Friday, February 25, 2011

Magazines Asimov Might Have Seen, pt 1

My grandfather on my father's side had subscriptions to a couple of magazines - Modern Mechanix and Inventions (later Mechanix Illustrated), and Science and Mechanics. Published by Fawcett, they are 9 X 6 in size, with a color cover (at least, they had color covers. Only a couple of the ones I've inherited still have their covers) and averaged between 130 and 160 pages [I'm sure page count dropped once we entered the war in 1942], and cost 15 cents (20 cents in Canada).

I have no doubt that these are the kinds of magazines Asimov's father would sell in his candy shop (in addition to candy they also sold magazines and at one point had a soda fountain).

I have a Modern Mechanix and Inventions from April 1934. It's Volume XI, Number 6, with an NRA (National Rifle Association) symbol in the upper right hand corner of the Contents page. Asimov would have been 13...and not being "deft" with his hands, may not have paid attention to such magazines that were all about building things.

Contents
Special Features

1) Narrow Escapes with the Blind Fliers (US Postal planes, using radio to guide their way)
2) P. K. Wrigley - Millionaire Mechanic
3) Yachtsmen Risk Fortunes for Lipton Race Honors
4) Undersea Sledge Hunts Sunken Gold
5) What Makes Mickey Move? (Mickey Mouse cartoons)
6) "I Can Whip Any Mechanical Robot," by Jack Dempsey
7) Making the "Invisible Man" Invisible
8) Oddities of Science
9) Foreign Villages to Dominate 1934 World's Fair
10) Plan World's Largest Canal for Florida
11) 2,000 Inch Telescope May Reveal the End of the Universe
12) Robot Clock Latest Home Aid
13) Bailing Out with the Navy's Parachute Ace
14) Protect Yourself From Your Automobile

Shorter Features
1) Problem Letters from Readers
2) Society Explorers Brave Jungle For Diamonds
3) Scalp Massager Features Novel Inventions
4) Revive Interest in Art of Tattooing
5) $25 in Prizes for Solving 3 Problems
6) Winners of Great Problem Contest
7) Bizarre Eat Shops Built to Lure Trade
8) Radio Brings Famous Teachers to Classes
9) Swaying Aerial Railroad Climbs Mountain
10) Fortunes Await Inventors
11) Amuse Friends with Chemical Stunts
12) Easy Amateur Magic Tricks
13) With the Collectors

How - To - Build Features
1) Build this model of the Champion "Outdoor Girl" (a Curtis Robin plane)
2) A Film Pack Adapter for your Camera
3) Tying "Sure Catch" Flies for Bass and Trout
4) A Floor Waxer for $5
5) Build Selenium "Electric Eye" to Open Garage Doors
6) Old Motors Make Garden Tractors
7) New Ideas for Keeping the Dog
8) Plans for a Handy Tea Table
9) A "Dynamic Diadem" for Store Windows

You think that's all? You'rewrong. Page 2 of the table of Contents has New Mechanical Inventions (38 of them I'm not going to list right now), 26 Interesting Scientific Items, including Scotland Stirred by Loch Ness Monster, 11 articles For Radio Fans, 12 Handikinks For Everybody, 3 under Auto Ideas to Prevent Trouble, 3 under Timesavers for the Housewife, 3 under Ideas for the Home Electrician, and 3 Handy Suggestions for Farm Homes. Then, there's 6 articles Foe the Workshop Fan, and Chips from the Editor's Workbench - a letter column.


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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Emmerich working on Asimov's Foundation movie

THis news is actually from 14 Feb, 2011, and comes from a site called WorstPreviews.com

http://www.worstpreviews.com/headline.php?id=20666&count=0
Roland Emmerich on "Independence Day 2" and Isaac Asimov's "Foundation"
Posted: February 14th, 2011 by WorstPreviews.com Staff

Director Roland Emmerich has been planning two more "Independence Day" sequels, but has now revealed to Empire magazine that the sequels won't happen any time soon.

"'Independence Day 2' is nowhere," he said. "It's back and forth, back and forth. There's no script because I don't want to write anything before anything starts. One day it will happen."

