 The Merchant Princes

    (published August 1944 as The Big and the Little)

    Additional years pass, and the Foundation's economic influence and religious control of surrounding worlds continues to grow, though this is not yet matched by military and political domination. Three of the Foundation's atomic-powered ships have disappeared near the Republic of Korell, a nation that is suspected of developing advanced technology of its own, which would threaten the Foundation. Hober Mallow, a master trader (though not a Foundation agent), is sent to Korell on a trade mission and told to keep his eyes open and learn what he can about their technology and the missing ships.

    Korell does little commerce with the Foundation, and their leader, Commdor (First Citizen Of The State) Asper Argo, whose wife, Commdora Licia Argo, proves to be a daughter of the Viceroy of the Normannic Sector of the Empire, is reluctant to adopt their technology. It is learned that Askone did indeed fall under the control of Scientism after it became dependent on Foundation technology. However, Mallow finds the missionaries's mysticism and hocus-pocus annoying, and thus, he is not interested in proselytizing he simply wants to make money--and convinces the Commdor of this. After demonstrating the many useful products that he can sell them, ranging from steel foundry technology and portable force-field generators to miniature laundries and floor-scrubbers, Mallow signs contracts to provide them with such things, making huge profits for himself. He sees no sign of the missing ships while there, but he does discover that the Korellians retain some vestiges of atomic technology in the shape of atomic handguns.

    Shortly after this, Mallow travels to the fringes of the Galactic Empire, where he finds out the true extent of the empire's decline. Political leadership of the Empire has been unstable, rebellion is frequent among the planets, and opportunistic generals often arbitrarily massacre the planets they are sent to pacify. Equally stunning is the decline of the Empire's technological prowess: "tech-man" is a hereditary office held by persons who restrict themselves to simple maintenance of previously produced machinery, which they are able neither to understand fully nor to replicate. As Mallow explains, "The machines work from generation to generation automatically, and the caretakers are a hereditary caste who would be helpless if a single D-tube in all that vast structure burned out."

    After returning to Terminus, Mallow is denounced as a traitor for not spreading the Foundation's religion along with trade. Mallow argues that religion has played itself out as a means of furthering Foundation control. Trade, for now, will be the Foundation's tool for expanding into the Second Galactic Empire. Mallow is arrested for having allegedly allowed a Foundation missionary ("Jord Parma, of the Anacreonian worlds") to be killed while he was on Korell, but he shows the event to have been staged. (A visual record which he plays as the primary evidence exhibit for his defense at his trial shows that Jord Parma was an impostor--an agent of the Commdor's secret police.) Mallow eventually wins the next mayoral election, becoming leader of Terminus.

    Years later, the Foundation is invaded by the Korellians, who have been armed with nuclear technology by a general of the Galactic Empire seeking power and riches beyond the empire's periphery. Although the Korellian ships are far too powerful for the Foundation to resist, Mallow is convinced that the First Foundation will win in the end, as Korell's attack has caused the Foundation to impose a trade embargo on it. As he explains, the Korellians have become so totally dependent on Foundation technology to maintain their infrastructure and day-to-day lives that as the Foundation's equipment wears out in Korell's factories and homes, the resulting economic contractions would lead to a huge popular upheaval. Mallow is convinced that all the Foundation needs to do is avoid battle, as it might give the Korellians reason to support their government out of patriotism.

    Shortly after, Mallow's predictions come to pass, and Korell surrenders and is incorporated into the Foundation.

    The Foundation is still far from the huge power the former Empire was, but it is rapidly growing and expanding its control and prestige.


    Asimov s-a născut în jurul lui 2 ianuarie 1920 (aceasta este data sa de naștere menționată pentru scopuri oficiale data exactă nu este cunoscută) în orășelul Petrovici din regiunea Smolensk, RSFSR (astăzi Rusia), în familia de morari evrei a Anei Rașela Berman (Anna Rachel Berman) și a lui Iuda (Judah). Au emigrat în Statele Unite când Asimov avea trei ani cum părinții vorbeau cu el doar idiș și engleză, nu a învățat niciodată rusa. Crescând în Brooklyn, New York, a învățat singur să citească până la vârsta de cinci ani, și în tot timpul vieții, pe lângă engleză, a rămas fluent și în idiș. Părinții lui dețineau un magazin de dulciuri și era de așteptat ca întreaga familie să lucreze acolo. A văzut revistele pulp (reviste ieftine de ficțiune) expuse pentru vânzare în magazin și a început să le citească. În anii copilăriei sale a început să scrie propriile povești și până la vârsta de 19 ani a început să le și vândă revistelor de science-fiction.

    A absolvit Universitatea Columbia în 1939, însă abia în 1948 a revenit să susțină acolo și doctoratul, în biochimie. În această perioadă, a petrecut trei ani din Al doilea război mondial lucrând la Stația de experimente aero-navale a Portului Militar din Philadelphia. După ce războiul s-a încheiat, a fost recrutat în Armata Statelor Unite, servind timp de nouă luni înainte de a fi disponibilizat onorabil. În cursul scurtei sale cariere militare, s-a ridicat la gradul de caporal pe baza abilităților sale de dactilografiere și a evitat pe puțin participarea în 1946 la testele bombei atomice din Atolul Bikini. După obținerea doctoratului, a predat în cadrul Universității Boston, cu care a rămas asociat toată viața. Din 1958, s-a decis să se preocupe în principal de cariera sa literară, întrucât venitul provenit din scrierile sale îl depășea deja pe cel datorat îndatoririlor academice, rămânând la Universitate doar într-o capacitate non-pedagogică. Asimov a rămas în facultate ca profesor asociat, fiind promovat în 1979 ca profesor titular ca recunoaștere a meritelor sale literare. Documentele sale personale sunt arhivate, începând cu 1965, în Biblioteca Memorială Mugar din cadrul Universității din Boston, căreia i le-a donat în urma cererii curatorului acesteia, Howard Gottlieb. Colecția ocupă 464 cutii de-a lungul a 71 de metri de spațiu de raft. În 1985, a devenit Președinte al Asociației Umaniste Americane, ocupând această poziție până la moartea sa în 1992 succesorul său a fost prietenul și scriitorul Kurt Vonnegut. A fost un prieten apropiat al creatorului Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry.

