Stars End S3E22

“There is Something to be Said About a Podcast That Makes One Smile”

This is the city, Eos, Aurora.   It’s the city of the dawn on the planet of the dawn.  It’s the largest and most important city on the oldest and most important Spacer World.  Mostly, good things happen in Eos, the Robotics Institute is in Eos as is the planetary government.  Sometimes bad things happen; things that require a lot of discussion.  Was the victim even alive?  Was this even a crime?  Questions that need answers.  When that happens, I go to work.  I carry a badge.

Friday, October 30.  It was windy in Eos.  We were working the day watch out of the roboticide division.  Our host is Han Fastolfe.  My partner’s Daneel Olivaw.  My name is Baley.

Join us as we get into the meat of The Robots of Dawn.  Baley starts to learn the details of the case, and Fastolfe performs some experiments on Baley.  Plus the return of an old friend, the wackiest trip to the lavatory in all of the Asimov canon, and the Great and Glorious Az tries his hand at writing romance.  As always, you’ve read it, we talk about it, and fun will be had.

Stars End S3E20

“A Small Podcast Yet to the Humans Involved Astonishingly Large”

We didn’t set out to do it, but we did it.

What, you might ask?  We’ve created an episode that’s an excellent jumping-on point for anyone who’s been itching to try the podcast, but doesn’t know where to start.

How?  Well to start with, we’re talking about a short story.  You don’t need to read the books or watch the shows we talk about to enjoy the podcast, but we certainly understand if want to!  We’re talking about “Mirror Image” from Robot Visions, in which Lije Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw help to solve a dispute between two mathematicians.  It’s about 19 pages long, a comfortable, digestible chunk.

And?  And we have guests!  Episodes are better with guests and we’re joined by two charming mathematicians, Coleen and Charlie Jacobson, long-time science fiction readers and friends of Joseph from Elmira College.  They’ll help us decide if the off-screen mathematicians are true-to-life!  On a personal note, if you remember Joseph from EC you might enjoy hearing from half of what he calls, the “Mathematics Faculty Classic” that existed from 2012 to 2014.

So, if you’re a regular listener, settle in for another excellent episode.  If you’re new to the podcast, buckle up!  You’re in for a fun ride!  Let’s go!

Two notes on the Featured Image: The background is some board work from 2016 when Joseph taught Geometry from Charlie’s notes. In the foreground are two images of Paul Erdös, one at age 20 and one much later in his life, drawn by LeUyen Pham from The Boy Who Loved Math. Erdös is famous for being one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time and for having a multitude of collaborators.

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E19

“We Must Teach Ourselves to Face the Podcast”

I learned something today.

Did you know that when Elements are named to honor cities the Latin names for the cities are used rather than the common names? The funny thing is that this is true even if the city has no Latin name. This is how we get the name for holmium, which is named after Stockholm or rather after “Holmia” which is the Latin name for Stockholm that the chemist made up.

This is from the essay “Names! Names! Names!” by the good doctor. It’s all about naming elements and, although I haven’t quite finished it yet, I’m pretty sure it covers all hundred or so that were known at the time.

If you’re curious, here are the names of the other elements

The essay appeared in the December 1956 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, the very same issue as our final installment of The Naked Sun. This led John W. Campbell to declare Asimov a “two-headed author.” Isaac’s predilection for non-fiction was starting to show.

Being trained as a chemist, Asimov gives us a ton of Asenion names to enjoy in this final section! There’s GlaDIEah Delmarre, Klorissa Cantero, Jothan Leebig, Corwin Attlebish, and Anselmo Quemot. And who could forget Benzadril Copperbottom? In this final section, which corresponds to chapters 13 to 18 in the book, Baley survives the assassination attempt, gets his portrait done, almost strolls to his death, and solves the case! Of course, we talk about it all. Join us for the setting of The Naked Sun!

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E18

“There is no Podcast Without a Podcaster”

First British Edition Cover

You know what? Solaria is weird.

Looking back over our podcast, it turns out that a lot of Asimov’s work is weird. Solaria may not be Mycogen-weird, but it’s pretty weird.

Last time we were introduced to the extreme isolation of Solarians and the preponderance of robots. Those were weird. And that seeing vs. viewing thing? That was weird too.

This time? Murder attempts where only Asenion robots are present? Weird. Fetuses grown in vats? Weird. Child farming? Weird. A plot to make the entire Galaxy like Solaria? Weird. And there’s lots more!

