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4.2 out of 5 stars104
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 13 July 1999
This is without doubt the best popular science book for a general audience I have ever read, It's informative without 'talking down' to it's audience, humorous (which is almost essential in this type of book) and offers simple, easy to understand explanations of almost all of the major points with which people seem to have problems in modern science. It is much less heavy going than Hawkings' "Brief history" (hands up who got past chapter three?) and offers information on subjects as wide ranging as the human mind, possible future developments in space travel and human genetics. Plus of course it has a reasonably good Discworld novella buried inside it, what more could you want?
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on 3 June 1999
Okay. Let's start with what it *isn't*. It isn't a "Physics of Star Trek" type book explaining how everything there works. What it is is a combination of Discworld novel and real science book using UU wizards to explain how everything *here* works.
In the odd chapters, by the great Terence David Pratchett MBE (Hon DLit), the wizards, with the help of HEX, build a pocket universe in which there is no magic- the Roundworld Project. What happens there is... unexpected. In the even chapters, by top scientists Cohen & Stewart, we get basic cosmology, evolution and other peculiarities of science explained with reference to the Roundworld Project (resulting in the fun usually had in spotting "resonances" in Terry's text being lost, as the book annotates as it goes). Net result- An unusual, but fascinating, book.
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on 16 May 2013
I hadn't realised these "Science of" were discworld stories, as well as an explanation of science. I had assumed they were like the "folklore" of which is also a brilliant book - but actually about the folklore of our world which provides the starting point for so much of what in Discworld is real.

So I was delighted to find that this is a story about the wizards, (so I haven't run out after all and there are more of these!) as well as a non-technical (maths free) but very lucid and thoughtful discussion of "roundworld" science - real science that is, contrastred with what happens on discworld - which runs on Narrativium - the power of story.

I would really recomend this to anyone interested in science - and more importantly anyone who thinks they're not interested in science - because everybody must want to know how it all works!

If you're a discworld fan you get a story interleaved with a really good introductory science book and if you're not - you can just skip those chapters but do read the science
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on 21 May 2002
Learn more about our own world through the hardcore logic of the wizards of the Unseen University. Not the 'normal' science of books as 'how could this work in our world'. But 'how does our world work as seen from the discworld'. Fun and educational and lots of laughs.
If you're looking for an original discworld story, without the not-so-boring science, just skip every other chapter and read about the making of our world (roundworld) as seen from the discworld. The comments of Rincewind who is sent to virtually explore this world. Do not expect to many encounters with roundworld humans. This is evolution we're talking about, and we've been around about ten seconds. Expect lots of rocks and elements and eventually life, but not necessarily as we know it today. Expect to learn about our evolution, while thouroughly having fun.
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on 24 June 1999
Unlike Russell and Whitehead trying to connect logic and mathematics, Pratchett et. al. are successful in tying the necessary science to fantasy, a connection that has generally kept hard science fiction readers away from the morass of fantasy. This text should be required reading for anyone who has pretensions to becoming a fantasy writer.
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on 13 August 2000
I bought this book thinking it was another Terry Pratchett novel,theat was an error on my part. I didn't expect so much more! Interweaving an enjoyable "Wizard" tale inside factual chapters on how the Earth began, changed and progressed in it's strange illogical way was just as enthralling as the Discworld story. I had real trouble putting this book down! Having to read a factual book isn't my forte, but, the content was extremely thought provoking. Don't be discouraged if you only want a Discworld story - this will not dissappoint an inventive mind. Learn about the solar system, quantum physics, Darwin's theory of evolution and the "Wizards" inept concept that a "Roundworld" should needs Gods, prodding and poking to evolve!
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on 12 December 1999
Sentient Dinosaurs... Shellfish civilisations... Astronomic turtles supporting four giants elephants and a Disc-shaped planet... Well, none of the above can be proved NOT to exist. We may be the most advanced species currently on the planet, but that is by no means proof the Dinosaurs didn't just leave before the meteor hit. Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen are a rare couple; scientists and mathemeticians both, but sporting a dangerously high level of imagination, enthusiasm and minds broad than oceans. And then someone showed them a Discworld novel. Pure genius this one. Educational, funny and thought provoking, it struck me as one of the most inventively written books of all time.
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VINE VOICEon 6 October 2006
This is a fantastic view on the new science. It is not intended to go into the same depth as one of Ian Stewarts science book and it is not intended to explain science in discworld - after all discworld runs on narrativium. What it does is show how to take a different and more approachable view of modern science and that science is full of magic, wonder and surprises.