    S-a căsătorit cu Gertrude Blugerman (1917-1990) la 26 iulie 1942, cu care a avut doi copii, David (n. 1951) și Robyn Joan (n. 1955). După o separare de mare durată, au divorțat în 1973, iar Asimov s-a căsătorit cu Janet O. Jeppson mai târziu în acel an. Gertrude, născută în Canada, a murit în Boston în 1990.

    Asimov a fost un claustrofil adică se bucura de spațiile mici, închise. În primul său volum de autobiografie, își amintește o dorință din copilărie de a deține un stand propriu de reviste într-o stație a Metroului din New York, în care s-ar fi închis pentru a citi în timp ce asculta zgomotul trenurilor.

    Asimov se temea de zburat, făcând astfel doar două călătorii cu avionul în întreaga viață (odată în cursul muncii de la Stația experimentală aero-navală din Philadelphia în timpul celui de-al doilea război mondial și o dată la întoarcerea acasă de la baza armată din Oahu, Hawaii în 1946). Rareori călătorea pe distanțe mari, în parte pentru că aversiunea sa pentru avioane făcea călătoriile la mare distanță extrem de complicate. În ultimii săi ani, a aflat că îl bine dispun călătoriile de croazieră și, în mai multe rânduri, a devenit o parte a distracției croazierei, purtând discuții pe tema științei pe vapoare precum RMS Queen Elizabeth 2.

    Avea un caracter extraordinar de jovial și de locvace, ceea ce-l făcea să fie deseori invitat să țină conferințe. Ieșit din comun era și simțul timpului: nu se uita niciodată la ceas, dar reușea fără excepție să vorbească exact cât fusese prevăzut.

    Dexteritatea sa fizică era foarte scăzută. Nu a învățat niciodată să înoate sau să meargă pe bicicletă, deși a învățat să conducă o mașină, însă abia după ce s-a mutat în Boston. În cartea sa de glume Asimov râde din nou, descrie șofatul în Boston ca „anarhie pe roți”.

    Asimov a murit la 6 aprilie 1992. La zece ani după moartea sa, ediția lui Janet Asimov a autobiografiei lui Isaac, A fost o viață bună, a dezvăluit că moartea sa a fost cauzată de SIDA a contactat virusul HIV dintr-o transfuzie de sânge infectată, în timpul operației la inimă din 1983. Cauza propriu-zisă a morții a fost cedarea cardiacă și renală, drept complicații ale SIDA. Janet Asimov susține că doctorii lui Isaac i-au încurajat în a nu dezvălui boala sa, în timp ce revista Locus publicase în aprilie 2002 că însăși Janet a vrut să păstreze acest fapt secret. [9]

    Privire generală Modificare

    Cariera lui Asimov se poate împărți în mai multe perioade. Cariera timpurie, dominată de science-fiction, a început în jurul anului 1940 cu povestiri scurte.

    Aceasta a durat până în jurul anului 1958, și a luat sfârșit după publicarea romanului Soarele gol. După aceasta, el a publicat cu preponderență literatură non-ficțiune, și doar rareori science-fiction.

    În următorul sfert de veac el a scris doar patru romane science-fiction. După 1982, a început cea de-a doua parte a carierei sale în domeniul S. F., cu publicarea romanului Marginea Fundației. După aceasta și până la sfârșitul vieții, Asimov a publicat multe continuări ale romanelor existente, într-o manieră pe care n-a premeditat-o inițial.

    Science-fiction Modificare

    Asimov și-a început cariera prin publicarea unei povestiri într-un magazin de science-fiction în 1939, Naufragiat pe Vesta, scrisă la doar 18 ani puțin mai târziu, a publicat povestea scurtă "Căderea nopții" (1941), descrisă în Bewildering Stories, numărul 8, ca una dintre "cele mai faimoase povestiri science-fiction ale tuturor timpurilor". [10] În 1968, Asociația Scriitorilor de SF (Science-fiction Writers of America) a votat "Căderea nopții" drept cea mai bună povestire scurtă SF scrisă vreodată. [11] În scurta antologie Căderea nopții și alte povestiri, autorul scrie "Scrierea 'Căderii nopții' a fost un punct marcant în carierea mea profesională. dintr-o dată eram luat în serios și lumea science-fiction-ului a devenit conștientă că exist. Cu trecerea timpului, de fapt, s-a dovedit că scrisesem un [text] 'clasic'."

    În 1942, a început să scrie seria Fundația—mai târziu reunită în Trilogia Fundației: Fundația (1951), Fundația și Imperiul (1952), și A doua Fundație (1953) -- care povestește căderea și renașterea unui vast imperiu interstelar, într-un univers din viitor. Acestea, împreună cu seria Roboților, sunt cele mai faimoase scrieri de science-fiction ale sale. Mulți ani mai târziu a continuat seria cu Marginea Fundației (1982) și Fundația și Pământul (1986) și apoi s-a "întors" în perioada dinaintea acțiunii trilogiei inițiale cu Preludiul Fundației (1988) și Fundația Renăscută (1992).

