Mark Reads ‘The Science of Discworld II’: Chapter 18, Part II / Chapter 19

In the eighteenth and nineteenth chapters of The Science of Discworld II, I talk about origins and Granny Weatherwax’s advice. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

You know, there was bound to be one of these, and this one is it. Chapter eighteen pretty much went over my head? I understood a solid chunk of the stuff about the laws of thermodynamics, but much of the other stuff was just… well, I’m simply not knowledgeable enough to comprehend it. And I’m gonna poke fun at myself, because this line made me feel super underprepared:

See? It’s simple. Not magical at all…

Oh my god, all of that was SIMPLE? Help me, I barely understood it! However, unlike the last review, I did have an interesting memory triggered by this chapter. At the start of the second half, Stewart and Cohen spent a significant amount of time talking about the concept of entropy, both Shannon’s concept of it and the term you find in physics. On video, I remarked that I initially thought the book was going to discuss the latter because that was the one I was also familiar with. How? Well, when I was a kid, I was lucky enough to be introduced to a very influential punk band by the name of Bad Religion, and they came to mean a lot to my life personally. (So much so that I have two of their logos tattooed on me, including the one from the album I’m about to talk about.) On their album Against The Grain, there’s a song called “Entropy,” and it was my introduction to the concept:

Random blobs of power

Expressed as that which we all disregard

Ordered states of nature

On a scale which no one thinks about

Don’t speak to me of anarchy or peace or calm revolt, man

You’re in a play of slow decay orchestrated by Boltzmann

It’s entropy

It’s not a human issue

Entropy

It’s matter of course

Entropy

Energy at all levels

Entropy

From it, you can not divorce

And your pathetic moans of suffrage tend to lose all significance

It’s not exactly a strict interpretation of it, and it’s more a statement of pessimism than anything else, but when I later heard that term in a science class in seventh grade, I understood it. I knew what it was! And as I saw it applied to the context in which it was intended, I felt pretty damn pleased with myself. 

So, my question for all of you: What is an unlikely place you learned something from? A ton of bands taught me shit about history, politics, and the nature of oppression, but that’s not the only unlikely source of learning. Because let me tell you, as fictional as the show was, The X-Files taught me so many scientific principles or psychological issues or bits of history that I otherwise would not have known. And I don’t think the show was ever deliberately intended to educate people, but it did. For a long while, I actually wanted to be a forensic pathologist because of Dana Scully. I later learned that I can’t actually handle gore, so WHOOPS, PROBABLY A BAD CAREER MOVE. Still, I know there are countless people who were inspired by Scully to pursue a life in the sciences, and it fills my heart with joy. 

All right, let’s talk about the Discworld story! In the last review, I wondered how the wizards were going to convince Granny to even get involved, but I realize now I wasn’t really thinking about this correctly. They just needed a bit of direction, not her accompaniment. Look, I just wanted to see them interact in person because any sort of scene with Ridcully and Granny Weatherwax in it was bound to be chaotic or terrifying or hilarious. But this fascinates me, too, since there are few characters within the world of this series who understand the power of a story more than Esme Weatherwax. So, it makes since that once approached with a problem—and I assume Ponder told her it as best as he could—she would suggest changing the story. It’s so simple on the surface, but it’s a deeply complex notion, one the wizards IMMEDIATELY struggle with. Change it where? How? At this point, religion is stronger than anything else in Roundworld, and by that, it’s certainly the kind that results in this:

“And a few murders, some torturing, that sort of thing.” 

But Granny wouldn’t suggest this if it were not possible. Somewhere in time, these wizards can insert a new narrative and push humans in the right direction. Perhaps at the very, very beginning? Wouldn’t you need to go further back to counter the influence of the elves? I suggest that because of the time-reversing mentioned in chapter eighteen. If the wizards are going to get guidance “from books written in different futures,” then it stands to reason they could trace their way back to a different beginning and change that part. Right? OH, THIS IS GONNA BE FUN.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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