The annual awards for best science fiction are called “Hugos.” A futuristic story by William Gibson in 1981 was called “The Gernsback Continuum.” But except for a few markers like these, Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967) has mostly vanished from our cultural memory, which is a pity, because he was an extraordinary man, and his influence on our modern age—electrical, science-permeated, and full of wonders—was outsized.
Gernsback is sometimes called the father of science fiction, though not because of any he wrote himself. (He did self-publish one novel, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660, which Martin Gardner called “surely the worst SF novel ever written.”) He gave the new genre its name in the 1920s, when he published “pulp” magazines like Amazing Stories and Science Wonder Stories in which eager writers could ply their trade for pennies a word (when he paid them at all).… Seguir leyendo »
We will awaken Sunday to yet another disturbance in the chronosphere — our twice-yearly jolt from resetting the clocks, mechanical and biological. Thanks to daylight saving time, we get a dose of jet lag without going anywhere.
Most people would be happy to dispense with this oddity of timekeeping, first imposed in Germany 100 years ago. But we can do better. We need to deep-six not just daylight saving time, but the whole jerry-rigged scheme of time zones that has ruled the world’s clocks for the last century and a half.
The time-zone map is a hodgepodge — a jigsaw puzzle by Dalí.… Seguir leyendo »
I got a real thrill in December 1999 in the Reading Room of the Morgan Library in New York when the librarian, Sylvie Merian, brought me, after I had completed an application with a letter of reference and a photo ID, the first, oldest notebook of Isaac Newton. First I was required to study a microfilm version. There followed a certain amount of appropriate pomp. The notebook was lifted from a blue cloth drop-spine box and laid on a special padded stand. I was struck by how impossibly tiny it was — 58 leaves bound in vellum, just 2 3/4 inches wide, half the size I would have guessed from the enlarged microfilm images.… Seguir leyendo »