    Povestirile cu roboți—dintre care multe sunt colectate în Eu, robotul (1950) -- au fost începute cam în aceeași perioadă cu Fundația și se bazează pe un set de reguli de etică pentru roboți și mașini inteligente, numite Cele trei legi ale roboticii, care au influențat profund alți scriitori și gânditori în privința acestui subiect. O astfel de poveste scurtă, Omul bicentenar, a fost ecranizată într-un film avându-l ca actor principal pe Robin Williams.

    În 1948 a scris o povestire umoristică pseudo-științifică, Proprietățile Endocronice ale Tiotimolinei Resublimate, în care inventase o nouă substanță, utilizabilă pentru a călători în timp. La acea vreme își pregătea lucrarea de doctorat, așa că s-a temut că povestirea îi va afecta negativ obținerea doctoratului și a cerut editurii să-i publice textul sub un pseudonim. Totuși, povestirea a fost publicată din greșeală cu numele său adevărat, iar examinarea sa cu ocazia prezentării lucrării a fost îndeajuns de severă cât să-l îngrijoreze serios. Mai mult, la finalul acesteia, a fost întrebat explicit despre caracteristicile termodinamice ale substanței tiotimolină. După o așteptare de 20 de minute, a primit rezultatul: devenise Dr. Asimov.

    În anii 1950, pe care îi consideră decada de aur a activității sale, a continuat să scrie povestiri scurte pentru reviste SF. O parte dintre acestea sunt incluse în antologia Best Of, inclusiv "Întrebarea finală" (1956), care studia problema dacă este omenirea capabilă să stopeze și să inverseze entropia. Acest text a fost favoritul său, și este considerat concurent al Căderii nopții. Referitor la el, Asimov a scris în 1973:

    De ce este favoritul meu? Pe de o parte, ideea mi-a venit toată o dată și nu a fost nevoie să o analizez în detaliu am scris-o într-un ritm intens și nu a trebuit să o mai modific aproape deloc. Acest gen de lucruri apropie întotdeauna povestea de autorul său. Apoi, de asemenea, a avut un efect nemaipomenit asupra cititorilor mei. De foarte multe ori mi se scrie pentru a mă întreba asupra titlului exact al unei povestiri pe care aș fi scris-o, și a mă ruga să menționez unde poate fi găsită aceasta. Cititorii nu-și amintesc titlul, dar din descriere reiese că este vorba despre "Întrebarea finală". Acestea au făcut ca în momentul în care am primit un telefon de mare distanță din partea cuiva cu o voce disperată, care a început astfel: "Dr. Asimov, am citit o poveste pe care cred că ați scris-o dumneavoastră, dar al cărei titlu nu mi-l mai amintesc. ", să îl întrerup pentru a spune că era "Întrebarea finală". După ce i-am descris subiectul acesteia, s-a dovedit a fi într-adevăr povestirea căutată, ceea ce l-a convins pe bărbatul respectiv că pot să citesc gândurile de la distanțe de mii de kilometri.

    Non-ficțiune Modificare

    La sfârșitul anilor 50 și începutul anilor 60, Asimov și-a schimbat oarecum centrul de interes și a micșorat numărul operelor de ficțiune produse (a publicat doar patru romane între Soarele gol din 1957 și Marginea Fundației în 1982, iar două dintre acestea erau romane de mistere). În același timp însă a crescut considerabil producția operelor de non-ficțiune, în special pe teme științifice lansarea primului satelit artificial, Sputnik, în 1957 a indus în cadrul opiniei publice a Statelor Unite impresia că există o distanță de recuperat în domeniul științific, iar editorii americani s-au grăbit să umple acest gol cu orice ar fi produs Asimov. Astfel, a primit foarte multe comenzi din partea acestora și s-a pus pe scris. De asemenea, revista Magazine of Fantasy and Science-fiction l-a invitat să contribuie la un editorial lunar pe teme de popularizare a științei, în care Asimov avea o totală libertate de alegere. Primul articol de acest gen a apărut în noiembrie 1958, și au fost publicate în total 399, lună de lună, până în momentul morții autorului. Toate editorialele au fost adunate periodic în cărți editate de cel mai important editor al său, Doubleday and Company, și au contribuit la stabilirea reputației sale de "Mare Lămuritor" al științei.

    A publicat de asemenea Ghidul lui Asimov în explicarea Bibliei, în două volume -- Vechiul Testament în 1967 și Noul Testament în 1969 --, pe care apoi (în 1981) le-a republicat într-un singur volum de 1300 de pagini. Oferind hărți și tabele, ghidul parcurge toate cărțile Bibliei, în ordine, explicând istoria fiecăreia în parte și influențele politice la care a fost supusă, și detaliind biografiile personajelor importante.

    A publicat două volume cu caracter autobiografic: Cu amintiri încă verzi (1979) și Bucuria o mai simt încă (1980). Cea de-a treia autobiografie, I. Asimov: Memorii, ( joc de cuvinte care trimite la I, Robot, titlul original al cărții Eu, robotul), a fost publicată în aprilie 1994. Epilogul cărții a fost scris de Janet Asimov (născută Jeppson), la puțin timp după moartea sa.

