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I've read that, in the world of Harry Potter, magic and technology literally don't mix. If there is a strong enough concentration of magical stuff around (people, beasts etc.), it can literally cause modern tech to malfunction or even shut down and fail completely.

Why does this happen? Is it because of the electricity, or magnetism? Does it work in reverse - would a strong enough concentration of tech would nullify a wizard's access to magic? Does this imply that the same relationship occurs between magical folk and lightning?

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    Because JKR said so. Considering her (lack of) math skills I can't imagine there's a scientific explanation for why it's the case. Everything suggests that the opposite isn't the case though, since Harry and other wizards were able to cast spells at the Dursleys and that would be surrounded by items running off of electricity. – Anthony Grist Feb 27 '16 at 20:28
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    Magic screws with electricity. Why not? That's the thing about magic. You can't apply science. It's magic! (And yes, cos JKR didn't want texting, email and selfies at Hogwarts). – ThruGog Feb 27 '16 at 21:23
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    Hmmm. This isn't unique to the Potterverse. If anything, the effect is even stronger in the Dresden Files - if Harry Potter were Harry Dresden, Dudley's computer wouldn't have survived. The Dresden Files discussed this a little more than the Harry Potter books did, but there were no firm conclusions. It was mentioned at one point that the effect varied over time, centuries ago magical practitioners tended to get acne instead, or make milk go sour, which suggests that the effect really is magical rather than, say, electromagnetic. But I don't know we can push the analogy that far. – Harry Johnston Feb 27 '16 at 21:47
  • I acknowledge what everyone said, but nonetheless I wonder if this interference with technology can be pinpointed to a specific component. What makes an iPhone susceptible to magic but not a sword? An electric engine would be susceptible, but would a steam engine? – thegreatjedi Feb 28 '16 at 3:19
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    It's definitely electronics that are affected. Hogwarts seems to be full of a sort of pre-Victorian technology e.g. oil lamps, carriages, clocks and (presumably) ovens. – ThruGog Feb 28 '16 at 7:28
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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them actually answers this. The culprit is the Chizpurfle! Chizpurfles are tiny magical parasites that infest magic objects, places, and animals. They feed on magic, reducing the items to dust. However, they've also been known to infest Muggle electronics, leading to malfunctions.

Chizpurfle

The Chizpurfles, being so common among magical creatures and objects, have become enough of a problem to spur the development of proper potions to remove them -- but they grow stronger, the longer they consume magic, and can be formidable pests once engorged.

  • Is there a note in the book itself (or the video games referenced on that wikia page) saying this is the in-universe answer to this question? From the wikia description, it sounds like A) there are potions to remove them, B) they're a bigger problem for magic items than electronics, and magic items work so electronics should too, and C) in the absence of magic (anywhere in the muggle world) they would destroy everything electronic. The description of electronic malfunctions suggests to me that they only occasionally cause problems "hence why your new IRL iPad was broken on opening", etc. – MichaelS Mar 8 '16 at 2:04
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    It almost sounds like the Harry Potter equivalent of midichlorians.. – thegreatjedi Mar 8 '16 at 2:45
  • @MichaelS They're attracted to magic, and were naturally found in the fur of magical animals. If they feed on magic, why would they be in the muggle part of the world? And they're a bigger problem to magic items than electronics because wizards don't have electronics to be infested. Circular logic. – Slacklord the Terrible Mar 8 '16 at 16:20
  • The article clearly states they prefer magic, but in the absence of magic will go after electronics. This means electronics would mostly be fine in Hogwarts and similar places where they don't have to resort to electronics. If these were the reason electronics instantly break in Hogwarts, where it's easy to counter them, then a few of them making it into the muggle world would utterly destroy all the electronics there too. And why wouldn't they be in the muggle world? One wizard drops an infested item on a park bench... and we're in Steampunk land. – MichaelS Mar 9 '16 at 2:33
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    @MichaelS This is a canonical book which states that there are tiny parasites which feed on magic which also destroy electronics. It says "This explains the sudden failure of various new electrical goods." Written from the perspective of an old man in the 60s. The behind the scenes section is unsourced and, being on a dubious wiki, should be ignored. – Slacklord the Terrible Mar 9 '16 at 21:01
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While this is not specific to the Potter-verse, I always fall back to the famous Arthur C. Clarke quotation:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

From this point of view, what is and isn't magic is purely subjective from the observer's point of view. A technologist might view the wands used in the Potter-verse as a technology that enables the application of certain abilities. It could be seen in the same vein as how crutches as a technology allow a person with a damaged leg to walk.

Looking at examples from the Potter-verse, what is a pensieve? Is it technology that happens to leverage magical properties to fulfill a task? Can extracted memories be magically stored and recalled without such technology available?

My point is that the lines between technology and magic are blurred, and depending on how you view them, either intertwined or indistinguishable. Given that, technology can easily be seen as interfering with magic and vice-versa.

To tie that statement back to my example above, if I used the technology known as dynamite to destroy a pensieve, does that qualify as technology overcoming magic?

An example in the other direction is Dumbledore's device used to extinguish lights. He's using a magical device (or is it magic technology?) to manipulate muggle technology, specifically to overcome it's purpose to provide light.

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I'd say it's because "modern" electronics have been miniaturized to such a degree that they require that the laws they are based on to be stable (or at least, more stable than something like a clock would need), so it's less Magic vs. Science and more like tech not designed with a specific form of interference in mind. So maybe if there's a charm that specifically scans and counters magical activity (think like those noise cancellation systems that are used in some military aircraft) then you could probably have something work as intended. But if you're going to put that much effort in it may be better to just make a computing system that runs of magic instead of electrons.

  • This is just conjecture - answers need to be based in canon evidence. – Bellatrix Apr 7 '18 at 5:14

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