logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: science-stuff
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-12-11 19:32
Reading progress update: I've read 295 out of 414 pages.
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

Who knew it was possible to make a chapter on dinosaurs boring?

I mean, DINOSAURS!

 

Did they just include this chapter to geek out on how many different dinosaur names they know? Or was it to show off that they know Disney got it wrong?

 

Ugh...

 

Is it wrong to wish the book would end soon?

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-12-10 18:57
Reading progress update: I've read 282 out of 414 pages.
The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett,Jack Cohen,Ian Stewart

The Discworld parts are still the best, especially the ones with the Librarian!

 

Like others, I am finding the book more interesting now that science parts relate to Earth rather than abstract ideas of space at large. 

 

However, now that we are focusing on the make-up of Earth and life on it, I can't help but think that this book really is a mixed bag. Some chapters are great, some are ... not.

 

There is no need for some of the attitude - if the authors insist on calling things "lies to children" then by the same logic some of the theories the authors push must be "lies to children" also. Indeed, they seem to acknowledge this for some parts ... but not others. 

 

For a book that is trying so hard to convince readers to look beyond the narrative and to question selective reporting, it still falls at the first hurdle ... even trying to sound objective.

 

Oh, and I skim-skipped through the parts about mathematical probability. In the words of (the best on-screen) Willoughby ... I will not torment myself!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
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!

 

 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?