Recreating magic! scientifically?

Gray-Philosophy

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Contradictory title is contradictory

I know that magic in fantasy settings is usually by definition the opposite of scientific, in being supernatural and defying the laws of physics and all.

However! I'm currently playing around with creating a fictional setting for a world-building project, that includes a lot of typical fantasy tropes, while also adhering to the laws of physics and generally being a theoretically plausible universe.

As such, I want to include "magic". I want some kind of fictional source of energy, or type of particle, that in theory would allow mere mortals to manipulate matter around them. But I'm struggling with how to go about it due to my limited knowledge of above-elementary-school-grade-physics. So I come to you for aid, Escapists :D

What I've come up with so far is that my setting would have to have some kind of fictional type of energy (or whatever the correct term would be). With which any sufficiently focused creature could manipulate objects and like in the environment. While still, at least in theory, following the laws of physics.
Perhaps this energy would be stimulated by neural activity making it something like a will-governed type of telekinesis or some such.

How would you create magic, or "adaptable superpowers" that still follow the laws of physics? and might you have ideas for how I could develop my own idea?

Thank you for your time :)


I would've put this in the Games Discussion, but figured it probably belonged here since it isn't specifically about video games.
 

DefunctTheory

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It sounds like your looking for Element Zero [http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Element_zero].

I'm not a physics major, but I feel fairly confident that magical powers like you describe are, simply put, impossible. There's no known way, or even theoretical scenario scientifically dreamed up, where the brain is capable of anything you describe. So no matter what, you're going to introduce something fantastical into the universe to allow it, even if it is, in universe, justifiable as physics, not magic.

And since it's going to be something silly no matter what, just go with whatever tickles your fancy.
 

madwarper

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Gray-Philosophy said:
I know that magic in fantasy settings is usually by definition the opposite of scientific, in being supernatural and defying the laws of physics and all.
Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

What I've come up with so far is that my setting would have to have some kind of fictional type of energy (or whatever the correct term would be). With which any sufficiently focused creature could manipulate objects and like in the environment. While still, at least in theory, following the laws of physics.
So... Fullmetal Alchemist?
 

hermes

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Why not go with the Mass effect? Having the possibility of changing the mass of objects through technology without altering its other characteristics is pretty much magic, and allows for a variety of powers like: levitation, telekinesis, faster than light travel, infinite projectiles, impenetrable armors, etc. They even have surgically implanted neural interfaces that allow people to control those powers at will, at a distance and without the need for machines.
 

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AccursedTheory said:
It sounds like your looking for Element Zero [http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Element_zero].
madwarper said:
So... Fullmetal Alchemist?
It sounds to me more like the OP wants Midichlorians.
 

Disco Biscuit

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Gray-Philosophy said:
Contradictory title is contradictory

I know that magic in fantasy settings is usually by definition the opposite of scientific, in being supernatural and defying the laws of physics and all.

However! I'm currently playing around with creating a fictional setting for a world-building project, that includes a lot of typical fantasy tropes, while also adhering to the laws of physics and generally being a theoretically plausible universe.
This is going to be a matter of which tropes you're trying to include, and which laws of physics you're interested in. This is FICTION right? So the point isn't to be painfully accurate and make sure that you conserve your 4-momentum, right? You can't invent a particle that breaks the laws of physics, without re-writing those laws. That's ok of course, that's the whole point of theoretical and experimental particle physics, to search for something to confirm or crush a theory. Even more tantalizing is always the prospect of something new.

So on one hand, you never know what's possible and what the future holds. That's kind of the point of fantasy, and if you want to couch your fantasy in terms of, "In the future, humans discovered through their science, wonders which we today would call magical" that's always fine. It's not going to be rigorous or scientific, but then, you already identified the contradiction in "Scientific Magic". If you touch that bubble, it pops and only "Magic" or "Science" can ever be left.

