Thoughts

It's a kind of Magic

From Rowling’s Harry Potter and Tolkien Middle Earth to the Legend of Zelda, The Elder Scrolls and Dungeons and Dragons; magic is at the heart of more books, stories and games than could fit comfortably within even the infinite, multi-dimensional library of the Unseen University. I am sure many of you out there have wished you were living in a magical universe; well I think we are.

Though many conversations I have had with people over the years, I come to notice a tendency for those who favour rationality and critical thinking to be framed as unromantic, unpoetic. Void of wonder, or a sense of awe. Someone intent on stamping out magic from the world and putting everything in a laboratory and coldly analysing and labelling it. If others want to believe there is magic in the world, even if there is no evidence for it, then I should let them. They don't care what science has to say about it; because science can't know about magic.

Well; I don't know about that.

I do, as it happens, believe in magic. I think it exists in every part of your body. It's in every cell of every living creature and the sky above our heads. I believe magic is what brings us to life. Magic formed in nature can be hurled from the sky in terrifying displays of raw, chaotic power. It can create an invisible field that pushes away objects, or pull them towards us. For centuries those who have studied this magic for centuries have learned to harness its power. They have created magical devices that glow, move that generate heat and dispel heat. They made devices that can stop a man's heart; and others that can start it again. They can even keep a heart beating for a lifetime when nature has failed. We use magic to see further into the universe and deeper into the tiniest of atoms. We use magic to travel the world and capture representations of it for others to see. We can use it to instantly see and speak to people on the other side of the world. We use it to learn; to build and to grow.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke

Now; I am sure you have realised that I am talking about electricity, and maybe you think this is a cheap point. But humour me. Why isn't electricity magic? It certainly looks like it. Take a look at a lightning storm and tell me that doesn't fit the description of magic.

You don't think its magic because you feel you understand it. Because it's normal, it's everywhere. Because it's powering the screen in front of you and about 50 other devices in your immediate vicinity and you have an electricity bill from your supplier every month, and it's boring and ordinary and uninteresting.

But you don't understand it, not really.

Do you how your phone works; or your computer? You might know how to work with these things, maybe even swap out a few parts or repair them; but do you know how they actually can do all the things they do? How are the magical properties of electricity bringing them to life? For that matter, you probably only have the vaguest idea about how your hairdryer works or your toaster. Many of you would struggle to understand explain how a light switch worked or a lightbulb. It's not magic because you think to understand it; even though you probably don't.

Well; I still think its magic and I would offer my own little corollary to Mr Clarke's third law.

"Magic, sufficiently understood, is indistinguishable from science."

William Owen

Science is the study of magic. I think it's amazing. I see the magic in the world that really is there, and all around us. No one has to make anything up. We know so little, and yet we can say for sure we are surrounded by amazing things. Tools like science and rationality are just ways in which we explore just how amazing and magical it all is.