In ‘The Magic of Reality’, the author, Richard Dawkins, explains various natural phenomena.
He starts the book by identifying three different kinds of magic
- supernatural magic (things that happen in fairy tales, myths, religious texts etc.)
- stage magic (things that we know are false but are fun to watch – stage magicians for example)
- poetic magic (the kind of magic we use to describe our feelings about a great movie or watching a sunset or scenery etc.).
Dawkins demonstrates that our ancestors used to explain our world using supernatural magic. He then explains it in the form of poetic magic (i.e. “what is” as opposed to “what we think is”). He picks up the most popular myths and explains these with science. We get to see that supernatural magic is the fear of understanding while poetic magic is the joy of understanding.
Richard Dawkins is the world’s most famous evolutionary biologist. He is also one of the world’s foremost atheists. He has authored many great books, including the “The Selfish Gene” and “The God Delusion”. You have to read those books if you have not already. I consider him to be one of the luminaries of this century – on par with Richard Feynman and others – in popularizing science and reason`.
A warning – he is an atheist and uses reason & logic to dissect superstitions and beliefs. So if your faith is fickle or offended, do not bother reading his books. But, you will enjoy his books and be a better person if you have an open mind.
This book is meant for general consumption.
I highly recommend reading this book. Dawkins explains scientific concepts brilliantly. This understanding leads to a greater appreciation of Nature and the Universe. He calls out areas where he is not explain things well (quarks for example).
- What is reality? What is magic? – explains the nature of reality and the nature of magic
- Who was the first person? – explores our origins
- Why are there so many different kinds of animals? – explores evolution
- What are things made of? – atomic theory
- Why do we have day and night, summer and winter? – the earth, sun and orbits
- What is the Sun? – stellar mechanics
- What is a rainbow? – optics
- When and how did everything begin? – Big Bang theory
- Are we alone? – Aliens and the nature of the universe
- What are earthquakes? – plate tectonics
- Why do bad things happen? – chaos
- What is a miracle? – science vs belief