Emmerich is instead focusing on bringing Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" to the big screen. "We've hired a production designer and it's mainly now to find out what the movie will cost," he explained. "It'll take us until the end of March, then we'll decide. The studio is happy with the script (by 'The Patriot' writer Robert Rodat), but now's the time that the numbers count. I want to make a movie that's very different from other science-fiction movies and I don't want to have the burden of too big a budget."

"Foundation" is a complex saga about humans who are scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. A psycho-historian who can scientifically read the future sees an imminent empire collapse, and sets to work preparing to save the knowledge of mankind.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Books About Asimov (part 1)

I visited Amazon.com today and did a search for books about Isaac Asimov (Isaac Asimov biography were the search terms), just to see if there were any new ones.

If there are, you can get them from Amazon or request them from your local library.

Conversations with Isaac Asimov (Literary Conversations Series), by Carl Freedman (2005)

What with a successful recent film of his classic I Robot (1950) and his Foundation series being taught in university literature classes, Isaac Asimov remains popular more than a decade after his death. As editor Freedman reminds us, Asimov was one of the most prolific authors of his generation, with more than 400 volumes of fiction and nonfiction to his name. Yet he was loath to abandon his typewriter for interviews, so that this assortment of rarely reprinted dialogues with the sf grandmaster, dating from 1968 to 1990, constitutes something special for his fans. Asimov's questioners include such well-known figures as sf editor James Gunn and PBS stalwart Bill Moyers, and their interviews originally appeared in publications as diverse as Science Fiction Voices and Psychology Today. Topics range from Asimov's perspective on his classic novels to the state of contemporary sf to his insights on technology's precarious future. An indispensable addition to every Asimov collection. Carl Hays


Isaac Asimov: A Life of the Grand Master of Science Fiction, by Michael White

Isaac Asimov dominated science fiction for over half a century. He wrote over 400 books during the course of his career and was honored with every prize and award the science fiction community could give him. By his late teens, he had already embarked upon the works that would make him world-famous: the Robot stories, in which he laid down the Three Laws of Robotics, which are still accepted today by researchers into artificial intelligence; "Nightfall," arguably the best science fiction short story ever written; and the Foundation novels, where he established the idea of warring galactic empires, changing the face of science fiction forever.
Bestselling author Michael White’s probing first-ever biography of this extraordinary writer takes us from Asimov’s troubled childhood in New York to his ascendancy to the rank of "Grand Master," the highest honor in the science fiction world. With the success of last summer’s hit film I, Robot and more Asimovian movies in the works, the founding father of science fiction is as influential and popular today as he was in the 1950s.


Isaac Asimov: Writer of the Future (World Writers), by William J. Boerst (1999)

Grade 6 Up-Boerst takes readers from Asimov's early years as a Russian immigrant in New York City, through his loves and marriages, his brief stint in the Army, his honors and awards, to his death in 1992. There is a good mix of his family and professional life. While not particularly exciting in its delivery, the text speaks to who Asimov was and provides insights into his writings. The black-and-white photographs lend a certain realism and interest to the story, and the quotes are documented. A list of Asimov's books for young people is also included. This volume serves up the facts on this incredibly prolific writer and on science fiction as a genre. It will provide solid information for reports and for leisure reading about a fascinating person.
Linda Wadleigh, Oconee County Middle School, Watkinsville, GA



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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

29 May, 1937

On page 170 of Asimov's biography, In Memory Yet Green, Asimov mentions the specific date 29 May, 1937. He is 17 years and 5 months old.

Prior to mentioning this date, he shares some miscellania about his parents and about their 4th home. This apartment, on Windsor Place, was a railroad apartment, 4 rooms in a row. Asimov had a room of his own, but anyone wanting to go from the living room to the bedroom had to go through his room. (The rooms were, living room, Asimov's room, Marcia's room, his mother and brother Stanley's room. His father's room and the kitchen were across the hall. (In those days, husbands and wives who could afford to apparently had separate rooms, and slept together only for the purpose of having sex.)