    Asimov a scris și eseuri despre situația socială din America, printre care se numără și "Gândirea despre gândire" and "Science: Knock Plastic" (1967). Spre sfârșitul vieții a început să scrie versuri umoristice, începând cu volumul din 1975, Lecherous Limericks.

    Caracteristici Modificare

    Unul dintre primele lucruri vizibile în scrierile de ficțiune ale lui Asimov îl reprezintă stilul simplu. În 1980, profesorul emerit de limbă și literatură engleză de la Universitatea din Kansas, James Gunn, scria despre Eu, robotul: [12]

    Gunn remarcă faptul că există locuri în care stilul lui Asimov se ridică la înălțimea situației, citând în acest sens punctul culminant din "Mincinosul". Personaje creionate mai detaliat apar în perioade cheie ale narațiunilor sale: Susan Calvin în "Mincinosul" și "Evidența", Arkady Darell în A doua Fundație, Elijah Baley în Cavernele de oțel și Hari Seldon în preludiile Fundației. Asimov răspunde acestor critici la începutul cărții Nemesis: [13]

    Unele dintre elementele tehnologiei viitorului imaginate de Asimov în anii '40 și '50 au devenit perimate. De exemplu, el descria roboți și calculatoare puternice dintr-un viitor îndepărtat care funcționează cu cartele perforate și ingineri care folosesc rigla de calcul. Într-o scenă dramatică din Fundația și Imperiul, un personaj află veștile dintr-un ziar cumpărat de la un automat. Desigur, aceste lucruri apar în cazul oricărui scriitor de science fiction și au un impact critic nesemnificativ.

    Povestirile sale prezintă și incoerențe interne ocazionale: de exemplu, numele și datele folosite în seria Fundația nu se află întotdeauna în deplină concordanță unele cu altele. Unele dintre aceste erori pot fi atribuite greșelilor comise de personaje, deoarece acestea sunt rareori bine informate în legătură cu situația în care se află. Altele însă provin din perioada lungă de timp scursă dintre începuturile seriei Fundației și reluarea ei uneori, noile descoperiri științifice l-au obligat pe autor să revizuiască propria istorie ficțională.

    În afara cărților scrise de Gunn și Patrouch, se constată o anume sărăcie a criticii "literare" în ceea ce îl privește pe Asimov (mai ales ținând cont de volumul scrierilor sale). Cowart și Wymer enunță un posibil motiv în Dictionary of Literary Biography (1981):

    Pentru a fi corecți, Gunn și Patrouch recunosc în analiza făcută cărților lui Asimov că un stil clar și direct reprezintă și el un stil. Cartea din 1982 a lui Gunn atinge profunzimi considerabile comentând fiecare dintre romanele publicate până la acea dată de Asimov. El nu ridică în slăvi întreaga ficțiune asimoviană (cum nu o face nici Patrouch), dar compară unele pasaje din Cavernele de oțel cu opera lui Proust. Când se referă la modul în care este descrisă căderea nopții peste New York City, Gunn spune că proza lui Asimov "nu trebuie să se rușineze în prezența societății literare".

    Deși se mândrea cu stilul lipsit de ornamente (pentru care l-a desemnat pe Clifford D. Simak ca influență), Asimov agrea folosirea structurilor narative complexe în textele sale mai lungi, aranjând uneori capitolele într-o altă ordine decât cea cronologică. Unii cititori au fost deranjați de acest lucru, plângându-se că non-linearitatea nu merită bătaia de cap și influențează claritatea poveștii. De exemplu, prima treime din romanul Zeii înșiși începe cu capitolul 6, apoi revine de mai multe ori pentru a completa materialul anterior. [15] (John W. Campbell îl sfătuise pe Asimov să înceapă povestirile cât mai târziu în cadrul acțiunii. Acest sfat l-a ajutat pe Asimov să creeze "Raționament", una dintre primele povestiri cu roboți. Vezi In Memory Yet Green pentru detalii legate de acea perioadă.) Patrouch găsea dăunătoare romanului intercalarea flashback-urilor din Curenții spațiului, ajungând până acolo încât doar un "fan înrăit al lui Asimov" ar fi savurat-o. Tendința lui Asimov de a-și modifica cronologia este extrem de vizibilă și în romanul Nemesis, în care un grup de personaje trăiește în "prezent", iar altul începe acțiunea "trecut", cu cincisprezece ani mai devreme și înaintează în timp spre perioada primului grup.

    În 2002, Donald Palumbo, un profesor de engleză de la East Carolina University, a publicat Chaos Theory, Asimov's Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: The Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science Fiction („Teoria Haosului, Fundația și Roboții lui Asimov și Dune a lui Herbert: Estetica fractală a science fictionului epic”), care include o analiză a structurilor narative asimoviene și le compară cu conceptul științific al fractalilor și cu teoria haosului. Palumbo este de părere că, deși elementele tradiționale ale literaturii (cum sunt simbolismul și caracterizarea) lipsesc parțial sau total, seriile Fundației și Roboților rămân fascinante. Conform lui, complexitatea utilitaristă a construcțiilor sale narative dă naștere unei structuri simterice recursive percepută cu ochii minții.

