The Left Hand of the Electron (Isaac Asimov) pdf, epub, doc

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Please see my review of X Stands for Unknown ([]) for general comments on Isaac Asimov's science essays.

The great strength of this collection of essays, from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1970 through February 1972, is the opening series of five essays culminating in a hypothesis for why living organisms synthesize and use almost exclusively the L-isomers of amino acids.Asimov begins with a survey of laws of "parity" in physics, in "Odds and Evens."Next, in the eponymous article, he describes an asymmetry in the electron.In an apparent tangent, he then talks about the problem of double refraction, which long tormented physicists ("Seeing Double").But he ties this problem in with asymmetry in one of his all-time great short essays, "The 3-D Molecule."Here, he recounts Louis Pasteur's greatest discovery outside of medicine.(Did you know that Pasteur was trained as a biochemist, and not as a physician?)Finally, Asimov applies the principle of three-dimensional asymmetry to the origin of life ("The Asymmetry of Life").

Another notable series of essays, three in number, offers due respect to water—an essential prerequisite for Earth life, and perhaps for any life anywhere.Asimov begins with a survey of possible ocean-forming compounds ("The Thalassogens"), and continues with the unique properties of water that are favorable to life ("Hot Water", "Cold Water").

Three essays on mathematics deal with prime numbers ("Prime Quality"), Euclid's fifth axiom (the "parallel postulate," "Euclid's Fifth"; he treats this topic with clearer explanation elsewhere), and the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries by way of attempting to prove the fifth axiom ("The Plane Truth").

The collection finishes off with two eerily prescient articles on population control."Stop!", as you might expect, calls for immediate population control and examines methods by which it may be achived, voluntary of otherwise.A wonderfully perceptive bit of commentary, "...But How?" presents a biological explanation for Biblical taboos on homosexuality and other sexual practices still considered immoral with no justification.

On the subject of history, "Pompey and Circumstance," another of my all-time favorite Asimov essays, traces the near-ballistic rise and fall of a Roman general, with emphasis on the exact moment of apogee.

In other, "also-ran" essays, Dr. Asimov writes about the earliest mammals (by way of the "therapsid" reptiles), the "Eureka!" phenomenon and Shakespeare.

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Book info

  • Author:
  • Publisher:Laurel Leaf
  • File: 6.2 Mb
  • Ganre: Science
  • Release: 01.01.1976
  • ISBN: 9780440947172
  • Pages 256
  • Rating: 4.02 (198 votes)


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