• Published 21st Jun 2012
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Myou've Gotta be Kidding Me - DataPacRat



Not every human in equestria gets turned into a pony.

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Helping You Helping Me Helping You

"What you have to lose by coming with me," I said to Firebough, "is your freedom to do certain things you may have become accustomed to."

'Like what?'

"As just one example - no eating people, or even just parts of people. Anything that can ask you not to eat it, you won't. Not for sustenance, not to punish, not to make threats, and especially not for personal amusement. Break that rule, and if you're still alive by the time I'm done with you, the last thing you'll see of me will be my tail as I leave you to your own fate."

'Is that it?'

"That's just one example of a more general rule. If you stay within the bounds of this rule, or at least can show that you're making a true best-faith effort at trying - and trust me, I have ways to find out if you're only pretending to try - then whatever we may disagree on, I expect I'll be able to put up with you. Break it, and while you're with me, or on my ship, or under my general area of influence - and you will face the full consequences."

'So what's this big, important rule?'

"I'm using translation magic so we can understand each other, so don't try to nit-pick the exact words. The rule is: don't escalate. That means if someone uses bad words, you can use bad words back at them, but you can't hit them. If someone tries beating you up, you can beat them up back, but you can't kill them. If they try to kill them, you can kill them, but you can't kill their whole family. That's the line I draw - do more than that, and you'll be punished. At the absolute least, you'll have to fix whoever you hurt - and, most likely, you'll have to do more. If you manage to use less force than that to solve the problem, that's even better, and I'll praise and reward you - but for a clear limit, that's it. Pretty much every rule of behavior I would want you to follow while you're with me is just one part of that rule."

'What if I have to do more to someone else than they do to me, to get them to stop?'

"Then you've got a choice to make - will the punishment be worth less to you than the crime?"

'So if I do follow that rule and let you protect me, what else'll you be doing?'

"Oh, finding ancient treasures, inventing new magic, seeking the secrets of the universe, that sort of thing."

'Sounds kinda boring.'

"Are you kidding? I've working on solving mysteries that, quite possibly, noone else has ever had the tools to solve that I do, such as figuring out the true nature of magic - even if I haven't quite come up with a good lead yet that explains very many of its properties, like being able to cause almost anything to happen. I might be in a unique position - I've got more concrete proof for the multi-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics than anyone else I've ever heard of, not to mention proof of FTL signaling. I haven't quite figured out if it's possible to safely use that to solve NP-complete problems, or put together an Out... come... pump..."

...

"Hunh," I said.

...

I thought to myself - 'Could it really be that simple?'

...

"Um, boss?" Armina interrupted my train of thought. "I think I can smell those griffin guards coming this way. And I'm pretty sure they're not happy."

"Oh. Right. Listen, I've just had what may be an important insight, and don't want to be bothered with pointless fighting. Firebough, how long have you been Lord?"

'About a season.'

"Perfect. I'd like you to go let your guards know that after some initial misunderstanding, your guest has graciously allowed you the use of her flying ship so that you can tour your dominion, and go make diplomatic contact with your neighboring Lords."

'Is that what I'll really be doing?'

"Sure, why not? Armina - go with him, and give us a shout if anyone tries to kill anyone, and try not to let that happen until I can zap 'em all. Blanche, buzz the Mikoyan with an update. Blast, I'm probably going to get lost in my head for a couple of minutes while I chase this thought down - you're on bodyguard and wake-up duty. Firebough, try to let all your guards and staff know not to try to kill us, and so on." Everybody started hurrying back and forth to do something or other, making the best use of their time - and I did the same, by turning to stare at a blank wall.


Physicists tend not to like time travel - not leastly because if it can happen at all, then a clever person can come up with all sorts of tricks with it. If you can send messages back to your past self, who can then, based on those messages, decide to send different messages back; then it's possible to solve very complicated mathematical problems very quickly, by using a set of rules for those messages to test every possibility, until a successful one is found. That's one of the simplest variations of an 'outcome pump', a philosophical idea where a time-traveler pulls something similar to keep resetting the timeline unless a specific event happens. With a good outcome pump, you could make just about anything happen, no matter how improbable. There are good and logical reasons to believe that such a thingummy is impossible, and thus that time travel is impossible.

But I'd known that time travel was possible for a couple of months or so - I'd gotten a message from the future, and then sent that message to the past. Suggesting that there was a certain flaw in the logical reasoning making an outcome pump impossible.

While I was thinking that, I was also running my thoughts down a parallel track. When you start really getting into physics, one of the neat things you can learn is that whenever there's a symmetry, there's a law of conservation, and where there's a law of conservation, there's a symmetry. For example, the fact that the laws of physics are the same in every direction, a symmetry for all three axes of space, is tightly tied to the law of conservation of angular momentum. One of the most fundamental laws of conservation I knew of was conservation of probability - or, to be more precise, of the amplitude of the quantum wavefunctions; when you summed up all the possible outcomes, you always ended up with 100%. But I'd never thought what symmetry might be implied by that, other than that if one thing became less probable, something else had to become moreso, which, I was then thinking, suddenly seemed to be a bit too tautological to be a decent symmetry.