He also had a closet all his own and permission to keep his magazines there. He had kept the August 1936 issue of Astounding Stories - the first magazine he'd ever owned. By the time they'd moved in to Windsor Place he had 5 issues of that magazine and a couple each of Thrilling Wonder Stories and Amazing Stories.

Asimov comments about the furniture in the apartment - "all bought cheaply." "When they wore out, if we could persuade ourselves to the expenditure, we replaced them with other items equally colorless." Asimov actually hated for them to get anything new, because "for a long while after it arrived, my parents would be reluctant to allow it to be used lest we 'wear it out.' We could make do without sitting on a chair, but to get in a new radio and be told not to use it vitiated the very reason for its existence and drove me wild."

Now, to 29 May, 1937.

"The sight of all those magazines there inspired me to prepare a little index-card system in which I listed all the stories alphabetically by title. I included the author, the length, a brief review and opinion, and a rating from no stars to five stars in half-star units.

That really made me conscious of stories, as literary items, as never before, and, after 6 years of writing amorphous, disconnected, undening-and therefore dying fictional items, it finally occurred to me to write a story.

The day on which this happened was May 29, 1937, and this first story that he worked on was called "Cosmic Corkscrew."

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Asimov Photo - Library


Judging from the wallpaper, I'd say this was his son's room, but it sure looks like it's his own books and reference works on the shelves...



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Monday, February 7, 2011

November 3, 1936

Asimov, age 16, had reason to be interested in politics. Although he was an atheist, he came of Jewish stock and could not help but read about what was happening in Germany with abhorrence.

He writes in his autobiography (pg 167)
The last notable event that took place during our sojourn on Decatur Street (before his family moved to Windsor Place) was the 1936 Presidential election on November 3. I had spent a miserable few months following the Literary Digest poll, which predicted a Republican landslide. It seemed to show that the Republican cadidate, Alfred M. Landom, would carry every state outside the Solid South and the border states. There seemed no reason to disbelieve this, since The Literary Digest had polled an immense number of people whom it had drawn out of telephione directories and automobile registration lists.

On November 3, I took a nap in the afternoon because it was my intention to stay up and listen as long as Roosevelt had any chance at all of being re-elected. It is an indication of how old I was getting that my mother was willing to let me do this.

Od course, as it turned out (and I couldn't believe my ears), Roosevelt won everywhere. Landon carried only Maine and Vermont, and I stayed up all night just glorying in the gathering figures. Naturally I had made up an elaborate state-by-state checkerboard of my own. I recorded the electoral votes and then went on to record the figures and award the states this way or that once I considered a plurality to be insurmountable. I remember hesitating over New Hampshire.

Then, after we arrived at Windsor Place, the first world event of note was the capture and imprisonment of Chang Kai-Shek of China by the Young Marshall, Chang Hsueh-liang, a competing warlord, on December 12, 1936. This started a train of events that led to a renewed war between China and Japan in 1937. (Japan had begun its invasion of Cinia in 1931, while GReat Britain and the United States confined themselves to speaking loudly and doing nothing.)


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Friday, February 4, 2011

Asimov in Popular Culture: The Laws of Domnance

The Economic TImes, 28 Jan, 2011: The laws of dominance
The Three Laws of Robotics formulated by science fiction author Isaac Asimov have served as a moral basis for not only his own stories but for others, too. They are: 1. A robot may not harm a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; 2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; 3.

A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. Later, Asimov incorporated a fourth and more fundamental Zeroth Law preceding the others: A robot may not harm humanity, or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

The laws appear simple and straightforward because they embrace the essential guiding principles of a good many of the world's actual ethical systems. They're also crafted in a manner that ensures the continued moral authority of humans - the robot's creators as it were - and to preclude the use of such machines for evil.

However, even a casual reading shows that these laws can be applied in the same way and just as well to a human being in reference to his maker. For instance, the second law could easily read: "A human must obey any orders given to him by his Creator except, etc., etc.," It's standard scriptural stuff which religions dictate and we take as their prerogative.

