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The Science of Discworld II: The Globe Hardcover – 2 May 2002


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press; First Edition, First Impression edition (2 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091882737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091882730
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 313,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Like its predecessor, The Science of Discworld II contains a short Discworld fantasy by Terry Pratchett whose chapters alternate with popular science commentary from Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen.

In the Discworld strand, the bickering Unseen University wizards revisit their accidental creation Roundworld--that astonishing place where there's no magic. Our world, in fact. But it's being influenced by elves (bad news in the Pratchett cosmos), who bring superstition and irrational terrors to evolving humanity. They feed on fear.

This is the cue for Stewart and Cohen to develop their ideas of stories as a shaping power in the evolution of human intelligence. Whether they're called spells, memes, creeds, theorems, artworks or lies, satisfying stories are Roundworld's equivalent of Discworld magic. It's just that it all happens in our heads: "headology" as top witch Granny Weatherwax puts it.

Struggling to make Roundworld history come out right despite elvish interference, the wizards entangle themselves in complications of time travel and must eventually beg advice from Granny. To encourage a rational attitude to facts, it seems, Roundworld needs transcendent fictions--represented, in narrative shorthand, by the works of one William Shakespeare. The trick is to make sure he gets born...

The racy exposition of the non-fiction chapters covers plenty of ground, including astrology, cargo cults, phase spaces, information theory, and the evolution of species, art, science and religion, all reflecting the human tendency not to let facts spoil a good story. Meanwhile the Discworld chapters--though sometimes disappointingly short--are fast and funny, climaxing with much unscripted action at the first night of a famous play. The Science of Discworld II is ultimately entertaining and genuinely thought-provoking, as expected from this team. Laugh and learn! --David Langford

Review

'A book in which the hard science is as gripping as the fiction’ -- The Times

'Entertaining, instructive and illuminating' -- The New Scientist

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Thomas P. Vogl on 17 July 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Science of Diskworld II: The Globe
What an enthralling and amazing book! My overall reaction is an incredible jealousy for the writing skills that allow the authors expound such deep understanding of the strengths and foibles of both physics and neuropsychobiology in such an accessible way. In my own way, paltry compared to their powers of exposition, I have been attempting to communicate the same information to my graduate students. I bow my head to them in respect for their ability to display and annihilate some of the myths of science without denigrating science.
The art of teaching is to capture the attention of the student, not, as some believe, to anesthetize them with droning recitation that at best transfers information from the notebook of the professor to the laptop of the student without passing through the brain of either. Pratchett, Stewart, and Cohen achieve their goal by contrasting our world with one that runs on magic (Pratchett's Diskworld series), a series with which the authors expect familiarity. If you do not have this familiarity, you have a treat in store. However, the alternate chapters that deal with the underlying science are well worth reading by themselves. The explain the science clearly and punctuate the exposition with hilarious one liners whose meaning
only deepens upon further introspection.
"We are proud we live in the Information Age. We do, and that is the trouble. If we ever get to the Meaning Age, we'll finally understand where we went wrong."
"Technology isn't science. The two are closely associated: technology helps advance science and science helps to advance technology. Technology is about making things work without understanding them; science is about understanding things without making them work.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By O Jones on 1 May 2002
Format: Hardcover
Forget Genesis, forget the Big Bang. The earth was not created by some higher being (though they themselves might argue otherwise), but by a bunch of roudy wizards from another part of the multiverse.
In the original Science of the Discworld, Earth, or rather 'Roundworld' (but that's not possible, things would fall off the bottom), was created as an annomilous by-product of splitting the 'thaum' - the magical equivalent of the atom, understood by few, abused by many
(especially if it involves fireworks directed at other wizards).
The Science of the Discworld told the story of Roundworld, from creation to destruction, and the scientific princpals behind it. The narrative of Terry Prachett provided a witty medium through which Messieurs Stewart and Cohen could explain to the masses why things are as they are.
But wizards are wizards. Once the initial excitement wore off, the mini-universe got shunted out of the way. After all "It mostly had ice ages, and was less engrossing than an ant farm." But they missed something. Us. More to the point, the elves didn't.
The Discworldian story can be read pretty much as a self-contained novella, but a)that is not the point and b)you miss half the fun. While all the ingredients of Pratchett's humour and 'narrativium' remain, we are gently lead into the seemingly daunting world of science.
It is a world which many would have hoped to have left behind at school, but while we are not spoon-fed the 'children-lies' told at schools, we are not inundated with overly complicated description and jargon. The balance is very difficult to maintain, but Messieurs Stewart and Cohen manage admirably.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Andrew S. Robins on 1 July 2003
Format: Paperback
Anyone who has read the first Science of Discworld book will immediately be at home in this one.
The Discworld novella from the first book is now extended to involve the wizards meddling in the future of "Roundworld" to battle elves and (bizarrely, for a group led by Archchancellor Ridcully), introduce culture to the planet. In truth, the Discworld parts of the book are actually its weak point, as the story is very slight, and creaks in places in order to fit in with the science - hence 4 stars not 5. On the other hand, Pratchett appears not to understand how to write badly, and Discworld lovers will not be disappointed.
The "real" science part of the book continues the excellent standard set by the first. Stewart and Cohen write clearly and wittily, (even if some times they try a little too hard to be funny), and intoduce a fascinating range of subjects relating to the development of humanity, from cultural ideas such as art and religion, to biology and hard physics, without ever allowing the subject to become too oppressive.
Because of the book's structure, it would make sense to read the first instalment before this one, which should be no chore, as it's even better. Having said that, this book will appeal to anyone with the faintest interest in science, as well as to Discheads everywhere.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jóhannes Birgir Jensson on 18 Oct 2003
Format: Paperback
This is not a proper Discworld adventure, this should not surprise those that read The Science of Discworld I.
This is a book which through scientific and narrative tries to get the reader to think and to doubt just about anything he's been told. The primary point is that humans are top of the food chain because of *stories*.
The authors make many eye-opening points and whilst they dismiss several things without backing up with proper scientific data they tell the reader that yes, you should be critical of this book as well.
This is more of a philosophical work than a story, I love it.
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