The Science of Discworld

Terry Prachett, with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. Random/Anchor, $15.95 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-8041-6894-6
Acclaimed fantasy writer Pratchett and mathematicians Stewart and Cohen deliver a unique and outrageously funny look at the history of our world through the eyes of the wizards of Discworld’s Unseen University. When Chief Research Wizard Ponder Stibbons splits the thaum (a unit of magic, much as the atom is a unit of matter) in a makeshift lab in the university squash court, he creates “Roundworld.” Discworld runs on narrativium, the power of story, but Roundworld has no narrativium. Instead, it runs on rules based on science. The story of the wizards’ befuddled investigation of Roundworld is interwoven with chapters on various science topics: how did the universe begin? Where did the chemical elements come from? How did the solar system form? How did life evolve on Earth? Could there be life on other planets? The science in this revised edition of a U.K. title originally published in 1999 isn’t completely up to date (Pluto is still a planet here, and the search for exoplanets has barely begun), but the writing is as entertaining as it is accessible. (June)
Reviewed on: 01/06/2014
Release date: 06/03/2014
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