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An immensely prolific author who penned nearly books, he published influential sci-fi works like I, Robot and the Foundation trilogy, as well as books in a variety of other genres. Asimov died in New York City on April 6, Around this time, the family name was changed to Asimov.


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Judah owned a series of candy shops and called upon his son to work in the stores as a youngster. Isaac Asimov was fond of learning at a young age, having taught himself to read by the age of 5; he learned Yiddish soon after, and graduated from high school at 15 to enter Columbia University. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in and went on to get his M. In , he wed Gertrude Blugerman. In , Asimov began a stint at Boston University School of Medicine, where he was hired as an associate professor of biochemistry in He eventually became a professor at the university by the late s, though by that time he'd given up full-time teaching to do occasional lectures.

Yet even with his impeccable academic credentials, writing for general readers was to be the professor's passion. Asimov's first short story to be sold, "Marooned Off Vesta," was published in Amazing Stories in Years later, he published his first book in , the sci-fi novel Pebble in the Sky —the first in a line of titles that would mark a highly prolific writing career. The narrative would be adapted for a blockbuster starring Will Smith decades later. Asimov would later be credited with coming up with the term "robotics. The year saw the release of another seminal work, Foundation , a novel that looked at the end of the Galactic Empire and a statistical method of predicting outcomes known as "psychohistory.

Asimov was also known for writing books on a wide variety of subjects outside of science fiction, taking on topics like astronomy, biology, math, religion and literary biography. He spent most of his time in solitude, working on manuscripts and having to be persuaded by family to take breaks and vacations. By December , he had written books, ultimately writing nearly Asimov died in New York City on April 6, , at the age of 72, from heart and kidney failure.

He had dealt privately with a diagnosis of AIDS, which he'd contracted from a blood transfusion during bypass surgery.

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The fact that the characters in-universe continued to buy in to the deception could have confused you it certainly confused me. In my final analysis I consider this a stroke a brilliance on Asimov's part, even if it was introduced retroactively I don't remember if this was the case. For instance, the metaphorical pebble-in-the-shoe-that-loses-the-war would be handled by ensuring that both outcomes of the war led to the next Seldon crisis.

In fact, this is the very subject of the 2nd book in the series. While Seldon's solution can hardly be considered elegant, it was somewhat effective and more believable than a great many things I'd be willing to suspend disbelief over. It makes for good reading in any case. Your conclusion that psychohistory was more of a "what if" than a serious proposal holds true but I still think you haven't given Asimov enough credit for subtlety in addressing the chaos problem.

I'm listening to the series now. One of the oddities which struck me is how psychohistory could predict the microminiaturization of nuclear power cells. Nuclear power had been known for about 15, years, but only in the last hundred was there a specific need by a resource-poor planet to figure out how to make those things, and so they did. Yet it was essential that those power plants exist in order to power the trade goods and the personal shields.

Sure, the Empire thinks in terms of large scale, but there's always a need for small, energy dense power systems. I can't figure out why they didn't exist already. And even if they didn't exist already, I don't see how psychohistory could have predicted that it would exist. While on the other hand it makes the prediction that nothing will replace the standard jump technology for interstellar travel. If there were a way to go from Terminus to Trantor in, say, 1 jump instead of many, or if they could be done much faster, then the dynamics of the civilizations would also change in quite unexpected ways.

There would be no "edge" of the galaxy, for example, since every planet would have about the same travel time to the other. How can psychohistory make that prediction? More importantly, by the end of the original series, the "Lens had performed a near-revolution in interstellar travel", making hyperspace travel much faster.


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  • How could psychohistory predict that it would exist, much less when it would arise? Either one of these - the lack of small nuclear power sources, or earlier creation of the Lens - would make big changes in the Foundation. And big enough changes that there's no way it would get to the same sort of semi-stable attractor as the alternative.

    I think the answer is that Seldon probably knew that Psychohistory only works within fairly specific parameters. If something like the Lens were discovered then the assumptions underlying his predictions would be come invalid, therefore he simply had to hope that something like the lens would not be discovered. As for miniaturised atomics, it's quite possible that the only reasons they hadn't been discovered already were sociological in nature - regulatory rules put in place at the behest of incumbent monopolies to protect vested interests.

