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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Superb, neatly fulfilling its goal of introducing science without being boring of didactic. This is a genuinely mind-expanding and very funny book." (Good Book Guide)
"Entertaining, instructive and illuminating" (New Scientist)
From the Publisher
From the Back Cover
They get everywhere. And they like humans to be superstitious, fearful and frightened of thunder. They're after our future and must be stopped ... but by who?
Enter the wizards of the Unseen University who, in the best-selling Science of Discworld unwittingly created Earth and our own universe. At the time they quite failed to notice humanity. (Well, we've only been around for a million years, so we're easily overlooked...) But now, at last, they've found us.
The Globe is a unique book, weaving together a fast-paced Discworld novelette with cutting-edge scientific commentary on the evolution and development of the human mind, culture, language, art and science. The result - as the wizards grapple with the nature of Good and Evil, and history is rewritten several times over - is a fascinating and brilliantly original view of the world we live in.
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
In the airy, crowded silence of the forest, magic was hunting magic on silent feet.
A wizard may be safely defined as a large ego which comes to a point at the top. That is why wizards do not blend well. That would mean looking like other people, and wizards do not wish to look like other people. Wizards aren't other people.
And therefore, in these thick woods, full of dappled shade, new growth and birdsong, the wizards who were in theory blending in, in fact blended out. They'd understood the theory of camouflage - at least they'd nodded when it was being explained - but had then got it wrong.
For example, take this tree. It was short, and it had big gnarly roots. There were interesting holes in it. The leaves were a brilliant green. Moss hung from its branches. One hairy loop of grey-green moss, in particular, looked rather like a beard. Which was odd, because a lump in the wood above it looked rather like a nose. And then there was a blemish in the wood that could have been eyes ...
But overall this was definitely a tree. In fact, it was a lot more like a tree than a tree normally is. Practically no other tree in the forest looked so tree-like as this tree. It projected a sensation of extreme barkness, it exuded leafidity. Pigeons and squirrels were queuing up to settle in the branches. There was even an owl. Other trees were just sticks with greenery on compared to the sylvanic verdanity of this tree ...
... which raised a branch, and shot another tree. A spinning orange ball spun through the air and went splat! on a small oak.
Something happened to the oak. Bits of twig and shadows and bark which had clearly made up an image of a gnarled old tree now equally clearly became the face of Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully, Master of Unseen University (for the extremely magical) and running with orange paint.
'Gotcha!' shouted the Dean, causing the owl to leap from his hat. This was lucky for the owl, because a travelling glob of blue paint removed the hat a moment later.
'Ahah! Take that, Dean!' shouted an ancient beech tree behind him as, changing without actually changing, it became the figure of the Lecturer in Recent Runes.
The Dean spun around, and a blob of orange paint hit him in the chest.
'Eat permitted colourings!' yelled an excited wizard.
The Dean glared across the clearing to a crabapple tree which was, now, the Chair of Indefinite Studies.
'What? I'm on your side, you damn fool!' he said.
'You can't be! You made such a good target!'
The Dean raised his staff. Instantly, half a dozen orange and blue blobs exploded all over him as other hidden wizards let loose.
Archchancellor Ridcully wiped paint out of his eyes.
'All right, you fellows,' he sighed. 'Enough's enough for today. Time for tea, eh?'
It was so hard, he reflected, to get wizards to understand the concept of 'team spirit'. It simply wasn't part of wizardly thinking. A wizard could grasp the idea of, say, wizards versus some other group, but they lost their grip when it came to the idea of wizards against wizards. Wizard against wizards, yes, they had no trouble with that.
They'd start out as two teams, but as soon as there was any engagement they'd get all excited and twitchy and shoot other wizards indiscriminately. If you were a wizard then, deep down, you knew that every other wizard was your enemy. If their wands had been left unfettered, rather than having been locked to produce only paint spells - Ridcully had been very careful about that - then this forest would have been on fire by now.
Still, the fresh air was doing them good. The University was far too stuffy, Ridcully had always thought. Out here there was sun, and birdsong, and a nice warm breeze-
-a cold breeze. The temperature was plunging.
Ridcully looked down at his staff. Ice crystals were forming on it.
'Turned a bit nippy all of a sudden, hasn't it?' he said, his breath tingling in the frigid air.
And then the world changed. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.