Book Review: Of Time and Space and Other Things

Of Time and Space and Other Things by Isaac Asimov

Unlike the previous F&SF collections, this volume doesn’t divide up the chapters into science headings like Physics, Biology, Mathematics, etc., but rather just two broad categories: “Of Time and Space” and “Of Other Things” (as you might well have suspected…).

The first section contains chapters on calendars and the numbering of years, latitude and longitude, the zodiac, and what I think is a really enjoyable chapter on the names of bodies in our solar system. Keeping with the astronomy theme, there are chapters on the rotation periods (ie. days) for the planets and moons, the tug-of-war between a planet and its moons, the weakness of gravity compared to the other forces, how the fact that the night sky is dark is connected with the fact that the universe is expanding, and finally some supposition about exploding galaxies.

For the “Of Other Things” section, we have the chapter “Forget It!” about the absurdity of old measurement systems, with Asimov calling for a switch to the more rational metric system. Then there’s a chapter on how numeral systems have been greatly simplified by the introduction of the concept of zero, and then two chapters on physical constants (the speed of light and Planck’s constant). Chemistry makes a showing with a chapter on noble gas compounds and another on enzymes. Finally there’s a chapter on aging and life expectancy, and how that might be connected with the total number of heart beats an animal can perform in its lifetime (spoiler: humans come out better than alright!).

Another solid entry in the F&SF series. I don’t really think of these books as separate volumes, but rather a continuing stream of essays broken up into chunks (kind of like how The Lord of the Rings is one book that’s often divided into three volumes). Therefore, I’m loath to to declare one book superior or inferior to another, and would rather simply call out particular essays of note.

For an alternate review see here.

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