Author Topic: EP100: Nightfall  (Read 43021 times)

Dr Frankenshroom

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2007, 03:58:50 PM »
Nightfall should be renamed Planet of the Morons

A civilisation that destroy's itself because of  a total solar eclipse. LOL
These people are so incredibly dense.
It takes them centuies to come up   with law of gravitation LOL

Though if Asimov was using this story to point out our flaws in scientific theory, then he succeeded
admirably.

ClintMemo

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2007, 04:11:28 PM »
Nightfall should be renamed Planet of the Morons

A civilisation that destroy's itself because of  a total solar eclipse. LOL
not when you consider that they've never experienced dark before.
Imagine what would happen on earth if suddenly everyone went deaf.

These people are so incredibly dense.
It takes them centuies to come up   with law of gravitation LOL

It took us at least a few thousand.

Though if Asimov was using this story to point out our flaws in scientific theory, then he succeeded
admirably.


how so?

The astronomer predicts what will happen to the sun - and he turns out to be right.
The psychologist predicts what will happen when it gets dark - and he turns out to be right.
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Josh

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2007, 04:55:16 PM »

These people are so incredibly dense.
It takes them centuies to come up   with law of gravitation LOL


Before calling a civilization "dense" for doing things four times faster than we did, you might want to consider running a spell check.

Thaurismunths

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2007, 05:05:08 PM »
Nightfall should be renamed Planet of the Morons

A civilisation that destroy's itself because of  a total solar eclipse. LOL
These people are so incredibly dense.
It takes them centuies to come up   with law of gravitation LOL

Though if Asimov was using this story to point out our flaws in scientific theory, then he succeeded
admirably.

I'm going to echo Clint on this Frank.

We were toying with "gravity" back in the fourth century BCE, civilization having been started somewhere back about 3500 BCE, and Einstein didn't pin it down 'til 1915. That's more than two millennia! Perhaps you had mistaken century (hundred years) for millennia (thousand years)?

Likewise, I found it a little incredulous that they would destroy a whole world just because it went black, but think Asimov wasn't saying it was the darkness that bothered them: it was the stars. The sudden, crushing realization of their own insignificance in the vastness of the cosmoses. There's also the self-fulfilling profiles and religious furvor stirred up by the religious doomsayers. For 2050 years their people have all heard the stories that the world will go dark, the stars will come out, and men will go stark-raving mad... so that's exactly what happens.

I think, if anything, this story would be a tongue-in-cheek look at man's pride. I'm not sure where scientific principal would fit in.
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Thaurismunths

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2007, 05:12:00 PM »

These people are so incredibly dense.
It takes them centuies to come up   with law of gravitation LOL


Before calling a civilization "dense" for doing things four times faster than we did, you might want to consider running a spell check.

Easy Josh. That's a rather personal attack.
Though the forum encourages correct English, and appreciates good spelling, there's no call for ridiculing someone else for making a typo.
And although I think Frank's post might be a little heavy handed, even Asimov's work is not beyond ridicule and debate.
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slic

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #25 on: April 10, 2007, 05:14:10 PM »
Before calling a civilization "dense" for doing things four times faster than we did, you might want to consider running a spell check.
Careful now, the poster is giving an opinion, and it's about a fictional civilization.
Quote from: Thaurismunths
...it was the stars. The sudden, crushing realization of their own insignificance in the vastness of the cosmoses[sic].
I agree.  And that is why the quote by Emerson starts the story.

I also understood this story to be about mankind's folly - happily at the centre of their universe, proud of their many accomplishment - and then stupified when they realize their true insignificance.


SFEley

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #26 on: April 10, 2007, 05:41:18 PM »
And although I think Frank's post might be a little heavy handed, even Asimov's work is not beyond ridicule and debate.

