Transcending Harry Potter

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The 21st century is known as the century of science and technology. As technology is an inseparable part of human daily life, it is important to know that the development of technology is formed and described by the principles of physics, which is the most fundamental field of all the science. One of the most important physics principles are Newtons’ Laws of motion which was founded by Isaac Newton, an English scientist and mathematician. The Newton’s Laws of motion are three physical laws that describe the relationship between a body and the external forces acting on it. Together, these laws laid the foundation for classical mechanics and modern quantum physics. Newton’s first law indicates, “If an object does not interact with other objects, it is possible to identify a reference frame in which the object has zero acceleration”. Newton’s second law states that “when viewed from an inertial reference frame, the acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force acting on it and inversely proportional to its mass”. Newton’s third law specifies, “if two objects interact, the force exerted by object 1 on object 2 is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force exerted by object 2 on object 1” (Serway, Raymond A, et al., 91-96).

By explaining the motion of objects under the impact of external forces as well as gravity, Isaac Newton has changed the way people think about physical universe and contributed to the development of modern quantum physics. Along with explaining human daily activities, the three laws of motion also allow major contributions towards major inventions such as airbags, airplanes, guns, as well as important theories that change how the world is perceived. J.K. Rowling describes how wizards live hidden in parallel with muggles on the same planet, because of this, Newton’s three laws of motion apply in the Wizarding world through daily activities such as Quidditch, transportation, and spellcasting.

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Newton’s first law of motion is also called “the inertia law”. Before the inertia law was introduced, people generally thought that an object reduces its velocity because it is naturally built that way. However, the Newton’s first law explains that an object slows down because there are external forces such as gravity, friction, and air resistance, that cause the velocity to decrease. In reality, the inertia law can be demonstrated as a person drives a car. This car stays at rest until that person applies a force on it by starting the engine. The car will continue to run until the driver steps on the brake, which causes friction to act upon the car and bring it to a stop. Similarly, in the Wizarding world, the Quaffle is a great example of the law of inertia since it is stays at rest until a player picks it up and swings it into the goal. Even though wizards and witches can perform magic to make objects move or transport themselves from one place to another, in general, following the inertial frame, the power of gravity, fiction, or air resistance still affects their world. According to the article, “Historical development of Newton’s laws of motion and suggestions for teaching content”, the authors indicate, “Since maintaining the state of motion needs no cause, the idea of internal force has been discarded. Force is then ontologically viewed as (1) caused only by external agents, and (2) the interactions between objects rather than as an innate entity of matter” (8). When considering magic is an external force, wizard’s activities literally follow the inertial law. For instance, in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, during the Quidditch match, Harry was attacked by the Dementors and fainted. Since Harry was in unconsciousness condition, magic cannot be performed, which means there is no external force applied to keep the broomstick suspended in air; this leads Harry to fall downward towards the ground due to the Earth’s gravity, and his speed is only decreased when Professor Dumbledore applied an external force by using the charm Arresto Momentum to slow him down. Hence, by recognizing the impact of external forces on the velocity of an object due to the Newtons’ first law, many inventions such as airbags, brakes, seat bells are used to reduce and prevent the injuries of drivers in real life. Likewise, broomsticks are likely fitted with charms to increase speed, function, and safety for the riders in the Wizarding world.

Relating to the Newton’s first law, Newton’s second law explains the relationship between force, acceleration and mass and the change of motion. Base on this law, force is calculated by mass of the object multiplied by the acceleration, which also means the acceleration increases when the force increases, or mass of the object decreases, and vice versa. This formula plays a critical role in the invention of wondrous creations such as the airplane. As Scott Eberhardt describes the structure of airplane in his article, “Technology Innovations in World War I Airplane Design”, the airplane is able to fly based on the combination of “lift”, “thrust” and “drag”. Hence, by using the Newton’s second law, scientists are able to calculate these forces to help push the airplane upward and change its direction. Needless to say, Newton’s second law help human to achieve the dream of being able to fly. In the Wizarding world, the effect of Newton’s second law also appears in one of their most popular transportation methods: broomsticks. Similar to the human’s airplane, broomsticks also operate based on the combination of lift, thrust, and drag functions. To be able to activate a broomstick, the wizard must apply a force on it by using the command “Up!”. While Harry rides his broomstick, he leans his body forward with his head close to his knees to increase his speed, and he pulls the broomstick straight to stop and level it; also, Harry can grip the shaft of the broomstick and tug it in the direction that he wants to turn. In this case, the wizard and the broomstick are acting as a complete engine of an airplane. The combination of the broomstick’s function and application of force from the rider overcomes the force of gravity and keeps the broomstick afloat. Even though, there are still mysteries about what is inside the broomstick, it is likely that Newton’s second law is the foundation for this popular transportation method of the Wizarding world. As a result, Newton’s first law and second law have a significant impact on the transportation in the Wizarding world as well as the real world.

