Daily Archives: August 16, 2013

Harry Potter Goblet of Fire Plot Hole Filled

I recently discovered that there is a widespread belief that there is a huge, gaping, plot hole in Harry Potter Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowlings. Or so people say. Greta Christina pointed it out on a Facebook post of Sarah Moglia’s, and when I googled it, I discovered widespread dismay about the pointlessness of the entire book.

The claim is made that there is no reason for any of the things that happen in this book to have happened. The ultimate result of most of the book’s plot is to get Harry Potter transported to the clutches of the Dark Lord in order to contribute, as an ingredient, in the ontogeny of Voldemort 2.0. The question is, why did all this stuff have to happen, with Barty Crouch Junior disguised as Mad Eye Moody manipulating the entire tournament, only to have Harry Potter touch a live and active portkey? Why not just hand him a portkey, or trick him into touching one?

Some people in responding to this question have noted two things that are worthy of mention, though they are not the answer to this mystery. One is the fact, which I’m sure is true, that Barty Crouch Jr. could not be discovered for what he really was, so an indirect means of doing anything is preferred. Handing Harry a portkey may have been too easily figured out. But really, en entire Triwizard just for that? Clearly, that is not the simple answer to the plot hole question, though it is part of it. No matter what Barty was doing, he’d want a certain amount of misdirection and secrecy.

The other thing people mention is the timing. The hot dish wasn’t ready, as it were, until a certain time and that time happened to be at the end of the Triwizard. That may be true, but it does not de-Macguffinize the entire book.

Perhaps this is because of my background in anthropology, but when I first read the book the point of the plot was utterly obvious to me once the penultimate scene developed (after Potter’s transport to where all the death eaters are). The simple, straight forward reason for having Potter transported at that time and in that way is the same for faking Potter’s entrance into the tournament and having him win. I shall explain.

Harry’s blood was to be used to reconstitute Voldemort. Quite possibly the blood of any wizard would do, but there is a handful of reasons that Harry Potter’s blood would be better. For one thing, there is the accidental horcrux-ish effect, with Voldemort’s power having bounced off Harry’s Head once. Whether or not that would really make Harry a more powerful ingredient is unclear, but these are Wizards. They believe this sort of thing. Second, Harry’s mother (and her love, bla bla bla) was obviously very powerful and was inserted into Harry on her death. More mojo. Generally, though, it is pretty clear by the big battle scene in Goblet, with the dueling wands, that Potter and Voldemort are roughly equally matched. Any wizard might do as this particular ingredient in the reconstitution of Voldemort 2.0, but Harry would be better …

… and even better, would be super-Harry.

The winner of the Triwizard is not just any wizard, but is special, esteemed, more powerful and more highly regarded in the Wizard world. When I discussed this with Julia she pointed out that Harry’s being in the tournament and his success along the way allowing him to win were all rigged. So, not meaningful.


First of all, in Wizard Land, technicalities are always important. LeviOHsa, not LeVIohsa. He won the tournament and gets whatever that gives you. Second, Harry Potter’s status as the youngest Tri-champ ever is reified only in the eyes of the non-Death Eater wizards, and they were unaware of the rigged nature of the deal. Third … think about it … what, ever, does a Dark Lord do that is not rigged in some way? It is the way of He Who Shall Not be Named.

Heroes become heroes by winning a series of challenges. Seven, classically. What were the challenges that Harry had won before the Triwizard started? Near the beginning of his life, he defeats Voldemort. In Philsopher’s Stone, Harry defeats Voldemort/Quirrell. In Chamber he defeats the Basilisk. In Prisoner he defeats the Dementors. So, at the beginning of Goblet of Fire, Harry has defeated four foes in four challenges. Since heroes normally defeat seven foes in seven challenges before becoming full blown heroes, three more challenges would make him in some ways the most powerful wizard he could possibly be, yet at the same time, those additional victories would not be against Voldemort, if Voldemort rigged them. The blood of a full blown hero would be significantly better than the blood of a mere prodigy, and this was a way for Voldemort to get that extra potent ingredient more or less safely.

