Beyond IQ

Scientific and Rational Thought & Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality PART 2

  • 28 Jan 2021
  • 13 May 2021
  • 16 sessions
  • 28 Jan 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EST)
  • 04 Feb 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EST)
  • 11 Feb 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EST)
  • 18 Feb 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EST)
  • 25 Feb 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EST)
  • 04 Mar 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EST)
  • 11 Mar 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EST)
  • 18 Mar 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • 25 Mar 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • 01 Apr 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • 08 Apr 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • 15 Apr 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • 22 Apr 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • 29 Apr 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • 06 May 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • 13 May 2021, 11:00 AM 12:15 PM (EDT)
  • Online
  • 11


Registration is closed

Thursdays, 11:00 am Eastern.

In Part 2, we’ll continue our study of the science and literature of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. We’ll work on improving our own abilities as rationalists, and exploring the ideas behind humanism as well. We will move a little more quickly through the chapters than we did in part 1, as the science isn’t quite as dense, so be prepared to read more each week.

Because the science isn’t as dense, the storyline gets richer, and departs more from the original books. We will spend less time doing direct comparisons to the original text, though topics will crop up from time to time, and more time focused on how these characters grow, what puzzles they are presented with, and where it all might be leading. Also, we’ll start seeing some comparisons to other works as well.

Major themes in this section include geek references, friendship and trust, definitions of evil and morality, beliefs about death, and "the game."

We will complete “books” 2 and 3 of HPMOR, or Chapters 23-64 of the entire book.

As before, science is more than a set of facts. We will work to expand our scientific thinking.

Total class time is 15 sessions. There will be one week off.

All times are U.S. East Coast. 

Students will have access to class recordings the day after each class.


Chapters are indicated first by individual book chapter number, then by complete text chapter number. 

Day 1 – Purposeful Complexity

Introduction to main themes of the course, Punnet Squares and heritability, DNA, natural selection vs intelligent engineering, chromosonal crossover, belief in belief,  evolutionary origins of human intelligence, The Tragedy of Light, the relationship between rationality and science, chimpanzee politics, Norman Maier and problems vs solutions, Robyn Dawes and hard problems, brainstorming, Harry testing his hypotheses, and why is that third chapter written in that order anyway?

Book 2, chapters 2 (23), 3 (24), and 4 (25)

Day 2 – Dissociative Talent

Physics of heat transfer, the power of prophecy, diversification, Douglas Adams on impossible and improbable, the concept of noticing confusion, The Massacre of Albania in the 15th Century, Roger Bacon, understanding others/empathy, the puzzle of what the Weasley twins did, levels of deception

Book 2, chapters 5 (26) and 6 (27)

Day 3 – Logically Impossible

Reverse engineering, nanotechnology, carbon nanotubes (buckytubes), geosynchronous orbit, covalent bonds, societal expectations at different ages, quantum mechanics and timeless physics, parietal cortex, veil of Maya, seven point alchemal diagram, conspiracy theories and Lee Harvey Oswald, in-depth character contrasts

Book 2, chapters 7 (28) and 8 (29)

Day 4 – The Enemy’s Gate is Sideways

So many geek references that it gets listed here as a topic, Robbers Cave experiment, analysis of the leaders’ speeches, analysis of the leaders themselves, using experimentation to prepare for battle, role of women, role of confusion in rationalism, knowing your audience

Book 2, chapters 9 (30), 10 (31), and 11 (32)

Day 5 – Learning Far too Fast

Again with the geek references, Procopius and chariot racing, Everto and conservation of mass, Franz Ferdinand and WWI, Prisoner’s Dilemma, morality and governments, Newcomb’s Problem, recursion, autoimmune disorders/clever viruses/the battle, understanding that point system, speech analysis and politics, fasces and fascists, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, democracy and elections,

Book 2, chapters 12 (33), 13 (34) and 14 (35)

Day 6 – Toys? I Love Toys!

International Index Funds/Berkshire Hathaway, code switching, Humean Projectivism, Harry’s thinking on death, parent/child relationships and messages, catching up on anything we’ve fallen behind on at this point.

Book 2, chapters 15 (36) and 16 (37) – end of book 2.

Day 7 – The Puzzle that Makes the Scientist

The Quibbler, Lucius and the Game, evidence to discriminate between possibilities, benefits of note-taking, censorship vs. common sense, definitions of evil, analysis of Voldemort as cunning, the concept of pretending to be wise as pattern completion, inductive proofs, cognitive dissonance, moral development, logical tautologies, death: Harry, Dumbledore, theories in other cultures, near death experiences, brain damage and faith

Book 3: chapters 1 (38), 2 (39) and 3 (40)

Day 8 – Look Toward the Painful Thought

Frontal lobe of the brain, “tiny rump part” of the brain, peregrine falcons, Drago and Hermione, Harry and the dementors, uncontrolled fusion reactors, continuing the conversation about Harry and death

Book 3, chapters 4 (41), 5 (42), 6 (43), 7 (44), and 8 (45)

Day 9 –Too Weird for any Normal Plots Confirmation bias – again!, layers of the earth and how we know, Mariana Trench, interpretations of prophecy, angle of incidence/reflection, blue krait, Stalin’s Russia and views on the West, the “I have a dream” speech and white supremacy parallels, language and sentience, analyzing Draco’s story

Book 3, chapters 9 (46), 10 (47)

Day 10 – I  Told You to be Nicer!

Parrot protolanguage – Irene Pepperburg, evolution of language in humans, exponential progressions, scope insensitivity, estimating total blades of grass in the world, defending one’s self vs. being above social conventions, the power other’s perceptions of us have over us, plausible deniability, justification of actions (again), secure passwords, wiping out smallpox

Book 3, chapters 11 (48), 12 (49), 13 (50), and 14 (51)

Day 11 – Precious and Irreplaceable

The Stanford Prison Experiment, geography and Azkaban, memories changing in retrospect, magic resonating, morality and the Azkaban guards, Harry’s way of overcoming cognitive bias, practicing examining and changing our own thinking

Book 3, chapters 15 (52), 16 (53), 17 (54), and 18 (55)

Day 12 – Ways to Hide from Death

Cooling and reviving people, constrained cognition and our own thinking, risk and mathematics, rocket science, Aristotelian vs Newtonian physics, speed and acceleration analysis, terminal velocity, problem solving

Book 3, chapters 19 (56), 20 (57), 21 (58), and 22 (59)

Day 13 – Sensibilities Less Offended by the Dark Lord

Theories on criminal justice, Quirrell’s politics (again), the paradox in this part, Harry’s questions, Newton’s third law, cryptography, what is a “muggle artifact”?, Dumbledore’s methods, Harry and Quirrell’s similarities and differences, being unlike children your own age, war/dementors/our own weapons

Book 3, chapters 23 (60), 24 (61), and 25 (62)

Day 14 – 3 out of 40 Subjects

The sun’s life expectancy, following all the reasoning here using Bayesian logic, fractal structures, scarcity effects, proton decay, sunk costs vs. moral actions, cost benefit calculation, Milgram revisited and evolutionary psychology, being the 3 out of 40, the person you truly are

Book 3, chapter 26 (63)

Day 15 – Understand

Sharing our assignment work, practicing our rationality, and catching up on anything still needed.


1: This is a group assignment – work to create an encyclopedia of geek references in HPMOR.  Contribute the ones you know, look things up to help if you suspect something.

2: Create your own battle, using a scientific/neuroscience/social science topic as a plot device.  (Write, or outline, or whatever works for you).

3: Cognitive Bias assignment (to be explained later)

4: Criminal Justice assignment (to be explained later)

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