• Member Since 17th Feb, 2012
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Violet CLM


Star Swirl the Bearded, exiled by Princess Platinum and worried for his continued survival, sends a letter to Clover the Clever briefly detailing his views on ponykind's origins, the nature of the physical world, and the future of his species.

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 28 )

You know, I've always figured that Equestria runs on something closer to Aristotelian physics instead of Newtonian, and this fits right in to that.

3735149 This is pre-Aristotelian here... one thing I didn't even try to touch was the stars, which if you think about it, would have no reason to move across the Equestrian sky over the course of the year. So maybe Anaximander would be right?

This is a great ponification of ancient world views! And it make perfect sense... given the circumstances.

This is neat. There's a kind of tension here, because you've gone for a nod to De Rerum Natura with the title, but your Star Swirl doesn't actually seem to be pony!Lucretius - more like Thales, or as you say Anaximander - because the main quality of Lucretius to a modern reader is being terrifyingly implausibly right and your Star Swirl doesn't come across that way.
Is the idea that Clover is going to be Lucretius and tidy up his master's thoughts into something more thoroughgoingly... well, physical?

(Also your Star Swirl proposes a falsification test and that's totally OOC!!1! :twilightsmile:)

4001814 It's something of a smorgasbord, really. You're right that there's little Lucretius about the actual text (unless you count trying to explain lightning), but "Concerning Things" is just the most perfect title and I couldn't leave it be. Then there's a hint of Ovid with the banishment, some Herodotus with the random unlikely anecdotes being taken as purest truth, and a general scooping of unreliable narrator by giving Star Swirl his own unconscious racism while making him espouse racial unity at the very same time. Clover's position is more the Plato to Star Swirl's Socrates--note that the preface is in italics, but the text is not. There's simply no way to know which ideas were in the original and which ones Clover added later.

As for being "terrifyingly implausibly right" -- eh, it's hard to know! For instance, do you have any reason to believe Equestria to be a sphere, other than your knowledge of a different universe, considering that the sun and moon appear to revolve around it instead of the other way around? Or any reason to believe the stars to be distant suns, other than your knowledge of a different universe, considering that four of them move to the moon and release Luna from it?

>For instance, do you have any reason...
I don't! My intent was much vaguer; just that Lucretius was interestingly prescient-seeming about our later physics, whereas your Star Swirl's stuff here... doesn't feel to me like something Twilight would think "wow, he was basically right" about from within her own frame of reference.
(But this is weak, not least because we don't have any good info on the Equestrian magic system so we don't know to what extent SS's magic expertise locally qualified him to do physics.)

I don't have any reason to think Equestria's a sphere, and some reason to think it's not (as you note) although I would expect Twilight to know (and she should definitely have a better model of stars than Star Swirl did, given she has access to calculus and high-powered telescopes; enough to know if "aiding in Her escape" is a usual thing for Equestrian!stars to do, or a weird thing :pinkiegasp: ).
I do think that if it isn't a sphere, that is in some sense suspicious, but Twilight wouldn't necessarily be able to draw the same conclusion.

This was fascinating, but I can't help but suspect that Star Swirl is, like the philosophers who inspired him, wise but often wrong. For all the anecdotes he offers about other scientists testing their theories, he offers no proof of his own, just supposition and confirmation bias. He supports his arguments well, but offers nothing concrete to back up his theory.

Mind you, this is still excellently thought out and could very well be the case for Equestria in many areas. But the lack of experimental rigor rankles me, especially given the stories of Inquiry and the pegasus tribes. Star Swirl doesn't have the excuse of not knowing of the scientific method.
...On the other hand, some of his hypotheses seem difficult, dangerous, or downright impossible to test. So there is that. :twilightsheepish:

In any case, a great bit of world-building and natural philosophy. Thank you for it. :twilightsmile:

4274584 That's fair! Looking back, I think I felt wary of including any concrete experiments because that would have required me to say that Equestria actually does (or does not) work this way. As you can probably tell from other comments I've written here, I don't think it works in the same way our universe does, but that doesn't mean there aren't other possibilities, so I didn't want to commit to anything. (Also, experiments would probably be stories of their own.)

Author Interviewer

This is fucking brilliant. How has this been overlooked for so long, that is a goddamned tragedy and I am going to do something about it. >:B

Wow, that was really well done. I especially liked the commentary about Friendship being like gravity and things closer to the earth are more friendly.

It explains Fluttershy's desire to stay close to the ground.

So Physics is Friendship? Huh.

