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In the Isaac Asimov novel Forward the Foundation, the hero Hari Seldon notices that the politician Laskin Joranum is wearing a wig and appears to have no facial hair at all, not even eyebrows. Hari deduces the reason for this, and spreads it to make the politician appear more unpopular.

How could Hari be so sure? Why didn't he consider the alternate explanation that Joranum has cancer and had radiation therapy and chemotherapy as an attempt to cure the cancer. Cancer therapy is known to often have the effect of losing most facial hair. Similarly, why didn't Joranum attempt to use this as a defense, even if it was a lie? Isaac Asimov is known to be well educated, so he must have known that cancer therapy can have such an effect, and the same is true for Hari Seldon.

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I haven't read the book in a long time, and my answer is largely speculative.

You're talking about 20th- and 21st-century cancer therapy. There's no reason to assume that cancer therapy in Seldon's time would cause hair loss. I don't recall any mention of cancer in any of the Foundation series; perhaps it no longer exists or is easily treatable without serious side effects.

My guess is that Asimov either didn't think of that possibility, or that he assumed (without bothering to mention it) that it wasn't a plausible explanation in that time and place.

  • Whoa there! Firstly, this novel happens not in the 21st century but about 25000 years from now, give or take. Secondly, the Trantor people didn't have access to spacer medical technology, and didn't have their genes and whole environment modified to avoid all illnesses. – b_jonas Oct 27 '13 at 8:18
  • Ok wait, that chronology is based on the non-canon Second Foundation Trilogy, out of universe guesses, in-universe guesses and fabrications, so let's ignore that. But even from Foundation and empire, which is canon here, we know it's definitely not the 21st century anymore. – b_jonas Oct 27 '13 at 8:47
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    @b_jonas: I'm very well aware that the story doesn't take place in the 21st century; that's my point. In the 21st century, cancer therapy is a reasonable explanation for hair loss. In the time of Forward the Foundation, it might or might not be a reasonable explanation. I see no reason to assume that today's forms of therapy are still in use in that time. My guess is that Asimov either didn't think of that possibility, or that he assumed (without bothering to mention it) that it wasn't a plausible explanation in that time and place. – Keith Thompson Oct 27 '13 at 8:58

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