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The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works

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Behind the magic of Harry Potter--a witty and illuminating look at the scientific principles, theories, and assumptions of the boy wizard's world, newly come to life again in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Can Fluffy the three-headed dog be explained by advances in molecular biology? Could the discovery of Behind the magic of Harry Potter--a witty and illuminating look at the scientific principles, theories, and assumptions of the boy wizard's world, newly come to life again in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Can Fluffy the three-headed dog be explained by advances in molecular biology? Could the discovery of cosmic "gravity-shielding effects" unlock the secret to the Nimbus 2000 broomstick's ability to fly? Is the griffin really none other than the dinosaur Protoceratops? Roger Highfield, author of the critically acclaimed The Physics of Christmas, explores the fascinating links between magic and science to reveal that much of what strikes us as supremely strange in the Potter books can actually be explained by the conjurings of the scientific mind. This is the perfect guide for parents who want to teach their children science through their favorite adventures as well as for the millions of adult fans of the series intrigued by its marvels and mysteries. - An ALA Booklist Editors' Choice -


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Behind the magic of Harry Potter--a witty and illuminating look at the scientific principles, theories, and assumptions of the boy wizard's world, newly come to life again in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Can Fluffy the three-headed dog be explained by advances in molecular biology? Could the discovery of Behind the magic of Harry Potter--a witty and illuminating look at the scientific principles, theories, and assumptions of the boy wizard's world, newly come to life again in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the upcoming film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Can Fluffy the three-headed dog be explained by advances in molecular biology? Could the discovery of cosmic "gravity-shielding effects" unlock the secret to the Nimbus 2000 broomstick's ability to fly? Is the griffin really none other than the dinosaur Protoceratops? Roger Highfield, author of the critically acclaimed The Physics of Christmas, explores the fascinating links between magic and science to reveal that much of what strikes us as supremely strange in the Potter books can actually be explained by the conjurings of the scientific mind. This is the perfect guide for parents who want to teach their children science through their favorite adventures as well as for the millions of adult fans of the series intrigued by its marvels and mysteries. - An ALA Booklist Editors' Choice -

30 review for The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ellie Julio

    This book could have been so good! Such potential, wasted. It would've been a better book if it'd been written by a science writer with a better voice (like Mary Roach, for example). Between the rich Potter source material and the wealth of scientific, religious, and philosophical knowledge at Highfield's disposal, it should have been damn near impossible to make this book boring. But he must have some kind of personal magic because he did it. I wanted so badly to just put this down, give it awa This book could have been so good! Such potential, wasted. It would've been a better book if it'd been written by a science writer with a better voice (like Mary Roach, for example). Between the rich Potter source material and the wealth of scientific, religious, and philosophical knowledge at Highfield's disposal, it should have been damn near impossible to make this book boring. But he must have some kind of personal magic because he did it. I wanted so badly to just put this down, give it away, never think about it again. Adding in the passive-aggressive digs at people who actually believe in magic (whether as a flight of fancy or as a spiritual path) just made it worse. Put this in the Hadron Collider and let 'er rip.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lucinda

    This fascinating, fantastical masterpiece is a must-read for any fan of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series & all enchanted by magic! This beautiful book, although NOT endorsed or approved by JK Rowling or Warner Bros, is an insightful look behind the magic, myth and mystery that is the universally loved ‘Harry Potter’ books and films. This book is as illuminating as it is enchanting, by shedding light on not only magic in literature, history, myth and legend but also within science labs in our This fascinating, fantastical masterpiece is a must-read for any fan of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series & all enchanted by magic! This beautiful book, although NOT endorsed or approved by JK Rowling or Warner Bros, is an insightful look behind the magic, myth and mystery that is the universally loved ‘Harry Potter’ books and films. This book is as illuminating as it is enchanting, by shedding light on not only magic in literature, history, myth and legend but also within science labs in our own world. With the success of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, interest in magic spells, charms and potions has never been greater. Drawing on the help of dozens of leading scholars around the world, Highfield is able to explain and entertain at the same time, making the remarkable world of magic even more real to those who want to believe… Full of fascinating facts and information that connects science with magic (a strange combination one may think!), this captivating and far-reaching book illustrates how the two are deeply entwined. Delving into the Harry Potter books, award-winning science writer Roger Highfield reveals not only why we still believe in magic but also how magic COULD actually work – scientifically! Full of factual explanations of marvels and mysteries such as Giants, Dragons, Broomsticks and all the other oddities of JK Rowling’s magical world this absorbing book was something that I just could not tear my eyes away from. The author delves into the archeology of Witchcraft, tracing the origins of wands and speculates on the surprising connection between flying broomsticks and the bizarre drug-taking practices of Witches. Combining personal opinions and viewpoints with cutting-edge research that explains the invisibility cloak, the ability of the Philosopher’s stone to turn lead into gold and much more this really is an astonishing read. This unusual, original book takes a scientific view on the magical world of Harry Potter that is truly unique and like nothing else you will have encountered before. What if science could explain that magic IS really real and that it exists in a form that perhaps we overlook in daily life? Thought-provoking, factual and spellbinding this mesmerizing, captivating novel is something that I urge you to read; even if you are a bit skeptical about looking at magic through the eyes of a scientist. It leaves you with questions lingering in your mind for a long time afterwards, as you contemplate on how magical creatures (i.e. Hinkypunks, Giants, Lobalugs ect.) Could PERHAPS be the result of Genetic Modification. This scientific book may be met with a differencing of opinion by readers, for its entire design is quite singular and so I advise that one should remain OPENMINDED. It certainly got me thinking…but I am still not quite sure about all the theories contained within!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Corradeno