This book brings the new way of thinking to everyone in an accessible and fun way. If you are a scientist it makes you think, and if you are not then it entertains and perhaps make you think that science and scientists might not be so strange after all.
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on 19 April 2016
The Science of Discworld is an interesting one, because it mixes both fiction and non-fiction, in the form of a series of short stories by Terry Pratchett, as well as a series of essays by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen which explain some of the scientifc principles and concepts which Pratchett adapted for his own nefarious purposes. Because of that, it never gets too heavy – just when you’re starting to tire of the scientific explanations, Ponder Stibbons and the wizards of the Unseen University reappear.

Really, this is probably the closest that Pratchett ever got to writing a Discworld novella, but only if you read all of his shorts back to back. In fact, you can read it any way you want to – personally, I just read it in a linear fashion, because the non-fiction and the fiction do compliment each other if you do that, but you could also read just the fiction, just the science, or read first one and then the other. That gives you, as the reader, a lot of choice!

It is an interesting enough read, but personally, I would have preferred to have had another Discworld book. Still, if you’re keen to work through Pratchett’s back catalogue, the Science of the Discworld books are well worth reading, and this is the obvious one to begin with. The fact that it was the first to be released means that it covers some of the earlier books in the series, which will appeal to serious aficionados, and it’s also interesting just to see how Pratchett adapted his style to fit the new format.

But overall, though, I’d only really recommend this if you’re a serious fan of the Discworld series, because it goes in a little deep and you might not want to know about it if you’re only a casual visitor to the Discworld. Personally, I enjoyed it a lot, which is why I read the rest of the science books – but then, I have already devoured all of the novels in Pratchett’s incredible series.
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on 14 July 1999
The risk for an established fiction author,with a loyal readership,in collaborating on a 'crossover' work like this must be that of the readers feeling left behind. Have no fear! You won't get that with 'The Science of Discworld'. What you do get is Discworld chapters (full of meddling 'Unseen University' Wizards,the accidental creation of a pocket sized 'Roundworld Universe',Librarians, Luggage, Bursars and the new Professor of 'Cruel and Unusual Geography') alternating with clearly and entertainingly explained Science chapters which use the Discworld and it's magic as a springboard for understanding everything from Schrodinger's Cat to Surfing Apes!
The balance between the two strands is just right for those of us whose brains start looking for quiet corners to hide in when faced by too many facts. Any time my brain made like a hermit crab, there was the next dose of the Unseen University to reassure it.
Adding a little fizz to everthing is the infectious enthusiasm of all the writers. They have pulled off the neat trick of making you realise how little you really know about Science, without making you feel too dense (after all its not our fault if no-one trusted us with the truth and told us'Lies-to-children'instead).
The book is a godsend to those who were beginning to feel that a little homework was going to be required if they were going to get full value from the Discworld series (Especially if, like your reviewer, some of the sections in the Unseen University Challenge Quiz Book made you realise how little you knew, compared to the encyclopaeidic knowledge that underpins the whole Discworld construction). The overwhelming feeling that you get from this book is that Terry Prathcett is so jazzed by how amazing everything is that he just couldn't contain himself anymore, and like a kid who's found a pond full of tadpoles, is standing at the edge yelling 'Wow, come and see what I found!'.
One nagging suspicion though - how do you tell if you've just swapped 'lies-to-children'for 'lies-to-teenagers'?
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