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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Magic is in the Eye of the Beholder

I just finished the latest Harry Potter book. Amazing how much you can read when stuck at an airport. It seemed like half the people at the Seattle airport on Monday were reading that book.

No spoilers in this weblog. Let's just say the wizarding community has seen better days.

Ever notice that except for a few new potions and spells, technology has not changed much in the wizard world. If Hermione could only google "half-blood prince" she wouldn't have to spend so much time in the library. Email beats owls any day. Wouldn't it be nice for them to have some music in their lives, an iPod or at least a radio?

This is what happens in a culture where they don't teach their young science and math and no one seems to go to college.

13 comments:

  1. How does one get tenure at Hogwarts?

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  2. ALOT of what the wizards do we CAN do
    with technology, and in some cases
    BETTER than they can do.
    WHEN are the books supposed to take place.
    There was a Car in Book 2 so it can't be
    THAT far back.
    The SCREAMING LETTERS in book 2 can NOW
    be done by email. And email is faster
    and less messy than having birds deliver
    your mail. Do they use Quill pens?
    I'll take LaTeX.

    I'm reminded of an episode of LOIS AND CLARK where Perry White the editor tells
    Jimmy Olsen

    Since you are about to write your first
    news story I'll let you use this
    typewriter that belonged to
    SOME FAMOUS REPORTER-- its been around
    the world.

    Good symbolic gesture, but I'd rather
    use a word processor. Jimmy used
    the typewriter and seemed happy with it.

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  3. But if I could fly on a broom (or whatever) I probably wouldn't find myself using iPods much at all anyway.

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  4. " But if I could fly on a broom (or whatever) I probably wouldn't find myself using iPods much at all anyway."

    How fast is such a hypothetical broom able to go? I think going 50 on a broom would be very uncomfortable. So the trip would still take some time. Or is it just the broom's can only interface with other, less trendy mp3 players?

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  5. It's more that I'd have too much fun flying to even want to consider other means of consuming leasure. Or, to use an American phrase, to Play Hard.

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  6. They do have radios! In book 2 (I think), there is reference to the wireless (which is radio, I think) on which Harry encounters wizarding bands, for the very first time. And then Dumbledore engages a band (for the Christmas party) in book 4 which many of the kids had heard on wireless and were highly enthusiastic about...

    Shobha

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  7. I guess ability to apparate would be better than flying on a broom. And there's still some time before science can give us that.

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  8. "If Hermione could only google "half-blood prince" she wouldn't have to spend so much time in the library."

    I won't spoil the surprise, but the book gives enough evidence to support that the name is a self-titled nickname no one besides the Prince knows. So a google search would yield no information.

    The next logical thing to search the school database for Prince, which is what Hermione ends up doing. This is also a dead end.

    So no, computers won't help Hermione in solving this mystery.

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  9. Come on, the name is not just a self-styled nickname. And searching the database is not a dead end, not that this info helps the reader...

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  10. In a typical NP-complete proof, it's trivial to present an efficient verifier since it has a purported proof as input to check.

    Similar in spirit, it's easy to say that the mystery can be solved quickly when we already know the answer.

    My interpretation is that the Prince pretends to be pure blood, which will imply the name is a secret to most people. (Recall that a certain character who knows the Prince does not know this nickname.)

    Searching the entire alumni record with the word "PRINCE" might fetch the right entry along with a lot of junk. So it might be on page 3 of a google search.

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  11. Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart is the first novel I've read in which someone uses google. He writes excellent fantasy, and has collected a couple World Fantasy Awards.

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  12. Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart is the first novel I've read in which someone uses google

    Really? I've seen lots of novels in which people use google. And I mean why shouldn't they? Any novel written today about people's lives would surely be incomplete without it. (I guess I should qualify that by city folks' lives or something appropriate - I wouldn't expect a novel about a farmhand to have references to computers...). Perhaps it is more unusual in fantasy novels?

    Varsha

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  13. Most electrical devices won't work in Hogwarts, because there is too much magic around. This certainly includes computers, iPods etc. J.K. Rowling explains why Colin Creevey's camera does work here.

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