Rings Around Tomorrow
Books-in the news by Collice Portnoff Republic Book Editor RINGS AROUND TOMORROW. Hugh Downs. (Doubleday & Co., $5.95). As a rule we don't associate that magic box, television, with erudition. Hugh Downs, however, is the notable exception, and a delightful raconteur as well. His "Rings Around Tomorrow" fully substantiates one's television impression, too. His slender though complex volume is based on a string of articles he wrote for "Science Digest" (Hearst Corporation), some of them rewritten and considerably enlarged, with one theme in common — man's position in the universe. Isaac Asimov, who writes the Introduction, is a Russian — born educator, the author of "Intelligent Man's Guide to Science," "Human Brain," "Understanding Physics," "Quick and Easy Math," and others. In 1928 Asimov became a U.S. citizen, received his Ph.D. from Columbia, and has been a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine since 1949. He has been a guest on the Today's Show" and briefly, fellow columnist with Hugh Downs for "Science Digest." IN TRIBUTE TO DOWNS Dr. Asimov writes: "It is a great value to mankind generally that as many of us as possible learn to understand and appreciate where science is going and how. Our lives and well-being depend on it. If mankind generally allows science to recede into some incomprehensible distance, then scientists will became a priesthood divorced from contact with humanity and they may become ineffective or, worse yet, dangerous." As Hugh Downs himself puts it: "This book presents my attempts to get my bearings in the midst of our highly developed, technically advanced society, to explore my own position and even occasionally to chart possible courses for the future." "Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness." These words of James Thurber .seem to fit Hugh Downs' mood perfectly as he makes the world the object of his scrutiny. § In these thirty-one short articles, Downs probes current | problems of society, sets forth what the "summum bonum" 1 is for you layman and the world, and expresses his concern I about the crystalization of our ideas. | Quoting with easy familiarity authorities like Pierre Teil- | hard de Chardin, Dr. Warren Weaver, Sir Julian Huxley, Thomas Merton, Erich Fromm, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. ~ Augustine, Downs lends extension and weight to his probing. Three chapters among his thought-provoking speculations about man and his universe, have particular appeal: first, "The Vision of Father Pierre." Occasionally a man appears, Downs says, who can look out over the treetops and see the I I 'forest stretching for miles in every direction, a scientist able ! to extract patterns, trends, meanings from what he views I and therefore a wise man. 1 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French Jesuit was such a ! man. Paleontologist and thinker, Teilhard de Chardin taught I at the Institute Catholique in Paris, visited China where in | 1929 he became involved in the discovery of an'exemplary j specimen of Peking Man (Sinanthropus). | From 1951 Father Teilhard worked in New York with emi-1 nent research teams, until his death there in 1955. He aimed I at a metaphysic of evolution, holding contrary to Bergson I that it was a process converging toward final unity (Teil- 1 hard's "omega point"). Scientifically Teilhard showed that I evolution has not ended and that it has a direction, and that! man can be optimistic about the future. ! Second, Downs' article on the "fast draw" with a gun and his own fortuitous try at it is intriguing. And third, also amusing is his whimsical description of our possible progeny. How would you like to be the progenitor of this: "The completely hairless, rather large-domed and weak- limbed man of the future will wear temperature-controlled underclothing, infrared or extended spectrum eyeglasses, multichannel all-distance audio-sensing aids, air-purification and breath-control systems or possibly, with atrophied lungs, oxygen-extraction systems equally effective in air or water and having the capability to carry oxides into outer space. Personal locomotion may be accomplished effortlessly by means of powered clothing so that weak muscles need only trigger a relay to amplify the power wishes of the organism." Downs puts important rings around tomorrow by informing the layman, making him think and enjoy his thinking.