Gray-Philosophy said:
As such, I want to include "magic". I want some kind of fictional source of energy, or type of particle, that in theory would allow mere mortals to manipulate matter around them. But I'm struggling with how to go about it due to my limited knowledge of above-elementary-school-grade-physics. So I come to you for aid, Escapists :D

What I've come up with so far is that my setting would have to have some kind of fictional type of energy (or whatever the correct term would be). With which any sufficiently focused creature could manipulate objects and like in the environment. While still, at least in theory, following the laws of physics.
Perhaps this energy would be stimulated by neural activity making it something like a will-governed type of telekinesis or some such.

How would you create magic, or "adaptable superpowers" that still follow the laws of physics? and might you have ideas for how I could develop my own idea?

Thank you for your time :)


I would've put this in the Games Discussion, but figured it probably belonged here since it isn't specifically about video games.
Lets just talk about telekinesis, because it is the perfect power for this discussion. Lets ignore any semantic issues of "magic" and "science" and I'll try to tackle what you're saying in the spirit that I think you mean it. If I'm wrong, let me know ok?

If you want to move something (and we can avoid most math here) like a lead brick, you're doing Work, expending energy, and generating heat. Lets assume that whatever your source of energy, all of that is still true. The more Work you do, the more energy you expend and the more heat you produce. The question then, aside from just how the energy source works or why it works or how you control it, is: What is the efficiency of your power? The answer might be: "How efficient do I want to make it in my story?"

HOWEVER, and here's where we get slightly physicky, there are limits if you're in this universe based on anything even remotely familiar with our current understanding of physics. Some of those limits have fancy names, but they describe things like;

How dense something can be in a certain state of matter[footnote]Degeneracy pressure, and The Pauli Exclusion Principle: https://universe-review.ca/R08-04-degeneracy.htm[/footnote]
How much information can be contained in a given volume of space[footnote]The Bekenstein Bound: https://plus.maths.org/content/bekenstein[/footnote]
And a lot of other theoretical limits on how "big" or "small" or "fast" or "slow" things can be.[footnote]http://news.mit.edu/2010/explained-shannon-0115
http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/cosmos/P/Planck+Units
and a lot more[/footnote]

You see what I mean? Even if you get a bunch of "White Dwarf Star Matter" for your super belt, or Unobtanium, you have limits. Then our current understanding of physics places all kinds of other nasty limits such as conserving momentum. When you fire a gun, you experience recoil. If you throw a ball, you expend energy bracing yourself and accelerating the ball. If you use TK of whatever stripe to throw a truck at someone, what's going to happen to you?

Now, I find all of this really fun, but in my experience I am not typical in that regard. Most people don't pick up a fantasy novel and expect a lesson in physics. Unless you're setting out to right truly HARD sci-fi, just try to stay within some broadly believable limits. It's magic after all, if you could explain why you're able to exert a force without an equal and opposite force being exerted then would it be magic?

The problem with "Eezo" or any other glossy pseudoscience is that it's just very VERY longhand for "Magic".
 

RJ 17

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Yeah, I'd say that Element Zero would be the closest approximation of what you're talking about. A naturally occuring substance that does various things depending on what kind of electrical charge is applied to it.

If you're wanting "magic based in reality", then the closest thing you could get to achieving that would be to have a singularity...an object with density so unimaginably high that it warps the fabric of space-time around it, thus utterly destroying the laws of physics as we know them. The problem with using such a thing (for your purposes in a fantasy world: say some sort of crystal or something) is that it would simply create a black hole and destroy the world you're working with.

But that's what it would take to create "physics-defying magic" that still "obeys the laws of physics." Per Stephen Hawking: there's a certain point when approaching a singularity that all physics equations simply stop working due to scope of numbers that you're dealing with. As such, the laws of physics - as we currently understand them - cease to apply the closer one gets to the center of a black hole.
 

Gray-Philosophy

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Hoh boy that's a lot of replies real fast. I'll segment my answers with spoilers to save space then, here we goes.


