The Science of Harry Potter Explained

The “Harry Potter” book and film series is one of the most popular entertainment franchises of all time.  But did you know there’s science behind all the series’ most important features?

How does Harry’s wand work?

MAGIC.  Even though Harry uses a variety of wands throughout the series, they all work by invoking the same basic scientific principle – wave a stick at something, defy the laws of nature, and presto! You’ve got your magic spell.

How do brooms fly?

MAGIC. Brooms are a cleaning tool made of stiff fibers attached to a long stiff handle, usually made of wood.  Neither wood nor fibers are capable of flight, much less supporting the weight of a fully grown human.  So when you say Harry Potter flying around out there, just remember – it has nothing to do with the broom, it’s all just the miracle of magic!

How does veritaserum work?

MAGIC. Many types of “truth serums” like sodium pentothal and amobarbital are barbituates which interfere with the brain’s cortical functioning.  Some psychiatrists believe that lying is more complex than telling the truth, and therefore suppression of the higher cortical functions leads to the subject telling the truth.  While traditional truth-drugs might make subjects loquacious and cooperative with a questioner, the reliability of these methods is unknown.  Veritaserum on teh other hand is 100% effective.  Unlike other so-called truth-drugs, veritaserum bypasses the brain entirely, makes a mockery of science, and works through magic and chicanery.

How does Wizard money work?

The gold standard.

How does Muggle money work?

The fiat money system.  (So, in other words, MAGIC!)

One Comment on “The Science of Harry Potter Explained”

  1. Ireland Quinn #

    Rather than making a mockery of science, I would dare to say that it instead features its own branch of science. Consider that about 100 years ago, today’s computers would be utterly incomprehensible to the people of that time, not to mention the developments in scientific fields that have been made. We know that the magic in Harry Potter has limits, as with almost every scientific field. Magic is, at its core, simply the precise manipulation of the universe at an atomic scale. Spells that enable levitation are simply spells that counter Earth’s gravity. Transfiguration spells change the atomic makeup of an organism. I will say, however, that some of the limits of magic don’t make very much sense. For instance, food cannot be created out of thin air, but it can be duplicated. How exactly does that make sense? To duplicate the food would simply be to recreate the atomic structure of that food. And yet magic cannot create the food without there being food already present. However, magic CAN create water from nothing. This directly counters the fact that magic cannot create food. Surely, then, it could not create water from nothing? And the only method of creating gold is the Philosopher’s Stone. But no other magical method can do this. Once again, this does not make sense. Although I stated earlier that magic could very well be considered another branch of science, it does lack logic for certain properties of it. Food duplication and water creation implies that food creation should not be an impossibility, and the ability of the Philosopher’s Stone to transform any metal into gold does not compute with the fact that wizards cannot create gold in any other way. Here we see a similarity: In both cases, there exists a loophole, and yet the existence of that loophole still renders the act itself an impossibility. Why is this? Perhaps it is because wizards have not yet advanced to the point where food creation and gold creation are not possible. This makes sense until one considers that logically the capability SHOULD exist, and yet it doesn’t. Once again, if you can duplicate food and create water, you should be able to create food. If you can transform any metal into gold with the Philosopher’s Stone, you should be able to do that with a wand. Additionally, what is it about gold that would make it impossible to create without the Philosopher’s Stone? There are metals far more complex than it, after all. There exists no logic in these scenarios.
    What does this mean for the Wizarding World? It means that we could see something similar to Moore’s Law emerge, except that instead of advancement leading to more advancement, advancement leads to more stagnation. As the needs of the wizarding world continue to grow bigger and more wizards and witches attempt to advance the field, they will eventually run into more and more limitations. This could mean that the wizarding world cannot advance beyond a certain point. Perhaps this has already happened. The wizarding world we see appears to be quite alike England in the 1800’s. Has the wizarding world already reached a point of permanent stagnation? If yes, than that would mean that the wizarding world is quite fragile and must eventually learn to integrate into Muggle society. Herein lies a problem, however. Wizards, upon leaving school, lack certain knowledge they would need to coexist with Muggles. Additionally, even in those who do not believe in Pureblood or Wizard superiority, there seems to be an inherent sense among Wizards that Muggles are foolish, and most Wizards can’t understand how Muggles get by without magic. This is not a good thing because of the stagnation I mentioned earlier and because in the event of there not being enough wands (which I believe will become the case) wizards would become utterly defenseless. They do not even know what a dentist is. People like Mr. Weasley are regarded as silly for their fascination with Muggles. But it will be people like those will will find it easy to adapt to life with Muggles. Regarding wands, the resources needed for them are rare and unique. Unicorn hair, phoenix feathers, etc. As the wizard population continues to grow (an utmost certainty, as populations typically increase significantly after wars), the demand for these resources will only increase. Wandless magic appears to be very difficult for wizards to do and is rarely talked about. Logically, one can determine what will happen when wands become expensive/non-existent. Unless these flaws can be fixed, wizard society is on a path towards hardship and extinction.


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