ASIMOV'S NEW GUIDE TO SCIENCE by Isaac Asimov

ASIMOV'S NEW GUIDE TO SCIENCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

First it was The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science (1960), revised in 1965 to become The New IMGTS. By 1972 "man" was gone, and the particular man was in--giving us Asimov's Guide to Science. Now, twelve years later, comes an update appearing shortly before the author's 65th birthday (January '85), "by which time he will be the author of 300 published works." Whatever one's reaction, Asimov is right in bringing out a new edition. Twelve years translates to orders of magnitude in some fields: neuroscience, astronomy, computer-robotics, particle physics. How does 1984 read in those areas? For a start, not so good on the nervous system: traditional anatomy, 19th- and early-20th-century physiology; no new biochemistry, disease findings, or theories on cognitive processes. Mostly pre-1965 material, in toto, giving surprising prominence to conditioning in human behavior. Astronomy? Here one expects strength; and there are indeed fat chapters, with gobs of data, tracing knowledge from ancient to modern times, up to recent space probes. Completing the physical sciences are chapters on the elements and on particles that spell out how these fields were organized, then disordered--and are now undergoing rebirth with new tables of particles or attempts at unifying field theories. Part I ends with a survey of physical science applications ranging from electricity, the internal combustion engine and television to reactors, fission, and fusion. Part II, on the biological sciences, takes microcosms as its base--and proceeds from organic molecules, proteins, and the cell (with sections on DNA and heredity) to larger structures: microorganisms (including cancer and the immune system), the body, species, and evolution. One must remember that Asimov earned his Ph.D. in chemistry and taught biochemistry to understand his concentration on food constituents--vitamins, minerals--and enzymes and hormones. Part II ends on the mind and behavior, computers and artificial intelligence. Asimov repeats his well-known rules of robotic behavior and waxes philosophical. He predicts an uncomfortable time as jobs are automated out of existence, but does not see a real threat. Computer-robots should march with us as friends and allies "--if we do not destroy ourselves before the march can begin." As a one-volume condensation of an Asimovian lifetime of science writing, something other than the sum of its parts--and as an information source, surely a bargain.
Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0140172130
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1984




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