The Science of Magic

Here are your chapters this week!

Random ramblings:

Some series are like “We have glorious nippon steelscience, and thats why these magicians(heathens?) dont know stuff”. Someone I know was a bit ticked off by that theme, and how it would be more appropriate to call it “technology” and not “science” (paraphrased argument).

That got me thinking… Do any series that hand wave it like that explain how magic works, or is it always the power of imagination?

Well anyways, there are some great series out there that attempt to explore the science of magic, like “Magus of Genesis” or “The Magic in this Other World is Too Far Behind!” or “RokuAka”. Magicology always makes for some fun world-building/theorizing. Mebbe thats just my taste.

Also, there are always the people over at Unseen University. I think they do try to figure out how magic works? With varying degrees of success, from what I remember… I only mentioned it cuz the post title reminds me of The Colour of Magic.

Speaking of The Colour of Magic, here’s a riddle for those who haven’t read it: What field of social sciences is “Reflectedsound-of-underground-spirits“?

26 thoughts on “The Science of Magic

  1. cl0udman

    The Irregular at Magic High has a systematic system of magic grounded in science called modern magic as opposed to ancient magic which is unexplained by science. None of these systems are explained in any way having to do with the power of imagination.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. kotarou inugami

      Is there any translation where their explanations actually make sense?
      Or is it not a problem of translation, and it’s all incomprehensible magibabble from the start?
      Or is it my personal problem, because my background in magic is too different from the author’s?


  2. Dreslief

    Average girl Mile is in a nanomachine driven world of magic. Nanites read intent/thought patterns unless eeg waves are somehow blocked from radiating out of the skull.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. kotarou inugami

    > Someone I know was a bit ticked off by that theme, and how it would be more appropriate to call it “technology” and not “science” (paraphrased argument).

    I think it would be correct to divide modern person advantages into scientific method (tradition of experimentation, popper’s criterion, and many other things that all together work as a mighty engine of creating reliable knowledge), scientific knowledge (which is where we know what is gunpowder made of, what is common between lightning and sour fruit and so on), and technology (where we use that knowledge to make cool gadgets).
    I’ve seen protagonists using all three.
    Vandaleu the Death Mage lives in a world where any part of scientific knowledge might be wrong, so he had to experiment a lot to get what he wanted (which is mostly tasty food).
    A bunch of “magic works on imagination” protagonists use their scientific knowledge to inform their imagination and get better results (for example, Magi’s Grandson and Average Girl). I’ve even seen a protagonist who used a fruit-and-metal battery to get rare electricity magic in a setting where you have to experiment with a small amount of whatever you want to control.
    Beyond people like that guy with the smartphone who actually use modern technology wholesale, there are also people who just work hard to recreate conveniences of modern technology with magic (they usually have easy access to enchantments).

    Liked by 4 people

    1. kotarou inugami

      That said, “power of imagination” is far from the only kind of magic that can be upgraded with science and engineering. In fact, the best ones are the ones that have strict rules.

      (it’s not only Dungeons and Dragons – I’ve seen equally crazy contraptions in other systems, like the teleport gate perpetuum mobile from GURPS)

      But the best web novel examples would be stories about craftsmen, like Magi Craft Meister.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Yeah, I think they were more ticked off at the assumption that the isekai has no science, because magic. At least, that is what i took from it. But I see no reason to disagree with what you said.


      1. kotarou inugami

        Magic and dark-age-europe-like settings go hand in hand. There is a reason for that.
        Both kinds of settings empathize personal power over collective power.

        I mean, a giant robot is a mighty war machine, a culmination of efforts of generations of engineers and scientists, made my dozens of factories all over the world. They are crewed by the best of the best, or even by specially-bred pilots who know nothing but fighting. Or at least by descendants of royal bloodlines. Nobody gives one to a random guy who just dropped out of another world yesterday. Kanzaki Hitomi of Escaflowne didn’t even get to try controlling one.

        Magic, on the other hand, is personal. It’s the magic-user’s own talents, efforts and dark bargains that get them the power. A magic-user can be lost in the woods, cut off from supply lines and his girlfriend might have left him, but he/she still can blast anybody with spells, and some can even make civilization flower in the middle of said woods. The best magic-users can exist and build kingdoms in perfect vacuum.

        It’s the same with historical periods. Lawless periods like Wild West or European Middle Ages are places where a random dude with a pistol or a magic wand can make a difference. In a period like a modern world, even a whole team of badasses like GitS’s Section 9, can’t make a difference. Even a super-genius like GitS’ Laughing Man can’t make a difference.

        But most importantly, the “isekai” start is just not very feasible for any world that is not a lot simpler than ours. A viable high-tech world has to be described as “just like ours, except…”. The exceptions are famous sci-fi novels that can’t be visualized and aren’t really read by common people.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. To be fair, i heard that the reason Steampunk makes sense, is that magic existing makes some common reactions unpredictable, or unreliable, and then you get into how some elements react in general. Like you can make a prototype out of wood here, but in another world, wood spirits may begin to inhabit your model, either making it come to life, or making it come to “life,” as in become a tree again. So while an “isekai” protagonist can also appear in a Steampunk world, they can’t make computers, or helicarriers, because magic reacts with the electricity, or makes all but brass explode…sorry started rambling there….