    I made a whole video about the book! https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Liz Janet

    A "muggle" view of how some of the magic in the HP world would work with science, sadly, it could have gone much better, with more in-depth explanation and more interesting topics, it was too simplistic for me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This book is awful. It's like reading a physics manual. I do not recommend it to anyone. Including Harry Potter in the title is like a gimmick to get people to read it. I've got a masters degree and an education and this book was clearly written for science majors. Two thumbs way down.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    An interesting and very factual read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cath Ennis

    What an odd little book. I ended up really liking it, but it was definitely not what I expected. First of all, I'm not sure exactly who the intended audience is. I thought it was going to be more of a kids' or YA book, but the language and style are more advanced and technical - I can't imagine your average teenager reading through the whole thing. Also, the first and second halves of the book are completely different. The first half is anchored firmly in the Harry Potter universe, with some incre What an odd little book. I ended up really liking it, but it was definitely not what I expected. First of all, I'm not sure exactly who the intended audience is. I thought it was going to be more of a kids' or YA book, but the language and style are more advanced and technical - I can't imagine your average teenager reading through the whole thing. Also, the first and second halves of the book are completely different. The first half is anchored firmly in the Harry Potter universe, with some increasingly tenuous attempts to tie the magic of that world to the cutting edge of Muggle science, circa 2002. For example, there's talk of antigravity research in the context of broomsticks, and of genetic engineering in the context of trying to guess which real-world species could most easily be transformed into a house elf or niffler. Some parts were good (I liked the section about owls), others less so (I didn't think the section on game theory worked at all), and at this point I commented to the friend who gave me the book, "I'm as big a fan as anyone of tricking kids into learning about science, but who would have ever thought that a book about the science of Harry Potter would be a cynical cash-grab?" BUT! The second part turned out to be much, much better. I suspect this section - all about the history and philosophy of science, herbal medicine, alchemy, superstition, and witchcraft - is the book that the author really wanted to write, but that he had to include the first part to justify using the Harry Potter hook. (This second part of the book does include a few references back to the Harry Potter universe, but they seem to be an afterthought, possibly thrown in after the fact to satisfy an agent or editor!) I really enjoyed these musings on "where magic stops and science starts", how fields like alchemy and chemistry evolved in parallel, the story of the real Nicolas Flamel, how early discoveries of the bones and fossilized tracks of dinosaur and woolly mammoths bred stories of dragons and giants, how some herbal remedies are being incorporated into mainstream western medicine (and how much herbal knowledge, especially around fertility control, was lost when "witches" started being persecuted and killed), the possible evolutionary origins of superstition and religious belief, and so on. There's some really good stuff in here, and I'm glad I persevered.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    The author of this book is obviously a Harry Potter fan, but for different reasons than most Harry Potter fans. He takes the magical world of Harry Potter and proceeds to explain/analyze the real-world science behind it all. An interesting theme throughout the book is that of the contrasting and comparing “magic” vs. “science” and whether both can co-exist, their common origins, etc. Here are some notable excerpts/quotes from the book I thought might be worth sharing here: “To the average Muggle, The author of this book is obviously a Harry Potter fan, but for different reasons than most Harry Potter fans. He takes the magical world of Harry Potter and proceeds to explain/analyze the real-world science behind it all. An interesting theme throughout the book is that of the contrasting and comparing “magic” vs. “science” and whether both can co-exist, their common origins, etc. Here are some notable excerpts/quotes from the book I thought might be worth sharing here: “To the average Muggle, the revelations of modern science are often as obscure as a witch doctor’s spell… Ironically, this lack of comprehension of what now seems a normal part of our lives, whether the workings of a jet engine or a photocopier, may even pave the way toward a belief in magic that can make seemingly impossible things possible… ‘Technology has taken over our lives, but science has not overtaken our minds.’ (Stuart Vyse)” “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” (Arthur C. Clarke) “Another theory of how the [invisibility:] cloak might work can be found in that influential Muggle masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where the late Douglas Adams said that objects are made invisible by using a SEP-field… Unfortunately for us, this solution is the product of a witty mind, not clever science: SEP stands for ‘someone else’s problem.’“ “Science will never be able to erase all the magic from life.” “The modern brain is an overzealous pattern seeker in its attempts to link cause and effect: it is likely to construct coincidences, even if two events are not linked in any way. This is the source of much Muggle superstition and magic.” “Indeed, the very foundation of science-—mathematics-—contains randomness, a finding that should trouble any triumphalist boffin [scientist:] who expects to tie the ultimate secrets of the universe into a neat bundle of theory, with no dangling lose ends. Is science then a matter of faith, a mathematical voodoo, a theoretical fetish, a kind of religion based on research?” “If magic is to be defined as the employment of ineffective techniques to allay anxiety when effective ones are not available, then we must recognize that no society will ever be free from it.” “Most people do indeed believe in magic of one sort or another, whether the thespian who shouts ‘break a leg’ at a colleague, the student who always wears the same outfit for exams, the blushing bride who crosses her fingers for good luck or those who jump with joy when they find a four-leaf clover. Why is our belief in magic so deeply ingrained? Indeed, why do we believe in anything at all?” “Survival of our species has demanded a capacity to work together, to form societies. A willingness to live, and if necessary die for, a belief is a powerful selective advantage. There is a genetic propensity for us to believe.” (John Burn) “I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magic of numbers.” (Sir Thomas Browne) “A physical theory of everything might be irrelevant at the level of reality that matters to us, just as the to-and-fros of electrons in a PC’s microchips are invisible to and unheeded by a computer operator. Everything is indeed governed by Schrödinger’s equation, a quantum expression that can describe all atoms or groups of atoms. However, you can’t readily express a babbling brook, a thought on a wing or a crackling electronic logic circuit in terms of atoms, and it is at this length scale, between the cosmic and atomic domains, where the most challenging science lies.”