Endoplasmic Voldemort engineered Harry Potter’s rise to hero status among his peers in order to have the most powerful possible ingredients in the Voldemort 2.0 hot dish. There is no plot hole. Only unmitigated evil.

So, fear not, you did not read Goblet of Fire needlessly. Perhaps you merely enjoyed the story and missed the point, but that’s no big deal. People have been doing that for thousands of years.

Other posts of interest:

Also of interest: In Search of Sungudogo: A novel of adventure and mystery, which is also an alternative history of the Skeptics Movement.

Fukushima Update

Patrick J. Kiger at National Geographic News has an excellent summary of the current situation at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The plant continues to leak radioactive material into the sea, though at a rate much lower than the massive release that happened at the time of the accident. Strontium-90 (Half-life 28.79 years) has increased in proportion over various Cesium isotopes. This is a concern because while Cesium has the potential to enter the food supply in fish that pick it up, Strontium enters the food supply in a different way. In theory Cesium enters tissues and leaves tissues, and doesn’t accumulate over time. (I quickly add that there is evidence of Cesium accumulation in the fish food chain, so that may not be entirely true; certainly, tough, Cesium does not accumulate in large amounts). Strontium, on the other hand, substitutes for minerals in bone, and thus accumulated as a fish ages. Taking fish from contaminated waters for human consumption has mostly been banned since the accident (there are a few species of marine organism that have stopped showing detectable levels of radioactive isotopes, so they are now being caught).

The overall expected health risks of the Fukushima disaster overall and continued health risks because of the ongoing leakage are hard to estimate. There is almost certainly an elevated cancer risk for people living in the area, though the extent of this is unknown. Concerns that we see around the Internet that dangerous levels of radiation are reaching the US are incorrect.

Having said that, I think people often evaluate the significance of the Fukushima disaster incorrectly, for political reasons. Those who want to claim that nuclear power (including existing old-generation nuclear plants) is just honkey-dory seem to do so by feeding off of anti-nuke misconceptions and irrational fears about radiation. Yes, people do get it wrong; the average person has no clue what risks radioactive materials or radiation pose. For this reason, it is easy to creates straw men and then disprove them. The fact that the region around Fukushima is not littered with skeletons of people who were zapped into oblivion by the Fukushima multiple meltdowns, or that all babies in Japan are born with only one head and ten fingers, does not mean that nothing happened there. The fact is that you can’t go near this power plant without taking a serious health risk, and there is a moderate but real health risk because of the prior large scale dispersal of radioactive material and the ongoing lower level but still important outpouring (literally) of radioisotopes.

If we were to propose the construction of 22 nuclear power plants and noted that over a 30 year period one of them would suffer multiple meltdowns, spew enormous amounts of nuclear icky stuff into the air and sea, continued to spread contaminated water into the sea and groundwater for years after at a lower rate, create a very expensive problem that would last for decades and create a deadly no-entry zone filled with millions and millions of gallons of radioactive water and piles of nuclear material in the disabled reactors and spent fuel pools that could not be cleaned up for decades in a zone susceptible to serious earthquakes and tsunamis … the designers of that system might well be asked to go back to the drawing board or seek other alternatives. (Japan has about 22 plants operated over about 30 years, give or take.)

In fact, they were. They were asked to not do what they did, but those who opposed nuclear plants in Japan. The specific reasoning of the anti-nuclear activists and others may have included faulty logic and bad information about nuclear power, but on the list of potential problems was the possibility that what actually happened would happen. They were right. And they were not “stopped clock” right. They were right because they saw a real danger that really existed.

We probably have to build new nuclear power plants. Burning fossil fuels at the rate we are burning them will cause disasters that will make us forget bout our nuclear woes. But it is not true that the nuclear power industry is ready to step in and build significantly safer plants now, and it is not true that “alternative” (a term we should stop using!) energy solutions such as geothermal, solar, wind, and so on deployed on a smart grid with significant enhancements of efficiency at both production and use ends of the grid comprises a secondary solution.

Anyway, I gave only a short summary of what Kiger outlines in his excellent piece. Go now and read: Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Leak: What You Should Know