Science, Science and Society

Smearing rationality all over Harry Potter

Today, I found something new.

Well, not found, per se, but rather was pointed to. And it’s not new, having been going for a coupla years or so now, but it’s certainly still going!

HPMOR book cover

It’s the rather epic fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. Written by American writer, blogger, friendly AI advocate and Singularitarian* Eliezer Shlomo Yudkowsky, it takes the Harry Potter set of characters that we all know so well, and…reimagines…them, and the story.

To be precise, it tries to explain all of the magic and wizardry of the Harry Potter novels through the scientific method, illuminating concepts in cognitive science and rationality. I’ve seen at least one person on the interwebs describe our young genius Harry as somebody with distinct similarities to Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper.

As of September 1st this year, it’s some 6,660 words into Chapter 86, and sitting at well over a thousand pages.

I’ve only just started reading it, so not much to report yet, but it’s apparently garnered some pretty positive reviews, and it’s certainly readable! But here, as a taster:

[Harry’s response to the Hogwarts invitation letter]

Dear Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall,

Or Whomsoever It May Concern:

I recently received your letter of acceptance to Hogwarts, addressed to Mr. H. Potter. You may not be aware that my genetic parents, James Potter and Lily Potter (formerly Lily Evans) are dead. I was adopted by Lily’s sister, Petunia Evans-Verres, and her husband, Michael Verres-Evans.

I am extremely interested in attending Hogwarts, conditional on such a place actually existing. Only my mother Petunia says she knows about magic, and she can’t use it herself. My father is highly sceptical. I myself am uncertain. I also don’t know where to obtain any of the books or equipment listed in your acceptance letter.

Mother mentioned that you sent a Hogwarts representative to Lily Potter (then Lily Evans) in order to demonstrate to her family that magic was real, and, I presume, help Lily obtain her school materials. If you could do this for my own family it would be extremely helpful.


Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres.

Enjoy! You can also find it HPMOR on Goodreads, where you can download various (free) eBook versions of it.

* Which is _awesome_ (I’m of that bent, too).