Permeating Life with Physics

September 28, 2008 at 11:41 pm (Making Sense of Things) (, , , , , )

Really, it applies to logic, reason, math, science in general: I like it when things make sense, even when I suspend my disbelief. Recently I’ve found the drawback to this in watching movies. Unless the movie has incredible watching value (or book reading value), small logical and scientific incongruities greatly reduce my dels.

An aside on dels: dels are the units of deliciousness. They are subjective but absolute. They are real and extend in both direction from zero, and in my experience they have always been integers. I used to use several unit scales (including sogs and zombs) but have since abandoned all but the dels. However, deliciousness implies enjoyment (for me personally, of course), so I have no qualms with extending dels to apply to non-foodstuff quantities (and qualities). Dels were originated jointly with Brad and Tim, as a logical progression from the units of confidence (inches, apparently). A story for another day.

Regardless, I find only able to suspend my disbelief so far: I can make an assumption, but I expect the rest of the world, namely the world within that movie, to also adopt that assumption. I feel that too often movies with false assumptions don’t carry them through far enough but rather only so far as it is convenient for them.

I am a roleplayer (play-by-post), and so I frequently find myself playing surreal characters in fictionalized worlds filled with magic and other such irrealities. A few weeks back, when I started spending some time in the Role Play Gateway chat, I stumbled onto a conversation about the nature of magic. Well, “anti-magic”. Roleplaying worlds get pretty crazy, and I thought that it was highly impressive that these roleplayers were recreationally discussing and rationalizing how this anti-magic (and magic) worked, in that particular world. I put forth a couple of my ideas there but have since reworked it into a thicker discussion on RPG Forums Online in their debate section. While I’ve pushed for the debate section to get brought back after a year’s absence, we haven’t had very much success in starting it back up. Still, I watched Eagle Eye last night and remembered this. Hopefully by sharing I will get some insights (or debunks!) on the nature of magic in a general sense.

The Nature of Magic from a Physics Standpoint

I am a Physics Major, so when it comes down to magic I sometimes have serious thoughts and discussions, regarding magic. I don’t believe in magic, but I most certainly suspend my disbelief when it comes to roleplaying and books and movies. But I still feel like this ethereal concept should have a set of real world laws governing it.

A fairly recent discussion I had with some members of RPGateway in chat started from the premise of Anti-Magic (AM) Guns. What, you might ask, is an AM gun? Well, it isn’t really a gun, but rather an AM Generator which creates an AM Field (AMF). Great! What does an AMF do?

Based on the premise of “anti-magic” one would expect that an AMF would dissipate magic, similarly to how mesh armor might dissipate striking force. Going from that analogy, the force is still applied despite the dissipation, so in an AMF, magic would still act in some way, just not in the intended way. Perhaps there is an ambient magic density (much like there is humidity), and an AMF dissipates magic to increase the ambient magic density.

So, working off of that, we have some sort of AMF. Since it is a field, it would have to work via an inverse square law, like gravity or electromagnetism, which gives me a chance to make more parallels. Magic can be used to add energy to things, but in many different ways. Not only can you use magic to shoot a fireball or heat up a pot or make light, but magic can be used to move and lift things. While the first set involves electromagnetic radiation, the second involves adding gravitational potential energy. So magic isn’t photons or electrons or mass, but something new. More importantly, magic can take energy away like making ice, and it can also teleport things as per summoning rituals.

So, in the spirit of physics, matter and energy (photons) need to have conversion potentials to a whole new particle, which I will call the robeon as per the quote “Aight, I put on my robe and wizard hat.” So we have the robeon, but is it a particle, or a wave? Does magic have mass? Physics has determined that most of the universe is actually composed of dark matter (22% of the universe) and dark energy (74% of the universe), with normal matter and energy, namely us, taking up way less than 4%. So, for the sake of using what we’ve got, I’m going to say that the robeon is the main wave-particle of dark energy. (This is a GREAT place to disagree with me, btw.)

So, robeons are dark energy: what does that explain, if anything? Well, the way I see it, this conserves energy in the universe. Dark energy, which we can’t perceive, is converted into regular energy via field manipulation, or regular energy dissipates into dark energy, producing such effects as water to ice, or a “darkness” spell. But, what does field manipulation mean?