So, what do we learn this time? Solaria is weird. But don’t take my word for it, listen to the episode and you can see for yourself! Let’s go!

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E17

“A Podcast in a Frenzy Can Do Surprising Things”

The Doubleday cover

Some things can’t be seen.  If you’ve listened to our podcast, you know that we’ve bemoaned the fact that although there was a BBC adaptation of The Caves of Steel, we cannot see it because all known copies of the original tapes have been destroyed.

Did you know that there was also a BBC adaptation of The Naked Sun?  It came out in the third season of Out Of The Unknown and starred Paul Maxwell as Elijah Baley and David Collings as R. Daneel.  We can’t see that either.  You’d think that the BBC would have learned its lesson by 1969, but no such luck.  All known copies of those tapes have been destroyed as well.

And then there’s Joseph’s friend Andy, our special guest in this episode.  He has studiously avoided having a social media presence and so he’s something else that can’t be seen, online anyway.

Paul Maxwell as Elijah Baley

In The Naked Sun, we learn all about things that can’t be seen.  Lije wants to see the crime scene and he wants to see the outside and he especially wants to see Gladia but the Solarians are determined that he only view these things.  Seeing is not the same as viewing.

But sometimes we can hear even if we can’t see.  That episode of Out Of The Unknown?  There’s a reconstruction, so the soundtrack must still exist.  You can hear that if you can find a copy.

“Andy” artist’s rendition.

You can hear Andy here on the podcast, in his World Wide Web premier.

And you can hear about chapters 1 through 6 of The Naked Sun because that’s what we’re talking about this time.  We’ll get to that viewing vs. seeing thing and much more!

So join us! You’ve got to hear this!

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E16

“Podcast and Sin No More”

It was right about this time last year; one of us got up in the middle of the night to share the latest Foundation trailer with you right here on this website.

This year there was a sneak peek of Foundation season 2 at San Diego Comic-Con.  It’s more than a week later and we haven’t seen it anywhere.  If that’s about generating interest, they’re missing the mark.

Luckily, we have our own news!

Available NOW! Our very own Jon Blumenfeld stars as Librarian Homir Munn in “Search by the Foundation, Part 1” on Joel McKinnon’s excellent Seldon Crisis Podcast!

Also, in S3E13, we talked about how Asimov said he made “extensive changes” to “Liar!” when he revised it for I, Robot.  Want to know why?  Want to know how extensive?  We plug our line-by-line comparison!

Also, also way back in S1E01, we talked about Joseph’s Grandfather’s artwork.  There’s now a website where you can see and enjoy that artwork!  Please visit JosephFranke.com and see why there’s such a fuss! 

All this plus: we wrap up our conversation about The Caves of Steel!  Jessie is revealed as a Medievalist!  Another murder rocks the NYPD… wait… is it murder? And in the final denouement, we discover who did it in this who done it!  You don’t want to miss all that!  Let’s go!

Simultaneously published at…

Stars End S3E15

“I’m sure that if non-Asenion podcasts were ever designed or if the mathematical theory were worked out we’d hear of it.”

We’re not an etymology podcast even though we sometimes make up our own words.  Nevertheless, if you follow our blog you’ve recently read about the origins of the words “robot” and “robotics.”  Asimov has been known to make up his own words too.  In fact, he’s credited in the Oxford English Dictionary as the originator of the word “robotics.”  

In this episode, we learn the origin of the word “Asenion” through a miraculous combination of brilliance, scholarship, and real-time detective work which the uninitiated might dismiss as mere Google-fu.  Did the Great and Glorious Az invent the word “Asenion?”  You’ll have to listen to find out!

Meanwhile, we ruminate over the second section of

the Caves of Steel in which Baley throws around some wild theories, learns the sinister,  not-so-sinister, or not-sinister-at-all designs of Spacetown, and sees an object eerily similar to a slide rule.  If you think that sounds like fun, you’re in for a wild ride!  Join us!

Simultaneously published at…

Adventures in Podcasting

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about the Stars End Podcast here. There is a couple of reasons for that. The first is that it’s a bit of a pain in the neck to copy a post from one WordPress site to another; that’s one of the few things I really don’t like about WordPress. The second is that, as the academic year progressed, I became worried about this site turning into “All Asimov all the time.” That’s better than what did happen though which was months with very little content here. If 2022-2023 turns out anything like 2021-2022 that could happen again. Long story short, I’m reversing that policy. If you want to follow the Stars End Podcast you’ll be able to do that here apart from some occasional exclusives.

