The Course of Reason

Wizard Engineering is Bad

May 28, 2013

I want to take a moment to discuss the sad state of affairs that is wizard engineering. Last week I took a vacation at Hogsmeade, and while there I also visited Hogwarts for an interdisciplinary conference, “Occlumency and Information Security”.  Frankly, I was appalled by the structural engineering and the ignorance the witches and wizards had of muggle engineering.

Hogsmeade itself consists of many tall structures with misaligned and unstable chimneys dominating the skyline. The crooked chimneys will surely collapse after minimal material decay, endangering the numerous witches, wizards, and other magical beings that frequent the iconic town’s streets and hearth rooms. Furthermore, the roofs of the structures are so steep as to defy reason regarding the snow that somehow clings to their sloped surfaces. Given the average snowfall of the area it is a wonder more people have not been injured from avalanches of snow rushing into the streets.

The unstable structural engineering of Hogsmeade.

The unstable structural engineering of Hogsmeade.

 More unstable chimneys, and unsafe steep roofs

More unstable chimneys, and the unsafe sloped roofs. 

The state of engineering knowledge seems to be stuck in the 19th century. The few machines employed by the magical community are nothing more complicated than primitive gear driven systems, as one might find in an old clock. While discussing my travel plans with a local witch, she asked if I’d be returning to Missouri by floo or by muggle transportation. I told her that as a muggle, I would be using muggle transportation. Stunned, she asked if I would be using a car or the flying contraptions. When I told her I’d be flying by airplane, she expressed stunned ignorance as to how those huge metal things manage to stay aloft.

I was quite stunned by her ignorance of how airplanes work. Do wizards and witches know nothing of aerodynamics? Have they never wondered how non-magical birds manage to soar? The whole incident caused me to wonder what sort of intellectual isolationism must be plaguing the magical academic community. How can an entire global subculture communicate with nothing more sophisticated than courier owl? I have the power to communicate instantly with someone on the other side of the planet by using a non-magical device that fits in my pocket. I have access to more information at the tips of my fingers than they have in all of their dusty old libraries.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

I needed to look no further for an answer to my puzzle than to the school itself. More specifically, I believe the magical curriculum is to blame for the epidemic of ignorance. Of all the courses listed in the curriculum at Hogwarts, none of the following is included: mathematics, biology, physics, computer science, literature, philosophy. Nor does any accredited magical school offer a single engineering course, despite the fact that all magically hidden communities rely on magic curriculum educated builders for their construction, if their builders are to be educated at all.

I should perhaps note that, as a muggle, I’m not privileged to all the details of the world of magic. Magical engineers may very well receive an education from a specialized school. Based on my observations, I can say that if this is the case, then their specialized schools of engineering should have their accreditation suspended.

Hogwarts Express

Wizard engineering is no more advanced than 19th and 20th century railroad technology.

I was very impressed with the Occlumency program at Hogwarts, but I was disappointed that more efforts had not been made to apply the craft to computers. As things currently stand, Occlumency protects only the information held in an organic brain, leaving the memories of computers vulnerable to attack. In my opinion we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the standard of muggle information security, but it simply cannot happen unless magical academia sheds its isolationist chains and learns a thing or two about computers.

They can begin by incorporating some of the following courses into their core curriculum: algebra, calculus, geometry, arithmetic, and physics. I know some of my readers are magical, so before you go howling about how these courses are boring old muggle subjects, let me point out that these subjects may not be literally magical, but they do have a certain figurative magic of their own.

The world of mathematics is in many ways more breathtaking and profound than the world of magic. The world of science is all the more impressive in that it relies on no wizardry or witchcraft: only careful muggle thinking and brilliant muggle experimenting.

Having observed the culture of magical academia, I understand why they have fallen so far behind in science and engineering. Their entire education eschews questions about how the magic works, and focuses instead on how to perform particular tricks with magic. This rote memorization of spell procedures imparts very little in the way of intellectual improvement. Much more would be gained by asking how, exactly, does petrificus totalis work? What are the fundamental components of magic, and how do they relate to the non-magical particles of the world? How are magical abilities inherited in the first place? These are the types of questions muggle academics ask about the muggle world, and the answers to such questions grant them the ability to fly, even to the moon and back, all without magic. As far as we know, the magical community has not yet achieved extraplanetary travel. The explanation of this asymmetry must be the difference in math, science, and engineering education.



About the Author: Seth Kurtenbach

Seth Kurtenbach's photo
Seth Kurtenbach is pursuing his PhD in computer science at the University of Missouri. His current research focuses on the application of formal logic to questions about knowledge and rationality. He has his Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Missouri, and is growing an epic beard in order to maintain his philosophical powers. You can email Seth at or follow him on Twitter: @SJKur.


#1 Sarah Kaiser on Tuesday May 28, 2013 at 10:48am

I think Hermione would like you.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 at 6:47pm

"The crooked chimneys will surely collapse after minimal material decay,"

A look through Hogsmeade municipal history may answer that question.

But more interestingly, while we can proudly introduce the study of math and physics to Hogsmeade, who on their team is going to teach us magic? If it has utility, knowing how it works is nice, but not necessary. We already make such compromises in areas like medicine, having deemed the distribution of potential outcomes to be reasonably desirable, even without knowing the mechanism.




Guests may not post URLs. Registration is free and easy.

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Enter the missing word: CFI's mission ( is to foster a _______ society.

Creative Commons License

The Course of Reason is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

CFI blog entries can be copied or distributed freely, provided:

  • Credit is given to the Center for Inquiry and the individual blogger
  • Either the entire entry is reproduced or an excerpt that is considered fair use
  • The copying/distribution is for noncommercial purposes