Well said.  I would add only this:

There are no invalid opinions on a story.  But I would regret it if the rest of the commentary thread on "Nightfall" becomes entirely about what Dr Frankenshroom said, rather than more listeners' experiences.
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ClintMemo

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #27 on: April 10, 2007, 05:59:40 PM »
The only problem I had with the story was trying to visualize how the whole planet could go dark all at once.  There was an eclipse happening where the characters were, but what was happening on the other side of the planet?  Were all the other suns over there?  Was it night time?  Was it all water (so nobody lived there?)   The problem didn't occur to me until long after I finished listening to it. (I confess I've never read it - I'm so ashamed :( )

That point aside, once you accept the premise (which is no different than accepting that people can travel to other planets, build human-form robots or travel backward or forward in time) then the rest of the story made perfect sense. 

I also thought it was clever that he didn't exactly pin down the level of technology the people had. I don't remember hearing anything about cars or mass transit or electricity, though it was mentioned that they had seemingly crude cameras and telescopes, and one of the characters was a newspaper reporter.  The story could easily have been set in early Renaissance times.  Now, set the story in 16th century Europe and make the astronomer Isaac Newton (I think it was his law of gravity that is in the story).  Imagine that it has never been night time. Imagine that for centuries, the church has been teaching that one day the sun will disappear, the sky will go dark, the stars will come out and we will all go mad.  Then one day, the sun gets dark and all the stars come out.  Pandemonium!!

There are several ideas in this story we see in later works and not just by Asimov.  The idea that the psychologist could predict what the people would do is a precursor to Hari Seldon's Psychohistory from the Foundation series.  Also, the idea that knowledge can get wrapped up into religion is also explored further in the Foundation series as well as much later in Neil Stephenson's  Snowcrash   I'm sure someone more well-read than me can point out several more examples.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2007, 06:03:54 PM by ClintMemo »
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scottjanssens

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #28 on: April 10, 2007, 06:35:38 PM »
The only problem I had with the story was trying to visualize how the whole planet could go dark all at once.  There was an eclipse happening where the characters were, but what was happening on the other side of the planet?  Were all the other suns over there?  Was it night time?  Was it all water (so nobody lived there?)   The problem didn't occur to me until long after I finished listening to it. (I confess I've never read it - I'm so ashamed :( )

Asimov covers this but you have to pay close attention.  Asimov points out that Beta is at aphelion, meaning the planet is at it's farthest point from Beta in it's orbit and therefore at it's smallest size.  The relative size of the moon that eclipses beta is so much larger than the relative size of beta that totality lasts for many hours (I'd have to go back to see how many).  Now imagine a solar eclipse where the moon appears so much larger than the sun that not even the corona would be visible.  It would be true night over the entire hemisphere, and not like a total solar eclipse on Earth where even in the small path of totality it's not completely dark.  Totality lasts long enough that as the planet rotates enough of the surface gets enough darkness to drive the people to madness.  The story establishes that 15 minutes is enough to really start messing with these people.  And that's when they knew the darkness would come to an end.  What some posters (here and in the comments) seem to miss is that it's one thing to draw the curtains or go into a cave, when you know you can get the light back, and it's something completely different when the light goes away on it's own and you don't know if it will come back.  So you're right in that the other side of the planet has light but by the time "dawn" comes, the damage has been done.

Heradel

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #29 on: April 10, 2007, 07:05:45 PM »
This was the first time I've read/heard this story (as I've stated elsewhere, young'un is me[though I am working my way through the Foundation books]), so, er, wow. It took me a little while into the story to read the info for the file and realize how long ago it was written, and to realize how different the level of technology was between now and then. Before I realized the age of the story I was wondering why they hadn't seen other point sources of X-rays or radio waves in sky surveys, or had at least discovered LED's when they were coming up with integrated circuits.

Great story, great episode, great 100. (Incidentally, it might be nice to run Charge of the Light Brigade for Episode 600 as a response to the critics [who always remind me of manunkind].)
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SFEley

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #30 on: April 10, 2007, 07:08:36 PM »
Asimov covers this but you have to pay close attention.  Asimov points out that Beta is at aphelion, meaning the planet is at it's farthest point from Beta in it's orbit and therefore at it's smallest size.  The relative size of the moon that eclipses beta is so much larger than the relative size of beta that totality lasts for many hours (I'd have to go back to see how many).

