Invisibility has always been one of the most popular of human wishes. Many scientists have experimented with invisibility without sucess, although films such as Die another Day, The Invisible Man and Hollow Man suggest otherwise. In theory one might be able to alter light waves in the same way as radio waves, or use a set of screens and cameras to display on the side of an object the background behind it (as for the Bond car), but these methods have never been effective in real life.
Ironically, according to the laws of physics, an invisible person should also be blind. In order for the retina to see, it must absorb light. But if a body is invisible (ie not absorbing light) how is it possible that the eyes still work in the same way?
J.K. Rowling uses invisibility in many instances in the Harry Potter series. In the first book, Harry is given an Invisible Cloak. Wizards and witches are able to make not only themselves but also solid objects invisible by means of a special 'charm'.
A journey on a train inspired J.K. Rowling to write the Harry Potter series. This is why the Hogwarts Express has been given an important role in most of the seven books.
Platform 93/4 at King's Cross, visible only to witches and wizards, has fascinated fans ever since the first book was published. In fact quite a few have tried to pass through the wall between Platforms 9 and 10! This section of King’s Cross Station became so popular that its management decided to build a trolley into the wall so that fans and tourists could take souvenir photos.
Ironically, J.K. Rowling has admitted that after the first couple of books were published she realised she had made a mistake, describing the platforms at Euston Station instead of those at King’s Cross.
The name Severus means ‘severe’ in Latin. It is also the name of the Roman Severan Emperors, one of whom – Septimius Severus – was notorious for his persecution of Christians.
According to Rowling, the surname Snape is taken from the village in Suffolk, although the word is also an English verb meaning ‘to be hard upon’ derived from the Norse verb ‘sneypa’ (to disgrace).
Professor Minerva McGonagall is an Animagus, able to tranform into a silver tabby cat.
Rowling says this transformation reflects her own personality, although it was considered quite normal for witches to turn into cats. Cats have long been domesticated, yet remain strong-willed and independent, and they were often associated with superstition, fear, spirits and the moon.
Minerva was the Roman Goddess of Wisdom and Magic, known in Greek mythology as Hera.
Owls have long been associated with the supernatural, mainly because of their nocturnal habits and their fierce facial appearance. But different cultures perceive these birds of prey in different ways.
Some like the Mayans, Aztec, Egyptians, Romans and the Kikuyus of Kenya saw the owl as a bad omen and considered it a symbol of death. Others, like the Greeks, took the owl as a symbol of knowledge and wisdom; it was represented on the emblem of Athens, a city which was the centre of teaching and intelligence. Because of this Greek influence, nowadays many educational facilities use the owl on their logos.
Owl, in A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories, is meant to be old and wise, but he has trouble spelling and doesn't always give the best advice.
The mandrake, or mandragora, is commonly used in magic rituals even today, due to its hallucinogenic properties. Since ancient times this plant has been important in medicine, as it is an excellent pain killer. At one point, the mandrake was a very important sedative in operations.
Its root can resemble the form of a human being (a baby when the plant is young and an adult when it matures). Legend has it that when the root is dug up it screams loudly and kills all those who hear it.
The Arabs call the mandrake, ‘luffah’ or ‘beid el-jinn’, which means genie’s eggs. In Hebrew the word mandrake means ‘the love plant’. Because of this the mandrake is mentioned in various texts, including the Bible. Jacob’s wife Rachel asks her sister Leah, to give her some mandrakes and in return she will let her sleep with her husband. Rachel needs the mandrakes to get pregnant. Shakespeare makes reference to mandrakes in four of his stories: Romeo & Juliet, Othello, Antony & Cleopatra and King Henry VI.
This poisonous plant grows mainly in central Europe, Corsica and the lands around the Mediterranean.