Writer Isaac Asimov died yesterday of heart and kidney failure at the age of 72. The follo

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Writer Isaac Asimov died yesterday of heart and kidney failure at the age of 72. The following is a rememberance circulated by James Randi, and I don't think he'll mind it being echoed here. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- The news came this morning that Asimov has died. His passing has to be a loss to the community of skeptics, and I feel that I should share with you a few observations on the phenomenon he represented. In recent months, Dr. Asimov suffered greatly from depression. He'd undergone a triple bypass operation some two years ago, and I'm told that depression often follows that procedure. He'd given up writing and even corresponding with friends. My last card from him says merely, "I'm very ill, and unable to become involved in new projects." That was very unlike Isaac. A prodigious talent, he possessed the ability to express clearly and concisely the beauty of science and technology while also sweeping us away with grand, fabulous scenarios set on imaginary planets in remote and wonderful galaxies. Isaac probably wrote more lucidly to express science to the layman, than any other person we can think of. Everything from the Sun to the Bible came under his analytical eye and was the better for the experience. All of us were certainly well served by our teacher. He had an ego. A prodigious ego. But I've often said that the man had a perfect right to it. He was paradoxical in some respects; while he freely wrote of faster-than-light space vehicles streaking among the stars, he had a life-long fear of flying here on Earth, and could often be found standing in New York's Grand Central Station consulting train schedules, rather than at an airport. Years ago, when I timidly wrote him to ask for an introduction to one of my first books, he graciously replied by postcard (his favorite form of postal communication) and merely asked how many words would be required. Having just seen Isaac on a television interview in which he used a triple redundancy ("Some authors only write one book or poem, but it becomes an eternal classic for all time"), and in a feeble attempt at pulling his side-burns, I wrote back. "Perhaps," I said, "one who uses such figures of speech might not be capable of writing an introduction for my new book!" Almost instantly a postcard response was before me. "Then tell me, sir, what horse's ass, when he wished to say, `The unkindest cut,' would say instead, `The most unkindest cut of all'?" I surrendered the field quickly, having been unwise enough to attempt fencing with Zorro. The man will always be with us through his books. That is his immortality; he can never be truly gone from among us. And, for all we know, that fear of flying may not have kept him from now soaring among the nebulae and perhaps chasing down an interesting comet for closer examination. Thank you for being here, Dr. Asimov, and sharing your wit and wisdom with us all. We cannot forget you. JR


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