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The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works Paperback – May 27, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0142003558 ISBN-10: 0142003557 Edition: Reprint

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The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works + The Sorcerer's Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter, Third Edition + The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory--More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Muggles and Wizards (Unofficial Cookbook)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 27, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142003557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142003558
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,132 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British science writer Highfield (The Private Lives of Albert Einstein) takes on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series "to show how many elements of her books can be found in and explained by modern science." The result is an intelligent though odd attempt to straddle the imaginative worlds of science and fiction. Using Harry's magical world to "help illuminate rather than undermine science," Highfield splits the book in two: the first half a "secret scientific study" of everything that goes on at Potter's Hogwarts school, the second half an endeavor to show the origins of the "magical thinking" found in the books, whether expressed in "myth, legend, witchcraft or monsters." This division is an obvious attempt to duplicate the method and the popularity of his Physics of Christmas. Here, however, as intriguing as the concept is, the author isn't quite able to engage or entertain as he explores the ways in which Harry's beloved game of Quidditch resembles the 16th-century Mesoamerican game Nahualtlachti or how, by using Aztec psychotropic mushrooms, Mexican peyote cactus and other types of mind-altering fungi, even Muggles can experience their own magic. While interesting, the book reads more like an obsessive Ph.D. dissertation that fails to satisfy either of its target audiences: the children who read the books or the parents who buy them and often read them themselves.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

"Science in the Harry Potter books?" "Yes," Highfield, science editor of London's Daily Telegraph, emphatically answers, approaching the topic in a thoroughly playful manner. He is dead serious, however, about using the Potter corpus as the launching pad for a wonderful foray into genetics, biology, quantum theory, behaviorism, mythology, folklore, and more, bolstered by drawing on and extrapolating from the work of a great variety of scientists and scholars. Magic, like science, he states, affords many insights into the workings of the human brain, which he designates as the greatest wizard of all. Whether dealing with flying broomsticks, Quidditch, or Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Highfield demonstrates how Muggle science has a leg up on many of the phenomena in Harry's world. The book's second half focuses more on the origins of magical thinking. Obviously well versed in the Potter books, Highfield deconstructs and reassembles them to make his points. Fans of such science popularizers as Gould and Asimov will certainly get a kick out of Highfield's utterly fascinating take on the subject. Sally Estes
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Roger Highfield was born in Wales, raised in north London and became the first person to bounce a neutron off a soap bubble. He has written seven books, sat on a few committees and was the science editor of The Daily Telegraph for two decades. Today, he is the Editor of New Scientist magazine, the global science and technology weekly.
To contact Roger, see www.rogerhighfield.com
Follow Roger on Twitter at http://twitter.com/rogerhighfield

Customer Reviews

Over all it was a great book and an interesting topic.
Nicole
The initial quote from Clarke's Law, that the highest form of technology is indistinguishable from magic sets the basis for this book.
Daniel J. Hamlow
While that can be interesting, it is not really pertient to Harry's magical world!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Daniel J. Hamlow HALL OF FAME on December 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
The initial quote from Clarke's Law, that the highest form of technology is indistinguishable from magic sets the basis for this book. And in reading the Harry Potter books and watching the movies, one can't help but wonder, how does that work in the world of Hogwarts? The bottom line is that the world of Hogwarts has got a technology that far surpasses 21st century technology, so to us, it does appear like magic. Think of what the Aztecs thought when Cortes and his men fired their guns. Surely they thought the guns were magic, as that was alien to their civilization.
The Science Of Harry Potter is the name of this book. What science, you might ask? Well, how about alchemy, astronomy, biology, genetics, physiology, quantum physics, time travel, And there's some more, like history and mythology, on where creatures like Fluffy the three-headed dog guarding the Sorcerer's Stone and games like Quidditch were based on. He also incorporates work from Einstein, Rutherford, Hawking, B.F. Skinner, John Nash (A Beautiful Mind) and Kip Thorne from the Muggle side.
The Sorting Hat, which sent the first-year Hogwarts students into their respective houses, might have had some interface that interpreted brain waves from the students, but there's also the concept of recognizing personalities a la Jung or Keirsey, so I wonder if the Hat's technology can correlate the brain's wiring with that of a Guardian, Rational, Idealist, or Artisan, to use Keirsey's classifications, and then say "Gryffindor" or "Slytherin."
The theory of time travel in the Muggle world is that one can't go back in time before the machine was built, and also to prevent a mistaken killing of one's ancestors, because then one would be erased from existence. Hogwarts technicians must've overcome that glitch.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am a kid who is quite up-to-date in science. I have always enjoyed the fact that I am more knowledgeable about topics like teleportation, time travel, game theory, etc. than my peers.

