Ever wonder how magic would work if a fictional setting was more scientific?


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    I frankly hav put a bit of thought into it, and it’s still confusing to me... If magic were to, for instance, have been introduced to our world all of a sudden one day, than that would be one thing because it would be geared towards the physics of our world. If a being from another reality that could use magic came to our world came to ours however and somehow retained their abilities, than physics would be totally devastated...
    This would be especially true for magic involving chanting or casting spells via speech. Why this kind in particular... well we don’t have spirits in our atmosphere now do we?

    Or rather we haven’t found any proof that there isn’t spirits in the air... maybe that’s were we go when we die. In which case that mage from another world would be ruining the afterlife of the entire history of Earth...

    So the whole voice thing seems a bit like I have no idea what I’m talking about right? Well if there is one thing I know, it’s vibrations. Assuming our planet doesn’t have magic or spirits or whatever magic tract the mage’s world had, the only way for them to create a phenomenon through only their voice would be for the vibrations in their words to be agitating the particles in the atmosphere or soil in the case of Earth Magic.

    On the topic of Earth Magic actually, why do they persist on calling it ‘Earth Magic’ on world where the planet isn’t actually Earth? You don’t call Martian Soil ‘Earth’, but a planet in an entirely different reality with bonus stuff mixed into what would have been Earth Soil? Definitely ‘Earth Magic’ material. These are sarcastic thoughts...

    Back to the magic, let me give an example of what I mean; So the mage decides to test out their Fire Magic on one of these metal monsters that have a high pitched cry (or a ‘car’ for the local inhabitants). They begin a chant and the spell fires off. How would this happen in a world without magic? Air pressure mostly.

    Who here has watched the GameTheory THE SCIENCE of LoZBotW? In the video, Austin breaks down how hot and cold air interact with one another. When something is heated, the molecules in it spreads out creating a low pressure area. When something is cooled, the molecules in it contract and tighten those creating a high pressure area. Molecules travel from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure and that is how tornadoes and stuff happen. Cool init?

    I seriously hope some people understand where I am going with this, but for the ones who don’t, I’ll explain further; If this Mage created a giant burst of flames by simply speaking, than the world would be seriously screwed as air pressure changes from the sudden rise in heat would cause serious damage to not only the car or anyone within a good half kilometer of distance from the Mage, but the Mage themself would suffocate because of the lack of Oxygen in the air that all got gobbled up by a spout of flame and the weather of the surrounding area would become totally hectic. I’m talking like a massive change in climate conditions the world over.

    If this Mage were to unleash a fire spell in my hometown of Portland, OR, then I might be a bit happy for a little while with the increased sunshine, but the following storms would be a nightmare. And this is all me assuming that this Mage would fire this spell right now during winter. If the Mage released this Fire Spell in the Summer, than we’d be looking to become the United States version of Egypt like really quick.

    Basically, hope to whatever you pray to whether it be a god, waifu or internet provider that we never see true magic in this world. Because if we do, Than Charon is going to get very busy very fast...



  • What you're asking is not really a matter of it being more "scientific" but rather more "realistic."

    Take for example the universe in "The Irregular at Magic High School." The magic in that setting is extremely scientific in nature, with it being researched and developed as science do nowadays, and having most of our own physics as part of their system. Heck, actual physics take a huge part of magic in that setting, here's a simple example: As you said, cooling something makes the molecules contract and slow, which would make a small atmospheric implosion, but that's in order to make up for the sudden loss of kinetic energy. In "Irregular"'s, this is circumvented by a certain mage by redirecting that kinetic energy in order to propel the ice made with magic as a proyectile. The series makes a huge emphasis into conservation of matter and energy as part of it's magic system, so that magic that respects physical laws circumventing them instead of breaking them is far easier to apply and put less strain on magicians.

    Another example would be the Nanoha universe, where magic is treated as techonology as well. Mages are pretty much mana batteries in that world and magic is considered NOT physical in nature, so physics laws don't apply to it, but it's still a matter of scientific research in order to produce optimal magic control devices and new spells.

