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The Science Of Discworld [Paperback]

Terry Pratchett , Ian Stewart , Jack Cohen
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

11 April 2013

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.

Frequently Bought Together

The Science Of Discworld + The Science Of Discworld II: The Globe: 2 (Science of Discworld 2) + Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch: 3
Price For All Three: 19.08

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press; Revised edition edition (11 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091951704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091951702
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravissimo!! 15 Mar 2003
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book on Real World Science 30 Jun 2000
By A Customer
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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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book I�m better off for reading� 25 Feb 2003
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Apart from being a Pratchett fan, I'm an almost post graduate biology student interested in education en popularising science. Therefore, this book stands high on my list of best books ever. Apart from a very entertaining story featuring the ever-blundering wizards of U.U. (and Rincewind in the role of Professor of Unusual and Cruel Geography), this is really a very, very good science textbook.
The strength of the science book part (reviews on the story can be found aplenty on this page) is that it is for one thing very clearly structured, starting with the birth of the universe as we now perceive it and ending with a (maybe) over-the-top look into the future. But apart from this comprehensive structure, the science writing is very clever. Many science books just state what is known, so only the dry facts. The authors of this book give also a framework, for example some history of how knowledge is obtained, a process that is mostly unknown to those who have not followed an academic science education.
But that's not all. Many times the authors start out by stating something that is known to everybody, giving the explanations we all learn in high school. And then they go about by showing us how exactly these high school explanation (or "lies-to-children") are wrong, giving a much more complicated image of how things work and even leaving things unexplained (because that's how it is in science, not all things can be explained satisfactorily). And that is, in my opinion, the strength of the book, a glimpse is given about how science is practised, how knowledge is gained and how things are always more complicated than you think they are.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Not what I expected
Published 8 days ago by gwilmo
5.0 out of 5 stars Science and Mayhem rule!
informative and hilarious. Inimitable Pratchett style!
Published 12 days ago by Sue Birch
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Big Bang Theory this is for you
An interesting concept which is both entertaining and educational.
Published 16 days ago by Dave Oswald
4.0 out of 5 stars good science, good fantasy
The combination of good science and quirky fantasy backed up by plausible science makes this a very enjoyable book. Fun.
Published 5 months ago by danny__kay
5.0 out of 5 stars the science of discworld
It is brilliant as always, you are never let down when it comes to Terry Pratchett. My husband is very happy.
Published 6 months ago by Loopy Loo
5.0 out of 5 stars school work!
excellent! not only a good read but educational as well! I could have passed more exams if this was available when I was at school!!
Published 8 months ago by Bruce
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab
Excellent condition bearing in mind that it was second hand. Bought it to replace my paperback copy. Well worth the money
Published 9 months ago by SJ Sluman
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent juxtaposition of science fact and fiction.
I am an engineer/ inventor with a nuclear/electronics/metallurgy background, a deep love of all things scientific and most of my grey cells functioning. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Vasco the Viking
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull, dissapointing and patronising
I was somewhat interested when my girlfriend passed this book on to me but the excitement soon faded. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Europa
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
A wonderful mix of Discworld and Science in a good balance. Great fun and instructional too, hopefully it will make Science interesting to kids.
Published 11 months ago by jankent
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