Saturday, January 1, 2011

Science and Magic

With family in town we decided to go down to Seattle and visit the Pacific Science Center, where the Space Needle is.  The main attraction right now is the Harry Potter exhibit.  They have many of the costumes and props from the movies on display.

What does Harry Potter have to do with science?  Nothing. (And, I like the stories).
There was no effort at discussing the science used making the movies or the technology involved.  You know that there must be something scientific involved in making movies.  But no.  The display was about the movies--the characters and the story line.  The magic of Harry Potter is being used as a hook to attract people to the museum.  There was also a place to buy all your favorite Harry Potter souvenirs.  It worked because the place was packed.

Many years ago museums were all about the intellectual experience of seeing all the objects on display and reading all the information boards. Education was done through reading. Then it became more experiential, you could touch and feel objects.  Then it became more visceral and realistic.  And now, we need to bribe people into museums with attractions that have no direct connection to science.

Obviously to compete in this new romantic world, scientists need to become magicians.

Update 1/2/2011:
And suddenly even repug George Will seems to understand that science is needed, and, that we need to study the culture of innovation.  Jeez, maybe he should read some Anthropology, here & here.

1 comment:

  1. Didn't read the books, but the Harry Potter movies struck me as pure fantasy for a non-obvious reason. Hogwarts, the wizard academy, seemed patterned after a special boarding school for science nerds. Lots of Latin lingo, lab work on critters like frogs, and experiments resulting in smoke and flames. The fantasy inherent in these movies - just like at the museum - is that this will entice our kids into learning science. Not likely, IMO.