"From the author of The Science of Monsters, this engaging scientific inquiry provides a definitive look into the elements of mystical places and magical object--from the philosopher's stone, to love potions to the oracles--from ancient history, mythology, and contemporary culture. Can migrations of birds foretell our future? Do phases of the moon hold sway over our lives? Are there sacred springs that cure the ill? What is the best way to brew a love potion? How do we create mutant humans who regenerate like Wolverine? In Science of the Magical, noted science journalist Matt Kaplan plumbs the rich, lively, and surprising history of the magical objects, places, and rituals that infuse ancient and contemporary myth. Like Ken Jennings and Mary Roach, Kaplan serves as a friendly armchair guide to the world of the supernatural. From the strengthening powers of Viking mead, to the super soldiers in movies like Captain America, Kaplan ranges across cultures and time periods to point out that there is often much more to these enduring magical narratives than mere fantasy. Informative and entertaining, Science of the Magical explores our world through the compelling scope of natural and human history and cutting-edge science."-- Publisher's description.
Healing: prayers, sacred pools, regenerations, and holy eyeliner -- Transformation: into animals, berserk warriors, supersoldiers, and the other gender -- Immortality and longevity: elixirs of live, holy grails, and distilled alchemist pee -- Supernatural skies: sunstones, plagues, the power of planets, and summoning storms -- Animals and plants as omens, guides and gods 101: Odin's wolves and ravens, death cats, talking forests, and birds that predict the weather -- Prophecy: liver readers, "high" priestesses, and mind-reading devices -- Beyond the grave: underworld gateways, guardians of the dead, and near death -- Enchantment: love potions, sleeping drafts, mind-altering fruit, and penises pierced with stingray spines -- Superhumans: savants, Buddhist monks, sword swallowers, firewalkers, and stage magicians.