Category: darwin’s watch

Regular

Afterthought

The Darwin family motto:

cave et aude.

Watch, and listen.


Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

“Did you know they put his statue in the canteen, sir?” said Ponder, a little shocked.
“Did they? Good idea,” said Ridcully. “That way, every sensible person sees it. Ready, Hex.”
And the Central Hall was empty again, apart from the fossils.


Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

“Er, sir.”
“Just ‘er’, Stibbons?”
“‘Er’ is a very precise term in this context, sir. It means we don’t have time for a big debate.”

– an efficient word |
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

“Even so… to trust your future to some frail craft speeding through the unknown void, prey to unthinkable dangers…”
“That was what the dinosaurs did,” said Ridcully. “And the crabs. And all the rest of them.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I meant that this world is a pretty frail craft, if you take the long view.”

– a frail craft |
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

Ridcully was, Ponder noted, quite clever under all that shouting.

– Ridcully: a summary |
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

Our world is changing, and it’s changing very fast, and we ourselves are the inescapable agents of that change.


one way or another | Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

“You see, I’ve been talking to Hex. I’d like to give him something to remember. We owe him that, at least.”
“Really, sir?” said Ponder. “Won’t it make things worse?”
“I’d like him to know why we did all this, even if it’s only for a moment!”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Mustrum?” said the Lecturer in Recent Runes.
The Archchancellor hesitated. “No,” he said. “but it’s mine. And we’re going to do it.”

– on confidence |
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

Most of Mount Impossible was hollow. You need a lot of space when you are trying to devise a dirigible whale.
“It really should work,” said the God of Evolution, over tea. “Without that heavy blubber and with an inflatable skeleton of which, I must say, I am rather proud, it should do well on the routes of migratory birds. Larger maw, of course. Note the cloud-like camouflage, obviously required. Lifting is produced via bacteria in the gut which produce elevating gases. The dorsal sail and the flattened tail give a reasonable degree of steerability. All in all, a good piece of work. My main problem is devising a predator. The sea-air ballistic shark has proved quite unsatisfactory.”

– troubleshooting |
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

Unicausal explanations make nice stories, but fail to capture the complexities of the real world. The most effective explanations are often very varied, and it’s a good idea to find a lot of different ones, if they’re available.


Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch

Regular

It was explained to us that Newton had been supplanted by Einstein, Lamarck by Darwin, Freud by Skinner… So we were told that theories were constantly being supplanted, but that the observations on which they were based were reliable.
This is the reverse of the truth.
No teacher pointed out that many, perhaps most, of the basic assumptions of our intellectual world were scientific theories that had survived criticism… from the place of Earth and Sol in the Milky Way galaxy to the fertilization theory of human conception to subatomic physics producing atom bombs… to Ohm’s Law and the electrical energy grid, to medical tricks like the germ theory of disease, all the way to X-rays and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), not to mention chemical theories that reliably gave us nylon, polythene and detergents. These theories go unnoticed because they have become defaults, so completely accepted as ‘true’ that we fail to paint them with emotional tags, and simply build them into our intellectual toolkit. Even though no teacher pointed out that they were scientific successes, they constitute much of the (regrettably but unavoidably) uninspiring parts of school science.

– on theories that survive |
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen, The Science of Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch