The Science of Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen
21 December 2003

 

Go, Terry Pratchett!

A big question faced by all popular science writers is that of how to define their audience: people knowing only high school science? People knowing less than that? Undergraduate university students? Here Pratchett has a very clearly defined audience. He writes science for that mysterious breed known as the Discworld fan, and does so with clarity and humour. The interleaved Discworld chapters provide relief and context for the Discworld fan (although some parts remain a mystery to the average reader), and the journey through the history of our Earth and universe is well-structured and penetrates to just the right depth for a book of this length.

There are numerous gems awaiting even hardened pop-science readers such as myself. While the early-universe part is fairly familiar (Big Bang, etc), the specific stages of evolution are certainly enlightening to the non-biologist, and the chapter on ecology should prove interesting to sceptics and activists alike. Pratchett handles advanced concepts with great skill, providing the layman with just enough information and leaving us feeling neither bogged down in nor deprived of knowledge. Particularly enjoyable is the dismissive ease with which he throws our species into context against the relatively brief history of life on Earth. As well as educating and entertaining me, this book has made me feel remarkably calm about the extinction of the dodo. Go out and buy it at once.

 

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