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Along with the Newtons’ first and second law, the Newtons’ third law gives a complete picture of how forces react. This law indicates that forces will always occur in pairs, and for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Based on the combination of Newton’s laws, physics has accomplished many achievements in classical mechanics such as creating a force model and later develops into what is now known as modern physics, which focuses on objects that have extremely high speed and small mass. From the conversation of motion in Newton’s laws, many scientists have discovered the conservation laws include the conservation of mass, momentum, energy, as well as electric charge. Based on these conservation laws, many inventions were created such as guns and rockets in space. Moreover, from the limit of Newton’s laws on micro objects and the non-inertial frames, scientists are able to develop quantum physics, which contributes towards creating the most significant inventions in human history such as computers, mobile technologies, GPS, lasers, etc. According to the article, “Quantum Physics Explains Newton’s Laws of Motion”, “Newton’s law is a consequence of the principle of least action, which is itself a consequence of quantum physics” (Jon Ogborn and Edwin F Taylor, 33). In the other words, Newtons’ laws create the overall idea of nature’s behaviors and becomes the motivation for future scientists to discover the deeper operations and form new theories. Furthermore, the development of quantum physics also helps explain the mystery of magic in the wizarding world. As Roger Highfield mentions in his book, The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works, “there are some interesting connections between science and magic. They share a belief, as one mathematician put it, that what is visible is merely a superficial reality, not the underlying “real reality” (17). Even though, magic tools such as Spellcasting, Charms or Apparition are still strange to human, they still operate based on the conservation law of mass and energy. Based on quantum physics theories, everything in the universe have been constructed from particles and wave-particle duality; these particles can connect with each other regardless of the distance, and they can appear in two places at the same time in the atomic and subatomic level. By assuming that witches and wizards are built by a complicated arrangement of particles that allows them to contain vast amounts of energy, the act of magic operates by following the laws of conservation. For instance, when Voldemort attempted to murder Harry at Godric’s Hollow, he uses his potential energy to create an external force by casting the killing curse on Harry Potter, this force collides with unequal force that is created from Harry Potter himself. By the laws of conservation, the collision results in equal and opposite reaction forces that accelerate in opposite direction and causes Voldemort to vanish and a lightning bolt scar to form on Harry’s forehead. Similarly, quantum physics theories also can explain in a simple way how wizards and witches are able to apparate through the strange behaviors of quantum particles. As a result, due to the foundation of the Newtons’ laws and the development of modern physics, humanity will get closer to discover the secrets of magic.

Briefly, Newton’s three laws of motion have played a significant role in the foundation of physics. While the Newton’s first and second laws help explain the operation of nature, Newtons’ third law contributes to the discovery of many other laws of conservation include mass, energy, and electronic charge. The combination of Newton’s laws and different conservation laws produced a full picture of classical physics and inspired the development of modern physics. Hence, in the real world, many important inventions, such as airbags, seat bels, airplane. Later on, computers and mobile devices are created through the connection between classical physics and modern physics. Furthermore, Newton’s laws evidently appear in the Wizarding world’s daily activities through Quidditch and one of their transportation methods: Broomsticks. Also, with the development of quantum physics, the mystery of magics is closer than ever to be discovered. As the fact that human in 21st century has developed many complex inventions that work similarly to magical devices, there is the possibility that humanity will reach to the level of the wizarding society in the near future.

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Transcending Harry Potter. (2019, Oct 29). Retrieved from