April 30th, 2008

Books

That Unread Book Meme...

I used serenada's version.

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The Science of Discworld — Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen

As for books I have read, I just finished this one, which uses a short Pratchett novel as a framework for discussing science. Ponder Stibbins is running an experiment in the High Energy Magic building at Unseen University. The experiment, of course, goes awry, creating a pocket universe containing a world not totally unlike our own, a development that totally stuns the observing wizards, who are used to less spherical, more carried on the backs of giants elephants standing on an even bigger turtle type worlds. They decide to send Rincewind in as a reluctant, on-the-spot observer.

The novel runs in the odd-numbered chapters. Meanwhile, in the even-numbered ones, the two science guys explain what Rincewind was looking at in the previous chapter as the world develops. It's your basic general overview of the sciences, a little physics, a little chemistry, some geology, and a whole lot of evolution. The science guys are funny, so it's all a bit of a lark, especially if you've been a scientist since about the fifth grade or so. Still I did learn a few things. One thing that I'd never even considered before reading this book is that if you throw a proton onto a neutron star, it becomes one big honkin' hydrogen atom. That's pretty neat.