I enjoyed this collection far more than Volume 2, even though both collections are from roughly the same time period, and each has a story about insects and a story about the Sun.
N Day by Philip Latham (1946) — An astronomer at a solar observatory thinks the Sun is about to go nova, and tells everyone that the Earth will be destroyed in three days. He still spends about half a day obsessing over his career future, and even after that he spends time meeting with a university president and reading crank letters. He doesn’t go on a hedonistic rampage, or spend his last days with family, or try to make peace with his deity. My interpretation of the story’s ending is that he’s just gone crazy, and there is no impending nova.
The Figure by Edward Grendon (1947) — Some scientists are working on a type of time machine that can reach forward in time and snag an object, kind of like fishing into the future. They are in a hurry, because the army wants them to work on another project: figuring out why, after the US atomic bomb tests and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, insects in the area became larger, more aggressive, and more numerous. The scientists activate the machine, and it brings back a statue of a beetle in a victory pose. My take on the story is that they brought back a piece of ironic hipster art, and now they’re going to blanket the planet in DDT for no reason.
Brightside Crossing by Alan Nourse (1951) — A team attempts the first bright-side land crossing of Mercury. A few of the story’s scientific details about Mercury are dated, but I really enjoyed the characters. The tale is told by the failed expedition’s lone survivor, to a man who’s about to lead another attempt. When the new leader hears about the reckless things one team member did to speed the crossing, he says something like ‘aha, there’s your mistake, you had a man like that on your team.’ The survivor tells him no, that guy was right, the team was behind schedule and going to die. He tries repeatedly to convince the leader to abandon his attempt, telling him that it’s impossible to survive. The new leader cannot be persuaded to quit, but the ending shocked me: the survivor volunteers to join.