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Did you know this description is actually limited to 200 characters? When it says "50 characters left", it's lying. | If you 'watch' me, expect to be interrogated for your reasons.

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  • 161 weeks
    World Seeds: Running out of magic

    NOTE: this is a "World Seed" posting - you're welcome to take these ideas and run with them in your own story (getting a credit would be nice, but isn't strictly necessary - though I'd want at least to know there is a story that got inspired by this). See where it might take you. Good luck.

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    1 comments · 214 views
  • 213 weeks
    Weather, Cutie Marks, and the Everfree Forest - in an Equestria with a Source of Magic

    Previously, I have discussed one particular way of merging the idea of a "rational" universe, with Equestria's magic being present. There, I proposed the existence of a construct I have named the Source of Magic - an abstract construct big and powerful enough to be capable of performing feats considered "magical"

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    0 comments · 252 views
  • 228 weeks
    On the subject of magic in a rational universe

    So, I've been reading a lot, and this has been bugging me, quite a bit actually.

    How could the concept of "magic" be explained in a universe that is rational? For example, our universe.

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    4 comments · 337 views

On the subject of magic in a rational universe · 7:18pm May 12th, 2019

So, I've been reading a lot, and this has been bugging me, quite a bit actually.

How could the concept of "magic" be explained in a universe that is rational? For example, our universe.

Note: for the rest of this posting, unless noted otherwise, the word "magic" will refer to the concept - and observed effects - of effecting control over matter and energy, as seen on the show "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic".

In most stories posted to this site, magic is just accepted a priori, or: as a fact of reality, one not requiring any proof, a "starting point" if you will. Now, I don't have a problem with that - the world of "My Little Pony" is a world that is inherently magical, and most stories told in-universe depend on that magic being there. In fact, the entire concept of "Friendship is Magic" relies on magic essentially permeating the setting, dictating what 'goes', to work.

Those stories are perfectly fine in my book.

Incidentally, these are not the stories I want to discuss today.

The stories I want to look at are all the "human in Equestria" stories that skirt science fiction in one way or another, usually tending to visit the 'harder' end of the Mohs Scale of Science-Fiction Hardness - stories like Pathfinder 5, Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger and similar - where humanity gets a chance to explore the concept of 'magic' in a rational, physics-based reality that we all know and hate with a vengeance.

My reasoning is such: the entire concept of magic, as observed on the show, revolves around affecting meta-information about reality. It is not a method of exerting force per se - it is more a method of directing force to perform what the wielder wishes to perform. As such, this ability would need to be placed along similar such meta-abilities, such as: driving, operating machinery, computer programming, etc.

What all of these meta-abilities share is a particular quality: all of them are at least once-removed from the physical effects they affect, usually via control and amplification systems, which translate one kind of input into another, "action" to a disassociated "reaction". Turning a wheel to change the direction of motion of a vehicle is an abstraction - it does not mimic the actual process required to achieve this change.

Similarly, the way magic is performed in the show (and its fanfiction) does not mimic the actual physical/chemical processes that would be required, in steps, to achieve many of the presented effects in a universe that is solidly grounded in physical reality.

Note: the discussion of how one could directly express such physical/chemical changes at will, coordinated or not, is beyond the scope of this posting.

The existence of such a force, a meta-force - a force that takes the understanding of concepts in order to translate between them - is not only outside of the scope of all of the physical laws humanity has discovered. It is, in fact, outside of the scope of the logic humanity has used, over the centuries, to discover these laws of the universe.

What I'm trying to say is that magic - as presented on the show - not only doesn't fit physical laws, it doesn't fit the thinking required to understand physical laws. In other words, by using human science - the same science that has uncovered most of the secrets the universe held from us - it is literally highly improbable to describe the laws required for magic to exist.

This leads one to a very startling conclusion: assuming both human science (as implied) and equestrian magic (as observed), implies the existence of an entire category of universal laws that explicitly lie outside of the laws of physics and reality that human science believes describe all of reality as we know it. It's like finding out that in that 0.01% we don't yet understand, exists a whole other world of laws comparable in scope to what we already know - almost as if the universe runs on two separate sets of laws, that are at times at odds to each other, and that we've only explored half of reality as we know it.

