Monday, January 2, 2012
Today is National Science Fiction Day!
Today is the birthday of Isaac Asimov, and in honor of this day, scifi geeks all over have designated it National Science Fiction Day.
According to Wikipedia, Isaac Asimov; born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov, (c. January 2, 1920–April 6, 1992) was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. His works have been published in all ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal System (although his only work in the 100s—which covers philosophy and psychology—was a foreword for The Humanist Way). Asimov is widely considered a master of hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers during his lifetime.
The prolific Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much non-fiction. Most of his popular science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms.
Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly; he described some members of that organization as "brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs." He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, a crater on the planet Mars, a Brooklyn, New York elementary school, and one Isaac Asimov literary award are named in his honor.
So how can you celebrate this day?
You could pay tribute to Isaac Asimov and pick up one of his books and start reading it today. Or you could check out one of the film adaptations. I, Robot is one.
The film I, Robot, starring Will Smith, was released by Twentieth Century Fox on July 16, 2004 in the United States. Its plot incorporates elements of "Little Lost Robot," some of Asimov's character's names and the Three Laws. However the plot of the movie is mostly original work based on the Three Laws.
I, Robot is a collection of nine science fiction short stories by Isaac Asimov. The book also contains the short story in which Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics first appear. Those of you familiar with The Big Bang Theory may recognize the three laws from this episode clip.
1.A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2.A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3.A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
And, of course, my favorite show Doctor Who (and my favorite doctor!) featured a four-part serial in 1977 titled "The Robots of Death". The titular robots were controlled by three laws, taken almost verbatim from Asimov. The story plays out much like the Elijah Baley mysteries, in which a murder has been committed, and a robot seems to have been directly or indirectly involved (contrary to the requirements of three-law programming). You can watch the entire episode here.
If that doesn't interest you, check out your local movie theatre and see if any new science fiction movies are playing or see if any are available for rent at places like Blockbuster, Redbox or Netflix.
You could even go all out and dress up as one of your favorite science fiction characters and lose yourself in a world of make believe for a day.
How about creating your own science fiction food? I think on my menu tonight we will be having Klaatu Burgers.
One veggie burger patty of your choice
One large onion
Peel the onion and slice. Grill your burger patty. Eat!
Whatever you decide to do today, I'm sure you'll make Isaac Asimov proud. Have fun!