Magic in Modern Culture (And Outer Space in Particular)

About two months ago, I wrote an article titled “Magic in American Culture” where I discussed the possible differences between the American Wizarding World and the British Wizarding World. Within that article, I pointed out that Wizarding culture is very rooted in history and that it doesn’t seem to like change.

In that article, I essentially asked the question, “What happens when you rewind Wizarding culture 70 years? Does it look even older? In other words, are the Wizarding fashion trends even more dated?” In today’s article, however, I won’t be talking about fashion, but what happens when you fast forward Wizarding culture 70 years from today? As Muggle technology continues to advance, what does magic in modern culture look like?

As with my previous article, “Magic in American Culture”, the purpose of this article is to raise more questions than answers. I don’t know how to answer most of the questions that I ask below (of which there are far more than my previous article), because only one person can truly answer them: J.K. Rowling. That doesn’t mean that we can’t theorize or guess what these answers might be. So if you have possible answers, share them below in the comments!

Wizards tend to slowly adopt (and adapt) more and more Muggle practices, particularly technology. Take the Ford Anglia for example. Here we have a car—a Muggle machine—that is charmed to fly, in a culture that relies on broomsticks, apparition and Floo Powder as the primary modes of transportation. Granted, the Anglia is an older model, so it does not rely heavily (or at all) on electronics to run. However, it is a step in the right direction, and despite that J.K. Rowling stated in the fourth book that magic generally makes Muggle technology go haywire, what if that’s a temporary limitation that can be overcome with more research into the Muggle electronics and more experimentation of magic in the same space?

Speaking of space, what about outer space? Are wizards capable of space travel right now? What about 70 years into the future after more research and experimentation? What mode of travel would work best?

Before we get too far, I should point out that it was my friend Olivia Dolphin, who writes for SparkLife and Fantastic Fandoms, who first brought this idea of wizards in space to my attention. About three weeks ago, she asked Hank Green, the founder of NerdCon and VidCon, this question in an interview for SparkLife: “In the Harry Potter canon, do you think wizards are capable of traveling space, and if they are capable, are they even interested?” Hank answered thusly:

Yeah, that’s an interesting question. There seems to be a lot of things that wizards are capable of doing but aren’t driven to do? Is there a functional reason that you couldn’t apparate to Mars? Because, you bring your clothes with you, so you could bring your space suit? Maybe there are ingredients that I don’t know about? Yeah. So you would maybe need to build a space station before you could apparate to it?

Read the whole interview and the remainder of his answer to this question.

I’m really glad Olivia worded her question the way she did, because the second half is a thought worth considering: do wizards even care about modern Muggle science at all? I mean, it seems to me that wizards care more about astrology than astronomy (I realize that Astronomy class does exist at Hogwarts, but stay with me here). It just seems to me that they care more about what the alignments of the stars can predict for their lives than about traveling to the stars themselves.

Because, really, what would be the purpose of a Wizarding NASA be? To study the surface of planets? Certainly it would be much easier to study them via a more magically powerful telescope, rather than transporting yourself there? Perhaps some wizards would want to “go boldly where no wizard has gone before”, simply to say that they did the thing.

So then, what mode of transportation would wizards use? Does apparating require air to work or would it be possible to apparate through a vacuum? What about brooms? Can a wizard fly a broom through a vacuum? Can you apparate while wearing a space suit? Would a bubble-head (or bubble-body) charm work in a vacuum? Would the splinching risks be even greater not only because of the greater (and ultimately impossible) distance to travel between locations, but also because the risk of depressurization is greater? I mean, if you leave any piece of that space suit behind, you instantly suffocate.

What if wizards rely instead upon Muggle rockets to get there? Would the rocket even function with magic on board? What about communications with Earth? What if wizards could overcome the magic-technology limitations (as I described above) and actually use their magic to enhance the rocket in some way? Could you use the Gemino spell to multiply the rocket fuel, thereby making it last longer? Or does Gemino only work on non-liquid objects? Could you magically enhance the rocket boosters to make you cover a larger distance in a shorter time? Could wizards take a rocket to Pluto?

Would it be possible to borrow the Magic School Bus from Ms. Frizzle? That would solve so many problems.

If there were a space program for the wizarding community, how would such a program be funded? Would the program be funded publicly, by the Ministry of Magic? Are Ministry funds raised by Wizard taxes? How are the taxes collected? Magically, to avoid tax evasion? How do wizards vote? Is the Minister the only elected position? Are there term limits?

As you can see, there are so many questions yet to be answered, J.K. Rowling. You are certainly not even close to being done with your Harry Potter Encyclopedia! (Are you still writing the thing? Tell us you’re still writing the thing!)

Do you have answers to life’s most important questions? Share your thoughts below!