    Limitări Modificare

    Asimov a fost criticat și pentru absența aproape totală a sexualității și a vieții extraterestre din scrierile sale SF. El a explicat la un moment dat că reținerea sa în a scrie despre extratereștri are la bază un eveniment de la începutul carierei sale, în care editorul revistei Astounding, John Campbell i-a respins o povestire pentru că extratereștrii erau portretizați ca superiori oamenilor. El a decis ca, decât să creeze personaje extraterestre slabe, ar fi mai bine să nu mai scrie deloc despre ele. Totuși, romanul Zeii înșiși conține extratereștri, sex și sex extraterestru, cartea fiind recompensată cu premiul Nebula pentru "Cel mai bun roman" în 1972, [16] și premiul Hugo la aceeași categorie în 1973. [17] Asimov spunea că, dintre toate scrierile sale, cel mai mândru era de secțiunea mediană din Zeii înșiși, parte care tratează aceste teme. [18]

    În nuvela câștigătoare a premiului Hugo Gold, Asimov vorbește despre un autor bazat în mod clar pe propria persoană, a cărui carte (Zeii înșiși) a fost adaptată într-o "dramă-computerizată", un fel de animație computerizată fotorealistă. Regizorul îl critică pe Asimovul fictiv ("Gregory Laborian") pentru că a folosit un stil extrem de non-vizual, care face dificilă adaptarea operei sale, iar autorul se apără explicând că el se bazează mai mult pe idei și dialog decât pe descrieri pentru a se face înțeles.

    Asimov a fost criticat și pentru absența personajelor feminine puternice din prima perioadă a operei sale. În scrierile autobiografice de genul nuvelei Gold ("Women and Science Fiction"), el pune acest lucru pe seama lipsei de experiență. Romanele ulterioare conțin mai multe personaje feminine, dar folosește în esență același stil ca și în povestirile sale SF mai vechi, lucru care a adus problema în fața unei audiențe mai largi. De exemplu, în numărul din 25 august 1985 din Washington Post, secțiunea "Lumea cărții" descrie astfel Roboții și Imperiul:

    Cu toate acestea, în Soarele gol (1957) problemele sociale se află la baza intrigii, iar ingineria genetică reprezintă o componentă fundamentală a societății, iar cititorului îi sunt prezentate arcologii inversate în care elementul central îl constituie o singură persoană. De asemenea, nașterea artificială reprezintă țelul conducătorilor societății, iar necesitățile de natură sexuală reprezintă o caracteristică importantă a personajului principal feminin (prezentată conform standardelor din anii '50).

    Religie Modificare

    Isaac Asimov a fost un ateu, un umanist și un raționalist. [19] El nu s-a opus convingerilor religioase ale altora, dar a luat frecvent poziție împotriva credințelor superstițioase și pseudoștiințifice care încercau să treacă drept știință veritabilă. În timpul copilăriei sale, tatăl și mama lui au urmat tradițiile iudaismului ortodox - deși nu în aceeași măsură ca atunci când locuiau la Petrovici - însă nu l-au obligat pe tânărul Isaac să le urmeze. Astfel, el a crescut fără a avea parte de puternice influențe religioase, ajungând să considere că Tora prezintă mitologia ebraică în același fel în care Iliada a înregistrat mitologia greacă. Așa cum se vede din cărțile sale Treasury of Humor și Asimov Laughs Again, lui Asimov îi plăcea să spună glume în care apăreau Dumnezeu, Satan, Grădina Edenului, Ierusalimul sau alte subiecte religioase, considerând că o glumă bună poate da de gândit mai mult decât o face o discuție filozofică.

    Pentru o scurtă perioadă de timp, tatăl său a lucrat la sinagoga locală [20] , lucru care a stat la baza cărții viitoare Asimov's Guide to the Bible, o analiză a fondării istorice a Vechiului și Noului Testament. Multă vreme, Asimov s-a autointitulat un ateu, dar era de părere că acesta nu este un termen adecvat, deoarece descrie ceea ce nu crede, nu ceea ce crede. În cele din urmă s-a autointitulat "umanist", considerând că acesta este un termen mai practic, dar a continuat să se considere evreu [21] , lucru recunoscut în introducerea la antologia SF-ului ebraic editată de Jack Dann, Wandering Stars: "Nu merg la slujbe, nu urmez niciun ritual și nu am mers niciodată la acel curios rit adolescentin numit Bar Mitzvah. Nu contează. Sunt evreu."

    În ultima sa autobiografie, Asimov scria: "Dacă nu aș fi fost ateu, aș fi crezut într-un Dumnezeu care ar fi ales să salveze oamenii pe baza întregii lor vieți și nu a vorbelor lor. Cred că ar fi preferat un ateu cinstit și drept unui evanghelist TV ale cărui cuvinte zilnice sunt Dumnezeu, Dumnezeu, Dumnezeu și a cărui fiecare faptă este necinste, necinste, necinste." [22] În aceeași carte afirmă că, după părerea sa, Iadul reprezintă "visul bolnav al unui sadic" Asimov se întreba de ce, dacă până și guvernele umane vor să pună punct pedepselor crude, nu ar fi și pedepsele vieții de apoi limitate din punct de vedere temporal? Asimov a respins ideea că o credință sau acțiune umană ar merita pedeapsa eternă. El pretindea că, dacă ar exista o viață de apoi, cea mai îndelungată și severă pedeapsă ar trebuie rezervată celor care "l-au defăimat pe Dumnezeu inventând Iadul". [23]

    Politică Modificare

    Asimov a devenit un suporter devotat al Partidului Democrat în timpul politicii New Deal, rămânând în continuare un liberal. El a protestat împotriva Războiului din Vietnam din anii '60 și l-a susținut public pe George McGovern în cadrul unui interviu televizat din anii '70. El era nemulțumit de ceea ce considera o atitudine "irațională" promovată de mulți activiști politici radicali începând de la sfârșitul anilor '60. În a doua sa autobiografie, In Joy Still Felt, Asimov își amintea de întâlnirea cu Abbie Hoffman, rămânând cu impresia că eroii mișcării contra-culturale din anii '60 au fost purtați de un val emoțional care, în cele din urmă, i-a lăsat eșuați într-un "tărâm spiritual al nimănui", din care se întreba dacă vor mai putea reveni vreodată. (Această atitudine este ilustrată de un pasaj faimos din Frică și dezgust în Las Vegas al lui Hunter S. Thompson.)

