Today's magic

tomorrow's technology

July 24, 2007|By SHOVAL RESNICK

There has been an explosion of Harry Potter madness coinciding with the series' seventh book - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" - and fifth movie - "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." This has driven some people to look closer at the magic.

What if what is portrayed as magic in the Potter world could be real in the future when human technology is refined? Keep in mind that what was once science fiction - talking across an ocean, flying, landing on the moon - has repeatedly become science fact.

So how can magic become technology? First, there must be the idea which could be scientifically sound that an inventor takes hold of. Then, anything is possible.

The wand is a staple in the Harry Potter series without which little magic is done. Perhaps it is not so much fantasy as an unknown science. The wand might be a technological mechanism which could use natural forces to move air particles.


For instance, if air particles could be manipulated to make air a denser gas, then objects might be moved without human touch. If, in a certain space, air molecules could be amassed, then an object could be less dense than air, allowing it to float.

With a wand, the magical community in Harry Potter books can create fire. Using manipulation of particles, this could become a technology. When learning to start a fire, children are taught to rub two sticks together or strike flint and steel. This creates friction - the resistance at the surface of two objects which prevents slipping - which speeds up particles, creating heat. In the right conditions, that heat could be turned into fire. If a wand could "rub" as few as two air particles together and create a spark, perhaps the wand could expand that into full flame.

After all, an atomic bomb's enormous explosion begins by splitting a single atom.

Then there's the opposite of fire. The students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry learn to produce water with magic wands. Water could be simpler to conjure than fire if particles can be controlled. As there are already water particles in the atmosphere in the form of water vapor, all that would need to be done is to bring the vapor molecules together to create a fountain of water. Another water-making possibility: A wand might combine atoms of hydrogen and oxygen present in the air to create water particles.

Another magical spell, apparation - disappearing from one place only to reappear in another in the blink of an eye - is mentioned throughout the Harry Potter stories but significantly appears late in the series as Harry, Ron, and Hermione come of age. Harry describes the act as a feeling of immense compression to the point of suffocation which is relieved when the destination is reached. Could this mode of transportation be plausible?

In the Muggle scientific community - that is, in real life - it has been suggested that wormholes - a short cut through space with at least two mouths and a throat which might or might not be traversable - could exist. The concept of a wormhole is simple to describe:

The quickest way to get from point A to point B on a piece of paper is not to draw a line but to fold the paper and touch point A to point B. Poke a pin through the two points and a tiny person could travel through it from point A to point B.

If this concept is taken to space, then the idea is to fold the fabric of space and make a small hole. This might explain the sensation of compression during apparation.

Having to create such a hole is why witches and wizards need training and certification in order to apparate.

The existence of wormholes has not yet been proved or disproved. But if they existed, they would make several forms of magical travel in the Harry Potter world sensible. In the case of the portkey - a normal-looking object that, when touched, carries a person from one place to another in seconds - the object itself would cover the wormhole.

The possibilities are endless for what humans can create when they understand their surroundings and have a goal in mind. For now, we can read about Harry Potter's magic and wonder if, in the next century's technology, the old magic might be new technology.

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