This weekend I finally finished reading The Science of Harry Potter by Roger Highfield.
I had been reading bits and pieces of the book for quite some time now, but recently moved it to the top of my currently reading list.
First, the book was written in 2002 at which time only the first four Harry Potter books had been released. This meant that many of the magical things in Harry Potter were not even known about yet.
Second, technology has changed a lot since 2002.
I liked that way that the author tied some of the magic of the Harry Potter books to scientific knowledge of the time. The first half of the book was about how the technology of today could be used to do some of the same things that magic is used for in the books.
For instance, could broomsticks actually fly? How about a flying car? Is it possible to have a newspaper with moving pictures? Can we create a cloak of invisibility? Can our knowledge of Chemistry create the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans?
The second part of the book was more about the psychological aspects of magic and also a review of the history of what is perceived as magic. I enjoyed the first part of the book much better than the second part.
I mentioned above that I kept having to remind myself of when the book was published. This was especially important in the first half of the book since technology has made great leaps in several areas since the time the book was written. I kept thinking about why he didn’t mention this technology or doesn’t he know that it is possible to do this or that?
Then I would have to tell myself that the book was written 12 years ago when Maglev trains were not in service and we couldn’t even buy an iPhone until 5 years later. Cloaking devices are now a possibility, although perhaps not as effective as the one Harry Potter has.
Oh, and you can actually buy Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.
Technology is changing fast, and perhaps the magic of Harry Potter is not so magical anymore.