    El i s-a opus vehement lui Richard Nixon, considerându-l "un escroc și un mincinos" și a urmărit zi de zi evenimentele afacerii Watergate, fiind mulțumit că președintele a fost forțat să demisioneze. El a fost consternat de scuza găsită de succesorul lui Nixon pentru faptele acestuia: "Nu m-a impresionat argumentul că a ajutat națiunea să evite o grea încercare. După părerea mea, încercarea era necesară pentru a ne asigura că așa ceva nu se va mai înrâmpla."

    Probleme sociale Modificare

    Asimov se considera un feminist încă dinainte de răspândirea mișcării feministe el glumea spunând că își dorea ca femeile să fie libere "pentru că nu îmi place când atacă". [24] Pe un ton mai serios, a argumentat că problema drepturilor femeilor era strâns legată de cea a controlului populației. Mai mult, el credea că homosexualitatea trebuie considerată un "drept moral", ca și orice altă activitate sexuală liber consimțită care nu ducea la reproducere. [25] A lansat multe apeluri pentru controlul creșterii populației reflectând perspectiva articulată de oameni de la Thomas Malthus și până la Paul R. Ehrlich.

    Probleme ecologice Modificare

    Faptul că Asimov a luat apărarea aplicațiilor civile ale energiei nucleare chiar și după incidentul de la centrala Three Mile Island, a dus la deteriorarea relațiilor sale cu unii dintre colegii săi liberali. Într-o scrisoare tipărită în Yours, Isaac Asimov [25] el declara că, deși prefera să trăiască "într-un loc neprimejdios" decât lângă un reactor nuclear, ar prefera o casă lângă o centrală nucleară decât într-o mahala din Love Canal, sau lângă "o centrală a celor de la Union Carbide care produce izocianat de metil" (aluzie la Catastrofa de la Bhopal).

    În ultimii ani ai vieții, Asimov a pus deteriorarea nivelului de trai din New York City pe seama micșorării taxelor cauzată de migrația segregaționistă către suburbii ("white flight"). Ultima sa carte de non-ficțiune, Our Angry Earth (1991, scrisă în colaborare cu vechiul său prieten, autorul SF Frederik Pohl), tratează problema crizei mediului, prin prisma încălzirii globale și distrugerea stratului de ozon.

    Alți autori Modificare

    Asimov a declarat atât în autobiografia sa, cât și într-o serie de eseuri, că i-au plăcut scrierile lui J. R. R. Tolkien. El omagiază Stăpânul inelelor într-o povestire din seria "Black Widowers". (În scrisoarea trimisă lui Charlotte și Denis Plimmer, care îl intervievaseră anterior pentru Daily Telegraph Magazine, Tolkien a declarat că îi plăceau scrierile SF ale lui Isaac Asimov.)

    El i-a admirat pe numeroși contemporani ai săi, în particular pe colegul său din domeniul SF-ului Arthur C. Clarke, împreună cu care a semnat "Tratatul din Park Avenue", care stipula că Clarke era liber să se refere la el ca la cel mai bun scriitor SF din lume (Asimov fiind pe locul doi), iar Asimov era liber să se refere la el în același fel (Clarke fiind pe locul doi). El a recunoscut superioritatea talentului unui număr de colegi scriitori, spunând despre Harlan Ellison că "este (în opinia mea) unul dintre cei mai buni scriitori din lume, mult mai îndemânatic în această artă decât mine".

    Asimov a murit la 6 aprilie 1992, având HIV luat de la o transfuzie de sânge infectată din timpul unei operații pe inimă din 1983. SIDA a fost recunoscută drept cauza morții abia zece ani mai târziu, în biografia „A fost o viață bună” scrisă de soția sa, Janet Asimov.

    Asimov Debates 2001-2009

    2001 Asimov Debate: The Theory of Everything

    Can the entire Universe be explained with a single, unifying theory?

    This is perhaps the most fundamental question in all of science, and it may also be the most controversial. Albert Einstein was one of the first people to envision a unified field theory that might describe the behavior of all matter and energy in the cosmos with a single stroke of the pen however, a definitive solution has eluded physicists to this day. As we enter the twenty-first century, the leading candidate for a theory of everything appears to be string theory, which considers every particle in the Universe as a multi-dimensional entity—a string—that manifests itself in our Universe differently depending on how it twists and vibrates.

      —Professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, string theorist, and author of The Elegant Universe. —Professor of physics at MIT, theoretical particle physicist, and expert on the fundamental theory of matter. —Professor of physics at the University of Maryland, string theorist, and author of Superspace, or 1001 Lessons In Supersymmetry. —Professor of physics at Case Western Reserve University, theoretical physicist and author of numerous books on fundamental physics including Quintessence: The Mystery of the Missing Mass in the Universe. —Professor emeritus of physics at Harvard University and professor of physics at Boston University, particle physicist, 1979 Nobel Laureate in Physics, and author of From Alchemy to Quarks: The Study of Science as a Liberal Art.

