Harry Potter Science!


Well, alrighty, then! Who am I to buck the steamroller that is Harry Potter? I'd have to be some sort of mutant curmudgeon to attack this juggernaut of literature! This pantheon of adventure! This antithesis of illiteracy! Yep, I am! Personally, I find the movies entertaining. Admittedly, I haven't read any of the boooks; the movies are all I need. That said, I've found the movies quite neat to use in class for BOTH good and bad science! So, let's run through The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Harry Potter science...

The Good?

  1. I just stumbled across this really neat Bio lesson based on Harry Potter genetics! A teacher created PowerPoint can be fond at Squashed Frogs, a teacher website set up by Oxford. Worth a look!
  2. A group of med students even did a comparison of medical conditions pertaining to the characters! Gigantism for Hagrid and Madame Maxime and a thyroid disorder for Sybil Trelawney who Rollings describes as "a very thin woman with eyes too large for her face" and "cognitive impairment". See the report at Canada Medical Association Journal.
  3. Quoting a Bio blog,
    "Last year one of the most infamous personalities in paleontology today, Bob Bakker, published a paper announcing a new species of pachycephalosaur: Dracorex hogwartsia. The specimen is housed in the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, and Bakker noted its resemblance to mythical dragons and took that into account when deciding on the nomenclature. Draco means dragon (which explains a lot about the personality of everyone's favorite magical brat, Draco Malfoy), and rex means king....and the second par, "hogwartsia", is a hat-tip to Rowlings and all of her fans."
    Not a bad little addition for Rowling's trophy case, eh?

The Bad?

  1. Levitation: This is a great physics topic. The only way to get an object levitating that we know of is through magnetism. Most of us have seen the levitating magnet hovering over a super-cooled magnet. No problem. However, to levitate an object, you need a hugely HUGE megnetic field. ALL objects can be made to be temporarily megnetic and float; this is called diamagnetism. There are videos available online from High Field Magnetic Laboratory that include floating water drops, strawberries, grasshoppers, and even a frog! Is there a problem for this? Yep! If a human would experience such a strong magnetic field that they would leviate, different parts of the human body possess different magnetic properties and would react differently. This means, the skin would levitate more than the skeleton, most organs would levitate more than the skin, and the blood would levitate the most! Basically, this would mean the person would kinda turn into mush! A nice experiment to perform on a freshman, but not one you'd get many volunteers for.