They were written in Asimov’s familiar colloquial style, making it easy for anyone to approach even arcane subjects.
I devoured every one of those essays and it is from those essays that I truly believe that I learned nearly everything I know about science today. Prior to junior high school, I have little memory of any specific science lessons.
Looking up into that night sky reminded me of the sense of wonder that I felt when I looked up into a similar sky three decades earlier and realized for the first time that those lights in the sky I was seeing were actually distant suns, and that some of them were even planets. My parents bought me a telescope and I frustrated the librarians of the Franklin Township Public Library by repeatedly checking out the same book over and over again, by Franklyn Mansfield Branley. I never learned about the Germinid meteor shower in any of my schooling.
Instead, I learned about it and about meteor showers in general through Isaac Asimov’s science essays that appeared monthly in .
Back in the late 1950s, the proto-version of DARPA approached some of the top thinkers and sci-fi writers to think “out of the box” — and here’s what legendary sci-fi author Isaac Asimov came up with, albeit 55 years later.
Asimov was approached by ARPA (now known as DARPA) for some think-tank work back in the day, and though he ultimately decided not to work with the organization because he feared access to classified intel might hinder his freedom, he did produce one paper as part of the arrangement.This was essentially rote memorization and despite being an “advanced placement” class, I was more or less taking the teacher’s word on these things. I learned, for instance, how the Krebs cycle was discovered, which fixed it much more clearly in my mind.I learned the fascinating story of Gregor Mendel and how he discovered the laws of inheritance and how they were then lost to science for another generation.It’s one thing to learn that the Earth weighs 5.9×10^24 kilograms.It’s something else to learn just how scientists figured that out.The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren't paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. To feel guilty because one has not earned one's salary because one has not had a great idea is the surest way, it seems to me, of making it certain that no great idea will come in the next time either.Yet your company is conducting this cerebration program on government money.(And eventually, Isaac’s wife, Janet, put together a 400th column after his death.) The essays were collected in more than two dozen books.The columns themselves ranged through all realms of science, and occasionally into philosophy and humanities.In high school chemistry (and later, in college general and organic chemistry), I memorized the periodic table and was taught how to balance chemical formulas.Isaac Asimov taught me how Dmitri Mendeleev developed the period table and how he predicted the properties of elements long before they were ever discovered.