So, let’s get caught up.

Last December as we were wrapping up our discussions of the Apple TV+ series we made our first collective guest appearance on another podcast, The Starbase 66 podcast from the Infinite Potato Alliance.

This was especially nice for me as the host, Rick is one of my oldest friends. He also guested on Stars End last month.

Also, you might notice that we have a spiffy new logo. The spirals were created using four logistic functions plotted on the polar coordinate system using Maple, a professional-grade mathematics program. That gives us a stylized representation of the Milky Way Galaxy. The starburst was taken from one of the early images published from the James Webb Space Telescope. It represents the location of Trantor, the capital of Asimov’s Galactic Empire. It’s as close to the black hole at the center of the galaxy as a star can be which is why Trantor is known as “where the stars end.” The background, fleshing out our stylized galaxy is a public domain image of the Horsehead Nebula.

How about all of our episodes? We’ll jump back to the beginning of the podcast in case there are some new listeners here. If you want to get caught up or get started, you can use these links.

  • In season one, Dan <@MrEarlG> and Jon <@jblumenfeld100> and I read through and discussed Asimov’s original Foundation Trilogy in anticipation of Apple TV+’s Foundation series. We also tracked show news when we could find it and had a fun segment called Asimov Trivia.
  • Our season two coincided with season one of Foundation. There’s a prelude, a discussion on each episode, a season overview, and our first-ever Hari Awards!
  • We’re in the middle of season three right now and it will continue until Apple TV+ decides to grace us with more new episodes. We’ve gone back to reading Asimov’s work; so far this season we’ve worked our way through the prequels, Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. We’ve just started reading and discussing the robot novels beginning with The Caves of Steel.

Finally, here are our latest two posts on StarsEndPodcast.WordPress.com, the start of our Caves of Steel stuff.

You can look for these here going forward.

Image Credits:

The featured image and the Stars End logo © The Stars End Podcast, 2021

Watching Foundation: “Barbarians at the Gate”

Watching Foundation – S1E04

Getting caught up on these, still: Spoiler Alert! You know what to do!

That’s a crazy opening! C14 tries to commit suicide. I guess it didn’t take long for the mental health of the Cleon’s to become an issue. Maybe they should have let C11 live a bit longer and tried again.

Personal Shields Can Come in Handy.

He doesn’t die, but the young lady gardening runs away from him.

Funeral. For whom? “Faith is a sword forged in the fires of the infinite.” These ladies remind me of the Sisterhood of Karn from Doctor Who.

This is an odd sequence. It looks like some things are launched from the funeral which impact on a gas giant, making it all wibbley wobbly. The funeral must be taking place on one of the moons. Shift to Demerzel watching remotely.

Sexy time for C13. The Cs have a Kinetic field. Maybe Junior didn’t try to commit suicide after all. But he sure scared the crap out of that girl.

Demerzel interrupts sexy time. Brother Day is needed.

“Proxima Opal has passed.” That must be who the funeral was for. There is debate about her successor in the Conclave. It’s basically the political version of technobabble but the Cs aren’t happy about a possible candidate. Something about “Primary Octavo.” Unsurprisingly there’s a religious dimension to the Cs claim to rule.

“Luminism” must be a religion. Primary Octavo states that only individual beings have souls, excluding the Cs. No souls for you! Why not counter with the Cleons having a single soul? That makes the dynastic succession that much stronger. None the less it threatens their rule.

Back to Salvor and the Anacreonians.

The Anacreonians claim they want a navigation module. Salvor finally shows some indication of being smart. But “If you were going to kill me, you’d have done it already” reminds me of a bunch of things, not the least of which is Clara in “Deep Breath” (Doctor Who), which was a lot better.

Salvor and Phara go through the gate. “If she isn’t back within a watch, we’ll raze your city to the ground,” which wouldn’t take that much.

The Anacreonians are acting like terrorists.

Salvor sees the boy, but Phara does not.

Using the Vault to incapacitate Phara was smart.

“The stories about Salvor Hardin? They usually begin here. The warden and the ghost.”

We get a Direct refutation of old Hardin. Abbas says “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Salvor calls it “an old man’s doctrine.”

Questions about the plan.