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Conner

    It’s been nearly twelve years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit shelves in the U.S. Since then, schools all over the world have added the Harry Potter series to required reading lists…kids (including myself) have forgone parties, sleep, and playtime to waiting in lines miles and miles long to get a first glimpse of the next Harry Potter novel. Since its inception, the Harry Potter franchise has grossed more than four billion dollars…and that number’s only going to skyrocket with th It’s been nearly twelve years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit shelves in the U.S. Since then, schools all over the world have added the Harry Potter series to required reading lists…kids (including myself) have forgone parties, sleep, and playtime to waiting in lines miles and miles long to get a first glimpse of the next Harry Potter novel. Since its inception, the Harry Potter franchise has grossed more than four billion dollars…and that number’s only going to skyrocket with the movie release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So what is it about this boy wizard’s world that has everyone hooked? And how far away are we from really being able to enjoy using an Invisibility Cloak, having our own house elves, or training owls to deliver the mail? Those are the questions Roger Highfield tries to answer in his illuminating book, The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic REALLY Works. Here we are introduced to the world of Harry Potter…not as J.K. Rowling shows it, but as a learned muggle might see it. Highfield takes the works of Harry Potter and highlights the “magic” in them…the Invisibility Cloak, the Quidditch games, the animals in the dark forest, the people, places, and things that help bring Harry Potter to life, and attempts to explain to the reader how this magic could or might “work.” For example, he offers his suggestions of DNA combinations to make yourself a Dobby, or a Hagrid, or even a giant man-eating spider. I’m not going to lie here…a lot of this stuff went right over my head. The calculations at the beginning of the book that tried to explain what must happen for a broom to fly or how to move through time were enough to make me “wingardium leviosa” the book right back on the shelf…but I plowed through and I’m so glad I did. The Science of Harry Potter is broken down into two main parts: the first part deals mainly with how the magic works…how we can ideally move through time or create Every Flavor Jelly Beans or mutate DNA genes to make a dragon. The second half is more of a historical look into magic…an overview of the world of sorcery, witches and wizards, the Sorcerer’s stone, and the one wizard who would give Dumbledore a run for his money… The Science of Harry Potter is a great book for any fan of the series. While some may be weary that this book might ruin the magic, they should fear not. After all, Highfield himself has this to say of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: “Science will never be able to erase all the magic from life.” Read more at: http://thehobbeehive.wordpress.com

