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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day (Science of Discworld 4)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2013
I loved the first three science of the discworlds, they were interesting, funny and each a pretty darn broad set of topics. This one covered one; the difference between science and religion.

It's not bad, just disappointing. I expect a smorgasbord of science, wit and humour in these books and number 4 felt lacking in all three.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2013
'Science of Discworld' continues to be a slightly misleading name for this series, which is actually about real science using the Discworld as a framework and a metaphor. This fourth book is set around a Discworld court case, in which the Omnian religion is suing the Unseen University for ownership of the Roundworld.

This is one of the best science books I've read. It deals with some of the more controversial topics - the origins of the universe in particular - but in way that doesn't lecture and doesn't condescend. The writers also take the time to examine the current leading theories in a critical manner, unlike most books which can present the flavour of the month as hard and fast fact with only a small nod to future research. Here Cohen and Stewart don't shy away from acknowledging holes in our knowledge, and that only helps to emphasise one of their core messages: that science is all about doubting and testing your ideas.

Like the previous books, the chapters alternate between fiction and fact, and the Discworld story contained the usual wit and charm, although the individual chapters and the story as a whole are all too short. In contrast, the science chapters in several places are too long, and I found my attention drifting.

In combination, a welcome taste of the Discworld universe between the main novels, and an in-depth and fascinating insight into the real world of science and where it might be heading in the next few decades. I thoroughly recommend this as a great read which both educated and entertained.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2013
I gave it 4 rather than the 3 I was going to give it, because the reason I thought it was so-so was because there was little there I hadn't read on Freethinker website.

Lots of ranting about the stupidity and intolerance of religion, along with an overview of the currently-under-discussion reasons for why supposedly-rational people believe such claptrap and poppycock.

Another blow-by-blow account of Why We Are Here, leavened with what stupid religiots think the answer is.

An interesting digression at the end into why the fine structure constants aren't that fine after all, which (for me) was worth the value of the book itself.

And interleaved like strips of tasty salami between many tedious slices of slimming-bread, we find a Pratchett Discworld novella, detailing how a librarian (appropriately Pratchettianly rationalistic, sensible and unflappable) arrives in Discworld through L-space to witness Vetinaru presiding over a court case as to whether Roundworld should be in the custodianship of Unseen University or the Omnians.

Every book by Pratchett seems like an ever-dwindling sequence of poignant goodbyes, and this is a rather sweet little coda in a world we Discworld fans know and love better than our own.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 28 April 2013
I like Ian Stewart as a writer; I've read and enjoyed many of his books on maths and science.

This is another workmanlike effort - not his best, but still a good read.

Except... it's supposed to be a book by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. And sadly, their voices were almost completely absent.

The first two Science of Discworld books were elegant blends of fact and fiction - alternating chapters of approximately equal length. In this one, the Discworld chapters are incredibly brief. And even then they read like Ian Stewart fiction (compare with Flatterland) with a few Discworld character names and back stories pasted on. Vetinari bothering to get involved in an inconsequential wrangle between wizards and clerics? Hardly! Ridcully coherently explaining vast tracts of hard science? I don't think so!

If you want to buy this Ian Stewart book on science, go right ahead. But don't buy this Terry Pratchett novel.

Another thing that irritates me in a more controversial sense is that I found the book very preachy about atheism. It's almost as though the authors had an axe to grind this time round, where before they contented themselves with the nobler pursuits of entertainment and education. And their views on agnosticism (a subject dear to my heart) are... eccentric.

