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tannat

Tannat

Not so much a blog; just lots of books

Currently reading

A Darker Domain
Val McDermid
How To Be a Victorian
Ruth Goodman
Pandora's Star
Peter F. Hamilton, John Lee
Progress: 485/2241minutes
Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics)
Herman Melville
Manifold: Time
Stephen Baxter, Chris Schluep
Progress: 99/480pages
The Long War
Stephen Baxter, Terry Pratchett
Progress: 68/501pages

The Science of the Discworld (updated version)

The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart

Series: Science of the Discworld #1

 

Although I've read this book before, this was my first read of the updated version. I haven't done an exhaustive comparison, but it looks like a few of the wizard sections were shuffled around to make room for a couple extra chapters, one of which was the obviously updated one that mentioned a dinosaur show I'd never heard of and talked about feathers.

 

Overall the book suffers a bit because it's now somewhat dated and I've been exposed to the content before because I've already read it and it's pretty basic stuff that I've read in other books and so on. But it still manages to be interesting and the wizards are awesome.

 

One thing that I either hadn't noticed in my earlier read or just didn't remember because I didn't understand it at the time was the attempt to explain the difference between understanding a true description of a physical model and mathematically describing a physical model in such as way as to yield accurate predictions. Since my description of this is all wishy-washy, here's what they actually write on page 103:

"Because our human-level theories are approximations, we get very excited when some more general principle leads to more accurate results. We then, unless we are careful, confuse 'the new theory gives results that are closer to reality than the old' with 'the new theory's rules are closer to the real rules of the universe than the old one's rules were'. But that doesn't follow: we might be getting a more accurate description even though our rules differ from whatever the universe 'really' does. What it really does may not involve following neat, tidy rules at all."

Another way of capturing this idea is the lies-to-children concept that infuriated so many others reading this book. It's a good way to remind ourselves that our understanding or explanation may not be actually "true" and we should be wary of conflating accurate enough predictions or descriptions with truth as we read more in depth on various topics. Anyway, I feel that concept is super important and I wanted to underline it here.

 

Although it may be a bit dated now, it wasn't when I first read this book as a teenager, and I still think it's a good overview of the general science involved despite it being pretty basic. Plus there's wizards! And Rincewind gets to devise a system of sorting rocks based on how friendly they are.

 

Previous updates:

162 of 385 pages

32 of 385 pages