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nick Vail

    Nick Vail B-2 12/1/15 I read The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works by Roger Highfield for my quarter 2 Goodreads. This book, although not approved by JK Rowling or Warner Bros, is a behind the scenes look into the magic, myth, and mystery that is the universally loved ‘Harry Potter’ books and films. The purpose of this book is to illuminate, by shedding light on not only magic in literature, history, myth and legend but also within science labs in our own world. With the success of Ha Nick Vail B-2 12/1/15 I read The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works by Roger Highfield for my quarter 2 Goodreads. This book, although not approved by JK Rowling or Warner Bros, is a behind the scenes look into the magic, myth, and mystery that is the universally loved ‘Harry Potter’ books and films. The purpose of this book is to illuminate, by shedding light on not only magic in literature, history, myth and legend but also within science labs in our own world. With the success of Harry Potter,people love the supernatural. Highfield is able to explain and entertain at the same time by citing things from many sources, making the remarkable world of magic even more real to those who want to believe. Full of facts and information that connects science with magic, the theme is to captivate the readers and the book illustrates how the two are connected, like for reals. Full of factual explanations of mysteries such as giants, dragons, broomsticks and all the other unexplainable things of JK Rowling’s magical world and this absorbing book was something that I just could not tear my eyes away from because it was so enthralling. The author goes into the science of witchcraft, tracing the origins of wands and speculates on the surprising connection between flying broomsticks and the bizarre drug-taking practices of witches and yeah. I kid you not, combining personal opinions with cutting-edge research that explains the invisibility cloak, the ability of the Sorcerer’s stone to turn lead into gold and much more, making this really is an astonishing read, like I felt this all on a spiritual level. This unusual, original book takes a scientific view on the magical world of Harry Potter that is truly unique and like nothing else you will have encountered before. What if science could explain that magic is really real and that it exists in a form that maybe most people overlook in everyday life. This book actually made me put thought into this, you know, factual and spellbinding, this captivating novel is something that I urge people to read, even if you are a bit skeptical about looking at magic through the eyes of a scientist. It leaves you with questions in your mind for a long time afterwards. This scientific book is very controversial because its entire design is quite singular and so I think that readers should remain open minded, for real it just makes more sense. It certainly got me thinking but I am still not quite sure about all the theories that Highfield expresses but I kid you not, Gryffindor wins.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rosa

    For the most part, I found this quite interesting. When it wasn't being too scientific, I found it fascinating -- particularly the bits about the world's changing views on magic and how science could sometimes be misconstrued as paranormal. And I very much enjoyed reading about how apparating would work and the genetic bioengineering that would be required to create Blastended Skrewts and Hippogriffs. While I couldn't exactly follow all of it (cos he kept referring to proteins by their chemical For the most part, I found this quite interesting. When it wasn't being too scientific, I found it fascinating -- particularly the bits about the world's changing views on magic and how science could sometimes be misconstrued as paranormal. And I very much enjoyed reading about how apparating would work and the genetic bioengineering that would be required to create Blastended Skrewts and Hippogriffs. While I couldn't exactly follow all of it (cos he kept referring to proteins by their chemical names and not telling me what said proteins did for the body), I found it interesting. Where he lost me a bit though was when he kept using the words "superstition" and "religion" and "magic" interchangeably. I, personally, refer to "magic" as wonderful, awe inspiring things that science can't explain yet. And religion and superstition are NOWHERE in the same vicinity. People die for religion; they don't die for the idea of throwing salt over their shoulder when they've spilled some. I felt his blase phrasing of such things not only offensive to my own beliefs, but to the beliefs of some others. There was also a tone that implied science and religion are at odds and mutually exclusive, when, in truth, they are not. (But he does seem to be a Richard Dawkins fan, so the sometimes excessive quotations of the world's leading scientific atheist are going to automatically feed this tone to the work.) And the whole Harry Potter universe is really just a platform to talk about more intrinsic science and used very sparingly, so if you're wanting to read cos Harry Potter is in the title, I wouldn't suggest it. You'd be rather disappointed.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    The parts that were funny and interesting were very, very funny and interesting. The parts that were dumb were very, very dumb. (Oh, quidditch could be explained by saying people took hallucinogenic mushrooms? You don't say? So could everything else ever in the entire Harry Potter canon.) It was also very slow-moving and took me forever to read. Although some of the chapters were entertaining, as a whole it wasn't worth the time I spent on it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lynsie Daniels

