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review 2017-12-13 22:55
The Science of Discworld
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

"Ook?"

I usually try to start my reviews with a pertinent quote from the relevant book, but I was somewhat eager to return my copy to the library and I forgot to copy out a quotation for my review. However, it is somewhat appropriate to start the summary of my thoughts about The Science of Discworld with a quote from one of my favourite characters from the book - The Librarian.

 

Never said one word so much.

 

The Science of Discworld is an attempt to fuse the storyverse created by Terry Pratchett with non-fiction science. Through alternating chapters, we get to see how the Wizards of Discworld, with some help from Hex, create a roundworld very akin to Earth. And, yes, I smirked at the idea that book that spends a lot of time refuting creationism, is based on a story that features ... creationism.

 

(I should add that I am not a fan of or even giving credence to the theory/ies of creationism, but, equally, I am not a fan of arguments that are full of contradictions.)  

 

This is not the only aspect in which the book failed for me.

 

As much as I loved the Wizards - especially the Librarian - and Pratchett's Discworld, the science parts in this book just really did not work for me.

 

The book started out with a random discussion of quantum physics. I am not a scientist. My working knowledge of physics is basic. The opening chapters took a lot of effort because I actually found myself researching different things that the authors referred to on the internet. I don't mind do the research on topics I want to learn about if I feel that it will help me understand the rest of the book.

 

But not so here, the science parts seemed to jump from one topic to another without referring back to the previous ones. It was so confusing. And the difficulty level of the science parts differed throughout the book, too. It made me wonder what kind of a readership the authors were aiming for. Were they talking to people with pre-existing knowledge of quantum physics but not biology? Or maybe the authors just found it difficult to explain the topics they are experts in but didn't bother to go into the same depths about topics they may not be as familiar with?

 

I have no idea.

 

What is clear to me is that the authors of the science parts are not great at communicating. Apart from talking down to readers, or constantly contradicting themselves - for example, when they criticise the act of simplifying a concept to explain it to someone, which the authors decry as "lies to children", only to then use the same simplification to explain concepts to readers -, the authors of the science parts actually managed to ... and this is the dealbreaker ... they managed to make science boring.

 

And with that they made the book fail. Well, they managed to make half the book fail. The Wizard parts were delightful.

 

Previous status updates:

 

Update 1

Update 2

Update 3

Update 4

Update 5

Update 6

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text 2017-12-09 14:22
Reading progress update: I've read 136 out of 414 pages.
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

Ok, more astronomy...but at least we got:

 

- a better explanation of Einstein's theories vaguely referred to in the first part of the book

- an overview of how different theories played off or refuted each other

- stories about cats

- elemental observations

- and an offer of a variety of theories on offer rather than, as the tone of the first chapters suggested, a linear narrative of why something is not right.

 

What I am still missing is a link between the science presented in the current and following chapters and the random discussion of quantum physics at the start of the book.

 

I'm going to stop here for today, as I need something lighter or just something with a bit more narrativium

 

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text 2017-12-09 12:59
Reading progress update: I've read 84 out of 414 pages.
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

Alright, the chapter on Stardust may have helped to inject a bit more life into the book, or at least into the science parts (the Wizard parts are what kept me reading so far!).

 

While the chapter did discuss things about chemistry and elements on a basic level, at least it was possible to read it without rolling my eyes or having to use Google - and it wasn't about astrophysics, which helped immensely.

 

Onwards, Sombrero-Agrippa!

 

 

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text 2017-12-08 20:50
GC
Aliens: Rogue - Ian Edginton,Will Simpso... Aliens: Rogue - Ian Edginton,Will Simpson
Aliens: Labyrinth - Jim Woodring
Aliens: Nightmare Asylum - Steve Perry
Aliens: Genocide - Karl Story,Damon Willis,John Arcudi
Avengers: Vision and the Scarlet Witch: A Year in the Life - Steve Englehart,Al Milgrom,Richard Howell
A Once Crowded Sky - Tom King

This is what I got.   

 

I also took part in a yankee swap and got this:  

 

 

It's lootcrate, er, loot that someone didn't want - but I kinda looove it.   The shirt might be a tad small for me, but I still looove it.   

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review 2017-12-08 05:00
The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen
The Science Of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

TITLE:  The Science of Discworld

 

AUTHOR:  Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen

 

PUBLICATION DATE:  Revised edition published in 2002

 

FORMAT:  Paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780091886578

____________________________________

 

From the blurb:

"When a wizardly experiment goes adrift, the wizards of Unseen University find themselves with a pocket universe on their hands: Roundworld, where neither magic nor common sense seems to stand a chance against logic.  The Universe, of course, is our own.  And Roundworld is Earth.  As the wizards watch their accidental creation grow, we follow the story of our universe from the primal singularity of the Big Bang to the Internet and beyond.  Through this original Terry Pratchett story (with intervening chapters from Cohen and Stewart) we discover how puny and insignificant individual lives are against a cosmic backdrop of creation and disaster.  Yet, paradoxically, we see how the richness of a universe based on rules, has led to a complex world and at least one species that tried to get a grip of what was going on."

 

 

This is not a book that tells you how Terry Pratchett's Discworld works.  This is a book that tells you how Earth as we know it was created with an inserted Discworld narrative.

 

I found this book to be entertaining and the science bits to be accurate (for what is provided) with pithy observations and witty sentences.  However, the science is a rather basic summary in a somewhat erratic order of the creation of the universe and evolution on planet earth.  I started to get a bit bored with the science chapters, though this is possibly due to having read too many books about the universe and evolution to get  excited about a repeat.  The alternate chapters that deal with the Wizards of Unseen University get more amusing as the book progresses, especially after Rincewind, the Luggage and the Librarian (Ook!) make an appearance.  There is nothing like a wizardly outside commentary of Roundworld to show us how crazy life on Earth really is.  

 

This was a fun read.  I highly recommend this book to fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, especially those who aren't too clued up about general science.  The alternate science and fantasy chapters of this book might even appeal to younger school children and encouraging an interest in reading and science.

 

NOTE:  This books was read as part of the Rogue Flat Book Society Buddy Read for December 2017

 

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