NESFA Members' Reviews

coverThe Science of Discworld

by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Edbury Press, 1999, 336 pp, £14.99

This is an interesting book but something of an oddity: It's a Discworld story and it's a good job of popular science writing.

Pratchett has written a Discworld story set at Unseen University where the wizards manage to build a model universe in the High Energy Magic building which is about a foot across on the outside but seems very large indeed on the inside. They fiddle with it, mess with it, watch it change, misinterpret it, and generally compare it unfavorably to the Discworld. By the end it appears that it may well be our universe.

The interesting part is that between chunks of the story, the authors compare and contrast the wizard's approach to natural history (just a bit on the bizarre side) to our own, and compare the Discworld's actual science to that of our universe. This proves to be an excellent way to talk about real-world science and how it's done.

The Science of Discworld is a fine popularization of science and of the scientific method, presented in a most unusual and entertaining manner. (And the wizard's discovery that the Discworld has a high concentration of the rare element narrativium -- an element which makes it possible for a world's events to form coherent stories -- is a breakthrough, indeed.)

Unfortunately, this book is presently available only in the UK - it doesn't yet seem to have a US edition scheduled.

See also my other Pratchett reviews: The Truth, Terry Pratchett: Guilty of Literature, Carpe Jugulum, The Science of Discworld, The Fifth Elephant, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, The Last Hero, Jingo, Night Watch, The Wee Free Men

See also my other Stewart and Cohen review: Wheelers

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