The Science of Discworld: A Novel
Terry Pratchett with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen
June 3, 2014
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". . . science facts can’t keep a good wizard down"
Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” But Clarke didn’t give magic its due, especially when it comes to the entertainment and educational value of the comedy-magic of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. In The Science of Discworld we are treated to the antics of the wacky wizards of the Unseen University who attempt a great thought experiment with the help of their organic computer, HEX. Their “Roundworld Project” essentially begs the question, “If you could start up your own universe, would you be able to bend the ‘rules’?” then goes on to consider is it really worth it if, to quote Ponder Stibbons, “There are no turtles anywhere.”
Watching the formation of the Roundworlds, which are the opposite of the Discworld, a flat disc planet which rests on the back of four giant elephants riding on the back of a great turtle in space, Pratchett’s zany characters consider a multitude of puzzlers. How did the moon originate? (Could it really be as easy as smashing a cue ball off another ball of ice and rock?) How can blue-green “blobs” of algae, which don’t seem to need a dining hall, possibly be the origins of life? Interspersed within the story of the U.U. academics fooling around with their mini-universe, where gravity doesn’t only mean “heavy things tend to fall”, are non-fiction chapters by Stewart and Cohen explaining current (as of 2002) theories of physics, genetics, and climate change. Their explanations are thorough and written with the layperson in mind, but there’s no denying that the true attraction of The Science of Discworld is Pratchett’s “narrativium”. Or to put it in other words, science facts can’t keep a good wizard down.
Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews
Categorised in: Book Reviews
This post was written by Cynthianna Matthews