    Seldon may have been able to plot the curve of atomic tech development up to the point the regulations killed further development, and then assumed that with the destruction of those vested interests along with the empire, tech development would continue on it's previous trajectory. This is getting too close to describing how making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs is meaningful. The introduction is quite clear that the mathematics is understandable by other mathematicians.

    The commentary from the Encyclopedia Galactica th edition, published about years after Sheldon's death describes "Seldon found the field little more than a set of vague axioms; he left it a profound statistical science. It's hard to imagine that Seldon managed to hide the uncertainties in his work, given that others would be looking for precisely those uncertainties. The justification in the series was that need drove development of micro atomic power units. Terminus is described as a metal-poor planet which needs to import just about everything.

    Which then makes me wonder how there's enough minerals in the soil to provide the food needed for humans to survive. Do they even import the zinc needed to prevent zinc deficiency? But atomics weren't the only power source. Trantor uses only geothermal power because it's cheaper than atomics. So it isn't like there's a complete power monopoly. In addition, the personal shield would be quite the coup. Given "the known probability of Imperial assassination", there's a strong inventive for the Emperor and others to push for a personal shield, and a matching power source.

    So you have the strange case where out of the million inhabited planets, only one retained atomic power and the rest fell into "barbarism. That speaks to a very rote-based education system. But then how did the people of Terminus manage to not only remember it but advance on it? It just doesn't make sense. Of course, in book it's all a fraud. The Second Foundation, full of psychics, and of course the robots, are working behind the scenes to keep everything on track. I think that's a cop-out, and I found it very hard to accept the later books in the series.

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    And of course in real life it's a SF version of the fall of the Roman Empire, and as that's the history that we as Western readers know best, the parallels feel comfortable. Had it been based on the Incan or Mongol empires, there would be a completely different sense of inevitability. Thinking on this further just now, one of the biggest concepts of the series is how the tiny Foundation had to survive purely by out-thinking and out-maneveuring the larger Empire who had more people, resources, etc. Fundamentally - no pun intended - isn't this what we do for a living? By the numbers, our startups are in the same position.

    Our competitors have x the revenue, cash on hand, employees, partnerships, patents etc, etc. According to the spreadsheets, they win. Instead, lack of resources becomes hunger and creativity. Lack of people becomes a lack of bureaucracy and results in flexibility. When you have very little, "losing everything" isn't scary. Challenging the Empire just got to be a little more fun. I just want to express my support for any personal perspective that demonstrates and encourages reading of Isaac Asimov, especially my favorite series.

    Perspective win. Very well said. Personally, I tend to think of it as hindsight before the fact. There were subtle "vibrations" appearing in the system and major rattling in the system. It's only after the fact that everyone says "oh yes, given A, B, and C, it was obvious. Throw in the Second Foundation's tweaking and it seems plausible. I'm sure you're right, but many of my SF reading friends bought into the concept of psychohistory hook line and sinker, which got me into lots of arguments.

    It's those disagreements with other fans of the book which coloured my perception of it, I'm sure unfairly.

    What is the Foundation Series?

    JoeAltmaier on Dec 9, The trilogy came along at the wrong time for me. I could never get past the 1st time-jump. When an author abandons characters so frequently, I get lost in the whiplash and quit reading. I guess I feel indignant at trying so hard to connect with the characters, just to have the author throw that away and ask me to do it again. So no never read it.

    Isaac Asimov - Foundation

    Never got past a few pages in the 1st book. Similarly, never read the Rings trilogy. Nor Dune, which I regard as the ultimate hey-let-me-tell-you-about-this-cool-dream-I-had book which always annoy me. Yet I have read thousands of Science Fiction stories. Just not the ones you have. SO I can connect pretty good, while I hope keeping a fresh perspective in the community.