    Host & Moderator

    2002 Asimov Debate: The Search For Life in the Universe

    The second debate focused on the evidence for the possibility of life in the Universe. A diverse panel of outspoken scientists offered insight into the latest research in this field, including newest evidence from the Martian meteorite known as ALH84001, up-to-date information on sub-surface liquid water currently on Mars and Europa, Earth's thriving population of extremophiles (organisms that live in environments previously thought inhospitable), and the search for extrasolar planets.

      —Senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in California. Expert on the methods, tactics, and hardware needed to search for intelligent life in the Universe. —Geologist at University of Washington. Co-author of the controversial book Rare Earth, arguing for the extreme rarity of complex life in the Milky Way Galaxy from the standpoint of geology, astrophysics, chemistry, and biology. —Astrobiologist and planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. Researcher on the evolution of the Solar System and the origin of life involved in Mars mission planning and Antarctic field research. —Physicist at Tulane University. Author of The Physics of Immortality and co-author of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, as well as numerous papers on the rarity of extraterrestrial intelligence. —Microbiologist at Complex Systems Research, Inc. Expert on the newly discovered branch of life known as extremophiles, which survive under conditions of temperature, acidity, and radiation that are lethal for humans and other forms of complex life.

    Host & Moderator

    2003 Asimov Debate: The Big Bang

    The Big Bang Theory remains the most successful idea ever presented for cosmic origins.

    Legendary is its capacity to describe the observable Universe, from its first three minutes through the present day. Still, some aspects of this model remain puzzling. Dark matter and dark energy, for instance, test the limits of our cosmic understanding.

    Now alternative theories of cosmic origins challenge the fundamental notions of the Big Bang. The latest ground-based and space-borne telescopes are observing the cosmic microwave background with unprecedented precision. Armed with this new generation of data, we may begin to favor one theory of the Universe over the others.

      —Professor of Physics at MIT pioneer of inflationary cosmologies, which proposes that the expansion of the Big Bang was propelled by a repulsive form of gravity, where the very early Universe experienced a rapid, exponential growth in size author of The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins. —Professor of Physics at Princeton University proponent of the classical Big Bang cosmology and a keen observer of the subject's rich and diverse history author of the graduate texts Principles of Physical Cosmology, and The Large Scale Structure of the Universe. —Researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics author of Life of the Cosmosand, co-inventor of loop quantum gravity, the leading approach to the quantization of space and time, and inventor of cosmological natural selection, a testable hypothesis that may explain the values of the fundamental constants in nature. —Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University he is the member of the science team for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy (WMAP) satellite, which recently announced the latest and most precise measurements ever made of the cosmic microwave background radiation. —Professor of Physics at Princeton University a theorist and a pioneer of inflationary cosmologies, he recently introduced the new cyclic theory of cosmic origin which is an explanation for the origin of the Universe that exploits recent developments in string theory. This novel idea has received extensive attention as one of the few viable competing theories to the Big Bang.

    Host & Moderator

    2004 Asimov Debate: The Dark Side

    A debate about all that is dark and mysterious in the Universe, from super-massive black holes that lurk in the centers of galaxies to the dark matter that accounts for more than eighty percent of all the gravity in the Universe. In addition, there is dark energy which is currently forcing our expanding Universe to accelerate. What does all this mean for our understanding of the Universe?

      —Professor of Physics, University of Michigan. Working on a wide range of topics in theoretical cosmology and particle physics, Dr. Freese has been working to identify the dark matter and dark energy of the Universe as well as explore the large scale structure of the Universe. —Professor of Physics & Mathematics, Columbia University. A researcher in superstring theory, Dr. Greene is also the best-selling author of The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory and The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality. —Clowes Professor of Science, Harvard University. Dr. Kirshner is a co-discoverer of dark energy, the force behind the accelerated expansion of the Universe, and a researcher of supernovae, the large-scale distribution of galaxies, and the size and shape of the Universe. —Associate Director of Mathematical and Physical Sciences for the National Science Foundation Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics at the University of Chicago senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Dr. Turner investigates cosmology as a probe to uncover the fundamental laws of physics. —Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff at Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies. Dr. Tyson's current research centers on experimental cosmology with regard to observational probes of dark matter and dark energy in the Universe. He has led the development of cameras and analysis techniques for ground-based imaging of the distant, younger Universe.

    Host & Moderator

    2005 Asimov Debate: The Enigma of Alien Solar Systems

    When the first planets were discovered around other stars nearly a decade ago, everyone expected these alien solar systems to resemble our own, with small, rocky planets close to their host star and larger, gaseous planets farther away. However, not one of these planetary systems holds these properties. Currently, these systems contain one or more Jupiter-sized planets orbiting as close to their host stars as Mercury orbits our Sun. These systems stump observers and theorists alike forcing us to look anew at our own Solar System and ask the question, Are we the enigma?

      —University of Texas. Long-time observer and weigher of extrasolar planets using the Hubble Space Telescope. —Carnegie Institution of Washington. Co-discoverer of more than two-thirds of all known extrasolar planets. —California Institute of Technology. Theorist with expertise on the formation of planets, asteroids, and comets. —Princeton University. Expert on the gravitational interactions, orbital dynamics, and long-term stability of planetary systems. —Carnegie Institution of Washington. Next-generation planet-hunter and world-expert on habitable zones around stars in which we hope to find planets capable of sustaining life.

