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The Science Of Discworld Revised Edition (Science of Discworld 1) Paperback – 2 May 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (2 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091886570
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091886578
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 2.6 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 228,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Terry Pratchett needs no introduction. Ian Stewart has written fine non-fiction books on mathematics, and he and Jack Cohen collaborated on the quirkily inventive pop-science titles The Collapse of Chaos and Figments of Reality. What on earth, or on Discworld, are they all doing in the same book? Pratchett provides a very funny 30,000-word novella about Discworld science, beginning in the High Energy Magic faculty of Unseen University and leading his eccentric wizards to investigate an alien cosmos where there's no magic to keep things going. This is the Roundworld universe--ours. The key point: much that's true only on Discworld (eg that suns orbit planets and not vice-versa) was once believed on Earth and the wizards' comic misunderstandings echo the history of real science...Unusually, Pratchett's story is split into chapters and in between his chapters Stewart and Cohen wittily discuss the concepts underlying the fiction, from the Big Bang through stellar formation to life and evolution. Much of the science we know, they cheerfully insist, is "lies-to-children": good stories that are mostly untrue, like thinking of atoms as tiny solar systems. Discworld operates by narrative plausibility and so does human thought even when our Roundworld universe disagrees. Between the laughs, The Science of Discworld is a provocative, informative book that'll make you think about what you think you know. --David Langford --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"The hard science is as gripping as the fiction" (The Times)

"An irreverent but genuinely profound romp through the history and philosophy of science, cunningly disguised as a collection of funny stories about wizards and mobile luggage. More that that, it offers a fresh look at the place that humans hold in the history of the planet" (Richard Wentk Frontiers)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 15 Mar 2003
Format: Paperback
This book really shouldn't hold together. The inspired lunacy of Discworld should not by rights mix well with the equally inspired sanity of the Stewart's and Cohen's scientific world-view. Amazingly enough, it works. The result should be a required reading for everybody even minimally interested in looking under the bonnet of the world -- and that really ought to be everybody.

What really impressed me was how Stewart's and Cohen's contribution managed to remain readable and easy to understand, while simultaneously presenting a truly up-to-date report on the state of our understanding of the world, AND managing to avoid mushy and patronising "lies to children", of the kind only too common in popular science writing. Equally impresive is Pratchett's ability to weave his story through and around the science chapters (but then we all know that Pterry is a tory-telling genuis!).

The idea of aiming a scientific presentation at the millions of Discworld fans was audacious to put it mildly. To carry it off with the panache achieved by the three authors, is a supreme achievement. It is also a deeply reassuring one: whenever I start worrying about the slipping standards of popular understanding of the world (so painfully apparent in the proliferation of pseudo-scientific fads), I only need to remind myself of the millions of people likely to read this book (and its equally good sequel) -- and the world looks immediately brighter.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Jun 2000
Format: Paperback
This book has far less of Terry Pratchett's work in it that you may expect from the cover. It is not a Discworld book. What it is, however, is a very good, and compelling book on the state of science today.
The two 'co-writers' who actually wrote most of this book are both thought-provoking science writers. They understand that you have been taught certain "lies-to-children" (simplifications that make science teachable) at school, and break these, replacing them with today's cutting-edge science.
The 'Discworld' aspect of this book is short interleaved chapters written by Terry, to fit the 'story' of the science, and the fact that the 'real' science writers can share a few 'in jokes' with the reader.
Closer to 'A Brief History of Time' than 'Men At Arms', 'The Science of Discworld' should appeal to anyone with a real interest in how the world in which we live came to be, and how it works.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "johncusack" on 25 Feb 2003
Format: Paperback
Right, let me get this clear from the word go: I'm a huge Discworld fan. I want to live in a world where politicians have all got a Sam Vimes to keep them honest, Granny Wetherwax is around to glare at the baddies and give us what we know we really need rather than what we think we ought to want. How can you not love a world where death gets a capital letter, a horse called Binky and a fondness for kittens?
As has been said in other reviews The Science of the Discworld is not a normal Discworld book. The only comparison I can think of is to Sophie's World wherein chapters alternate between fiction and philosophy (or in this case science). I enjoy reading about science but I wondered whether I would end up skipping the science in favour of the story, being curious, I bought the book anyway.
I needn't have worried. The story itself is an enjoyable Discworld short, but I quickly realised I wouldn't be skipping chapters here. TSOTD covers everything from cosmology to evolution to chaos theory to interstellar travel. This is a book I am better off for reading; difficult concepts are explained in an understandable way without the reader ever feeling patronised. The authors make it clear that there are times where they are lying to you, but they are lying in a way that lets you see what the truth should look like. As I was reading the book I realised that there was something missing, yet the book was better off for it. It was not until some time after I had finished that I realised the underlying pessimism or current of doom so prevalent in other science stories was missing here. Unlike other books involving a discussion of future science when I closed this book I didn't have to wonder why I got out of bed that morning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 July 1999
Format: Hardcover
Despite the title, this is neither a Discworld book nor a book about the Discworld. It's a serious, introductory-level history of our own planet and the evolution of life upon it, enlivened from time to time by humorous commentary from the Discworld wizards.
If that sounds like your sort of book, go for it: the authors have made quite a good job of it.
On the way, they generously throw in a bit of everything: astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, evolution, ecology, statistics, morality - plus Pratchett's chapters in which the wizards do their stuff. This makes for a lively book but one that rather lacks focus. It's not consistently amusing (the science chapters are mostly serious), and yet it's not sufficiently well organized to serve as a work of reference. It reads more like a series of magazine articles.
The two digressions I found most interesting were on morality and statistics. Statistics occupies Chapter 32 and is referenced in the index. Morality comes up in Chapter 6, but you won't find it in the index.
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