    I'm sure there's plenty of other worlds where magic is "scientific" in nature but those are the first ones that come to mind. Don't confuse science with realism. And with that out of the way, I think that the best example would something along the lines of "Irregular." Not breaking physics but working around them. We'd still have to lay first how magic works in the first place, without that we can't apply science to it.


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    @paulnamida I like you. You explain things very well.
    I will admit that my claim was a bit of a stretch when in reality Alchemy eventually became Chemistry. I will however hold the point that either ‘Earth Magic’ should be called ‘(insert planet of setting here) Magic’ or we should retcon the naming of our planet to fit with the God theme. I vote for the latter mostly because I want Earth to be called Gaia.

    I will however ask one more question. Just one more; Light doesn’t have a physical presence, but it’s affected by physics... So does that mean magic in Nanoha is an energy outside of that stories reality as well?


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    @paulnamida Wait a second... Sorry I lied, I have a few more questions...
    If the series make the point of kinetic energy being used to push forward an icicle spike in a situation where the kinetic energy of the actual spike is low to none, than where is the kinetic energy that launches it coming from? It’s Newton all over again!
    On top of that, you can’t make something out of nothing. Nothing comes from nothing. Doesn’t that imply that the spike is made of compressed Hydrogen and Oxygen in the atmosphere? There’s not actually that much of either of those in our everyday air supply... plus the suffocation thing would still apply unless this was basically the world of the Super Mario series (another SCIENCE reference and it’s not even noon... that never bodes well).

    Finally (for now), I haven’t read Irregular, but I have been wanting to try it out. If they do chant their spells I’m that series though, than I’ll probably be trying to tear the series apart through my own Science-esc approach.
    Oh, and just to clarify; It’s only magic systems that require speech to activate all forms of magic that annoy me and make NGDS (looking at you Arifureta).



  • @oathkeeper95 I like "Soil Magic" as with Earth they aren't referring to the planet but rather the soil itself, but it can get confusing. And yeah, you are right, the whole Magic System in "Irregular" is physics based, for example the spell I mentioned first uses Convergence-magic to compress air molecules (mostly carbon dioxide) into dry ice, then the sudden energy loss is offset by reusing that energy through Acceleration-magic to propell the ice bullets into the enemy. It goes to the extent of stating that the higher the thermal energy conversion, the faster the bullet will travel, Energy and Matter Conservation Law. I'd suggest reading their Magic Classification system for kicks, unlike fantasy stories with element based classification, "Irregular" classifies magic on how it actually works a.k.a. how it affects physics: here. Another great example of physics based magic is one called Inferno, where by using Oscillation-magic you reduce the kinetic energy in an area freezing it, and then use the energy sapped from that area to overheat another into a blazing hell. Of course, ther are still law breaking magics but they are stated to be extremely difficult to control by the average magician, following physics is the way to go for most magicians

    And in Nanoha, well yeah, Magic is not actually physical, the Magic Administration Bureau has placed a ban on research of physical weapons because of it's dangers, those magic blasts you see are not light or plasma, but mana based. Mages have an organ called a Linker Core which produces mana, it replenishes slowly but can convert ingested nutrients into mana for a faster recovery. Their brains work on the calculations needed to use that mana to perform magic in the form of "Spells", this can be aided by external Devices that simplify the calculations needed (most Devices shown in the series are Intelligent Devices, coming with an embedded AI, outperforming normal Devices, but it's implied the latter are more common for laymen). SOME mages do have a magic conversion affinity, meaning they can transform that magical energy into other forms of energy innately (so far, only fire and electricity conversion have been shown), but this can also be done through conventional magic, albeit being more costly than just spamming magic beams. Mana does kind of come out of nowhere so it doesn't really meshes with our understanding of physics though.