Abbas: “If you were better at math, you’d know that repeated luck was more than just luck, Salvor.” Maybe. Except that random events can cluster in a way that seems non-random to our brains.

Back to Trantor. We meet Shadowmaster Olbrecht. C14 wants the name of the girl in the garden. Was he trying to manufacture a meet-cute with a faux suicide attempt?

Salvor is channeling Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead with the coins. Does she have some kind of mental powers?

Neutron bombs. 50% of the population on Anacreon died off within a week, 20-30% in the remaining year. But the use of neutron bombs changes a lot of assumptions; most of the infrastructure should be intact.

Salvor seems to intuit things about Phara. She wants to die. She wants everyone to die. Larken Keaen was the greatest hunter of Anacreon, so Phara must be the Grand Huntress of Anacreon.

Hologram Hari? Finally! But no, not that one.

The Outer Kingdoms are starting to fray away from the Empire. “Seldon all but gave you a to-do list and you ignored him!”

It’s even clearer that the “middle throne” is the actual emperor. I can’t believe these guys are a Kiwanis Club. President-Elect, President, and Immediate Past President.

Arguments about the plan. “I may be an outlier, Lewis, but I’m not the one screwing up the plan!” Lol, even though I’m feeling a bit sorry for Lewis.

Kubbra Sait is excellent. Real gravitas. “A weapon is only as good as the man who’s wielding it.” The music is briefly reminiscent of a motif in Doctor Who.

Trantor again. Gardener girl is Akuta Something? C14 is being a dick to her even as she’s being kind.

“If you’re not dead within the hour, have a kilogram of these sent to my quarters.”

Salvor has a vision of Seldon’s library. There’s THAT kid with THE knife. We’ve been seeing images of Raych.

Then they tell us what they’ve already shown in case we didn’t understand it.

Churchill from Doctor Who is a statistician. Thousands working. No results after 30 years? Claims the predictive models of Seldon are “counter factual.” Brother Day is having none of it. Lee Pace is fantastic here as he yells a statistician to death. Probably.

The philosophical divide seems to be couched as “Free will” vs. “predestination” rather than “Great Man” vs. “Bottom Up.” Although maybe that’s the same thing.

C13 gives 12 a rash of crap for his actions in episode 1. An almost complete repudiation. The discomfort Brother Dawn felt with the executions comes home to roost. “I will save our legacy.” Demerzel reinforces C13. “Certainly now the empire will no longer be rent by impulsive action.” He probably doesn’t get the sarcasm.

We see Dorwin. He’s sent to investigate the communications buoy and told to pay a visit to the Foundation. “The Empire will not be kept in the Dark.” Wowd Dowwin doesn’t sownd wight thow.

Meanwhile C14 is spying on Akuta using a drone that looks like a dragonfly. Creepy, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

Phara makes an argument that they really want the navigation module. To relocate from Anacreon. “You can’t negotiate with someone who’s willing to set the board on fire.”

Salvor thinks there’s a bigger picture that she’s missing. Reassessing is a sign of smart. She puts it together that the Vault is connected to Hari.

The Anacreonians are preparing to raze the city such as it is. Like a strong wind couldn’t do that.

“And the beginning of the end, as befitting its name, took place on Terminus.”

And in a Marvelesque precredits scene, a ship approaches Gaal Dornik’s escape pod.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

All Images from Foundation on Apple TV+

You can find our podcast here:

Watching Foundation: “The Mathematician’s Ghost”

Watching Foundation – S1E03

Spoiler Alert! There may be plot complications!

You know how this works. Random thoughts about Episode 3, no post podcast revelations this time.

Cleon 1 with Demerzel 400 years previous. He’s dying and wistful, annoyed that although they’ve started the clone dynasty his ego will not persist. Your continuity is assured Dermerzel tells him. It looks like she gets to hold things together while Cleon 2 grows up.

19 years after the StarBridge bombing. The timing is interesting given that we’re just off the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Are we now looking at an analog of contemporary politics?

Sounds like it is Dusk’s final Day, foreshadowed by Cleon I’s flashback.

“The world is starting to see me at a distance” is a nice turn of phrase.

What is “ascension” exactly?

We parallel the passing of the torch metaphor with the tailor somewhat obviously.

Dusk is still questioning what happened with Anacreon and Thespis and pondering if he has anything left to say. “About anything. About whether any of this is truly within our power to control” juxtaposed against an image of Dusk casually swiping through holograms of planets.