Now, this conclusion has issues - glaring ones - as soon as it is proposed, most notably in the "Occam's razor" departament: the proposition that the universe runs on two opposing sets of laws incurs a complexity penalty the size of the universe itself, in a manner of speaking. As such, I reject this explanation on that basis.

The other possible conclusion one can come up with, is that the minds of the unicorns are performing these coordinations on their own, in real-time. Which is to say, that the unicorn brains are, in effect, giant biological calculators, that are employed to perform physical calculations from "cause" to "effect", and then use vast amounts of energy to replicate these physical processes in reality.

Now, the problem I have with that is that in order to simulate a whole physical world (in order to perform changes on-the-fly), you need a simulator that is bigger than the simulation itself. Therefore, the collective number of neurons a unicorn brain would have would be not nearly enough to process, for example, the number of atoms of a pegasus, in order to perform a transmutation or teleportation. At the very least, not in real-time. I could accept this being possible under intense concentration over the span of weeks, possibly months. Instantaneous travel? Rejected.

There is however a simpler explanation, one that doesn't require change in the universe, and doesn't require unicorn brains the size of planets.

The Theory of the Source of Magic.

This theory has been explored in other fictional works - most notably Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. It allows one to join together the ideas of "a physical universe" and "a magical universe", by way of a mediator - a being or existence that, for all intents and purposes, has immense ability to influence the physical world at large, in complex ways, via manipulation of physical and chemical energies (nothing outside the context of "physical laws" we know).

This existence - whatever it is - is capable of performing the "magical feats" that are associated with magic. It satisfies the requirements of "huge brain" by posessing processing power adequate to this task (say, a planet-sized brain). It also satisfies the requirement of "physical universe" by only performing actions possible within the constraints of the laws of physics. And finally, it satisfies the "meta-magical" requirement of magic: that the "cause" (spell, action, potion - whatever) indirectly leads to "effect" (a physical manifestation of intent).

In a world with a Source of Magic in it, the tools of magic (spells, incantations, potions etc.) are essentially instructions for the Source and in no way actually related to the effect that is expected. By invoking magic, you are indirectly invoking the mechanisms of the Source, and it performs these changes to reality on your behalf. Think of it as using a computer program - hitting keys on the keyboard has no relation to speaking or writing, but words appear on your computer screen.

In a world with a Source of Magic in it, magic is merely an abstraction, and the real cause of these changes resides entirely elsewhere. In such a world, the Source knows and - in some way - understands that pegasi should achieve flight based on wing movements, regardless of their wings being able to sustain the lift required to do so (this would also imply that Scootaloo's inability to fly is not really related to her wings' structure and/or size, but rather to their ability to instruct the Source of Magic in effecting her flight).

In a world with a Source of Magic in it, the science of learning to use magic is more related to the unicorns' ability to construct intelligible meta-instructions for the Source to recognize and carry out. In this world, you can simply instruct the Source to turn a rock into a potted plant - and let it figure out the meaning of both, and the manipulations required to complete the transition.

In this reality, it is also logical for such transitions and effects to eventually 'wear off' - the Source would have an account of how things, for lack of a better phrase, "should be", and would be capable of eventually reverting them back to such states (this also makes a fair amount of sense in terms of both efficiency and cost, considering that - if we're grounding the premise in a physical reality, energy costs are very real and need to be addressed; no spell could last forever).


Comments ( 4 )

this has been wisely made it, congrats for doing this so we can understand better the concept of the magic as a meta-force that directs reality instead of bending, breaking, making a new reality.

Thank you for the comment.

You're of course welcome to use this concept when building a story - I'd love to read something that elaborates on this.

Wow, just wow. I'm seriously a Pagan/Wiccan and I fully believe in the Duality Theory that there in the universe lies in on itself twice to "balance" the forces that they act upon one another. We've always wondered what happens beyond our deaths and while others dream of true death others seeks to live in the there-after. Our brains give off a storm of energy and so much of it is wasted. Perhaps that with time more will look to other means.