AccursedTheory said:
It sounds like your looking for Element Zero [http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Element_zero].
I'm not a physics major, but I feel fairly confident that magical powers like you describe are, simply put, impossible. There's no known way, or even theoretical scenario scientifically dreamed up, where the brain is capable of anything you describe. So no matter what, you're going to introduce something fantastical into the universe to allow it, even if it is, in universe, justifiable as physics, not magic.

And since it's going to be something silly no matter what, just go with whatever tickles your fancy.
hermes200 said:
Why not go with the Mass effect? Having the possibility of changing the mass of objects through technology without altering its other characteristics is pretty much magic, and allows for a variety of powers like: levitation, telekinesis, faster than light travel, infinite projectiles, impenetrable armors, etc. They even have surgically implanted neural interfaces that allow people to control those powers at will, at a distance and without the need for machines.
Silvanus said:
It sounds to me more like the OP wants Midichlorians.
RJ 17 said:
Yeah, I'd say that Element Zero would be the closest approximation of what you're talking about. A naturally occuring substance that does various things depending on what kind of electrical charge is applied to it.

Element Zero biotics, or indeed the force, actually does come close to what I had in mind. Something that gives the wielder innate powers rather than having to use a seperate piece of technology, while still having it's own physical limitations. I suppose according to the in-universe laws of physics at least.




madwarper said:
Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
That is true! but the idea was to give the "magic user" a more innate power, or at least something controlled without the use of seperate technology
So... Fullmetal Alchemist?
Not quite, but not too far either I suppose. A quick search describes the Alchemy process as transmuting objects through Comprehension, Deconstruction and Reconstruction while following the law of conservation, by using energy energy to de-/reconstruct the object.

The transmutation part is great, but it's this use of energy, and what type of energy used, that I want to get a firm gasp on.

I do however like the approach of Fullmetal Alchemist, definitely worth some more research for inspiration :)





Disco Biscuit said:
This is going to be a matter of which tropes you're trying to include, and which laws of physics you're interested in. This is FICTION right? So the point isn't to be painfully accurate and make sure that you conserve your 4-momentum, right? You can't invent a particle that breaks the laws of physics, without re-writing those laws. That's ok of course, that's the whole point of theoretical and experimental particle physics, to search for something to confirm or crush a theory. Even more tantalizing is always the prospect of something new.

So on one hand, you never know what's possible and what the future holds. That's kind of the point of fantasy, and if you want to couch your fantasy in terms of, "In the future, humans discovered through their science, wonders which we today would call magical" that's always fine. It's not going to be rigorous or scientific, but then, you already identified the contradiction in "Scientific Magic". If you touch that bubble, it pops and only "Magic" or "Science" can ever be left.

Good points.
The tropes I'm going for are the classic D&D/Tolkien/Medieval Fantasy stuff. Orcs, elves and men, dragons and monsters, lots of swordfighting, and of course magic. But instead of being a fantastically magical universe I'm trying to reinvent it from a more...I guess "realistic" perspective, in lack of a better word. Humanoid sentient races are all evolved from the same sentient humanoid ancestor because of improbable parallel evolution, there are no otherworldly dimensions for demons or angels, and "magic" turns out to not really be magic, but just a natural phenomenon with it's own physical limitations and so on.
Laws of physics will remain consistent in the sense that gravity applies similarly to our own planet, the law of conservation of mass applies and things of that nature which I for some reason can't name off the top of my head right now. Combatants can't hover mid-air while attacking dramatically, you won't find warriors with grossly oversized weapons and arms and there will be no such thing as stylized chainmail bikinis on the battlefield, because those simply don't work.

You're probably right about having to rewrite the laws of physics for the universe a little, to allow for this fictional particle to exist. And as far as "scientific magic" goes, I suppose it will technically be science. However the inhabitants of the world will consider it "magic" due to their inability to fully understand the process, despite being able to utilize it.