    This book made me very unexcited to read. By the time I was willing to admit how much I was displeased by it, I had to alternate every chapter with a chapter from a different book just so I could get through it. I honestly did not want to read more than two pages at a time. It took me three months to get through 288 pages because I just did not want to finish (and I'm never one to DNF so I just had to stick it out). Let me clarify by saying I was very excited to read this book when I first bough This book made me very unexcited to read. By the time I was willing to admit how much I was displeased by it, I had to alternate every chapter with a chapter from a different book just so I could get through it. I honestly did not want to read more than two pages at a time. It took me three months to get through 288 pages because I just did not want to finish (and I'm never one to DNF so I just had to stick it out). Let me clarify by saying I was very excited to read this book when I first bought it. Science AND Harry Potter? Two of my favorite things on Earth, what could go wrong? Everything, it turns out. I was bored reading this, which is probably because it was not what I was expecting. When I realized that it was not what I was expecting, I tried to decide "what was I expecting?" And I honestly don't even know. I guess something about the scientific roots of actual magic, like how quantum physics and wormholes or other dimensions could actually cause something like magic to happen. This book is just a comparison of the things that happen in Harry Potter to hardly related things that have happened in the scientific community. Oh, there are owls in the Harry Potter series? Here's an entire section on how owls see better in the dark than humans do. This, along with some stylistic disagreements, caused my distaste for the book. Some of the phrases used were just in poor taste, something that surely would have been realized by a more experienced or skillful writer. For example, he mentions that it's "common sense" that the Hogwarts motto (which is in Latin) means "never tickle a sleeping dragon". If it's a joke, I didn't get it, and this is just one example of the dissonance I felt while reading the author's writing. My last issue with the book: it has the dumbest last sentence a book can have. I think about the potential the last sentence had to leave the reader with a sense of magic, some connection between magic and science, some whimsical feeling of closure after having read an entire book on the subject. What we got was: "Harry Potter is unique." WHAT? It doesn't relate to the topic or theme of the book, and it is so abrupt, I wanted to unread it. Now for the redeeming qualities, a.k.a. why this is two stars instead of one. There were several parts of the book where the names of characters or objects in the HP universe were explained. I loved hearing about this, about the historical relevance of the name "Nicholas Flamel" in relation to the Philosopher's Stone, or the parallels between Dumbledore and John Dee. I wish there was more focus on this kind of thing in the book, instead of just having a few of these thrown in as a side note. I also didn't hate the part about the history of witchcraft in the human world. Maybe my review is harsh, but I was disappointed by this one. The most painful bad books are the ones that you had the highest hopes for.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Monita Ramirez

    I liked it a lot. It gives a los of tips and information of today's technology and science comparing it with the Wozarding World. Sure, it's not a book for Elon Musk to read, it's for normal Muggles with a simple language who like interesting facts without the need to understant quantic phisics. Most of the chapters are easy to read with children: Flying brooms, Animals, owl mail, mythology... but it contains chapters on other topics as well (Religion, Chemistry, Medicine, etc.) It's a little outd I liked it a lot. It gives a los of tips and information of today's technology and science comparing it with the Wozarding World. Sure, it's not a book for Elon Musk to read, it's for normal Muggles with a simple language who like interesting facts without the need to understant quantic phisics. Most of the chapters are easy to read with children: Flying brooms, Animals, owl mail, mythology... but it contains chapters on other topics as well (Religion, Chemistry, Medicine, etc.) It's a little outdated (2003: Large Hadron Collider was not turned on yet, Stephen Hawking was still alive...) but overall it gives a lot of curious and interesting facts.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anie