The story said "just over half a day."  So yes, every point on the planet would have at least some period of darkness.  I read this story extremely carefully in preparation for narrating it, and I only spotted one genuine logical gaffe: that Beta reaches "zenith" early in the story and apparently stays there for several hours.  That's just an aside, though, and doesn't really matter to the plot.  You could just say that Asimov was being very approximate in what he called a zenith.  >8->

The rest of the story is astronomically implausible but not impossible.  It seems unlikely that all of the suns would maintain a conjunction for such a long period of time, but we don't know the relationship of any stars to the planet except for Alpha.  (It's clear the planet is closer to Alpha than Beta is, or Beta would be a "morning" and "evening" star like Venus.)  Postulating that such a planet, with such eccentric gravitational and heat forces, would be stable and able to support life is a serious stretch -- but again, there are probably configurations where it could happen, and Asimov even flips a joke at this objection by having one of the scientists imagine an Earthlike scenario and conclude, "Of course, life couldn't possibly exist there."

The moon is the biggest stretch.  A moon of greater apparent diameter than ours, "made of bluish rock" of such a precise and uniform shade that it would be totally invisible in the atmosphere, is very hard to believe.  And one has to wonder how such a large moon would never eclipse any other suns.  It'd certainly have a huge effect on tides, though if the scientists of the world never correlated the tides to gravity they might not infer the moon's existence that way.  (And the moon itself would probably wreck any chances to note patterns between the tides and all the suns.)  

All that said, though...

...All that said, I don't think any of it matters.  This story is a thought experiment.  It really doesn't matter how likely any of this is; in a sufficiently large universe, even the most contrived astronomical configuration could happen somewhere.  What Asimov is saying is: "Imagine a world like this.  Imagine this event on that world.  Now imagine the consequences."

From that perspective, this story is science fiction of absolute purity and tremendous power.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2007, 07:10:53 PM by SFEley »
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Jim

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #31 on: April 10, 2007, 08:21:47 PM »
I agree... I'm sure it's been said a million bazillion times, but the story is clearly allegorical, like much of science fiction.

It looks to me like each character is meant to be an analog to a human institution. There's the hard scientist, the soft scientist, the layman, the religious fanatic, and so on.

The way they interact in the face of a looming crisis is the key to the story, I think.

In the end, because of the utterly human failing of fear, religious zealotry wins out over reason.

And as far as "Planet of the Morons," really, are we that different here on Earth?

Considering that there are countries on Earth where publicly contradicting the established religious dogma is punishable by public torture and death, I don't think we can safely wag our fingers and cluck our tongues at the denizens of Lagash for their foibles.
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slic

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #32 on: April 10, 2007, 11:46:56 PM »
I don't consider myself religious in anyway, but had a very similar experience to that of the main characters.  We were living in rural Nova Scotia (think Maine, in the case of the US), on an old farm - kilometres from even the nearest "town" centre.  We had been there about 2-3 months, and I was talking out the trash (the large bin was a good 12 yards from the main house).  I had left the porch light off, just lazy, and the kitchen light was muted through the curtains.  It was one of the clearest nights I had even seen (or not seen, I suppose ;)).  I lifted the lid, tossed the bags, and looked up to see the stars - they were overwhelming.  It truly felt as if they were bearing down upon me - there were not 100s or 1000s, but an immeasurable amount.  Familiar constellations and clusters were filled with shiny spots, patterns within patterns, almost in a fractal sense.  I just collaped into a seated position and couldn't tear my eyes away - my Dad calling me in because of some TV show or other broke my reverie. 

I can completely understand the overawe the Lagashites(?) felt, and considering they never, ever saw a night sky before, it's no surprise the breakdowns that occured.  And Steve made mention of another excellent point - they had no idea the suns were coming back - sure their rational brain told them the other suns would eventually "return", but enough of us have been scared sh!tless and know that the rational brain isn't always in control.

I don't think the story is just about how fear can rule a mob, but also the idea of being immediately confronted with ones own insignificance.  Here Mr. Asimov using "night", but imagine if a large alien civilization showed up tomorrow.  I don't mean they kidnap some people, or a small scout ship makes First Contact - I mean an armada of a 100 alien races with 1000s of ships, far superior to us in all ways imaginable.  They don't attack, they just sit there - half the human population would have gone nuts inside of a few hours.

