Talk:Nightfall (Asimov short story and novel)

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Pitch Black[edit]

Pitch Black's fate wasn't any better than the movie version of Nightfall? Wha? --RYard 18:18, 24 August 2006 (UTC)


If the 1992 version of the book is discussed then some explanation should be made about the plot of Daybreak. Daybreak is actually better in my opinion and deserves some acknowledgement somewhere. Zuracech lordum 08:57, 12 February 2007 (UTC)

Asimov commits schoolboy howler[edit]

Some might consider it to be the height of impudence on my part, but I cannot but disagree violently with Master Asimov’s depiction of celestial mechanics in “Nightfall”. Let us ignore the fact that any system involving no less than 6 suns and one planet would be wildly chaotic and almost certainly could not provide the harmonious conditions necessary for life. After all, perhaps a one in a googol chance might end up with such a set up. We have to allow for the fact that this is science fiction.

What can’t be overlooked tho is that the whole Nightfall set up involves a system of mutually attractive bodies orbiting in PERFECT periodicity, that is, after a given time, the configuration of the suns is EXACTLY the same as it was at the earlier time, like a clock ending up back at 12 pm, after which it repeats the cycle. This condition of perfect periodicity is not explicitly stated as such in either the short story or novel, but is an inescapable consequence of the events described. That event is the regular eclipse, every 2000 years, of the only sun shining on the planet. This means that the orbit of the eclipsing planet must be a rational fraction of the orbits of the sun that it eclipses. That situation could never occur, because there is an infinite number of irrational numbers to every rational one, as Pascal demonstrated. Had I been on the planet and been aware of the “Laws of Gravitation” I would myself have been a religious nutcase, because the Celestial Mechanics described by the book could only have been put in “by hand”, that is, be a product of Intelligent Design. No natural configuration of planets would allow for eclipses to occur with the accuracy of a Switch Watch in a necessarily chaotic 6 sun system.

Asimov might have written any number of fiction and non-fiction books about Astronomy, but his formulation of this system is that of a school boy, and not one studying astronomy either. Knowing of Asimov’s work in general, I was not surprised that the plot was typically turgid and simple-minded, but I WAS surprised to find the collection of school boy howlers in this regard. Please don’t reply to this if you don’t know what you are talking about. I am going to post this note however on Wikipedia’s Science Reference Desk as a question, and see if anyone there can throw some light on this. Look up the science ref desk and search for myles to see my question and the responses, if you are interested in following this up. Myles325a 06:27, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

Please don't get violent. :-)
Asimov was ~21 when he wrote it, so he was almost a schoolboy. That the situation was wildly unlikely must have been obvious, but Chaos theory wasn't understood back in those days. To save the story,
The two bodies causing the eclipse don't have to be in exactly the same place, since the occulting body has significant angular width. They just have to have been close enough on the last few occurrences of this situation; 20,000 years is not a long time astronomically. The other suns just have to be below the horizon; if their positions vary from eclipse to eclipse, it won't change the effect.
—wwoods 17:00, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

It’s 2000 years, not 20,000. And I disagree. The eclipsing planet only comes back every 2000 years as stated in the book (else it would be observed at other times, either in other eclipses, or by the perturbation of other orbits.) So the whole gimmick depends on the eclipse occurring precisely at the time that there is only one sun in the sky. This means that the system in periodical, there’s no getting away from that. A 6 sun system would be wildly chaotic, (and in the story there are no less than 8 bodies in orbit around each other, 6 suns and 2 planets) .But even a simple sun, planet and eclipsing body (a 3 body system) while inherently more stable, would still not allow for celestial mechanics on this precise scale. Imagine a situation in which there is a total solar eclipse every year on march 2nd . That would imply a precise configuration of sun moon and earth, which could only have been put in by God. Myles325a 02:42, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

Yes, but 20,000 ought to cover the multiple 2,049-year periods referred to in the story. (I think; it's been a while since I read it.)
—wwoods 05:49, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

The really glaring oversight is that the eclipse will of course not affect the entire planet (at least not right away), since at least half of it has got to be exposed to most of the suns. The original novel (somewhat contradictory) states: "The eclipse that results, with the moon seven times the apparent diameter of Beta, covers all of Lagash and lasts well over half a day, so that no spot on the planet escapes the effects." A "half a day" eclipse that somehow manages to cover the entire surface? Supermagle (talk) 22:16, 25 January 2008 (UTC)

The story doesn't say anything about relative distances and sizes. We have a pretty periodic solar system with many more than 8 bodies (counting large moons, planets and the sun). Just scale that up to make moons planets, planets stars and the sun a very large star. A kind of binary star system, with extra stars. I'm no astronomer of any kind, but I don't see why it's so very necessary that multi-body systems are chaotic. There are plenty of examples where many bodies together fall into a solar-system-like behavior.

The three body problem goes when three bodies are placed in space by "the hand of God" and then let go, but solar systems accumulate slowly in accretion disks. If the accretion disk is much larger than the one that formed our solar system, the larger 'planets' could easily acquire so much mass that a fusion process is started. I think. But again, not an astronomer.

As for the oversight that the other half of the planet should be experiencing light: the pacific ocean covers nearly half of our planet. It's not unthinkable that the planet in the story had even more water, so that life never managed to settle on the side that was light during the eclipse. Add to that a situation of tidal locking with the main star (possibly due to the increased land mass on one side), and the whole thing is perfectly plausible.

Also, this is not what discussion pages are for. (talk) 16:49, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

Other annoying things about Nightfall[edit]

There seems to be only an Observatory, a bar, and an archaeological excavation site on the planet.