    I'll be honest, I didn't get far. I didn't enjoy the voice of the author and that really put me off. But do you know what the most annoying part of the book was? The fact that there was a little text box smack dead center in the middle of the text. What the heck?! That is some bad page design. It's not even like it was just a graphic, which is annoying enough. The few I saw before I gave up were all quotes. This book was a huge pass for me. I'm sure there are people it will appeal to, I just was I'll be honest, I didn't get far. I didn't enjoy the voice of the author and that really put me off. But do you know what the most annoying part of the book was? The fact that there was a little text box smack dead center in the middle of the text. What the heck?! That is some bad page design. It's not even like it was just a graphic, which is annoying enough. The few I saw before I gave up were all quotes. This book was a huge pass for me. I'm sure there are people it will appeal to, I just wasn't one of them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Had its ups and downs as you go through the chapters, which makes me wonder if this reflected the varying degrees of the author's interest in different chapters and subjects or was it a lack of real science to draw on? Hard to tell. Great list of sources in the bibliography so if you're interested in more in depth on different subjects. Need to poke around there and see what might be useful. Might not keep it on my shelf after that.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chandré Louw

    Took me a while to finish this one. My brain seems to process non-fiction in a very different way and it is draining! There were good bits, meh bits and really boring name dropping bits. Some interesting info definitely but ultimately not my cup of tea. I think? Ai. Non Fiction you confusing fiend!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    To read or not to read: Don’t read. Unless you are very scientific, I don’t think it’s worth the effort. I quite enjoy science, and have a relatively good understanding of it, but even I found it dry. Stick with the magical theories behind it all! Full review here

  19. 4 out of 5

    Allyson Stallman

    Great way to explain Science to young ones using Harry Potter, but also a really interesting read for fans who also happen to be science nerds (or just HP fans who want to apply the wizarding world to the ‘muggle’ world.)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sydney

    I couldn't finish it...I got to the point where Quidditch was being debunked through mushrooms and I just couldn't read anymore! I did not really like the author's tone of voice...he sounded very pretentious. I also HATED the layout of the sections/chapters. Maybe I will try again someday.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    If you're a fan, you need to own this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    jennifer thorpe

    It is one ☝of the best! Read this with a cup of butterbeer it will make it better 😉

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janeil

    I enjoyed the science ideas behind some of the Harry Potter magic. Some of the ideas were a little vague but thought provoking none the less.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Brehm

    "If Newton had not, as Wordsworth put it, voyaged through strange seas of thought alone, someone else would have. If marie Curie had not lived, we still would have discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium. But if J.K. Rowling had not been born, we would never have known about Harry Potter. That is why Master Potter means so much to me. Science may be special but Harry, as a work of art, is more so." How this book works: Roger Highfield presents a topic from the world of Harry Potte "If Newton had not, as Wordsworth put it, voyaged through strange seas of thought alone, someone else would have. If marie Curie had not lived, we still would have discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium. But if J.K. Rowling had not been born, we would never have known about Harry Potter. That is why Master Potter means so much to me. Science may be special but Harry, as a work of art, is more so." How this book works: Roger Highfield presents a topic from the world of Harry Potter, for example, the Sorcerer's Philosopher's Stone and Nicholas Flannel. Then he examines the history of this topic, who was the real Flannel, what kinds of real research went to alchemy, etc, and then he talks about what science is currently doing that is weirdly similar to alchemy (basically, quantum physics is really, really, really weird). I wanted more. My main gripe with this book is that Highfield presents a plethora of topics in such a short about of time, that he didn't go into as much detail on some things as I would have preferred. Perhaps I'll peruse his reference list and read some of the books there. Random Quotes: from the glossary: "J.K. Rowling: Witch who is able to cast enchanting literary spells." "There were also many natural, pharmacological ways to get as high as the competitors in Qudditch." "Another theory of how the cloak might work can be found in that influential Muggle masterpiece, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the late Douglas Adams said that objects are made invisible by using a SEP-field. Might Harry's cloak be bathed in the self-same SEP-field? Unfortunately for us, this solution is the product of a witty mind, not clever science: SEP stands for "someone else's problem." — this one especially made me laugh, not just because of the Hitchhiker's reference, but because my coworkers and I often dream of having a SEP-field at work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kelly V