    Much of older science fiction doesn't connect with readers that have read authors that are better technically in the writing craft. Also many of the themes and "science" hasn't aged well. It is more up-to-date and crafted well as a large novel. As a side note, the one author that has built a multi-book "Future History" that I recommend is John Barnes. Not celebrated as someone like Ian Banks, but as well crafted and readable. NullXorVoid on Dec 9, I'm just reading the series for the first time, and the time jumps in the first book really threw me off too.

    However you should be aware that it mostly stops after the first book. The second book Foundation and Empire has two stories, but most of it focuses on the second one The Mule , and the books after that are more like regular novels with no jumps. For me the first book was by far the worst and I consider it more of a background filler than an actual story.

    I enjoyed the rest of the series far more, especially Foundation's Edge. S4M on Dec 9, I would disagree on that one. Of course, it would be impossible to predict particular events - like Harry Seldon does in the book - but I find it completely possible to foresee general trend in the future. For example, Immanuel Kant predicted the rise of an European Union back in the 18th century [0].

    For example, I'd take the prediction that at some point in the future, technology will be so advanced to make travelling across the Earth or remote working completely seamless and costless, so people will have the ability to access to the same kind of jobs or activities wherever they are based, resulting in an homogenisation of the whole planet. You could argue that this trend started already when travelling in plane and internet were made affordable to most. But yeah, the potentiality of prediction in the book are completely exaggerated, with Seldon being able to time the major events.

    On the other hand, it my be realistic if he can set up a secret group of telepathic people to influence the future and prevent anything to disturb his visions. I "suspended disbelief" for most of the science fiction elements, and found myself enjoying the political drama unfold. I suppose I'm saying even if the science lacked luster, the "geo-political" perhaps even "Machiavellian" story-line was compelling and required little "suspension of disbelief. Steuard on Dec 9, This looks fantastic, but how on earth can it be listed here as public domain? The original novels are still very much in copyright, so I would think that a radio adaptation would be, too.

    Even if the publisher licensed the rights to the BBC, it's hard for me to imagine that allowing a public domain recording. The books are still very much copyrighted, but I am not so sure that means much. The content may be the same but the book and the radio series are still entirely separate entities in copyright law. That is why you can copyright a recording of a presentation of Beethoven's 9th.

    I assume archive. It seems as though it has fallen into the public domain in Europe, perhaps. Assuming radio plays required copyright notices in the US at the time, the BBC didn't have them on broadcasts they sold to the US so that is probably what happened here. The novel and radio play will still be very much under copyright in Europe. Bad assumption.

    From the third comment on archive.

    They were thus composed as a series of short stories, giving them a number of advantages over the later books by which Asimov added to the story forty years afterwards. Yet it's presented as Assimov's trilogy. So I don't know what to believe. It's not based on Campbell's work, it's written for a magazine edited by him. Asimov presumably retained copyright on the stories himself.

    Right, I missread! Copyright is now 70 years. So, assuming it was published between and , it effectively felt in public domain hence, inmho ianal, both original story and recorded are now in public domain. Depends where you are, I guess. Public domain in the States extends back into the 20s still because that's when Mickey Mouse was created. If that were a licensed derivative work, I assume that would be okay. Also transcribing the radio series would get you the same story, but not the same book.

    Oh --suddenly I understand the economics of "the book of the movie of the book" books! In addition to economics, I reread "The Wizard of Oz" recently. In the book, the witch's shoes are silver while in the movie they are ruby red. This was only one of places where the book and movie diverged. I can understand that someone who likes the movie may prefer to read the book of the movie, rather than the original book. If a book is public domain, any transcription is in public domain as well in the US at least.

    That means everything.

    source link

    Foundation

    This means that the audio recording is subject to both copyrights unless part of the license given to the creators of the audio work includes a license to redistribute the audio work, which may be the case given that it is a BBC production. Right, since it is a legal licensed redistribution it seems logical to me that the situation is not as simple as it just being another publication of the same work. It is a licensed re-performance of the same content, but my understanding is that it is a separate legal entity something that the legal owner of the original work agreed to upon licencing.

    The BBC presumably paid Asimov for worldwide distribution rights for the audio performance, so the Asimov estate has no reason to kick.