“Mysteries abound where most we seek for answers.” — Ray Bradbury
There are good mysteries and bad mysteries. If you are relaxing next to the pool with a best-selling mystery novel, that’s good. If your doctor is baffled by your “mysterious” symptoms, that’s bad. Puzzling mysteries can be challenging, frustrating, or even concerning. Since the beginning of time, mankind has been intrigued by mysteries. All the while, science has relentlessly pursued explanations, the purpose of which is to eliminate mysteries.
Magic — the kind that’s performed by a magician — trades on our fascination with mysterious things — pulling a rabbit out of a hat or sawing an assistant in half. One of my personal favorites is the up-close, sleight-of-hand magic that relies on technique and distraction. In many cases, I know what the magician must have done, but he does it so well that it still has a pleasantly mysterious feel to it.
Science fiction literature, another personal favorite, often creates mystery by flirting with the boundary between plausible fantasy and reality. Prolific science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke is known for his Third Law, which says that “Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.” Sir Arthur passed away in 2008, but his Third Law has never been more relevant. <continue>