Have we all read His Dark Materials? This is a great mode of explaining “field manipulations”, because I’m going to go so far as to equate dark energy to dust in that sense, with dark energy drawn to people and sentient beings in general. For the majority of cases, mages are old, and most “wizards” or “gifted people” come into their powers come adulthood, which is also when dust becomes heavily drawn to humans in His Dark Materials.

At this point I am going to stop, even though I surely have much farther to go. What can you do in this topic? Well, help me work out this theory. What doesn’t make sense to you, or in general? What isn’t developed yet, or where might this theory produce contradictions? You are welcome to build on it, or provide counterexamples and contradictions, or alternative theories. When given contradictions, I will do my best to work the theory to fix them. Or, if someone dropped a contradiction, you are welcome to try your own hand at fixing the theory. So, thoughts?

Since then I had some insights and theorized on a new particle, the haton (also from “Aight, I put on my robe and wizard hat.”). However, I’ve also forgotten those insights, but if you decide to take this further then please, feel free to employ robeons, hatons, and whatever other particles make sense to you. After all, all great theoretical physicists have each invented at least one particle!*

*According to Lincoln Wolfenstein, a particle physicist and (ex-)professor at Carnegie Mellon.

1 Comment

  1. Effectual Immortality said,

    Firstly, rather than a discussion about real world physics, and its possible relationship to fantastical magic, I would like to offer forth why such a thing as an ‘Anti Magic Field/Gun’ would be entirely inapplicable within a roleplay setting.

    Magic, generally, in terms of RP, is derived by some ‘system’ or other, be it a D&D system, a game, or a novelist. (Please consider here that I am making assumptions that this AMF was being utilised in a Multiversal setting) Each player is likely to be drawing from myriad sources, potentially amalgamating several of them into one system they develop for a particular character. This works in free form roleplay, and especially in a multiversal setting as all sources/genres/styles can join in one ‘world’ of play. Unlike in games like D&D, where strict rules are in place, and structured systems. The mix of different influences, all as valid, makes an AMF impossible.

    Look at the example of Elemental magic: Fire, Wind, Earth etc, some people would say that the particular element has to be already present, allowing simply for manipulation, others that the element is created by the sorcerer/mage, in creation, some would say that normal physics apply, and thereafter manipulation is used.

    In the same stroke, the effects created by Elemental magic could quite easily be reached by other means, be it through science, and inducing chemical reactions, or through some other magic system such as David Eddings’ Will and Word from the Belgariad and Malloreon series of books.

    An AMF would be unable to apply to every single magic system that is in existence, and the player would not necessarily know which system is being used by the mage, or indeed the workings of it.

    If the workings of a particular magic system are known, then an AMF could work. For example, let’s take the magic system of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; Saidin and Saidar. The two parts of the One Power, male and female respectively. It is used by allowing the One Power to flow through you, and then bending that flow to perform the magic. The stream, that connection to the One Power, can be cut or blocked with ‘wards’ and utilisation of the One Power against another user. In this sense, if all players were using that system, an AMF could be achieved, though the question would have to be asked about how it would work if the creation and maintenance of the field needed the same ‘magic’. However, in the books, certain artefacts can block the effects of the One Power.

    In a free form setting, however, lies the paradox… All systems are valid. Which means that an AMF could be created, and it would be valid. But, at the same time, the magic would be valid based on the argument made above.

    So then, one must ask, what can be done? The only real way is to develop a set of rules and guidelines for the magic in use during a particular game, allowing use and breaking of AMFs. This, at the same time, would break the whole thesis of a ‘free form’ style, removing the game from that genre.

    My own advice would be to not even contemplate an AMF, but rather look at ways in which you can deal with the magic being directed towards you. In a combative situation, switching on an AMF when you are, say, a mech, and saying to your mage opponent, “You can’t attack now,” could probably be considered as a god mod (Cheating, for any non-RPers reading this), just as would be a mage using a spell that instantly blows up the planet.

    But then, as a magic user, I would be interesting in seeing how my character would deal with something blocking his magic, and if it would be possible to break such a field.

    In conclusion, I don’t think an AMF would be a legal or fair movement in a free for/multiversal roleplay setting, but in a world where magic has strict player guidelines, then it could be utilised. Even then, where is the fun in that?

    With an AMF, how can you have your Barbarian kill the all powerful Sorcerer with nothing but his bare hands? :D

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