    I really liked this book. It was a great mix of silly Harry-Potterness and actual science. It is actually a science book, in that it discusses and explains various real scientific ideas. The concept (fairly obviously) is looking at the magic that takes place in the Harry Potter books, or at least those that came out by 2002. As you might imagine, it isn't always completely literal. So the discussion of broomsticks and flying goes into various drugs with hallucinogenic properties. So it's not lik I really liked this book. It was a great mix of silly Harry-Potterness and actual science. It is actually a science book, in that it discusses and explains various real scientific ideas. The concept (fairly obviously) is looking at the magic that takes place in the Harry Potter books, or at least those that came out by 2002. As you might imagine, it isn't always completely literal. So the discussion of broomsticks and flying goes into various drugs with hallucinogenic properties. So it's not like we can really fly the way they do on the Quidditch field, but we can think that we do. The author didn't address how people would perceive the same experiences, exactly, but whatever... The chapter also includes a discussion of where a Quidditch-like game came from (and its gruesome history), which is pretty interesting. There are also discussions of current work being done to mimic invisibility (relating to the cloak, obviously) and the science of taste and smell, as it pertains to the Every Flavour Beans. This kind of stuff--actual, fairly technical science at times--makes up roughly the first half of the book. Part II is a little bit more anthropology than hard science. It goes into some of the history and mythos surrounding magic (and perceptions of magic). This includes a history of witchcraft and a chapter on The Philosopher's Stone (not the "Sorcerer's Stone"! I don't know why they feel so compelled to dumb things down for us... low expectations are just a self-fulfilling prophecy). It concludes with a chapter on what science really is, and why it is different from magic. It's a nice way to end things. I feel like I haven't conveyed why this book is really cool. Basically, if you are at least a middling-enthusiastic Harry Potter fan and you dig science at least a little, you'll totally enjoy this book. If neither of those things applies, you'll be bored out of your mind.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    "The Science of Harry Potter" is a cleverly written analysis of the so called "magic" described in the "Harry Potter" series. Roger Highfield, the author of the novel, informed the reader of scientific principles that they may not know about through an exposition. However, he did this in a way that was entertaining to the reader, thus making the novel much more enjoyable. He attempted to entertain and inform the reader in one work, and, in my opinion, succeeded. The author is obviously a Harry P "The Science of Harry Potter" is a cleverly written analysis of the so called "magic" described in the "Harry Potter" series. Roger Highfield, the author of the novel, informed the reader of scientific principles that they may not know about through an exposition. However, he did this in a way that was entertaining to the reader, thus making the novel much more enjoyable. He attempted to entertain and inform the reader in one work, and, in my opinion, succeeded. The author is obviously a Harry Potter junkie and he targets an audience that is appreciative of the books as he is. Highfield writes with a laid back tone that suggests that he is the reader's peer, and this feeling of equal ground with the author makes the information being conveyed much easier to absorb. The theme of this novel is to keep hope because while the "Harry Potter" novels may be fiction, there is a possibility that science, also know as magic to the world of Harry Potter, will bring us to a very similar society. Highfield shows the reader that advances in scientific principles will bring similar, if not identical, results as magical spells, creatures, and artifacts. By doing so, the author provides closure to the reader because reading the last sentence for the very last first time is depressing. Highfield brings back joy and hope to those stuck in the Muggle world after having a glance at what could be. I felt that the book was very enjoyable. However, to a person that was not as intrigued by science as myself, the novel may have been overwhelming. I can say that this book is truly unique. The author brings out a new angle on the beloved "Harry Potter" series. The only thing that I would change is I would be a bit less detailed with the scientific terms and principles so it would be easier for younger and less educated people to understand.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Terry Carroll