    Host & Moderator

    2006 Asimov Debate: Universe - One or Many?

    A panel of cosmologists debated possibility that our Universe is just one of many comprising the multiverse. This notion invokes dimensions beyond our everyday experience and draws from the leading edge of our conception of the cosmos. The presence or absence of data in support of these ideas formed a central theme for the evening.

      —Henry Semat Professor in Theoretical Physics at City College—CUNY host of Explorations in Science radio program on WBAI and national radio author of Hyperspace, and Parallel Worlds —Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University author of Hiding in the Mirror: The Mysterious Allure of Extra Dimensions, from Plato to String Theory and Beyond —Professor of Physics at Harvard University author of Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions —Professor of Physics at Stanford University theoretical cosmologist and one of the original architects of the multiverse concept —Professor of Physics at University of California-Irvine and Las Cumbres Observatory acute observer of the history and philosophy of astronomy

    Host & Moderator

    2007 Asimov Debate: The Pioneer Anomaly

    The Pioneer spacecraft, two identical unmanned planetary probes, were launched in the early 1970s on trajectories that would send them past the outer planets and onward with enough speed to leave the Solar System entirely—a first in space exploration. While attempting to account for all known forces that act on these craft, scientists analyzed the telemetry signals from the craft and found an inconsistency. The positions of the craft do not match the scientists' predictions. There seems to be an extra force at work, not included in the analysis, which has affected the motion of these craft across decades of monitoring their signals, from launch until their last contact.

    The big questions are: What is this force? Is it an unforeseen glitch of spacecraft design? Is it a sign of the discovery of new physics or a new understanding of gravity? Or simply of something in our present knowledge of physics that has been overlooked?

      —Senior Research Scientist, Global Aerospace Corporation, formerly of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory led the team in 1998 that discovered the Pioneer Anomaly —Visiting Research Collaborator in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University President and Founder of Innovative Orbital Design, Inc.
  • Gary M. Kinsella—Group Supervisor, Spacecraft Thermal Engineering and Flight Operations at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer who specializes in the thermal design development of spacecraft and science instruments —Timken University Professor at Harvard and a Senior Scientist at the Smithsonian Institution research has mainly involved tests of general relativity —Astrophysicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory specialist in gravitational physics and leader of the Pioneer Anomaly Team working to solve this great mystery
  • Host & Moderator

    2008 Asimov Debate: Mining the Sky

    Planets, moons, asteroids, and comets contain natural resources such as water, minerals, and trace elements that may have survival value to visiting astronauts and economic value to life on Earth. How did we learn of these materials? How would one go about mining them? Who owns these resources, if anyone? And should they be mined at all?

    Join moderator Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, as we explore and debate the frontier of this subject with a panel of experts drawn from planetary science, aerospace engineering, environmental engineering, and space law.

      —Professor, Lunar and Planetary Lab, University of Arizona expert in Cosmochemistry planetary atmospheres —Acting Planetary Protection Officer, NASA Headquarters expert in international guidelines to prevent biological contamination while exploring the solar system —Charles F. Fogarty Professor of Economic Geology, Colorado School of Mines expert in deposit- and district-scale mapping of mineral deposit formation —Research Professor of Space Policy and International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University expert on legal and economic issues of space and high technology industries. —Engineer at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, expert in the technology of converting space materials into usable hardware.

    Host & Moderator

    2009 Asimov Debate: From Planets to Plutoids

    When the International Astronomical Union's 2006 vote reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet, controversy followed over this most beloved object in the solar system. Recent discoveries of icy Kuiper belt objects and hot Exoplanets have forced scientists to re-think previous classification schemes and their associated nomenclature.

    Join Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and his panel of experts as they discuss and debate the ideas that drive our understanding of the solar system.

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    Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

    Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He has works published in nine o Isaac Asimov was a Russian-born, American author, a professor of biochemistry, and a highly successful writer, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.

    Professor Asimov is generally considered one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. He has works published in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (lacking only an entry in the 100s category of Philosophy).

    Asimov is widely considered a master of the science-fiction genre and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, was considered one of the "Big Three" science-fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation Series his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series, both of which he later tied into the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series to create a unified "future history" for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He penned numerous short stories, among them "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time, a title many still honor. He also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as a great amount of nonfiction. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.

    Most of Asimov's popularized science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include his Guide to Science, the three volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery.

    Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly he described some members of that organization as "brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs" He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, the magazine Asimov's Science Fiction, a Brooklyn, NY elementary school, and two different Isaac Asimov Awards are named in his honor.

    Isaac Asimov

    Asimov was born sometime between October 4, 1919 and January 2, 1920 in Petrovichi in Smolensk Oblast, RSFSR (now Russia), the son of a Jewish family of millers. Although his exact date of birth is uncertain, Asimov himself celebrated it on January 2. His family emigrated to Brooklyn, New York and opened a candy store when he was three years old. He taught himself to read at the age of five. He began reading the science fiction pulp magazines that his family's store carried. Around the age of eleven, he began to write his own stories, and by age nineteen, he was selling them to the science fiction magazines. He graduated from Columbia University in 1939. He married Gertrude Blugerman in 1942. During World War II he worked as a civilian at the Philadelphia Navy Yard's Naval Air Experimental Station. After the war, he returned to Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1948. He then joined the faculty of the Boston University School of Medicine until 1958, when he became a full-time writer. His first novel, Pebble in the Sky, was published in 1950. He and his wife divorced in 1973, and he married Janet O. Jeppson the same year. He was a highly prolific writer, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 9,000 letters and postcards.

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