Bad headline jokes aside, I was thrilled to see my “Asteroids” t-shirt design listed as the fourth item on Space.com’s top space gifts for 2015! It’s both an honor and a welcome Christmas gift to my household that something from this humble abode has traveled so far all on its lonesome from its “launch” back in June of 2012. It’s my own Voyager probe, but in a wearable form.
I came up with the idea while listening to the “Science of Discworld” audiobook by Terry Pratchett (with science writers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen). The Wizards of Unseen University, who live on a world that’s a flat disc on the back of four elephants atop the shell of a giant turtle flying through space, accidentally create a universe in a bottle. To their annoyance, this universe doesn’t work like theirs, giving them round worlds, if you can believe that. And there’s no substance called “Narrativim,” which is what keeps things going in Discworld because that’s the only way things make sense. For the one place they focus in on for the “Science of Discworld” series (there are four volumes, heartily recommended) they concentrate on one they dub “Roundworld.”
Rincewind, a professional coward and now a faculty member at UU, finds Roundworld and the inhabitants it has to be very upsetting. They watch life arise, grow in complexity, and do amazing things on Roundworld only to have disaster strike out of nowhere for no apparent reason. Usually, this disaster takes the form of something crashing to Roundworld’s surface from the depths of space. He voices his concerns to the head of UU, Archchancellor Ridcully:
‘Well, what is it achieving? I mean, really? Y’know, I thought, all you had to do is get a world working, and before you could say “creation” there’d be some creature who’d stand up, getting a grip on its surroundings, gaze with a certain amount of intelligence and awe at the infinite sky and say – ‘
‘ – that thing’s getting bigger, I wonder if it’s going to hit us,’ said Rincewind.
‘Rincewind, that remark was extremely cynical and accurate.’
(it gets a little spoiler-y after the jump, but it’s a great book even if you know what’s coming)
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