    Meh. First a caveat: I didn't finish reading the book. I only got a couple chapters in. But that alone tells me something; I rarely start a book without finishing it, and these types of books are the kinds of books I tend to like. For some reason, I just could not get any traction in it. Part of it is this: the book leads with a misquote. It quotes Arthur C. Clarke as saying "Any smoothly functioning technology gives the appearance of magic." But Clarke never said that. What he actually wrote was Meh. First a caveat: I didn't finish reading the book. I only got a couple chapters in. But that alone tells me something; I rarely start a book without finishing it, and these types of books are the kinds of books I tend to like. For some reason, I just could not get any traction in it. Part of it is this: the book leads with a misquote. It quotes Arthur C. Clarke as saying "Any smoothly functioning technology gives the appearance of magic." But Clarke never said that. What he actually wrote was "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." And that's a very different thing; it has nothing to do with the "smoothness" of a technology, it has to do with how advanced it is. If you google the text of Highfield's misquote, you'll find others quoting it, too, but coming back to this book as its source; this is the book that introduces the error. Years from now, writers will find the misquote in journal articles and likely repeat it; it's already been published, citing to Highfield, in a couple academic journals. So it looks like Highfield had managed to single-handedly introduce a bit more misinformation into the world. But more to the point, if the author -- and his fact-checkers, if he had any -- couldn't be bothered to get a quote right, and a very well-known quote, at that, I really found that I couldn't trust anything else he wrote. For a book that purports to be on science, this sloppiness shows a casual disregard for the importance of accuracy, and that made the rest of the book seem unreliable to me.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: Cashing in on the Potter phenomenon This look at both the science and the "science" of Harry Potter is mildly interesting but only tangentially related to the mega-popular series. The first half of the book does hold the most interest in relation to the books and movies, as it examines possible or plausible scientific, technical, psychological, or anthropological explanations for the magical spells, creatures, and objects sprung from J. K. Rowling's imagination. Perhaps of most inte Review title: Cashing in on the Potter phenomenon This look at both the science and the "science" of Harry Potter is mildly interesting but only tangentially related to the mega-popular series. The first half of the book does hold the most interest in relation to the books and movies, as it examines possible or plausible scientific, technical, psychological, or anthropological explanations for the magical spells, creatures, and objects sprung from J. K. Rowling's imagination. Perhaps of most interest is the number of sometimes obscure but interesting and plausibly related historical references Rowling has used in her fiction, suggesting that she backed her fanciful writings with some extensive research. The second half of the book really isn't relateable to the Potter series at all, as author Highfield goes further afield to look at the history and science of why humans believe in magic and other "non-scientific" ways of seeing the world. It feels like a publisher's ask to pad out enough pages to produce a marketable book. The material is moderately interesting, but not comprehensive or exclusive enough to be a necessary reason to pick and read this book, especially today when the material is now over 10 years old. If you run on this book at a steep discount or at a used book sale, as I did, or if you are an intense Potter fan with a desire to collect all material ephemerally related to your obsession, it might be worth the price. Otherwise, it can be skipped.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jonah Schmuker

    The Science of Harry Potter takes us through the wonderful world of Harry Potter. It covers all the main mysteries and several of the smaller ones. Many things thought to be impossible might actually be plausible. The biggest and best thing is flying. They travel back to start at the beginning. Flying has deep roots and took a lot to untangle. Everyone wishes to fly at one point or another. Using tons of branches of science and many resources theories have been put together. The ability or, magi The Science of Harry Potter takes us through the wonderful world of Harry Potter. It covers all the main mysteries and several of the smaller ones. Many things thought to be impossible might actually be plausible. The biggest and best thing is flying. They travel back to start at the beginning. Flying has deep roots and took a lot to untangle. Everyone wishes to fly at one point or another. Using tons of branches of science and many resources theories have been put together. The ability or, magic, of flying has been described as best as possible by science and scientists. Apparating is next. Teleporting would make life so much easier, but the science is a thousand times harder. This one took some serious studying. The idea may seem complex and it is. The way teleportation might actually work would be so hard to control it would seem pointless. Highfield also covers mystical animals. He looks at them and their traits. He then delves into biology. He finds real animal representations of animals thought to be fake. Even animals that seemed only too bizarre to be even slightly real might have characteristics of real animals. I thought that this book was okay. I would recommend it to nerdy people that enjoy, Harry Potter and Star Trek. This book was a little too informational and thick for some, but a good read overall. I would also recommend it to any Harry Potter fans that teach science or are scientists.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    >This is not a long book , I mean it only 288 pages , but it felt like it was much longer . I did not enjoy reading this book even though it covers a bunch of different topics . But I feel that Roger Highfield missed the target audiences for the Harry Potter books . That is Teenager and young adults or people like me that are young at heart . It is a vary technical book , as a person who is not a fan of reading science books . Roger Highfield lost me right after the intonation . Roger Highfie >This is not a long book , I mean it only 288 pages , but it felt like it was much longer . I did not enjoy reading this book even though it covers a bunch of different topics . But I feel that Roger Highfield missed the target audiences for the Harry Potter books . That is Teenager and young adults or people like me that are young at heart . It is a vary technical book , as a person who is not a fan of reading science books . Roger Highfield lost me right after the intonation . Roger Highfield breaks the book into two parts part one Magic in Hogwarts he cover all the big point from brooms to time travel . Part two deals with magic in the Muggle world . Again he cover a wide range of subjects from the Origins of Superstition , to the magic of science . I did think the 2nd part of the book was a bit more interesting but it to just dragged on and on . I will say this one can tell that Roger Highfield is a fan of the Harry Potter books , and has great respected for the reader of the books . But he should of kept in mind that most of the fan of Harry Potter are under 30 , and do not have a back ground in science . The book should be essayer to read and more fun to read . Not a science text book , at least that is what I felt I was reading .

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