The Science of Harry Potter

Global “Potter” Madness

Fans of the phenomenally popular children’s book character, Harry Potter, turned to Frostburg State University this year when University offered the honors seminar “The Science of Harry Potter.” The course, which examines the magical events in J.K. Rowling’s books and explains them through the basic principles of physics, received international attention after an Associated Press writer picked up the story. From there, reports of the FSU class appeared in newspapers and magazines across the nation and throughout Europe, Australia, Indonesia and China. Harry Potter fansites on the Web posted announcements about FSU. Even the 24-hour news stations, such as CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC, ran information of the unusual class on their bottom-of-the-screen news crawls.

Media outlets, including the BBC, Radio Europe and morning radio shows, hounded FSU Physics Professor George Plitnik, the mastermind behind the Potter course. He even received international e-mails Potter fans who wanted to take the class (including a woman in Romania!)

The highlight of the coverage was a visit from CBS News Correspondent Tracy Smith, who taped a story for “The Early Show.” When the three-minute segment aired on Oct. 3, FSU alumni called to say they saw their alma mater on the air. Later, that same CBS piece was broadcast on other stations, including MTV. The global attention was truly, dare we say, “magical.”