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    @paulnamida huh... I didn’t actually think about the Biology factor there... I guess it is possible to generate an energy within the body (after all we still have no idea what half of the human DNA is even for let alone the brain), so I guess that is plausible...
    thinking about it a bit more clearly, maybe chanting is more supposed to give the caster a better idea of what they are dealing with.
    Like in Isekai Smartphone, Linze learns Bubble Bomb as a ‘Baulistic Bubble’ and Touya’s Shining Javelin is ‘Sacred Shining Spear’...


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    So basically now I have a bit of a better understanding of how magic works... That doesn’t stop it from being terrifying, but at least there are series that take a more practical view on magic...
    If I ever make my series about a world where Humans are the ‘fictional’ creatures, than this will be great assistance. Granted I need to still look for a good excuse for how causality allowed that world to become like our own...


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    @oathkeeper95
    "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"

    Clarke's Third Law

    "Any sufficiently systematized magic is inditingusable from science" - not sure who said it - might've been Heinlein. Some classic (in English) Sci-fi stories use the trope of science vs magic (or the rules of the universe change to support one over the other), Again Heinlein. A fun romp is the "tvTropes" wiki - they analyse this in some detail and site anime/magna that feature it

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SufficientlyAnalyzedMagic

    • also saw your 'biology' comment - junk DNA isn't FOR anything... it just is.


  • @jon-mitchell junk DNA just is indeed... Then again it can cause some nasty shit like Huntington's Disease


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    @jon-mitchell I suppose there is a point to that effect... Science and History have a rather rough relationship after all... I think that’s and undeniable truth that all humans on this planet know.

    The whole ‘DNA’ thing was more a way of me saying ‘Evolution is just the weirdest thing’, though I guess it’s more Genetics than full on evolution...

    @paulnamida Is there another reason in Nanoha for that ‘Linker Core’ thing? I ask because I haven’t actually seen the series myself. It seems like if it’s a naturally occurring organ in the body that generating mana would rather be a side effect than the main use of the thing. I mean, magic wouldn’t exist in that series without the organ right, so the organ must have came first... what was the organ used for before it was able to create magic?


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    There's a light novel that lightly focuses on science students researching how stuff works in a fantasy world as observers. I forget the title. xC


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    @terrence Given what you just said, while it may not be the main focus, My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World has the Survival Club... Maybe that’s what you’re thinking?


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    @oathkeeper95 said in Ever wonder how magic would work if a fictional setting was more scientific?:

    @terrence Given what you just said, while it may not be the main focus, My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World has the Survival Club... Maybe that’s what you’re thinking?

    Nah, this one:

    "When we go to a different world we first confirm the law of physics"

    ("俺たちは異世界に行ったらまず真っ先に物理法則を確認する")

    alt text

    It's a Kadokawa / Enterbrain work, so tough one to get localized I think.


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    @terrence Darnit... that one looks like it would be a good read...


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    There is actually one called Isekai Mahou wa Okureteru!/The Different World Magic Is Too Far Behind!

    Its an isekai where one of the MCs is actually a mage on Earth, where magic has always existed but has gone underground.

    Now the main story doesn't get into it (yet) as the story is currently still in the isekai world, but in the Gaiden short story takes place on Earth and it goes over how magic functions on Earth and gives you an idea just why mages don't use modern technology much.

    You see magic creates something like an anti-technology field as it warps reality to function. The more powerful magic in the area, the more technology starts breaking down.

    Its mentioned that the MC has trouble using even basic things like ticket booths, and automatic doors refuses to open for him, and the MC knows he's in an area with extremely powerful magic because the flashlight he's using suddenly breaks down.


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    @village-idiot Now see, if I do end up making a story that involves magic, I’ll still have it be less used in the story than technology because of the inconveniences of it (again the whole ‘chanting makes NGDS’ stuff). That is personally how I see a world of magical creatures sans humans being able to reach several of the same events that have happened in our world...
    Granted I would name ‘Earth Magic’ ‘Gaia Magic’ because again, WHY DID WE NAME OUR PLANET AFTER FREAKING DIRT?!?!


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    So a while after this post, I realize that there are some anime, games and etc. that actually make sense with the chanting.

