Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Science of Harry Potter : How Magic Really Works

by Roger Highfield


In another cynical attempt to cash in on the Harry Potter name, Roger Highfield examines the science behind the magic. The Science of Harry Potter looks at the strange and magical happenings in the books and asks whether they could be reproduced by muggle scientists.

Surprisingly often the answer is a qualified "yes". Roger Highfield is out to show how genuinely amazing science can be. The Harry Potter theme allows him to skip from one field of learning to the next, picking out some of the most astonishing things from each. Highfield's learning is prodigious. He covers subjects as disparate as antigravity, giant squids, palaeontology, and the brain's ability to fool itself.

This is no dry list of facts. Rather, it's a collection of some of the more extreme and entertaining aspects of modern science. The Harry Potter theme that links it all sometimes comes across as a bit clumsy, and in some ways it would stand just as well as a general science book without this fictional prop. There's enough variety here to be able to teach something new to all but the most knowledgeable scientists.

Highfield doesn't talk down to his readers, and as you might expect from the science editor of the Daily Telegraph it's not dumbed down either. Some of Harry Potter's younger fans may struggle with some of the concepts, but on the whole it's very clearly written.

This book is "not approved or endorsed by J.K. Rowling or Warner Bros", which is more of a reflection on them than it is of the quality of the book. It's full of nuggets of scientific trivia that are designed to inspire the reader with an interest in science. Highfield's enthusiasm for his subject is infectious, although he doesn't go into much depth on any one topic. You might not end up being able to levitate a broomstick after reading it, but it does explain how magic and its surrounding legends arose, and why they are so pervasive in human cultures.

Book Details

Year: 2002

Categories: Books


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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

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