Lets just talk about telekinesis, because it is the perfect power for this discussion. Lets ignore any semantic issues of "magic" and "science" and I'll try to tackle what you're saying in the spirit that I think you mean it. If I'm wrong, let me know ok?

If you want to move something (and we can avoid most math here) like a lead brick, you're doing Work, expending energy, and generating heat. Lets assume that whatever your source of energy, all of that is still true. The more Work you do, the more energy you expend and the more heat you produce. The question then, aside from just how the energy source works or why it works or how you control it, is: What is the efficiency of your power? The answer might be: "How efficient do I want to make it in my story?"

HOWEVER, and here's where we get slightly physicky, there are limits if you're in this universe based on anything even remotely familiar with our current understanding of physics. Some of those limits have fancy names, but they describe things like;

How dense something can be in a certain state of matter
How much information can be contained in a given volume of space
And a lot of other theoretical limits on how "big" or "small" or "fast" or "slow" things can be.

You see what I mean? Even if you get a bunch of "White Dwarf Star Matter" for your super belt, or Unobtanium, you have limits. Then our current understanding of physics places all kinds of other nasty limits such as conserving momentum. When you fire a gun, you experience recoil. If you throw a ball, you expend energy bracing yourself and accelerating the ball. If you use TK of whatever stripe to throw a truck at someone, what's going to happen to you?

Now, I find all of this really fun, but in my experience I am not typical in that regard. Most people don't pick up a fantasy novel and expect a lesson in physics. Unless you're setting out to right truly HARD sci-fi, just try to stay within some broadly believable limits. It's magic after all, if you could explain why you're able to exert a force without an equal and opposite force being exerted then would it be magic?

The problem with "Eezo" or any other glossy pseudoscience is that it's just very VERY longhand for "Magic".
Telekinesis is perfect, and you're absolutely spot on. In fact I've often referred to this magic myself as super advanced telekinesis since it's abilities essentially only extend to affecting what is already tangible, albeit very thoroughly.

I think I see what you mean, although my brain is a little overwhelmed with information by now. If I understand correctly though, these are exactly the types of things I need to consider, or define for myself within my own theoretical system of laws of physics.
For the conservation of momentum, moving a truck might even be out of the question if it's going to exert reactive force on the caster. I've always imagined it being exhausting for the caster to use magic.


As an end product, what I imagine is that someone may be able to throw a fireball. But since you can't conjure matter from nothing, not to mention have fire without a fuel source, the caster would have to accumulate enough flammable particles from his surroundings (dust or whatever may be available), while simultaneously expending energy to heat this sphere of debris to the point of combustion, while also maintaining the flame one way or another, to finally throw the damn thing and ignite the intended target. All the while being at risk of setting himself on fire if he or she makes a mistake.

So what I need to do is figure out, or define, exactly how the caster is able to do this through will instead of throwing tinder and flint at their targets

Does that make sense?


I guess I'm really just trying to come up with a sciency excuse for magic, just like Eezo. I'd just like to make sure I understand enough to define how it works, instead of saying "there's this thing, it just works".
 

Neonsilver

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madwarper said:
Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
That is true! but the idea was to give the "magic user" a more innate power, or at least something controlled without the use of seperate technology
So... Fullmetal Alchemist?
Not quite, but not too far either I suppose. A quick search describes the Alchemy process as transmuting objects through Comprehension, Deconstruction and Reconstruction while following the law of conservation, by using energy energy to de-/reconstruct the object.

The transmutation part is great, but it's this use of energy, and what type of energy used, that I want to get a firm gasp on.

I do however like the approach of Fullmetal Alchemist, definitely worth some more research for inspiration :)

In Fullmetal Alchemist there are two types of alchemy, the one the Elrics are using takes the from plate tectonics. So something like using earthquakes to power their alchemy. The chinese like country uses a different form of alchemy, I'm not sure where they are getting their energy from, but I think it was a more mystical explanation like ley lines.
That was the explanation from the brotherhood anime and the manga.
In the first anime it somehow powered through a connection to a different universe, don't remember how exactly.


