In Adding a Dimension, Dr. Asimov gives free rein to his sparkling intellect and his ingenious imagingation, in an exploration of scientific fact and fantasy that is remarkable for its wide range and its clarity of expression.
For millions of inquiring readers, Dr. Asimov has been the layman’s chief guide to the stupendous mysteries of science, and in Adding a Dimension he has never been in better form. Whether he’s expounding on the wonders of the “googol” (in a thoroughly engrossing discussion of the magic of large numbers), explaining the infinite varieties of “infinity,” breaking down the language of “chemist-ese” (you, too, can pronounce “para-dimethylaminobenzaldehyde” without batting an eye), or conducting a fact-filled guided tour through our own amazing galaxy, the remarkable Dr. Asimov is a master at the art of writing about scientific fact—and scientific fantasy—in terms everyone can understand. Here is a veritable treasure-house of ideas, which will add a new dimension to the thinking of scientists and general readers alike.
This is perhaps my favorite of Asimov’s F&SF essay collections (which is saying a lot). It is certainly high among my favorites.
One reason is the heavy dose of mathematics towards the front. “T-Formation” isn’t interesting so much for its own sake as for some of the tidbits it includes about Fibonacci numbers, perfect numbers, and Mersenne primes. (Of course, the records Asimov lists here for big numbers have been completely blown out of the water over the last forty-five years.) The two essays on π are also favorites of mine, as is “Varieties of the Infinite,” and—well, heck, all seven.
The physics essays are also a lot of fun, but one of the two chemistry essays, “You, Too, Can Speak Gaelic” is just about my very favorite of all of Asimov’s F&SF essays. (All together, now, and to the tune of “The Irish Washerwoman”: PA-ruh-dy-METH-il-a-MEE-noh-ben-ZAL-duh-hide...)
“The Isaac Winners” is interesting, too, and has a strange peculiarity: the Avon paperback edition published in the 1970’s (aka, the edition I own) is missing the last page, so that the reader gets to know the nominees, but not the winners. That is more annoying than fun, of course—but it makes the book stand out in one’s mind.