The last words in the title might better have read "and other columns"--for this 342nd "book" by Isaac Asimov is composed of 72 very brief reprinted columns from American Way, American Airlines' in-flight magazine. The range of topics is wide--from the Oort cloud to the discovery of microwaves; from the virtues of iron as a metal to the invention of the toe stirrup. The style, too, is perspicuous enough to ensure that Asimov would be your top choice--if you were a captive audience seven miles up in the wild blue yonder, desperate for distraction and bored by your 7,000th in-flight article on jet-lag. But the viability of this collection for earth-bound bibliophiles and popular science aficionados is quite questionable. The "chapters" average only 2-3 pages in length, fostering the kind of airy generality that teases instead of informs. While the production of ephemera is a perfectly respectable enterprise for a full-time writer/journalist such as Asimov, it is cynicism on the part of his publisher to offer such stuff to the book-buying public as worthy of permanent space on their shelves.