Comments: 22
For me, too, the wizards win hands down. (But then, they'd win over pretty much anything.) One thing this book is making me very aware of, too, is that my attitude towards astrophysics is probably very different from that of ... astrophysicists. And probably scientists in general, for that matter. I mean, harking back to "Hogfather" (and also to a certain extent to the "lies to children" thing here), I actually prefer to be able to say, "Oh, look at those bright, shining stars in the sky" instead of "oh look, there's another galactic nuclear reactor and it's even close enough for us to be able to see it with our naked eyes" ...
BrokenTune 3 years ago
Yes, exactly, that too. The Wizard parts of the book understand this point of view and manage (so far) balance a view that admires the thing for what it is with a view of what it really is. the science parts seem to either leave out the "looking at things from the perspective of a person" or it comes across as a bit arrogant sometimes (like for example with the "lies-to-children" comment), then focus on the mechanics of it. That part, to me, reads like it was written for other physicists. As a joke.
Elentarri's Book Blog 3 years ago
I also preferred the wizard chapters to the science chapters. I've read enough physics books, did the course, and was an astronomy/astrology fanatic when I was a kid so they aren't really telling me anything new so it tends to be a bit boring. For a basic introductory book, the science explanations are ok, if you want details, not so much.

The problem with popular science books seems to be that the authors assume the general masses have never picked up a science book in their lives, have no clue about anything, and then need to be told the "lies to children" version.
BrokenTune 3 years ago
...while criticising the "lies to children" approach.
Exactly. And I've just passed yet another passage where they're even expressly saying "well, remember when we told you "X"? Sorry, we lied to you there. Because you weren't ready to understand the full picture yet. Now you are. So listen up, here's the full story ..." (which then is, very obviously, yet another simplification, however.)
BrokenTune 3 years ago
Yes! I remember that kind of thing happening pretty much in the chapter following the one saying that "lies to children" was an abhorrent thing. *rolls eyes*

And I'm still annoyed by the comment about Einstein's theory so obviously being part of the nuclear fission they are trying to explain in the book ... and then they just pass over it... I'll need to find the quote, but that seemed pretty high-handed on the part of the authors.
Tannat 3 years ago
But the lies-to-children is essential to understanding lies-to-readers in the sense that any explanation will always be simplified to some extent and you should always keep that in mind when reading about science. Even throwing math at the problem doesn't help you understand it any better; it just makes you better at predictions.
I still object to calling it lies. That's just talking down to the reader -- and it's misconstruing the word "lie." I perfectly understand that *any* popular science book will simplify the things it describes. I don't need to have it jammed in my face and be told, oh by the way, we lied to you there. That's simply disingenuous -- especially if you criticize the whole "lies to ..." concept in the same breath.
Tannat 3 years ago
I disagree that it's talking down to the reader, but I'm ok with calling an untruth a lie. Any story-explanation has part of it that is untrue and a reader should be aware of that. Science isn't about finding "truth". It's about predictions. But I like astrophysics.
See, I think that's what it comes down to for me in a nutshell. I'm OK with calling it a simplification. I'm *not* OK with calling a simplification an untruth. Any simplification will necessarily gloss over details -- that's in the nature of the beast. But that is all there is to it, and that doesn't make it untrue. It just reduces the whole thing to its bare bones. AND "lie" -- to me -- necessarily implies an intention to deceive. However, the purpose of a simplification (and in fact any popular science writing) is anything *but* deception -- conversely, it's to bring greater understanding; even if by employing methods that wouldn't stand scientific scrutiny (nor are they designed to, and everybody, the reader included, understands that).
BrokenTune 3 years ago
TA's explanation pretty much explains my point of view, too, with respect to the "lie" issue. I also need an intent to deceive for something to be a lie.

I do perceive some of the science parts as "talking down to the reader". Now, I'm only a short way into the book and it might change going forward, but it is something I have perceived.
Murder by Death 3 years ago
TA summed this up perfectly. A simplified explanation is not an untruth, nor is it a lie for reasons I can't begin to explain any better than she did. But I can stick a quote in here, for the authors of the book:

"You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means."
Elentarri's Book Blog 3 years ago
PS. It's not anything like Gulp by Mary Roach so it earns brownie points for that anyway.
Oh, absolutely. :)
BrokenTune 3 years ago
Oh, agreed. This is not Gulp, and that is in the book's favour.
Ah yes. this one...so many fond memories...Pratchett was not known to get his science "right" in his so-called SF. I remember someone saying to me at the time that half the matter in the universe was apparently roughly the size of Wales...I was at attending the British Council at the time, and I said to myself: "There is a joke there about 'Wales' and 'doesn't matter' but I couldn't be arsed"...
and Ian Stewart a mathematician...
Elentarri's Book Blog 3 years ago
Has anyone read Science of the Discworld II, III and IV? And is it worth the effort?
Tannat 3 years ago
I have all four but I haven't read them all. I've read III but never got around to II, so I planned to read it afterwards at some point...hopefully in the near-ish future.
Tannat 3 years ago
I'm at about here I think.