The Science of Discworld

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The Science of Discworld
AuthorTerry Pratchett, Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen
Audio read byMichael Fenton Stevens (science chapters) & Stephen Briggs (fiction chapters)
Cover artistPaul Kidby
SeriesScience of Discworld
Release number
GenreFantasy/Popular Science
PublisherEbury Press
Publication date
Preceded byThe Last Continent 
Followed byThe Science of Discworld II: The Globe 

The Science of Discworld is the first “Science of Discworld” book. It alternates between fiction chapters by Terry Pratchett and nonfiction chapters by Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen. In the fiction, the wizards of Unseen University create “Roundworld”, a universe in a bottle that resembles our own, and try to work out how it works without any magic. In the nonfiction chapters, Stewart and Cohen give explanations of the real “Roundworld” science that explains things like gravity, the origin of the universe and life on Earth.

A revised edition was released in 2002 alongside The Science of Discworld II: The Globe, updating some of the science and introducing two new nonfiction chapters; room was made for them by splitting two of the original fiction chapters in half.


In the fantasy universe of the phenomenally best-selling Discworld series, everything runs on magic and common sense. The world is flat and million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten. Our world seems different – it runs on rules, often rather strange ones. Science is our way of finding out what those rules are. The appeal of Discworld is that it mostly makes sense, in a way that particle physics doesn't.

The Science of Discworld uses the magic of Discworld to illuminate the scientific rules that govern our world. When a wizardly experiment goes adrift, the wizards of Unseen University find themselves with a pocket universe on their hands: Roundworld, where neither magic nor common sense seems to stand a chance against logic.

Roundworld is, of course, our own universe. With us inside it (eventually). Guided (if that's the word) by the wizards, we follow the story from the primal singularity of the Big Bang to the Internet and beyond. We discover how puny and insignificant lives are against a cosmic backdrop of creation and disaster. Yet, paradoxically, we see how the richness of a universe based on rules has led to a complex world and at least one species that tried to get a grip on what was going on...

Podcast episodes

Major appearances

These are episodes primarily devoted to discussing this book.

Date Show Episode External link
2020-09-08 Pratchat “Great Balls of Physics”
2023-02-20 The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret “Dynamically Dominant” (1/2)
2023-02-28 The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret “Pettier, and Full of Academics” (2/2)

Other appearances

These are episodes with significant discussion of the book, but which are about something broader.

Date Show Episode External link
2023-06-01 Les Intergalactiques “Science et magie : la logique du surnaturel”[1]

External links


  1. This is the podcast of the French science fiction festival Les Intergalactiques, and this episode (“Science and Magic: the logic of the supernatural”) discusses with four authors the trend in fantasy to have a more logical, scientific kind of “magic”. It uses The Science of Discworld as a touchstone, since Pratchett’s work seems like a deliberate meshing of science and magic.