Chris's Reviews > The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch

The Science of Discworld III by Terry Pratchett
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Feb 09, 08

bookshelves: pratchett, science
Read in August, 2006

Again with the Roundworld problems!

As much as I love the Discworld, and as much as I enjoy popular science, I think the guys are reaching their limit here.

The first book was great - very readable, very accessible to those of us who haven't spent many years immersed in the newest developments in mathematics and physics. And it was really funny.

The second book was a little rougher, but at least kept on a consistent theme, the emergence of the Mind. There were some chapters that just slid off my brain, but for the most part, I didn't have too much trouble with it. Plus, it was really funny.

This one is a bit more disjointed than its predecessors - the science chapters are less accessible and, in my opinion, only loosely connected to the theme of the Discworld story it accompanies.

In this story, the wizards of the Unseen University of Ankh-Morpork are alerted that Something has gone wrong in the Roundworld. They had saved its future before, by ensuring the correct destiny for William Shakespeare, but now they have to do it again. This time, the problem is Charles Darwin.

Something (which turns out to be two Somethings - the God of Evolution and the Auditors) have together pushed Darwin away from writing Origin of the Species. Instead of bringing together the various theories of evolution that preceded him and proposing the mechanism for that process, he wrote Theology of the Species, which brought together evolutionary theories and the "watchmaker" concepts that were also floating around. The scientists and the creationists were happy, and the argument over the evolution of life on Earth was resolved.

This meant that humanity failed to get off the Earth before it turned into a giant snowball thousands of years later.

The Wizards now have a task - fix all the tiny little points of historical divergence that would have prevented Darwin from making his historic voyage and writing Origin. But, history being the incredibly complex system that it is, this is not as easy as it sounds....

The science portion of the book runs all over the place. It talks about Darwin's life and how he almost didn't manage to write the book for which he became famous. It talked about time travel and alternate universes. It talked about the progress of science and how it checks itself. It asked the question, if one person, such as Darwin or Watt, can be properly credited with having "discovered" something that others had worked on before them.

It's not bad material, it's just.... kind of dull. Stick with the Discworld chapters and you'll be happy.
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