And it's not to say that I do not trust technology's influence on our world. I for one will embrace our future robot overlords, and become the one to ponder more on magic. All that Entropy has to go someplace right? Why not magic be another word for entropy? What if the unicorns being able to start a reaction, they clearly explore magic as a reaction based system plus a little of FMA alchemy thrown in. Pegasi may have the ability to shroud themselves or even have it be as a natural trait for them to walk on clouds. It would explain their light- yet durable frames. Could it be that these ponies themselves alter reality at a quantum level by starting these butterfly effect reactions? Clearly, if spells go wrong shit can hit the fan as we've seen in the show. They could travel in time by only a day because they only thought about time travel at that time or perhaps it could be that they could only keep a stable jump within that time frame. We've only seen it once so there's a lot else going on clearly. Earth ponies clearly have an effect on the land which goes really unexplained(what a tragedy really...T0T) now that the show is ending.

Science cannot ever really learn Nature as She is random and does not ever play favorites. She can cut your air supply, poison your crops, drown you and so on but she cradles us for we are her creation and pitties us. Yet it is without technology now that Nature cannot define but listens too. Technology should be used to translate Nature just how the Unicorns, Pegasi, Earth Ponys, and ect do. We just kinda lost ourselves to the hums and clicks of machines and forgot her tongue.


Why not magic be another word for entropy?

Well, I'm going to have to argue with this statement, because "entropy" already has a well-defined meaning in the sciences. So let me just jump into it.

In simple terms, "order" is any configuration of energy that can be further simplified. "Chaos", on the other hand, cannot be further simplified: energy is distributed in a uniform manner, and without new energy being added to - or energy somehow escaping from - the reference frame, no further change can occur. This is called the "thermodynamic equilibrium" for a given system (also called "maximum entropy", because that's what it is), and is quite likely the "final destination" for our universe, too - the so-called "heat death" of the universe, where the energy distribution (matter is also a form of energy! and we have Einstein to thank for figuring that bit out) reaches the final, evenly-distributed configuration, and no further change can occur because every place is already at 'optimal' energy.

In that state: matter no longer exists, there's no difference between "hot" and "cold"... Once change cannot occur, time ceases its flow (time is defined as change from one perceivable moment to the next) and the universe has - for all intents and purposes - ended.

You're welcome to look for a different word, though, because you clearly had some sort of an orderly configuration in mind!

Science cannot ever really learn Nature as She is random and does not ever play favorites.

I will have to disagree with you there - science was thought up as a method to, eventually, describe every part of reality. You may be thinking of the "supernatural", which by many accounts would seem to "defy science", but science - by its very ideal - sets out to describe that, too!

In fact, everything and anything that exists is under science's purview. And I mean literally everything. If it exists, it cannot be "supernatural". In fact, there is no such thing as "supernatural", only "unexplained". Yet.

As for nature, we've already learned much, and each time we see there's more to learn. I'd say that we've learned things you wouldn't believe, but I don't have good examples to cite for you off the top of my head. Apologies for that.

Technology should be used to translate Nature just how the Unicorns, Pegasi, Earth Ponys, and ect do. We just kinda lost ourselves to the hums and clicks of machines and forgot her tongue.

If there's one thing that's valid for the sake of itself, it's scientific discovery. What you're talking about is applied engineering - taking something nature came up with, and making a thing that does it similarly, to a degree of similiarity that it's for all intents and purposes equivalent. Hell, we can make "mechanical trees" that can do more CO2 sequestration and oxygen recirculation than any tree on the planet (or any 50 of them together).

Our destiny, if such exists, is to keep changing. We may be moving away from nature... but is that such a bad thing? You're welcome to disagree with me here, but survival isn't about having "natural" things, it's about having things that allow us to survive. As the environment changes, we adapt - either ourselves, or the environment.

Now, I don't mind seeing nature with a personality - personhood, if you will. Why not, it makes for interesting stories.

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