You've got the beginnings of a brony religion here. Take that, Jedi Church!

Unique and extremely clever at ever corner. Congrats on the RCL feature. This is no doubt an "exemplar of the genre" :pinkiesmile:

That was fascinating. At the start it seemed a bit unfair on Starswirl. Giving all the spells he supposedly wrote, he must have had a bit more insight than this... I guess the parallel here is that while nearly everything the ancient Greeks wrote on science was wrong, they did lay the foundations of mathematics. Starswirl was a genius in some areas, but he didn't understand how to do science, and stuck in his lonely exile, viewed friendship as a theoretical concept.

Fast forward a few millenia and Twilight finds a copy of the document in the library, skims through, then casts it aside as unscientific waffle and more nonsense about friendship - The fate of Equestria does not rest on me making friends - In due course she completes Starswirl's unfinished spell - realising what he does not - that just as you can't do science without experiments, you can't study friendship without making friends. Then she picks up the old manuscript again and takes another look...

6611644 To be fair, there's more to know about Star Swirl now than there was when this was written. :) And even now I don't get the impression that writing spells was ever his defining characteristic.

Fair play. And nice work.

:moustache: Ugh, come on, Twilight. We're gonna be late for the Nightmare Night festival. Huh? Are you that one kooky grandpa from Ponyville Retirement Village?

:twilightoops: I'm Star Swirl the Bearded!


:twilightblush: Father of the amniomorphic spell?


:twilightangry2: Did you even read that book I gave you about obscure unicorn history?

:moustache: Oh - you mean that old nutter with those crazy ideas about lightning, who couldn't tell the different between friendship between ponies and the force of gravity between two massive objects. That Star Swirl the Bearded.

:facehoof: Spike, how many times have I told you that just because the ancients were wrong about many things, we should not ignore their writings or dismiss their contributions to scholarship.

:moustache: Yeah. It's a great costume. Grandpa!

Since I'm a physicist, even the title alone has sufficiently grabbed my attention.

I am not sure how I feel about this :twilightoops:

The ball’s natural inclination is toward Friendship, and so it moves toward the center of the all things, namely the world.

These should be swapped, I think.

our only hope lies in a grander Friendship, a broader Herd Instinct, one that join all the races, all together, in some kind of Harmony


Contrary to popular beliefs: despite not understanding friendship, Starswirl was in fact a very friendly unicorn. He was just very enthusiastic.

This is one of the best fanfictions i’ve read on this site. Absolutely brilliant, especially the way Star Swirl came to the correct conclusion using the wrong arguments at the end. This goes into my favorites.

I love this. Totally feels like a brilliant mind caught in the violent childhood of a society, trying to make sense of the physical world with raw animal logic. It's easy to see how his work became so influential to the theory of magic, and also why he seems to have fallen out of fashion leading up to the Friendship Enlightenment.
I wish more of Clover's own writings from the period had survived. I think I read somewhere that her political treatises were a large influence on the early calsomnians, who became the Lunites, so it doesn't surprise me that it's mostly her editions of other ponies' work that made it through the Sun Age, but it's really frustrating reading second hand accounts of a pony's legendary "cleverness" when they've been reduced to such a facilitatory role by history.
Anyway, great stuff here all around.

Iteresting Letter from Starswirl to his apprentice, I like looking at his theories on the origins of Ponykind.

I love how he's arrived at so many wrong conclusions with a perfectly logical path of reasoning. Feels like the Greek philosophy I learned back in school.

Even with what we've learned about Star Swirl since this was written, I feel like this is all perfectly in-character for him.

This is beautiful. :)
Perfect reasoning with utterly wrong assumptions and results that then lead to the correct conclusion regarding the matter at hand. Very Greek.

Ah, this is amazing! It strikes me as very Aristotelian - lots of teleology and talking about "the natural place of things."
Very well-written and entertaining to read.

I reviewed this story as part of Read It Later Reviews #66.

My review can be found here.

If we are to assent to Starswirl's account, Friendship literally is Physics. :trollestia:

Anyway, this was nicely executed. I can recall (and had learned) far too little of Greek Philosophy to really understand which bits drew parallels to which author, but that did little to hinder my enjoyment. Even though we don't know enough about Equestria to know which of Starswirl's conclusions were wrong (though some are more suspect than others), one can still be frustrated by his methodology, and marvel at the way he nonetheless manages to make conjectures that are likely correct. Looking into the history of an entirely different universe in this way was quite fascinating. :twilightsmile:

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