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Mr. Wizard

Physicist Frank Wilczek in his January 2008 Physics Today column talks about how Don Herbert, "Mr. Wizard" of 1950's and 60's TV fame, encouraged the children in his audience to think like scientists, and in many cases to grow up to be scientists. In contrast, Wilczek observes, "Other wizards are more famous." — even as they depict success without perserverance, analysis, and long-term study:

Harry Potter, and in a different way the "magic realism" genre, presents essentially an irrational world with less ironic detachment than Frank Baum's Oz series. In those worlds, curiosity gets no traction, for anything can happen, and what you discover today tells you little about what will happen tomorrow. Great power is distributed randomly and whimsically, not as the result of intellectual work. A tempting fantasy that is allied to the romantic concept of "genius." It has, in Bertrand Russell's memorable phraseology, "all the advantages of theft over honest labor." To the extent that these fictional conceptions are absorbed and internalized, they tend to legitimize intellectual passivity and wishful thinking.

(cf. HelpfulHomilies (2007-09-02), ...) - ^z - 2008-01-15


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