#Pratchat47 – A Finite Number of Shakespeares

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Science comedian and public health nerd Alanta Colley joins Liz and Ben on their second trip through Discworld into Roundworld, as they join Rincewind and the wizards of Unseen University in Pratchett’s second collaboration with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen: 2002’s The Science of Discworld II: The Globe.

While on a team-building exercise in the woods near Unseen University, Archchancellor Mustrum Ridcully and his faculty are accidentally swept along when something makes its way through the Discworld into Roundworld. That something turns out to be elves – nasty, parasitic lifeforms who feast on the imagination and emotions of others. Roundworld – the universe in a bottle created by the wizards’ experiments, which somehow runs without any magic – has been altered by their presence. Now the wizards – including Rincewind, the long-suffering Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography – have to find a way to get rid of them without dooming the local human population in the process…

Having entirely missed humankind in The Science of Discworld, the wizards are back for another go! And so are science writers Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen – but this time, they don’t want to explain cosmology, basic physics and the history of the Earth, but instead sell you on the idea that storytelling is the essential ingredient that makes humans…human.

Are we really Pans narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee, rather than Homo sapiens, the “wise man”? Is it wise to write a popular science book with an author who will guarantee the book will be read again twenty years later – and to include some “cutting edge” science, no less? What do a debunked psychological experiment, the term “overcommitment”, and filthy explanations of fairytales have to do with it? And who’s this shrewd and world-wise street wizard named Rincewind, and can we have some more of his adventures please? Let us know what you think using the hashtag #Pratchat47 on social media, and join in the conversation!

Guest Alanta Colley is a comedian, science communicator and storyteller whose solo shows include Parasites Lost (about parasites), Days of Our Hives (about beekeeping) and The Origin of Faeces (you can probably work that one out yourself). She also wrote and performed the “comedy experiment” You Chose Poorly with our own Ben McKenzie. Since 2017 Alanta has also been the host and producer of Sci Fight, a series of comedy science debates; both Ben and Liz have been guest speakers, along with previous Pratchat guests Anna Ahveninen (#Pratchat35) and Nicholas J Johnson (#Pratchat38). You can hear Ben and Anna’s last appearance on Sci Fight in this episode of the Climactic podcast, or see the first online debate for Melbourne Science Gallery on YouTube here. Visit scifight.com.au to sign up to the mailing list, and you can find Alanta as @lannyopolis on Twitter and Instagram, via Facebook or at alantacolley.com.

You can find out more about what Liz has been writing by following her as @ElizabethFlux on Twitter or Instagram.

As usual, you can find notes and errata for this episode on our web site.

Next episode we read one of the few precious Discworld novels left to us, though luckily we got a little preview this time around; yes, we’re joining up with Susan, Death and the history monks for the very timely Thief of Time, which we’ll be discussing with journalist Ben Riley! Send us your questions using the hashtag #Pratchat48, or get them in via email: chat@pratchatpodcast.com

Want to make sure we get through every Pratchett book? You can support Pratchat for as little as $2 a month and get access to bonus stuff, including the exclusive supporter podcast Ook Club! Click here to find out more.

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