Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld’: Chapter 13 / Chapter 14, Part I

In the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of The Science of Discworld, the wizards experiment, and the universe changes. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.


I still don’t exactly trust the wizards (aside from Ponder Stibbons) to not mess things up spectacularly. They’re experimenting a lot with the Project at this point in the story: throwing things in it of different materials, different temperatures, and just observing everything that’s happening. By itself, that is a pretty cool thing! That’s literally how scientific principles have been discovered, and even if it’s being done out of reckless abandon or personal gain, they’re still learning. Of course, Ponder is the only one who appears to be taking notes of any sort, so maybe the other wizards should think about that. (They won’t.)

What I think this is leading towards is a possible way for the wizards to make breakthroughs in how they understand their world. As it stands, they don’t even accept that there are “rules” that might govern how physical bodies behave, or how different chemical compounds react with one another. Even though there’s no “disc” world forming, they still have a chance to observe things they otherwise wouldn’t. The big question is: Are they going to be paying attention? Will they see how exploding stars and rings of gases affect their Project universe? I hope so! Ponder managed to get rainfall in the Project, though it unfortunately turned to a world of ice. The solution to that, however, kind of worries me. Again: wizards. DO I NEED TO SAY ANYTHING ELSE. Seriously, how exactly is Ridcully going to “warm up” the Project? I foresee a disaster ahead of us.


I love that this book is getting me to think about how much has changed in the world that I have lived in. I grew up being taught that there are nine planets in our solar system. And The Science of Discworld was published at a time when that was still the accepted wisdom of the world. Pluto was the ninth planet! And it was tiny and cold and was super far away, and we didn’t know much back then as we do now. It was only towards the end of high school that news stories started cropping up about Pluto not being a planet, in particular in response to the Hayden Planetarium not including it in its model of the solar system. (I distinctly remember that story because it made me want to go to NYC to visit the planetarium!)

In the years since then, I remember the Great Planetary Discourse about Pluto, all the sentimental and hilarious defenses of Pluto as a planet, and now, we’ve more or less faded into a new understanding of our solar system. Pluto really isn’t a planet based on the qualifications necessary to deem it one! And it’s so fascinating to read this book and see that conversation unfolding as it does, since this is yet another instance where science has outpaced what’s in the text. (Referring to the Periodic Table, that is.)

So what’s the next thing that we’ll have to re-learn and adjust to? I recall a story for a couple years back about there being possible ingredients for life on Pluto’s moon??? Or that there are other celestial bodies out beyond Pluto or close to it that have a higher mass or size… y’all. I just want to KNOW. It’s something that I’ve gotten spoiled for because of Star Trek. Watching that show has made me so terribly desperate to experience space travel and exploration, and it’s not something I was even aware of until a year or so ago. It just snuck up on me, but gods, do I EVER want it. Is that going to be possible in my lifetime? I don’t know. Lately, it hasn’t seemed like the odds are in our favor, but… a boy can dream, can’t he?

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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