Saturday, April 2, 2011

Asimov on Physics

I've accepted the Blogging A to Z Challenge. All month, I'm going to blog about Books from A to Z.

If science is a drug, then Isaac Asimov was my gateway.

Sure, there was Star Trek and other science fiction-y shows that at least nodded toward science. And even delving into real science fiction novels, gems like Asimov's Foundation, maybe gave me a heads up toward science, but all that was really more about adventure than anything else, at least for me.

But Asimov truly laid a foundation by drawing me in with his voice. There was something about him, about his work, that made me want to explore more of his writing, beyond the science fiction stuff. Maybe I first read some essays in F&SF (or maybe I subscribed to F&SF because of his monthly essays). I don't know anymore what was my very first exposure to Asimov's science writing. But somehow Asimov on Physics sticks with me as one of my first, if not the very first, purchases of Asimov's non-fiction. If nothing else, it got carried around more than any other.

Asimov on PhysicsAsmiov wrote monthly essays on a topic of his choosing, usually science related, for F&SF magazine. Every year or so, these columns would collected in a book. And, sometimes, Asimov would further distill the essays into a collection of articles surrounding a single topic. And, so, we come to Asimov on Physics. I've still got my copy right here, in a large basked full of Asimov paperbacks, always resting within arms reach of my desk.

The cover is scratched, the spine is creased. I know the titles of some of the essays without even opening the book. The Light That Failed. C for Celeritas. Order, Order. These essays not only presented the principles underlying the science discussed, they brought out the personalities involved. The Light That Failed, for instance, describes the Michelson-Morley Experiment that, by being a spectacular failure, disproved the existence of the luminiferous aether. What a great lesson to learn about science, that even in failure we can learn and advance. Progress is sometimes begun by eliminating possibilities rather than taking the obvious for granted.

Devouring this book got me hooked on Asimov's science essays, hooked on Asimov - whose introductions in each essay really established his jovial "voice" - and hooked on science. I bought more and more of Asimov's essay collections. I bought books he wrote on other topics. I bought other books on science. I loved them all. My short story, In Memory Yet Green, is in many ways a valentine to these paperback essay collections and exalted position Asimov held in my mind.

In another life I embraced math and became an astrophysicist. But in this life, I learned to love reading, to love knowledge, to love science and art and, well, Asimov.

Thanks, Isaac.

P.S. My favorite resource on Asimov is Jenkins' spoiler laden guide and blog.

1 comment:

Sue London said...

I haven't read any of his non-fiction, which is a bit of a shock. Now I have more things to read!