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The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  2,579 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
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 and Where to Find Them

Can Fluffy the three-headed dog be explained by advances in molecular biology? Could the discovery of cos
Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 27th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 2002)
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Rating details
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Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: harry-potter
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
Ellie Julio
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Kristen Corradeno
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I made a whole video about the book!
Francesca Tripiedi
(Questa non è una recensione).
Quando sfoglio le pagine di questo libro, all'improvviso torno quella ragazzina che, appena finiti i compiti per la scuola, spingeva la poltrona vicino al camino e sprofondava nella lettura fino ad avere le guance infiammate dal calore e gli occhi lucidi per la stanchezza. Una ragazzina che voleva disperatamente somigliare a Hermione e sognava che la magia esistesse per davvero.
Non sono cambiata poi molto.
Liz Janet
Oct 25, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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,
Melissa Conner
Oct 28, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Nick Vail
Nick Vail
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
Sep 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2012
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.
Oct 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Terry Carroll
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was ok

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
Sep 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Chandré Louw
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: hp-related
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!
Mar 20, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Nov 08, 2017 added it
Shelves: to-read-again
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.
Allyson Stallman
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-books
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.)
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you're a fan, you need to own this book.
Sarah Brehm
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
"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
Kelly V
Aug 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
"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
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
Jonah Schmuker
Nov 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 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
Nathan Powell
Nov 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 03, 2012 rated it did not like it
>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
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 25, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Gabriela Silva
Apr 03, 2016 rated it liked it
It was hard to rate this book.
First, it started as being awkward. Many references to scientific descoveries but so weirdly written it almost felt as if the writer was lying and coming up with scientific research that did not happen.
Then came the absurd comparisons. Harry Potter and quidditch being compared with hallucinogenic mushrooms.. It was VERY bad.
Then finally the book started being interesting. Game theory and all the psychological theories were interesting and his writing was finally
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Roger Ronald Highfield (born 1958 in Griffithstown, Wales) is an author, science journalist, broadcaster and director of external affairs at the Science Museum Group.
More about Roger Highfield...

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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.” 4 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
More quotes…