I was thinking about certain things I had read; about how when a photon had a 50% chance of passing through a half-silvered mirror, the probability, the amplitude, was conserved by having it both be transmitted through and be reflected, but in two separate blobs of amplitude that, as they ceased to resemble each other, quickly stopped interacting with each other - or, in pop-sci terms, splitting into two different universes. I was thinking that, somehow, some powerful beings had found a way to send information from a universe containing Earth, such as the information of my mind's patterns, into a universe containing Equestria; that that seemed to imply there was some way to get quite distinct blobs of amplitude sufficiently identical to start interacting with each other again.

And as I thought that, I was thinking along a third track, as well - that two of the properties of magic were that it could cause almost anything to happen, and that there seemed to be some sort of measurable quantity of something that allowed that near-anything to happen.

What if the true power behind magic... was amplitude?

Was magical power, the thing that was stored in gems, and measured in units of thaums, simply the propensity for any given universe to be self-consistent, harnessed?

Was outright time travel as closely related to magic as lightning was to electricity?

Were spells actually some sort of outcome pumps, pushing at the universe so that the only way it could remain self-consistent was for the spell-caster's desired event to take place in it?

If this was true - if it was anything like true - then there were all sorts of implications. Some useful. Some testable.

I'd never heard anybody even hinting at anything along these lines. I'd also never heard of anybody giving a decent explanation about how magic could do everything it did.

And if those tests proved the idea wrong - then, at the least, they still might be able to provide data, data nobody else would even have a clue to look for, data which might help get one step closer to whatever the actual truth really was.

However attractive this idea seemed to me at the moment - I'd been burned by the occasional false epiphany before. I'd have to be quite careful to make sure that my enthusiasm for it didn't blind me to any disconfirming evidence.

In the meantime - I needed to start testing those implications... which meant that I'd have to arrange for certain experiments... which meant I'd have to make sure that such arrangements were possible...


I turned away from the wall. "Okay," I said to Berry, "I can work on the rest later."

Firebough had returned, and he said something that sounded like, "Yor du day of-teh?", which didn't make much sense to me. (As an aside - 'Lord Firebough' was what his name sounded like with the translation spell. Without it, what he was called sounded more like 'Yarl Branbaugen'. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to know what the name 'Missy' sounded like to him.) With a sigh, I pulled out the wand I'd designated for the translation spell and invoked it. "What was that?"

'Do you do that sort of thing often?'

"As often as I can - which really isn't that much. If anything serious had happened, I'd have dealt with it - though I would have been truly annoyed if doing so led me to forget what I'd thought of. So - anything happen while I was thinking?"

'Most of my guards really want to get cleaned up, but I told 'em not to bother you.'

"I can live with that. Shall we move out of here and let them in, then?"

I got some... interesting looks from the griffins, wolves, and bears as I walked by them. Given what I'd done to them, I was surprised that, by the time we'd all filed past each other, none of them took a cheap shot at me.

"Okay," I said thoughtfully, "when other Lords go traveling, do they take guards with them?"

'I haven't heard anything about that,' said Firebough.

"Alright. In that case - I suggest you leave most-to-all of them here, guarding your house, belongings, and so on, and giving the impression that you've got every intention of returning and acting as Lord when you get back."

'Huh? You mean - I'm not?'

"I didn't mean it like that - but if you left with everything valuable from the mansion, that could give the impression that you were just running away; and, if you ever do want to come back and be Lord, then doing things that way could make that a lot harder, if some dragon thought you'd given up being Lord entirely and come in while you're gone." I shrugged. "Of course, that may happen anyway... but from what you've said, being a Lord hasn't done you much good. Doing this this say, then whatever happens, you've got the most options I can think of. If you want to keep being called Lord, you can, even if some dragon takes over here you can just say you'll kick out the usurper when you get back. If you want to give up being a Lord, you can, and should some dragon take over here while you're gone, you can just let them, and go do your own thing. And, of course, by maximizing your options, you are able to offer that much more use to me."

'Oh - so that's all I am to you? A use?'

"Firebough - there are many people in your city who are much worse off than you are. Some are sick, some are dying. I can go out and grab any of them and improve their lives. By many standards, I probably should. The main reason I'm focusing my attention on you, instead of one of them, is that I think that by doing so, I'm more likely to be able to accomplish my long-term goals. But now that I have focused my attention on you - it's on you, the whole thing, including what use you can be, but not just that."

'Sounds like a lot of double-talk and excuses.'

"If that's what you think, I doubt I can convince you otherwise in a few moments of conversation. I do notice that you're still walking next to me."

'Hey, if double-talk and excuses are what you use to keep me alive for another day, I'm all for 'em.'

"... You know, there's more to life than short-term survival."

'Yeah? Like what?'

"For one - long-term survival. Which is a lot easier if you've got some people you can trust to help you stay alive. Which is a lot easier if they trust you to tell them the truth. Which is a lot easier if you're in the habit of telling the truth generally. Such as, I'm telling you that there are certain advantages that can be made of having a vehicle which is the official transport for someone who is arguably a head-of-state - and since those advantages are now becoming available to me, I'm making plans to make as much use of them as I can while I can... and making further plans for such time as I can't. Right now, not only does helping you help me directly, but my being the general sort of person who would help a person like you in a situation like this helps me indirectly in a number of ways that I don't feel like describing right now - especially since you've got a few decisions of your own to make."

'Whether or not to stay Lord?'

"Whether or not to bring anything with you. And while I'm thinking about it, we should probably also grab any books, papers, or other documentation you've got about the place to bring with us..."

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