Another form of magic that might interest you would be sympathetic magic like it's used in kingkiller chronicles. There the user would form some kind of connection between one object and the object they want to manipulate. The more similar the objects the better the connection, even better when one object was a part of the other object. Through that connection they can transfer energy that energy either comes from themselves, body heat, or through another connection with something else, a fire for example.
 

madwarper

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Neonsilver said:
In Fullmetal Alchemist there are two types of alchemy, the one the Elrics are using takes the from plate tectonics. So something like using earthquakes to power their alchemy. The chinese like country uses a different form of alchemy, I'm not sure where they are getting their energy from, but I think it was a more mystical explanation like ley lines.
"Father" had pipes all throughout Amestria that pumped the power of his Philosopher's stone (from the people of Xerxes), that act as a barrier and cut off the Amertrians from the power of the tectonic plates. Thus, the Alchemy, that the Amestrains (Ed, Al and friends) use, draws its power from "father", which is why he was could disable it in the final fight... Until the "Reverse Transmutation Circle" was completed.

Alkahestry, that those from Xing (Mei and Scar) use, are powered by plate tectonics (ie. Chi), which "father" has no control over.
 

Neonsilver

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madwarper said:
"Father" had pipes all throughout Amestria that pumped the power of his Philosopher's stone (from the people of Xerxes), that act as a barrier and cut off the Amertrians from the power of the tectonic plates. Thus, the Alchemy, that the Amestrains (Ed, Al and friends) use, draws its power from "father", which is why he was could disable it in the final fight... Until the "Reverse Transmutation Circle" was completed.

Alkahestry, that those from Xing (Mei and Scar) use, are powered by plate tectonics (ie. Chi), which "father" has no control over.
Now I had to look that up, I always thought he only blocked part of the power most of the time, not replacing the energy source most of the time. According to the wiki, where I looked it up, you are right.
But considering they were able to use alchemy after the Reverse Transmutation Circle was used, implies that the alchemy that is taught in Amestris does use the tectonic plates, just that father is filling up whatever is used to draw that power with his philosophers stone. Otherwise they probably would have to relearn alchemy even with the finished circle.
Alchemy [http://fma.wikia.com/wiki/Alchemy]

In regards to alkahestry, it's only said that they are using the flow of chi of the earth itself, the dragon pulse. If this is ultimately the same power just accessed differently isn't clear.
Alkahestry [http://fma.wikia.com/wiki/Alkahestry]
 

Dimitriov

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As has been suggested, any type of physics explanation or justification for magic just comes off as silly to anyone who actually knows about it. That being said, if you want your magic to be realistic, and scientifically plausible you could use either technology or chemistry. You can do some pretty amazing things with chemistry.

However, what I would say is if you want to use magic you just go ahead and do it. What's really important is that is that it be internally consistent and logical. Your magic should have its own rules and follow them. That I think is what makes it believable within its own context.
 

MHR

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I remember Adventure Time's Princes Bubblegum insisting all magic was just science that wasn't explained. The time they visited the secret wizard's town, she noted that most of those wizards doing magic were just utilizing entanglement.

'Course that's all nonsense. Entanglement probably couldn't explain an unlimited amount of weirdness. Adventure Time though; high-concept sci-fi rigmarole.
 

Thaluikhain

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Clarke's Third Law has already been mentioned.

Anyway, define magic. Because you are using the internet to have this discussion, which would be considered magic to people 200 years ago.

That fictional energy you are looking for looks like "electricity" to me.

By comparison, nobody really knows what 200 years hence will be like, it's not anything goes, but there's a lot of wiggle room. However, it shouldn't be considered magic, anymore than a typewriter is today.