          Anyway, i once read a short story where magic either returned to the world, or some magic meteor impacted Earth, leading to the fall of most of civilization, as pockets of “weird” tended to spread, changing modern areas back into wilderness, power poles became trees, and technology stopped working as you got near this new wild nature.


          1. kotarou inugami

            The authors can define a myriad things that make low technology level mandatory and make people rely on magic instead. But you rarely see them thinking it through.
            Like, your wooden model might come to life, and it’s a good thing that allows elves to construct their self-repairing wooden airplanes. And orc sharkskin airships can steer themselves with bloodlust of shark spirits within (which is good, because orcs are too dumb to do it manually).

            Most importantly, technology is not magic you can just switch off. It is tied to the fundamental laws of physics that make life possible, and arbitrary changes in physics risk making life as we know it impossible. What would you do if electricity in your nerves stops working?

            Also, helicarriers are not technically feasible without fusion power plants to supply infinite energy, that cannot be miniaturized to put it on airplanes that are based on them. And aren’t practical in any case, because they’re a too tempting and too visible target.
            (or am I being confused, and “helicarrier” doesn’t mean “aircraft carrier-type ship that flies by a bunch of helicopter rotors”?)

            Finally, none of that has anything with Steampunk is particular. It’s actually easier to justify “sword and sandal” with assumptions like that.


            1. No i mean, the steampunk explanation was that brass is generally inert, along with glass, and was one of the few materials that wouldn’t have an explosive reaction to things, when magic gets introduced, so combustion engines, and electric engines, along with other more complicated devices, were basically impossible to build with the magical charge in the air. You would need to build and operate most “modern” technological devices in a vacuum. Again, assuming you aren’t in a world where a simple combination of elements would just naturally spawn a spirit, like suddenly there’s a void spirit turning a plain vacuum tube into a magic tool, making it unable to fulfill its intended purpose.

              No, when I say helicarrier i meant just the basic idea of a large ship relying on rotors or thrusters for lift and propulsion, rather than a balloon of some kind. So, not specifically an aircraft carrier. If you think about some of the things introduced in stories, it should be relatively simple to build a rotor based airship, without the fusion power plant, FF (tactics I think) had an ever turning gear as the power source for Cid’s airship, for instance, and Death March’s airship engines were based on a magic spinning top that Satou found at some street stall.

              Seriously though, there are whole books on the technological limitations, and narrative boundaries in steampunk. I think it’s just about the rules for using that genre as a tag though, and I was only using it as an example of how changes in physics can limit a fictional world to simpler technologies. Like that short story i mentioned before, where as you leave town towards the more magically saturated areas, concrete becomes natural stone, wooden energy poles turn into trees, with the power lines becoming dangling vines. Hard science turns fuzzy when magic gets more abundant.


  4. Release that Witch is an interesting take, where the MC takes advantage of the magic using witches in the fantasy world he’s dropped in, to jump start an industrial revolution. The series also explores how teaching scientific knowledge to the witches can enhance their abilities, if the witch can wrap their head around the ideas or natural phenomenon.

    However, the novel has shied away from actually explaining how magic itself works, as the characters can only make hypotheses since they ironically lack the knowledge to make tools that could help them observe and study magic. Though the author seems to be building up to a big reveal in the future of how magic works, as they are introducing other races and beings that use magic differently than humans and even view it differently. The MC is often frustrated by his lack of understanding of magic, and he has to constantly come up with conventional solutions to counteract his enemies’ magical solutions.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The0m

    I feel that i should point out some theory’s i came up with
    this idea that magic is the opposite of science is incorrect science is the process to explain what goes on in front of you it is not the end all be all if the laws of universe changes through this can be found out though a process… yeah i stopped here got a problem i don’t have facts and it makes no sense so next ramble
    The world created by a fictional book
    why do we get so engaged in making the science the author wrote that works in there book to fit in our world this is something I do a lot and I don’t understand it I suggest reading battle frenzy a black hole between earth and moon causes magic … I say it works but not in our universe but in the fictional universe personally made so that all that was written happens it may not be real but it is a fictional book after all so why do I need to be correct why must fantasy make sense to me who has never been there.
    sorry I’m just complaining
    actual magic theory time
    First stability- to be able to stabilize man-made elements, unstable bonds between atoms like the nonreactive noble gasses, and anti-mater.
    this is stability should be able to be caused magic
    second interaction – interaction between thoughts, reside in the brain a cluster of electronic signals like a circuit, and particles that upon receiving a signal be it electrical or magnetic it will preform an action. as a note these particles when ever not receiving signals will be act similar to the rest of the particles as such are spread out
    I find problems all the time
    my proposal on a study style of fictional magical laws using books novels and anime in place of laboratory results
    I have not gone into looking up theses subjects online yet so.


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