They have supercomputers, but it has been only several decades since the Laws of Gravitation (Newton’s Laws) have been discovered.

Since that discovery, no one has bothered to work out almanacs of where the suns were and will be in the distant past and future.

Although the scientists are obviously inheritors of Earth’s Enlightenment, and the cultists are the irrationalist counterparts of our own, there seems to be absolutely no scientific discussion on how such a system as theirs could have begun.

The people are a lot of wimps. On Earth, people survive concentration camps. Here, we are expected to believe that the entire civilization goes caput becoz of a few hours of darkness. And yet, darkness is always present on the planet. All any of them have to do is shut their eyes for a moment. And of course, all they had to do was use electric lights for the few hours of darkness. None of it adds up. And the romance is geekboy fantasy at its worst. As is the the caricature of the priests. As a novel, this made a great short story. Myles325a 02:44, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

I haven't read the extended version — partly because I figured there wasn't enough story to stretch to that length. You might be interested in Dawn (1980), which is a variation of the story. It's set on a medieval-esque world, and deals with a one-time event, which takes care of some of those objections.
—wwoods 05:49, 21 September 2007 (UTC)
They weren't panicking because of the darkness, they were panicking because of the realization that they were not alone in the universe. If you had been living in one room your whole life, and suddenly the wall fell apart, you'd be shocked too. It reminds me of a similar reaction by the denizens of Krikkit in Douglas Adams' Life, the Universe, and Everything, although those people take out their anger not on each other, but everyone else. (talk) 08:24, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

numerical order of stars[edit]

I rearranged the stars slightly, to suggest what was evidently the origin of their names: Numerals. I can't tell exactly which language Onos, Dovim came from, but they appear to be some Indo-European language for "1, 2" (Onos, of course, is the primary, while Dovim has secondary importance in the story), while one binary pair are apparently Romanian (compare Trey, Patru with trei, patru "3, 4") and the second Swahili (compare Tano, Sitha with tano, sita "5, 6"). It would be POV to state this explicitly, but it can hardly be coincidence. kwami 10:15, 12 November 2007 (UTC)

Fair use rationale for Image:Nightfall cover.jpg[edit]

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BetacommandBot (talk) 14:59, 8 March 2008 (UTC)


I don't know when I read Nightfall - 1950s or 60s - but I do recall being so dissatisfied at its ending. How were we supposed to believe in a planet which had several times achieved intelligent life but didn't know even the concept of darkness? Which means their very first habitations, of course needed in inclement weather let alone cold/wet seasons, must have been made of glass? So they discovered how to make glass as soon as they were able to manage fire? Oh, OK, their six suns meant they never had seasons.

But each time an intelligent life form developed, it never thought to explore inside any cave or pothole? And they'd reached highly advanced stages without ever needing to sink mineshafts. So they didn't understand the notion of a lamp?

I can't be the only person who realized these things as soon as finishing reading the story, so it's a puzzle to me how it's consistently said to be the greatest scifi work ever, or some such. I loved Azimov's stories when I was young, particularly the Foundation series. But how can it be said that Nightfall is the greatest ever when it's built on such a non-credible situation? L0ngpar1sh (talk) 21:10, 21 December 2010 (UTC)

When the short story was originally published, the physics of multistar systems of order six were not yet understood. Planetary formation theories was drawn from a sample of 1 (the Solar System) And habitability of planets is still not really understood. We now know they are tiered binary systems. And the physics of the situation only need to exist for a few cycles, long enough for the people to not know about a past where there was a night, or a visible moon, and for several eclipse periods to have happened. It doesn't need to have existed any longer than that. Before that period, there could have been a visible moon and night. And in the far future of the world, there could be again. -- (talk) 11:27, 27 July 2014 (UTC)

Set of catchword in italics[edit]

As far as I know, titles of short stories should not be set in italics. But I do not see any tokens in the source code of the page that I could remove to make the catchword straight. Can anybody help me with that?! --Hans Dunkelberg (talk) 23:12, 21 June 2011 (UTC)

Short story and novel[edit]

I now see that the catchword was set in italics, because the short story has later been adapted into a novel and there was an ordinary book infobox further down in the article. I have reformulated the lead, moved the infobox to the top of the page, and moved the page to the lemma "Nightfall (Asimov short story and novel), to avoid that also others might be misled in such a way. --Hans Dunkelberg (talk) 14:15, 22 June 2011 (UTC)
  1. I think it's a mistake to feature the novel primarily, as we inevitably do with its {{infobox book}} at the top of the page.
  2. Did Silverberg work with Asimov on the 1990 novel? Or merely "novelize" the early story with Asimov's blessing?
  3. How is the novel received? (For one, WorldCat reports this Silverberg's work most widely held in participating libraries.)
--P64 (talk) 19:42, 4 April 2013 (UTC)
Here is my note at Robert Silverberg
--P64 (talk) 20:21, 4 April 2013 (UTC)

Planet's and stars' name[edit]

"Lagash" is a well-known Middle East archaeological site (according to the En. Brit., "one of the most important capital cities in ancient Sumer, " Is there is evidence that IA intentionally chose this name rather than that he simply made up a name out of English phonemes?Kdammers (talk) 01:22, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

The stars Trey and Patru are probably the numbers 3 and 4 in Romanian (3 written to match the pronunciation), see Romanian_numbers. Moreover, they are on places 3 and 4 in the list following the stars named by Greek letters. There are parallels to numbers in the others as well, so maybe from another language? (talk) 10:33, 17 November 2014 (UTC)

the reality of Kalgash[edit]

Someone's done a study on the physical feasibility of the system as described in the story.

-- (talk) 11:22, 27 July 2014 (UTC)