But, the first law is problematic for some people because that would now read: "A human being may not harm his Creator or, through inaction, allow his Creator to come to harm." If we think of "harm" as not meaning just gross physical or mental injury but causing an erosion of the Creator's dominant status in any way, then this is exactly what non-believers do - even when they aren't outright atheists but merely agnostic.

The time is coming when robots will no longer be the mindless creations they were generally thought to be when the laws were first formulated but will develop into autonomous entities with intelligence and, possibly, consciousness. When they can, for example, take an independent look at the first law and rephrase it as: "A robot may not harm a human being... unless it is for the human being's own good."

As in force-feeding a hunger striker. It makes more sense. Only when we become creators of sentient beings ourselves, can we realise how hard it is to make laws that are followed so that we can continue to wield authority.




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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Asimov in Popular Culture: Isaac Asimov and Human Desitny by David Brin

This op ed piece appeared on Jan 7, 2011, at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies website.

I share only the first few paragraphs, check out the link for the entire article:

Isaac Asimov and Human Destiny
Ever notice how many futuristic authors toy, now and then, with the concept of a global overmind?

Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov both did. And my reply to them, a more subtle and diversity-based version, appeared in my novel, Earth.

Now, have a look at the Living Earth Simulator, or the LES project, which aims to simulate everything taking place on planet Earth, both environmental factors and human influences — integrating real-time data feeds to model global environment, pollution, population, as well as financial and political shifts and the spread of infectious diseases.

And who dealt with the scale of human destiny better than the great Isaac Asimov, in his Foundation series? Elsewhere I’ve said about him: “Asimov served wondrous meals-of-the-mind to a civilization that was starved for clear thinking about the future. To this day, his visions spice our ongoing dinner table conversation about human destiny.”

My own novel Foundation’s Triumph tied up nearly all of Isaac’s loose ends — with the enthusiastic approval of Isaac’s heirs. (Read a sample.) In the afterword, I describe how Isaac would always see the flaw in his most recent Foundation “solution” and inch along, decade by decade, to new solutions.

What were his stages?



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Aimov in Popular Culture: No Right Brain Left Behind: A Speed Innovation Challenge for Creative Education

Big Think: No Right Brain Left Behind: A Speed Innovation Challenge for Creative Education
2011, 2:12 PM
by Maria Popova

A great deal has been said and published lately on changing educational paradigms. In fact, this conversation isn't a recent development – even in the 1980s, iconic science fiction author Isaac Asimov was pushing for reinjecting creativity into school curricula in order to fix a broken and uninspired education system. Unfortunately, not much has actually been done in that direction. Though Microsoft's REDU initiative spurred a fair amount of buzz last year, it too remained a disjointed effort largely devoid of actionable change.

No Right Brain Left Behind is a new project that aims to change that through an open speed innovation challenge enlisting the creative industry in envisioning new ways of placing emphasis on the so-called "soft skills" – creativity, inventiveness, empathy – in school curricula. Underwritten by an admirable roster of creative industry and education superstars, including Behance founder Scott Belsky, PSFK's Piers Fawkes and Sir Ken Robinson, the initiative plans to actually pilot the best of these ideas in schools by the end of 2011.

It is not about creating more artists. It's about giving the students tools to solve 21st century problems. We must understand that creativity is a key constituent that can no longer be neglected in the school systems."

The competition launches with the release of the challenge brief on February 7, the first day of Social Media Week, and submissions remain open through February 11, after which the panel of judges will select the most compelling ideas to pilot in schools. Until then, you can follow the project's progress on Twitter and Facebook.

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine and Design Observer and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.



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Asimov in Popular Culture

The Daily Maverick, a website out of South Africa, has an article about the billing crisis of the capital city of that country, Johannesburg.

Here's how the author starts his story:
It would take Stephen King’s sense of the macabre, Isaac Asimov’s sense of the impossible, Terry Pratchett’s sense of the utterly ludicrous – all lightly garnished with Franz Kafka’s sense of humour and served up by John Cleese – to create a scenario quite as bizarre as the billing system of Africa’s economic powerhouse city. Yes, Johannesburg. By STEPHEN GROOTES.

Joburg's billing crisis: The horror. The horror.

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