    Let’s look at Cardcaptor Sakura for instance; Each card Sakura uses are able to use great and terrific powers if a special phrase is said. In the case of her staff, it is capable of sealing and interacting with the cards under Sakura’s control by her using a chant. What and how these cards are enchanted with and is beyond me, but it’s also possible that the cards were used to seal spirits from Clowreeds journey through the world... ah well...

    The other example I came up with is much better anyways, The Shouts of Skyrim. Skyrim has about... what 30 individual shouts with different effects? Well the majority if not all of those could be explained by vibration, including the infamous Fus-Ro-Dah. Using the force of vibration, the molecules in the air are pushed together in such a way that they condense and allow them to push anything in the path they follow.

    Shouts also can’t be used in rapid succession without modding, and this too can be explained through vibration. The molecules after the Shout would take some time to return to their natural state even if the Dragonborn were to move away from the area the Shout was cast because unlike light, sound bounces off of walls and more to the point air. That’s why you can eavesdrop for sound around the corner but can’t so much watch them without recording equipment or a series of mirrors.

    Anyways, just wanted to state that there are exceptions to the rules. In the case of Magic Chanting, it’s mostly Enchanted Items or short bursts of sound. Here’s hoping that someone writes about a character who uses magic by grunting. XD


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    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MisappliedPhlebotinum

    Basically this.

    I think the best two stories that illustrate the problems of the two together are: Alfred Bester's Star Light, Star Bright and Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad in terms of the problems of having magic in a realistic universe (most people are too stupid/unimaginative to use the technology appropriately).

    From what I've read so far, most authors don't have the imagination and grounding in science and engineering to understand that certain kinds of magic basically would prohibit whole lines of physics research and architecture. If you have a blast kinetic spell that ordinary people in the setting (not necessarily everyone, but there is someone in the village who would know), castles are outdated immediately/never would have been built (where the howitzers in the 16th century made that occur). Anything that is a pure energy spell and still follows Earth physics of how energy works could be repurposed as time travel.

    The Other World Pharmacist really drives it home for me, as I have the pharmacy and pharmacology (and pharmacognosy/natural products chemistry) knowledge that the protagonist claims to have (which the Americans are definitely superior to the Japanese in), but it's really laughable how unrealistic that just having knowledge would be in the setting. Puerto Rico is more advanced than the society the isekai is based in, yet, it's basically impossible to reestablish something as simple as USP-grade water supplies (which the US is really hurting for right now) without seeding from an already advanced manufacturing economy. Even if the protagonist had every reference and those special powers of being able to purify every ingredient, it wouldn't work even at a pharmacy level much less an industrial level because the inter-related technologies just are not there. The amount of basic machining, carpentry, and material science (metallurgy, ceramics, petroleum chemistry) necessary for even 17th century pharmacy practice is just not accessible with the medieval blacksmith. And anything that would require synthesis requires glassware and purification technique that is just not possible without fairly advanced knowledge of engines and access to reference standard chemicals which are dangerous/poisonous to mine and extract with humans.

    But that's not why I read light novels, if I wanted realistic knowledge, I would pick up a Remington's (the book that teaches you how to make positively anything in pharmacy with modern reagents, including the Schedule I's). I pick these books up to get away from my day job.


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    @alocervancouver I have a theory that being ‘intelligent’ and being ‘smart’ are two totally different things. An Intelligent Person can explain anything using the fastest reaches of language itself. A Smart Person uses smaller and easier to understand words to make at least a vast majority of subjects understandable.
    I fit you you the ‘Intelligent’ camp right now...


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    @oathkeeper95 said in Ever wonder how magic would work if a fictional setting was more scientific?:

    A Smart Person uses smaller and easier to understand words to make at least a vast majority of subjects understandable.

    I'm wicked smaht! =P

    (I find that I took a hit in intelligence sometime between 6th and 8th grade to work on socializing... Lotta good that did, but hey, I can talk on the Facemap and Twitbox thingamajigs now).