Agatha Christie: "The supernatural is only the natural of which the laws are not yet understood."
Clarke's three laws
British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke formulated three adages that are known as Clarke's three laws, of which the third law is the best known and most widely cited:
- When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
- The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Clarke's first law was proposed by Clarke in the 1962 edition of the essay, as "Clarke's Law".
The second law is offered as a simple observation in the same essay. Its status as Clarke's second law was conferred by others. In the 1973 revision of Profiles of the Future, Clarke acknowledged it as his second law and proposed the third, writing "As three laws were good enough for Newton, I have modestly decided to stop there".
The third law, despite being latest stated by a decade, is the best known and most widely cited. It appears only in the 1973 revision of the "Hazards of Prophecy" essay. It echoes a statement in a 1942 story by Leigh Brackett: "Witchcraft to the ignorant, … simple science to the learned". Earlier examples of this sentiment may be found in Wild Talents (1932) by Charles Fort: "...a performance that may some day be considered understandable, but that, in these primitive times, so transcends what is said to be the known that it is what I mean by magic," and in the short story The Hound of Death (1933) by Agatha Christie: "The supernatural is only the natural of which the laws are not yet understood."