Book 8: Harry Potter and the Magic of Science
Speaker: Doctor Rebecca Y Lai
When: 7:00pm April 9, 2014
Location: Love Library, Talk Zone in Love South
J. K. Rowling’s series of Harry Potter books has captured the imaginations of millions of readers of all ages, including many engineers and scientists. Although J.K. Rowling did not major in chemistry in college, she has substantial knowledge of alchemy and has incorporated many chemistry concepts into her books, in particular, the first book titled “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”. This lecture aims at introducing both Harry Potter fans and avid chemists to the magic of Hogwarts that exist in our own world (aka chemistry). Specifically, I will address the alchemical concepts used in the books, as well as their relation to modern chemistry. The main topics to be covered in the presentation include the chemistry of gold, the sorcerer’s stone and the elixir of life. Other topics such as invisible ink and food chemistry will also be discussed.
For thousands of years, alchemists tried various chemical techniques to transmute metals, produce miraculous cures for diseases, and extend the human lifespan. In the process, these early chemists made several genuine discoveries from medicines to useful chemical compounds to new elements. In many ways Alchemy was a "stepping stone" to many modern scientific disciplines including chemistry, anatomy, and nuclear physics.