Josh

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #33 on: April 10, 2007, 11:58:31 PM »
Before calling a civilization "dense" for doing things four times faster than we did, you might want to consider running a spell check.
Careful now, the poster is giving an opinion, and it's about a fictional civilization.


I'm sorry, I have no problem with the criticism of a work, especially good work. What angers me is when someone criticizes something without knowing all the facts, that's all. I think that if Dr Frankenshroom were to have worded it a little differently, I could understand exactly where he was coming from.

slic

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #34 on: April 11, 2007, 02:48:01 AM »
No worries.  I agree that a simple rewording/rephrasing can make a huge difference - just ask Nikita Khrushchev.

My way of handling stuff like this is to remember that everyone reading the boards is pretty smart - if you see a hole in an arguement then show the hole - we all know who posted what.

jrw

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #35 on: April 11, 2007, 03:51:56 AM »
GREAT! number 100    Its been many years since I read "Nightfall" and had forgotten the beauty of the story especally the ending. I think there was a follow up story many years later that really was only a B- compared with the A++ of "Nigthfall"  Thanks for a great read!

Simon Painter

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #36 on: April 11, 2007, 09:17:06 AM »
This has to be the best episode of Escape Pod ever   ;D Twice as long as a normal episode, but I didn't notice in the slightest.

Is there any chance we could start incrementing the episode numbers in hundreds, so we can have a special episode every week?

Many, many thanks,

Simon Painter
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sirana

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #37 on: April 11, 2007, 11:17:43 AM »
First of all, WUHUUUU EP100 !!!!!!!!1111!!!ONE!!!1
Congratulation Steven for making this the single best podcast on the net.
Lets see what EP1000 has to offer ;-)

I liked the story very much (didn't know it before *look ashamed*), but I have my problems with the main premise.
The psychology seems a bit too mechanistic.
IF Darkness THEN Madness is too simplistic for me, even in a civilisation that doesn't know a night.
Just because they don't know night doesn't mean the concept of darkness escapes them. They have caves and they know what happenes when you pull down the curtain. I just have a difficulty to believe that the darkness would drive (nearly) every person mad.

And if isn't the darkness that drives them mad, but the stars, I don't see why that would be the case and I don't feel it is explained sufficiently in the story. Furthermore, while I get that they would light everything on fire if the darkness was the cause of the madness, this doesn't make sense if the stars are really the reason for them going mad.

Also the unfamiliarity with any artificial lightsources isn't really believable to me. They never tried to expore these caves? They don't have cellars, or rooms without windows that have to be lit with other means than sunlight?

And one final nitpick. The sentence: "Not Earth's feeble 36 hundred stars... " does break the scene of an universe that doesn't know anything about Earth or the possibility of its existence and makes it a story that is too directly aimed at a audience that does know of it.

slic

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #38 on: April 11, 2007, 11:32:44 AM »
Quote from: sirana
Furthermore, while I get that they would light everything on fire if the darkness was the cause of the madness, this doesn't make sense if the stars are really the reason for them going mad.
It's because DARKNESS = STARS.  Until the full "darkness" there were no stars (from their POV), so remove the darkness and the stars will go away.

Quote from: sirana
Also the unfamiliarity with any artificial lightsources isn't really believable to me.
I agree for the most part, since most artificial heat sources generate light (wood, candles, gas, etc.). Though, it took nearly 50's after the idea for a light bulb for Edison to perfect it (and that's something clearly useful to many people) whereas spelunking gear (including lighting) for a civilization already scared of the dark was more likely way down the list.

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Re: EP100: Nightfall
« Reply #39 on: April 11, 2007, 12:00:37 PM »
Perhaps these are photosynthetic people?
The quip about life not being sustainable on Earth because there isn't nearly enough light suggest that they need a lot of light for survival. That being the case, they wouldn't build structures that had dark spots. It'd be like us filling rooms with water or noxious gases: We could, but they'd be a bit of a hazard, so why bother?
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