“Robotics” was a term coined by Asimov which went on to become a branch of technology. Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction.
Most of his popular science books explain concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage.
Unlike most stories in the same vein, it keeps a poker face throughout, and it evidently fooled a lot of readers, at least at first glance: Campbell later claimed that the New York Public Library was flooded with requests for the fictitious papers listed in its bibliography.
It inspired letters from fans describing their own experiments, including one on and another on a “prediction machine” built from a chain of thiotimoline reactors.
Joseph Winter, the endocrinologist who collaborated with Campbell and L.
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Ron Hubbard on its development, drew the distinction even more emphatically in his introduction: think that the article was a spoof of the language of psychiatry.
The article was a big hit with readers, and it remains a minor classic.
At a time when many of us dread the unfunny fake press releases that appear on every April Fool’s Day, it can be hard to appreciate the impression that it made.
(The second letter criticized the first as “a pack of lies,” saying: “I strongly suspect that it was a cheap publicity trick for some sort of new religious cult [the writer] is planning to start which will involve the worship of a thiotimoline god.”) A second gag article along the same lines, “The Aphrodite Project” by Philip Latham, took the form of an abstract of a government report on an unmanned probe to Venus.
This one caused a fair amount of bewilderment as well, and Campbell even got a few phone calls about it, prompting him to clarify that it was fictional in an editor’s note, and to warn readers that an upcoming piece, “Progress Report” by John Pomeroy, would have “gags at all levels.” He ultimately instituted an informal editorial policy that such articles could only appear once every eighteen months or so, clearly labeled as “Special Features,” and by that point, much of the fun was gone.