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The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works
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The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  1,780 ratings  ·  64 reviews
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 lin ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published May 27th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
...more
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 ...more
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,
...more
Ellie Di 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 ...more
Nathan Powell
How do broomsticks like Nimbus 2000 fly? Highfield tells the reader about highly improbable but still possible theories of aerodynamics and antigravity with some of the smartest people in the world including a man from NASA. he even has magnetic levitation as an explanation. Another concept he covers is Fluffy. Yes he does go over if it is possible that a three headed giant dog can exist. He decides on advances in molecular biology. So maybe, just maybe I can get my own in the future.
This book
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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.
Mary
Ho avuto grandi difficoltà a scegliere una votazione per questo libro e, come si evince anche dal tempo, decisamente sopra la media, che ho impiegato a leggerlo, è chiaro che i dubbi sono ancora tanti. Le premesse del libro, spiegare in maniera scientifica tutta la magia di Harry Potter, erano molto buone, ma secondo me non sono state soddisfatte a pieno. L'inizio è molto dispersivo e mi sono trovata a tratti a non capire dove fosse il confine tra scienza e invenzione. Secondo me le due cose non ...more
Eric
I did not finish this book as it was very disappointing. The author makes a great point that anything that can not be explained by our rational minds constitutes "magic" and that this concept runs both ways (Wizards think muggle electricity is magical, etc). After making this point the author seems to try to explain everything magical in the Harry Potter universe with quantum physics. Anything he can not fit into the realm of physics he concludes 'well, the world we live in is pretty magical eh? ...more
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 ...more
Jenny GB
I feel like the promise of discussing Harry Potter falsely lured me into reading a boring a very high level look at science, magic, etc. It is clear that the author enjoys Harry Potter, although I'm not sure where some of his references come from. It's been a while since I've read the series, but occasionally I did not know the spell, being, or person he was talking about. Did he make it up or read something I didn't? I suppose it doesn't really matter. The first half of the book takes different ...more
Joseph
The author Roger Highfield is telling how our science might one day be like the science of Harry Potter. How we might eventually have what they have in the Harry Potter books. Like having a broom that we can fly on or an invisible cloak.

Roger is trying to teach about how our science isn’t quite what it is in Harry Potter yet, but in the days soon it might be. Like how their cars can fly, well we are starting to find ways to make our cars fly.
This book is an exposition because Roger explains wha
...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
Harriet
A really good and interesting summary of magic and science within the Potterverse. As it was written in 2002, it's quite out of date now, but for a general overview it's really very good. It is perhaps a little thin on the ground for details in a couple of places, and Highfield does skip out on a lot of detail that I would've liked him to go into, but otherwise, it's good.
The one thing that I really liked was how much he shows the work and research that Rowling must've put into writing the serie
...more
Molly
An exceptionally well-written book...if you forget the fact that it's about Harry Potter. The book deals only vary conservatively with Harry Potter. [return]However, once you leave that behind, the book is wonderful. It is concise enough that you can read short bursts of it and use it as a bathroom book, detailed enough that you can use it strictly for reference, and yet eloquent enough that it can be read all the way through without feeling like you're stuck in a high school chemistry lecture. ...more
Tiana EVhs Lee
being able to understand the logic behind the magic and spells is really interesting. I really recommend it to someone who's a harry potter fanatic. Personally, I'm not one, but you know, who doesn't like magic? The whole idea of being able to see how and why things happened is enjoyable.
Danielle
I randomly picked this book up at a charity table top sale and I am glad I did. While in places it is a bit confusing it is interesting to read about the real life possibility of some of the most loved aspects of the Harry Potter books.
Erin
I love Harry Potter. I love science. I could not finish this book.

