Friday, July 6, 2012

Loving Asimov

True confession: Isaac Asimov is my favorite scientific writer ever.  No, I don't agree with every blessed thing he ever wrote, especially when the topic touches on religion, most especially when he created his creationistic straw men to slay by pen.  That last bit may be the only "problem" I ever had with his scientific writings.

Even when I was fully secular I never bought the notion that most religious folk believed in an unchanging, static universe, nor that they believed that science was in disagreement with the Bible.  Certainly one could find those folk if one looked hard enough, indeed all I had to do was speak with my grandfather to find one.  Finding another one was pretty difficult, even in Church.  All of that can wait for another post and I need to find a way to work it into the new book.

So, by the time I graduated high school in the very early 1980s, I had read every non-fiction essay Asimov had written.  In my private paperback collection neatly stacked in my cheap roll-top desk, I had all of his essays as printed by Doubleday.

One I recall by content, sadly not by title, began (I think) with Asimov responding to some criticism of a SciFi story set on the planet Venus.  When he wrote the story the "smart science" had one concept of the conditions on the surface, but in a few years improved technology revealed Venus as the hot-as-hell, crushingly high pressure surface that we know is true today.  If I recall correctly, someone wrote him a letter complaining about how "wrong" he was about the planet conditions and Asimov responded that scientists keep changing their minds about certain details of our universe.

As I write, I have logged about four hours on 'The Google' looking for that essay and cannot find it.  Of course, if I still had my Doubleday paperback collection the search would have been over hours ago.  Same same if I had taken the drive to the big city down the pike and looked in the big university library.

All is not lost, I did find this: The Relativity of Wrong, Isaac Asimov - The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 14 No. 1, Fall 1989.  I encourage all to click through for a good read.  Something else I like about Asimov's writing is the ease at which he "recycled" themes and ideas in his essays.  I do not recall reading this particular essay before today, it was published long before I knew of The Skeptical Inquirer, and it was a few years after I stopped actively seeking out his essays.

In this one, Asimov brings back the "Bartlett Pear dangling in space" earth shape that he made great fun of decades earlier in some other nonfiction essay.  He closed that one with "why am I the only one laughing?"  Several other items jogged my memory of other essays, but neither this one nor the others were on the scale of self-plagiarism, he never approached that, in my opinion.  He just had this fantastic way of dropping in themes that interrelated the topic at hand to other topics that he covered, much like the way everything in our universe is interrelated.

The whole point to my looking for the other essay, and wasting half-a-day of writing time, was to support the point that science is never settled.  If I never find the other article I can still use this one because the relativity of wrong is indeed also important and can work instead of what I had in mind to begin with.

No comments:

Post a Comment