Science-fiction legend Arthur C. Clarke outlined three fundamental laws regarding the development and prediction of future technology. The third, and perhaps most oft quoted, of these laws states:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Indeed, it seems technology is developing so quickly that soon we will be able to recreate the effects of fictional magic with real machines and science.
Using this as a launch pad, British author and scientist (he claims to be the first person to ever bounce a neutron off a bar of soap), Roger Highfield, decided to see if the magical spells of Harry Potter could be replicated with modern technology. These are his findings.
Memory Eraser - 'Obliviate'
'Obliviate' is one of the most important spells within the repertoire of any responsible wizard. It is most frequently used to wipe the memory of muggles who have stumbled across something they shouldn't have - y'know, dragons, flying cars, wizards etc.
However, can the same effect be achieved with science? Well, in 2007, Karim Nader at McGill University in Canada identified a molecule which was central to developing memories. Furthermore, they suggested drugs could be used to either hamper or strengthen this molecule.
The molecule, called "protein kinase M zeta" is central to developing long-term memories as it strengthens selective points in the connections of the brain. In this sense it creates areas of memory storage not too dissimilar to a computer's.
Experiments have shown that inhibiting the enzyme in rats has resulted in the immediate forgetting of learned behavior - most explicitly the need to avoid electric shocks. In some tests, rats forgot behaviors they had learned over a month ago.
Of course, this type of research is unlikely to actually be used maliciously against others. Instead it will be used to treat disorders resulting from abnormal memory processes, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, neuropathic pain, and epilepsy.
Invisibility charms and cloaks are another staple in the wizards magical arsenal. Harry constantly uses his magical cloak to escape detection, but will this ability soon be available to everyone?
Research by John Pendry at the Imperial College London has established the basics of what could lead to a real-life invisibility cloak. The key is making a cloak which bends light around it instead of bouncing off of it - much like a river running around a rock.
This, he theorizes can be achieved through the use of "metamaterials" - materials whose properties can be used to alter the way they interact with light. Primarily this is achieved through altering them at the atomic level.
Currently, the idea has only been realized in computer simulations, meaning a lot more work must be done to make it a reality.
The University of Rochester has developed a similar piece of kit which can 'cloak' objects placed in front of it using a similar process as explained above. Unfortunately, the process, shown below, only works at very specific angles and wouldn't be as effective as Harry's cloak.
When Lockhart removed all of the bones in Harry's arm, it wasn't a huge call for concern. I mean, Lockhart wasn't even brought in front of the PTA to explain himself.
In the wizarding world, bones can be easily, if painfully, regrown using a concoction known as Skele-Gro. Could something similar exist in reality?
Researchers may have found the answers locked within the genes of a particular strain of mouse, the Murphy Roths Large. The mice were originally being used for a study into the immune system when Professor Ellen Heber-Katz stumbled across their amazing ability to heal wounds.
She noticed that holes which had been punched into their ears for identification purposes had healed over in only a month - a lot quicker than expected. The mice had been given a drug as part of their trial, so an experiment was conducted in which a group once again had their ears punched but this time without the presence of the drug. Heber-Katz claims:
So we punched the holes again, this time without giving the mice the drug, and we watched them [over time], and there it was - the holes closed up. I thought, 'This is just amazing'.
Such healing had never been seen in a mouse before, and further investigation revealed the MRL also regenerated heart tissue, the spinal cord, optic nerves and even severed digits without scarring.
Researchers managed to isolate the genes they believe are responsible, which are known as mmp2, mmp3 and mmp9. Currently, they are conducting research to see how these enzymes and their properties could be used to aid healing in humans.
All-in-all, with the rate technology is advancing, future generations who read Harry Potter might not be so amazed by his magical prowess.
Which of these powers would you most like to possess?