Now I'm afraid. Very afraid.

Why? Because with this book, anyone even moderately interested in Harry Potter can easily learn all the interesting stuff I have found by wading through lots of boring science.

This book attempts to use Harry Potter as an introduction to the far more fascinating and wonderful world of science -- and succeeds brilliantly. If there are parents out there whose child has an interest in Harry Potter and would like their child to develop an interest in science, this is the book for you.

This book uses Harry Potter as a medium to engage children in bleeding-edge science, and is good at it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Harry Potter books are used here as an interesting and attention engaging foundation for sound and informative discussions of scientific and historical issues ranging from connections between hallucinogens and flying sensations to the science of ethnobotany. Readers of Harry Potter will find within the pages of The Science Of Harry Potter a set of lively scientific insights which go far from Harry's fictional fantasy realm to the world of real science.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ginny A. Conrad on February 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book does an amazing job introducing the "magical" world of science. I am amazed at the author`s research and discussion of emerging scientific fields--such as levitation and teleportation--in layman`s terms. Anyone with science or Harry Potter in his/her heart will love this book. Sit back and relax and enjoy the tid bits of information the author offers. However, if you expect the author to stay on topic, totally relate to the Harry Potter books, or draw any comprehensible conclusions...you will only frustrate yourself. Ignore the writing style and enjoy the wealth of information.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By LCAlbe on January 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is for people who enjoy reading about what people have tried/done in the past and what people will be trying and doing in the future
This book is not really directed towards children more to someone who enjoys reading about science. From start to finish a lot of names, ideas, experiments, and questions are given. A great read for anyone who likes to wonder. This book provokes hundreds of what if questions and the reader is left to just wonder how the world would be with these things.
The thoughts and ideas in this book are LOOSELY based on the 'magic' in Harry Potter. The ideas in the Harry Potter books are expanded and talked about at great length with not only what if questions but how scientists in the past and present are (without first seeing it in Harry Potter) trying to achieve real life 'magic'
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Delaine Heliotis on October 8, 2005
Format: Paperback
Roger Highfield is to be commended for his solid scientific

work in this clever and informative book. His obvious

knowledge in many fields of science in combination with

his discussions of old myths and legends are a delight to read.

And he certainly knows his Harry Potter stories, and admires

them as much as I do! Dr. Highfield manages to inform us and

amuse us with his sly references to the Rowling characters.

And yes - I am over the age of 13 - by 63 years!!
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I gather this author makes a career of being a "debunker" of sorts. Little does he know that he's missing the point of the Potter series in many, many ways.
However, if one is trying to interest a child/teen in science, and that child already loves Harry Potter, this book may be helpful.
Just steer clear of the section on "The Origins of Witchcraft." It's poorly thought out, badly researched, contains misinformation, and is proof of the adage that one can't see what one isn't looking at. This author isn't looking. He should have stuck to the science stuff and left the rest of it alone.
If your kid hates science and loves Harry Potter, I give it five stars because of its potential to interest a child in science. If you are looking for intelligent commentary on Harry Potter's "world," I give it no stars. I'll average that out to three stars.
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