Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Everyone knows that Harry Potter is a muggle born wizard who learns lots of magic at Hogwarts. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is a fanfic that redoes HP in a different universe where Harry’s adoptive parents love him, and have taught him science. Harry is already an extremely intelligent rationalist at the start, and the existence of magic throws him for quite a loop. He tries to apply the principles of science and logic to magic. I’m currently reading it (and enjoying it thoroughly), though it does get quite advanced in the philosophy of science.

Harry ends up in Ravenclaw, and (gasp) is friends with Draco.

“But let us talk of happier matters,” said the green-shadowed figure. “Let us talk of knowledge and of power. Draco Malfoy, let us talk of Science.”

… OK. Most of it is better than that. šŸ™‚

“Science isn’t for convincing anyone that the blood purists are right. That’s politics! The power of science comes from finding out the way Nature really is [and] that can’t be changed by arguing! What science can do is tell us how blood really works, how wizards really inherit their powers from their parents, and whether Muggleborns are really weaker or stronger -“

There’s also a website that has detailed information on the things Harry knows.

Artificial Skin

Scientists at King’s College were able to create skin tissue using stem cells. Scientists have done this before, but this time it’s different. Previous artificial skin didn’t have a permeableĀ membrane to keep fluids from leaking out of the body; this one does. This new skin can grow indefinitely, so would be a good source of skin for severe burns. I’m really looking forward to the day we can grow our own replacement organs.

Two senators are trying to promote the use of open-source textbooks.

Back in the mists of time, when I was in college, my textbooks cost a lot of money. Upwards of $50 each. But that’s nothing now. Today’s college students can easily pay over $1000 on books a year. But two senators are trying to reduce the cost by encouraging colleges to use Open Source books. Books with an open license could be freely used by students. I hope these bills (S.1704Ā and H.R.3538) pass and students can have access to information for free.

This isn’t exactly new. The CK-12 foundation makes textbooks available at K-12 levels with an open license.