Assuming, as I've said, that you're in the market for an Ian Stewart book. Assuming, furthermore, that you can overlook the bouts of didacticism (or at least read some Karen Armstrong for balance) this is still an interesting and up-to-date work, full of discussion of the origins of the universe, the history of science, world religion and more besides. Despite my reservations, I'm glad I bought it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2013
You may well need a reviving snifter after attempting this.
The science is good but a bit too wordy and self indulgent.
The accompanying story is to little and too thin to lighten the heavy dough of the 'Science'
Just because the man is a genius does not mean that his and allied works should not be fully read and shortened and/or modifying suggestions made to improve the readers experience.
Yes we WILL read all his works and addenda but it would be nice if it were overseen and revised/made tighter and edited for the sake of the reader.
Even Milche Cows should produce quality product not milked to death just for profit.
Sorry not up to Terry's high standard.
Said in sadness not malice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2013
As always, the contrasting of discworld with roundworld offers lots of useful insight into the way WE think and act. That is how/why the discworld story is set up - unlike the novels in which TP makes such witty comparisons on nearly every page, whether we always spot them or not. This book is about the science and the implicit danger of belief systems that do not accept reasoned presentation of reality as currently understood. And how we all have tendency to such belief systems. I was surprised therefore to NOT see in this book this argument taken forward to global warming, and the inherent danger in allowing this subject to be regarded as one engendering belief or disbelief. The existence of God or otherwise can remain a very personal understanding, but disbelief in the truck that is hurtling toward you will only end badly. Perhaps the basis for Science of Discworld V?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I have a degree in Chemistry and a Master's degree in Physics. I found the treatment of science, particularly physics, excellent. I think it could be difficult at times for a reader without a background of A level or equivalent. Never mind, it is possible to bleep over those bits and still enjoy the book. It hinges on different ways of seeing things and the consequent effect upon interpretation. Discworld, as in the three previous books in this series, provides the opportunity that valid laws of physics hold there. Full marks Sir Terry for achieving that.

As to the underlying story from Discworld: amusing but not comparable with the novels. I was rather disappointed that the relationship between the Unseen University librarian and Marjorie Daw, the Roundworld (Earth) librarian didn't develop further than a gift of a banana.

The conflict between science and religion is less satisfactory. I am a practicing Roman Catholic and personally I find no conflict. A point which is not made fully is that science is a rational system based on doubt and religion is irrational based on faith. These positions are not mutually exclusive; one can hold either, both or neither. The arguments against religion tend to be naive simply looking at God interfering in the physical world as required. I suspect that none of the three authors has religious faith (indeed it is specifically stated for one of them) and that is why they seem to have difficulty in really appreciating it. At times it smacks of "This is a hangover from the past where people were not as clever as us" I dumped that idea when I read James Cook's account of a meeting a Polynesian navigator in his exploration of the Pacific and realised that the man was as great a navigator as he was; even better considering he didn't have the sextant and Harrison's chronometer.

In short, there is no way to guarantee scientific truth; quantum mechanics and chaos theory will ultimately prevent that. Neither is there any way of proving religious faith. If you need another example; try proving, SCIENTIFICALLY, that one and one make two.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2014
I loved the other "Sciences of Discworld" though largely for the Discworld bit rather than the science. I found this rather thin; I do wonder on reflection whether there was overlap with "Darwin's Watch". I am quite happy for people to be atheists or whatever they wish, but this was relying too heavily on banging that particular drum. Disappointing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2014
Too much rambling on about matters not related to Discworld. I foound this book very hard going and did not understand a great deal of what was written. I am an avid Terry Pratchett fan and have read almost every book he has written, and loved every one of them apart from the Science of Discworld series. I just wont read any more Science of Discworld books.
Snuff, Raising Steam,Dodger, fabulous! As are all the rest of his books. I believe Sir Terry's daughter wiil be taking over from her father. With a Dad like hers she can't fail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2015
I love reading popular science book. I've read all the Discworld books. I enjoyed the previous three Science of Discworld books, so I really should have enjoyed reading this. Sadly I didn't.

The thrust of the book is that the authors are strong believers in the power of science and have little time for religion or the religious. Fair enough. Perhaps if there had been some subtlety in the message I think I would have warmed to the book, but by the end I felt I was being bludgeoned with message. I wanted a book about Science but this wasn't it. I wanted to like this book, and I'm sorry to say I couldn't.

A sad end to an otherwise cracking series of books
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