They’re still thinking about Seldon though. Dusk is interested in preserving the “last remnants” of C1’s dream. Boy. This is maudlin.

Dusk is C11, “the Painter” on the pedestal where his bust will go.

The final gift is a visit to the remnant of the StarBridge. The three wax nostalgic about C1 and Dawn claims “we will build something greater in his honor. For you.”

Demerzel looks stricken and weepy. They destroy the final remnant of the StarBridge as they leave. Dusk nods his assent but it’s thematically opposed to what he wants. All that debris entering the atmosphere is going to look spectacular though.

It’s not clear; is that glowing thing a permanent memorial?

Jump Ball?

Dusk visits the gestation chamber, “Even if Seldon wasn’t right there is something unnatural in that.” Then he paints a final piece of the mural. Is it Dawn and Day raising a newly ascendent Trantor?

Demerzel: “You are enough. It’s just that you always leave me.”

“You have grown into our greatness, Brother Dawn, now Day.” “Brother Darkness.” Holy crap. He senses something is wrong with the baby as Demerzel pushes him toward the light.

If it wasn’t obvious already, “ascension” is a euphemism for a ritualistic suicide.

This half of the episode is filled with imagery of Demerzel as a driving force, including carrying 11 to his final rest and transferring his ashes to the baby.

17 years later, Day has the Mural erased. Demerzel looks on but can’t stop it. There’s a real thread here about repudiating the past.

“We ignore the dead at our peril.”

Cut to the colonists arriving on Terminus. The Vault is already there. Young Salvor spends a lot of time staring at it. Evidently, they don’t have Apple TV+ on Terminus. They barely have walls. Lots of hints that Salvor is wise. “She’s aware.” Show, don’t tell.

There’s got to be a better way to test the field around the Vault than to torture a bird.

Warden again. Versus mayor? I don’t like it.

Something is up with the field. And we see Granite Hari foreshadowing Hologram Hari.

The Encyclopedists’ conversations are odd. There’s little point in writing about base 10 and not base 12 and there’s little point in writing about the sundial as opposed to the water clock. I assume that they’re planning for the fall of civilization rather than writing the encyclopedia at this point, but isn’t the point of the encyclopedia to WikiHow all this stuff so everybody after the fall has that information?

See? Smug.

And why does Louis Pirenne look so damn smug here?

Also, this whole thing is dumb. Where will the survivors be? Freaking everywhere! What if the survivors are on a planet with no water? What if the planet circles more than one sun? That way lies madness. If the survivors are thrown back into complete barbarism they’re not going to have libraries anyway! And probably they’ll just be thrown back to the point where they think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

And you CAN preserve every innovation because you’re writing a damn book! You have hundreds of years!

The field is expanding. Now with nose bleeds!

But Salvor is special in case you missed episode 1.

Hugo is supposed to be pretty likable, and either gives beer to children or tricks them into unloading his ship.

A sky full of spilled coins is a lovely image. But they’re using a telescope to look into space during the day. Tell me how that works or I’m going to assume that you screwed up the lighting.

There’s a kid and he’s running with a knife. That can’t be good. Teach your children not to run with scissors before you worry about water clocks.

Also, that looks like the knife that Rayce used to “kill” Hari. Significant? Maybe?

Hologram Hari appears in the Vault, No, not that one.

Anacreonian ships are appearing. And that thing seems more or less like an ordinary telescope. How does it work?

“Grow up Lewis!” Lol. Like in the books, he has more faith in the Empire than is warranted.

Jon’s observation: Salvor wants to know how much violence the colony can muster. In the book, Salvor is famous for “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

Jacunta pulls out the prime radiant and shows it to Salvor. Like maybe she can understand it with absolutely no training. MATH ISN’T MAGIC! And having an individual as part of the plan undermines the idea of psychohistory or convinces me that this character they want to present as smart isn’t.

For a person who’s supposed to be famously quotable, “Different is not the same as special” is a bit of a sophomore slump.

“The Empire feared Hari because he could forecast the future. But in reality, all he was doing was examining the past.” No.

There’s that kid with the knife again. How is he connected to Maybel?

Also, “Vulcan” is better than “Vulcanian” but I prefer “Anacreonian” to “Anacreon.”

“The ghosts of the dead… surround us. And they are hungry for what’s ours.”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

All Images from Foundation on Apple TV+