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The Science of Harry Potter
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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 was the science editor of The Daily Telegraph for two decades and the editor of New Scientist between 2008 and 2011. Today, he is the Director of External Affairs at the Science Museum Group. A regular broadcaster on the BBC and the winner of several journalism awards, Highfield is the author of The Physics of Christmas and coauthor of such highly acclaimed books as The Arrow of Time and The Private Lives of Albert Einstein.

Reviews

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. (Oct.) Forecast: Sellers should note: this is not a simple effort to introduce basic science concepts to young Potter fans. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"Animated by Highfield's enthusiasm for the extraordinary, The Science of Harry Potter is an enjoyably indirect survey of modern science."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Far-ranging . . . Enlightens Harry Potter's magical realm, but also the magic taking place in labs and classrooms in our own world."
--Science News "He has interviewed the world's best Muggle scientists to identify the explanations behind everything from the Mirror of Erised to the Invisibility Cloak . . . A great introduction to a whole variety of issues."
--Simon Singh, The Observer "A wonderful hook for a wonderful book . . . as one reads The Science of Harry Potter it is impossible not to become intrigued."
--Orlando Sentinel

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