The connections the author draws between a lot of the magic and science seem shaky at best. There is a lot of reaching and contriving going on, making it seem like he was desperately trying to fill up space. I first started contemplating giving up on the book during the chapter on genetic engineering (how you could maybe create the magic creatures in the HP series by splicing DNA of actual creatures), and really did give up short
...more
Alison Evans
So I only read about half of this. The first part is amazing and vividly describes how spells, broomsticks and invisibility cloaks could be made possible with science. You can really tell the author is a fan of the series. He slips in references with ease that are quite specific, and I rather liked that. Toward the middle, though, I felt it dragging a fair bit. The explanations of cross-breeding and mutation to try and get dragons, hinkypunks and what have you was a little boring. Apparently the ...more
Rachel
This book was a cute way to introduce a broad variety of scientific topics connected in a way most of the general population will understand (through Harry Potter). Those familiar with any particular field discussed (and there are many) will likely find that section to be watered-down, but that is usual when science is made accessible to those with no scientific training. The second half of the book was also interesting to anybody who wondered where myths and magic originated. Overall, I'd like ...more
Haley Keller
I learned a lot of really neat stuff from this book. At the beginning, I didn't like it a whole lot and thought a lot of the connections to Harry Potter were strange. I''m not sure when, but at some point during the book, the science became really intriguing to me. There were a few points were I couldn't understand all of the science talk, but a large majority of the book was easy to understand. My favorite part was probably chapter 10 which talked about why people came to believe in different m ...more
Amber
3.5 stars. Very interesting exploration of how science could produce or explain magical phenomena in the Harry Potter series. I found this both entertaining and educational. I enjoyed the rather dry wit of the author. Science explored here runs the gamut from physics to neuroscience to biology and chemistry. A complete novice with no science grounding might struggle with this, but most people who made it through secondary school (high school in the U.S,) should be familiar enough with the basics ...more
Kiwi
Mar 13, 2014 Kiwi rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This was a book covering a broad range of interests. I did find it engaging, although it felt somewhat slow at times. I'm quite a fan of leaning random facts so I enjoyed that much. Some sections I enjoyed immensely.

I think I may have liked it more if it were more imaginative with reporting on real-world science and reflecting on magic creatively. I would have liked looking at magic as a science of its own and looking at magic WITH science rather than just some parallels in the real world.
Heather
An awesome book, although I feel that it's not for the average Harry Potter fan. Reading this book requires at least a mediocre base of scientific knowledge, or active use of the dictionary in the back of the book. My favorite part was when they described the genetic hashing that would be involved with making Fluffy, the three-headed dog. I don't think I got much out of the first section about how to make brooms fly, though--I'm not very good with the concepts of aerodynamics...
Julien Rapp
The Science of Harry Potter is an interesting and informative book bridging the world of Harry Potter with what ‘Muggles’ know from science. Whether it be magical charms to make us forget vs the inherent shortcomings of our brains, the cleverness of black birds over owls, or the physics behind levitation and broomsticks. It is an entertaining journey for anyone of any age, interested in comparing what we understand of the world, and what the wizards of Hogwarts understand.
Katie Herring
I finally finished! My boyfriend got this for me because he knows I love Harry Potter. While it's not really about Harry Potter, it's still really interesting! Some of the information went way over my head, quantum physics for example! But some of the other parts, zoology and genetics, were incredibly informative. The Harry Potter aspect put everything into a nice perspective!

I'd read this if you are even remotely interested in science, and of course, a Potterhead.
Lisa
While it's clear the author has read Harry Potter and recognized it would be a good hook for a science book, many topics covered in this general survey of science/technology are only tenuously related to Harry. (And to be honest, the section on how to 'play Quidditch without leaving the ground'- ie, psychotropic substances- has really nothing to do with Harry Potter.) Might be a good intro text for those who don't already have a strong background in science.
Colleen
I have no idea what this book is about because I failed miserably in physics, chemistry and most things scientific. The parts I could understand were interesting but it was a lot like reading a Michael Crichton novel without there being an actual story. Maybe it's more like a Big Bang Theory episode. Apparently there are factual foundations of some magical ideas and that gives me hope that someday the Star Trek food replicator and teleportation will happen.
Etnagigante
Il libro e' una via di mezzo tra saggio scientifico e storia della magia e pur abbondando di tecnicismi e teorie non mi e' risultato ostico. L'autore indaga il mondo magico creato da J.K. Rowling (e altre teorie magiche) attraverso l'uso della scienza, dell'antropologia e delle religioni.
Puo' risultare noioso se si cerca soltanto un testo potteriano, ma assai piacevole se si ricercano nozioni ultidisciplinari.
Regina
2.5 stars honestly. The idea behind the book is cool and some of the info is interesting, but to me it reads almost like a textbook. Considering who the target audience is for Harry Potter, you would think this book might be a little easier to read or more enjoyable. Towards the middle I had to start skimming. Simply put, it was boring, and this is coming from someone who enjoys reading about science.
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“However, as I hope to persuade you, there are some interesting connections between science and magic. They share a belief, as one mathematician put it, that what is visible is merely a superficial reality, not the underlying "real reality." They both have origins in a basic urge to make sense of a hostile world so that we may predict or manipulate it to our own ends.” 5 likes
“Words can calm people, can make them them fall in love, can whip them up into a frenzy, can turn them into killers.” 4 likes
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