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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravissimo!!
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...
Published on 15 Mar. 2003 by Mike Arnautov

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interresting & informative, but the title is distracting.
The title is a bit of a misnomer, and hence I'm ranking this book at 3, where as if it had been billed as book where it employs Terry Pratchetts immensely innventive DiscWorld background to discuss science in the world about you, then it would be a 4. Terry Practchett makes great use of Discworlds underlying mechanics in his stories, hence the book promises on the...
Published on 1 July 2000 by AAEwing


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39 of 40 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.

Bravissimo!!
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14 of 14 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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28 of 29 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not what the title implies, but even better, 3 July 2000
By A Customer
Don't buy this book thinking you'll get an explanation of physics when light slows down to golden syrup speed...but it is absolutely fantastic and has a lot to say about how we expect reality to be (as in stories) and then what actually happens. The huge gorgeous sweep of this planet's history is seen through the befuddled eyes of the magicians from Unseen University, who are constantly upset because events don't follow narrative causality. The book also has quite a few pointed jabs how most of what we take for in the natural world as "well, obviously so" is simply the result of the latest evolutionary crapshot between disasters...and that the next load of cometary ice is just around the corner.
Much of the above can be found in other places. What raises this book above popular-science-with-silly-wizards is Pratchett's realization of the power of stories, our wish to tell them to each other, and our wish to create a world that makes sense using them. As John Polanyi says: " Scientia is knowledge. It is only in the popular mind that it is equated with facts...facts are meaningless. They contain no narrative. Science, by contrast, is story-telling. That is evident in the way we use our primary scientific instrument, the eye. The eye searches for shapes. It searches for a beginning, a middle, and an end. "
Read this book. You will never be able to look at the phase "oh, it's just a story" in quite the same way again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book putting science into everyday terms., 14 Sept. 1999
By A Customer
A lot of people (mainly Pratchett fans) are going to be buying this book with the expectation that it's another Discworld story. Well, it's not, so they may be disappointed. There is a Discworld story (about the wizards' latest antics at Unseen University) running through the book, but this story is not the point of the book.
Rather, the book uses elements of the story, presented in alternate chapters, as launching points for discussions of science and Nature in our (non-magical) Universe. The authors more or less go over the current understanding of the "Epic of Evolution", beginning with the Big Bang, through the formation of the solar system, to the emergence of life and then intelligence. However, the authors make it quite clear that these are not tenets of some materialistic religion (as some opponents of science would have us believe), but are instead rather sophisticated "lies-to-children", the human-made ideas we have developed about how Nature works, with those ideas judged on the basis of how well they explain what Nature is actually doing.
All in all, this is an excellent book which discusses science at the popular level, and I'm going to be recommending it to lots of people who're interested in science, whether they're Discworld fans or not. I very much hope that the book will soon become available in the United States, where it is very much needed...
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compulsary text book fot undergraduate science students!, 7 Mar. 2002
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.
I gave this book to a friend of mine who has had a long career in teaching (not only high-school teaching, but also teaching teachers-to-be how to teach) and he was also very enthusiastic about the book, because it really lets you wrestle with the various ideas and theories presented.
I myself have learned greatly from this book, not only from certain subject that, being a biologist, are not part of your education, but also about the more philosophical side of science. This is why I very strongly recommend this book to all undergraduate science students; they can profit greatly from reading this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome, bookworms, to the real world!, 11 Oct. 2000
By 
chenobble (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This is undeniably the perfect book for stimulating the imagination of the unimaginative, informing the brains of the uninformed and entertaining the thoughts of the bored. It has everything! A great little Discworld story-ette when the science gets on top of you, new ways of looking at tired old science concepts, easy to understand explanations of current ideas and little funny bits to make you smile. I was so impressed with this book I put in the references section of an essay for my maths degree. And for those who say some of the science is 'not true' I should point out that the Big Bang theory is, in all probability, not strictly true. It's just a good idea that seems to fit at the time. Don't discount anything you read, just don't take it as gospel either.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science and Sensibility, 1 April 2003
Being both a Discworld fan and interested in science, this book seemed like a natural choice. At first I feared it would be like one of those books with titles as "The science of Startrek" and such but this was fortunately not the case.
Instead, this is a popular science book that uses Terry's wit and jokes in the discworld to illustrate how science works in our round world. Being a student in biology I can say I enjoyed the biology parts as well as the other science topics.
Explaining science in easy to understand terms and still being correct is harder then you can imagine. These writers not only managed this, but also produced a gripping, funny and thought provoking piece of litterature that will stay with you for the rest of your life (whether you like it or not!)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read!, 28 May 2000
By A Customer
This book is a fascinating read for anyone with the slightest interest in where we come from, what we are and how we got here. Added to that alternate chapters set in the UU with the wizards becoming increasingly puzzled at the way a non-magical universe develops and you have a book that takes science away from the specialised journals (and alarmist press) and into the realms of entertainment.
Just one point, the title may be a bit misleading - the book is about the science of the universe, NOT the Discworld. However, it is a minor gripe - the science chapters are just as well written as Pratchett's Discworld ones and only occaisionaly does what could be a very heavy subject become heavy going.
Excellent stuff!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Science of the Discworld: Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, Jack S. Cohen - It's science Jim, but not as we know it!, 25 July 2012
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
I have to say that Science of the Discworld is the most readable, memorable, original and entertaining science books I have ever read. It's a great concept, and three very talented communicators have come together to pull it off and give us a book that describes the current model of physics and the creation of the universe in a manner even clearer and funnier than Stephen Hawking's `A Brief History of Time'.

The story is set on the Discworld. The Wizards of Unseen University have accidentally created a universe. But this is a universe without magic, where worlds are spherical rather than discs. They set about observing this universe from its creation through to the formation of life.

Each chapter of the entertaining and usually hilarious Discworld story from Pratchett alternates with a chapter of real science from Stewart and Cohen (both great communicators with wry senses of humour) which explains in our terms what just happened in the Discworld story.

It's well written, easy to follow, introduced me to many scientific concepts that I did not know about previously, and is probably the most educational book I have ever read. So many of the ideas and explanations were firmly lodged in my mind after reading this, many more than remain from my student days, when I was supposed to be studying this kind of thing! (But which I didn't really study too hard because I spent most of my time reading Terry Pratchett books...)

It's an excellent book, one that I highly recommend. 5 stars unreservedly.
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