“A nearly impenetrable thicket of geekitude…”

Order of the Phoenix: Unanswered Questions

Please sit down.
I am going to tell you everything.
   — Albus Dumbledore, to Harry Potter

Well, Dumbledore may have finally come clean and answered all of Harry’s questions, but from a technical perspective I feel J. K. Rowling still has some explaining to do. Here are some areas she might consider addressing in the next volume.

Eight Oh Two Point What?

There’s a trend in modern fantasy for the women to be the natural geeks (as opposed to the natural nerds, who are still male, of course). How long will it be before Hermione’s parents give her a laptop for Christmas instead of a year’s supply of dental gum?

More to the point, given that Goblet of Fire established that electronics won’t work in the school grounds, how long will it be before she starts trying to get someone to install a WiFi hotspot in the Three Broomsticks?

If Hogsmeade does get this kind of amenity, I can’t see that a Starbucks could be far behind. I’m sure a school full of wizard kids high on grande lattes would mean a world of trouble, far worse than that “butterbeer” they’re guzzling this year. (Incidentally, how much alcohol is there in one of those? Isn’t there a law or something?) Apart from the discipline problems brought on by the hyper-activity, you have to take into account the odd spell going astray due to a shaky wand hand. Nasty.

Handy for Jump Starting Your Car, Too

Speaking of electronics, why do electronic systems fail in the Hogwarts grounds? Is it some kind of electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) effect? If it is electro-magnetic, can the energy be harnessed by normal humans, Matrix-like, by crocodile-clipping a couple of sturdy cables onto a wizard’s ears?

Perhaps this is the real reason wizarding folk make sure they are never seen by muggles…

Taxonomy of Magical Creatures

Somewhere in the school library, Hermione will one day come across a book describing the ways in which magical creatures are related to each other, and to non-magical creatures. I’d like to request that this scene be included in the next installment if possible. It’s not as if we’re likely to be short of space, volume 5 being 766 pages after all…

By the way, I don’t mean books like Newt Scamander’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: I’ve read that, and it’s purely descriptive natural history. You’d think Darwin had never been born as far as the wizarding folk were concerned; this despite his rather wizardly facial hair.

What I’m really looking for is a book that will tell me whether Unicorns and Thestrals are descended from “normal” horses or the other way around. Alternatively, perhaps we’re looking at a case of convergent evolution. Is there a fossil record we can use to help us out with this kind of question? Indeed, are the highly unconventional body plans seen in the fossils of the Burgess Shale something the Ministry of Magic would have preferred to have covered up?

As a bonus, the Latin binomials for things like blast-ended skrewts would surely be of use to the serious student.

And talking of books, does Hogwarts, a History have an ISBN? I can’t seem to find this book on Amazon.

And Finally…

We’re never told how the magic in Harry’s world works, even in general terms. This is a serious omission, in my view.

It’s fairly clear that we’re not looking at a mana-based magical system like Niven’s, as if we were then areas like Hogwarts and Diagon Alley would be magical wastelands by now.

Perhaps it’s a “true names” based magic, as seen in Le Guin’s Earthsea novels? It’s not clear whether wingardium leviosa and the like fit into a scheme like that. Maybe its all done behind the scenes by some relatives of the house elves.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know.

Ian A. Young, aged 43 and a quarter.