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Can migrations of birds foretell our future? Do phases of the moon hold sway over our lives? Are there sacred springs that cure the ill? What is the best way to brew a love potion? How do we create mutant humans who regenerate like Wolverine?
In "Science of the Magical," noted science journalist Matt Kaplan plumbs the rich, lively, and surprising history of the magical objects, places, and rituals that infuse ancient and contemporary myth. Like Ken Jennings and Mary Roach, Kaplan serves as a friendly armchair guide to the world of the supernatural. From the strengthening powers of Viking mead, to the super soldiers in movies like "Captain America," Kaplan ranges across cultures and time periods to point out that there is often much more to these enduring magical narratives than mere fantasy. Informative and entertaining, "Science of the Magical" explores our world through the compelling scope of natural and human history and cutting-edge science."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-10
- Reviewer: Staff
Believing that even the strangest myths of the past have a germ of truth, Kaplan (The Science of Monsters), a science correspondent with the Economist, wanders from ancient Greece and the Mayan empire to contemporary science fiction in search of that germ. Kaplan’s work differs from previous books on scientific views of myths and magic in two ways: he respects the intelligence of our ancestors and he doesn’t distort the science to make a theory fit. He uses some myths as jumping-off points that allow him to explore oddities in nature, as when his discussion of the search for immortality leads to an exploration of poisons, or when the plagues of the Biblical Exodus are treated as a sequence of events that occurred over hundreds of years. Kaplan shows how stories morph by comparing early versions of Spider-Man with his portrayals in recent films. Some of his connections are a stretch; the apple in Eden probably wasn’t a hallucinogenic mushroom, though Kaplan does have other intriguing ideas about mind-altering drugs and the Bible. Steeped in contemporary science fiction and fantasy, Kaplan’s blend of modern and ancient myths reveal an ever-present human concern with control over life, death, and the elements. Agent: Daniel Greenberg, Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. (Nov.)