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Can science be applied to magic?

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Pure Infinity, Jan 30, 2016.

  1. Pure Infinity

    Pure Infinity High Inquisitor

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    (Moved from 'Pet Peeves' thread)

    The one part of your post describing something that isn't one of your pet peeves is one of my largest pet peeves.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2016
  2. Peter North

    Peter North Dark Lord

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    Magic and science are two different things. It's a pisser to read that shit because magic always cancels out science. if you want to see someone trying to prove Bullshit and have it actually make sense than watch "Thank You For Smoking".
     
  3. Oblivion2007

    Oblivion2007 Squib

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    They really aren't. Science, at least as I've heard it used, usually refers to two different things. Either:

    A) The body of knowledge we've accumulated on how the universe works.

    or

    B) The actual scientific method.

    Neither of those are incompatible with magic as we've seen it in the Harry Potter universe. The very fact that wizards are researching magic and have entire research teams such as the Unspeakables suggests that the scientific method is applicable or even already in use for the study of magic. That these people produce results and then can spread their results through the population means that magical phenomenon are reproducible, so the scientific method can apply.

    I find fics who focus on that aspect entertaining enough sometimes, but I really enjoy fics that focus on using the knowledge or ideas the muggle world has acquired about the universe to create awesome things. For instance I've long been bouncing around an idea in my head about a bunch of Hogwarts students forming a sort of club in order to build a space ship. From what we've seen of various magical objects and spells in Harry Potter that seems doable for a very dedicated group of students over the course of seven years.


    (Also because it seems like it might need to be said; no I am not a fan of Methods of Rationality. That fic lost me early on and I never had the desire to pick it back up for another try.)
     
    T3t
  4. Peter North

    Peter North Dark Lord

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    Science is the study of the universe and how it works. Magic is a word used to describe that which we cannot understand in our universe.
    The magic of Harry Potter is an ability to do whatever you want whenever you want. Hence when trying to use science to describe Horcruxes you come up blank.


    Also there is a separate thread for the science/Magic debate and I'm pretty sure magic is loosing.
     
  5. Oblivion2007

    Oblivion2007 Squib

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    Except in Harry Potter it isn't, though muggles might still use it like that. Regardless of the fact that they use the same word, when a wizard and a muggle use the word 'magic' they mean entirely different things. For Wizards magic is an ability that they use to shape the world to their desires, with varying results based on their knowledge and skills. In the Harry Potter universe magic is a real thing that exists and has reproducible effects, hence the scientific method is applicable.

    Horcruxes are also applicable. Tom Riddle didn't randomly come up with them or spontaneously manifest them. They were a technique that was studied and documented that Tom then researched and attempted to reproduce the results recorded by previous users. Which he then did, the magical phenomenon of splitting your soul via murder was an actual law of the universe that wizards discovered.

    The fact that they don't know why this happened doesn't mean that science isn't applicable. We still don't know why most of the stuff that happens does in the real world, just that it will consistently happen the same way under the exact same circumstances. Maybe if wizards researched Horcruxes more they would discover more about the soul and why it behaves as it does.
     
  6. Peter North

    Peter North Dark Lord

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    It was Dumbledore's claim, Voldemort's claim, and Herpo the Fowl's that horcruxes split souls. They had no proof as to what they where splitting in what JK documented. Also I'm pretty sure that in the books Dumbledore and/or Arthur Weasly state that they don't understand why magic does what it does. Hence magic has the same definition as the one muggles use.
     
  7. Rhaegar I

    Rhaegar I Death Eater

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    For me, scientists studying Magic would be like a caveman studying a nuclear bomb or the Apollo 11. At best they can't even begin to comprehend all but the most basic elements, at worst something gets blown up.

    But we should try to move on from this always controversial topic, so how about Fics that deliberately rewrite the setting for no better reason than to give the Good Guys another chance to be awesome and/or an easy way to defeat the Bad Guys.
     
  8. Ghosthree3

    Ghosthree3 Unspeakable DLP Supporter

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    He means that the laws science has defined for us are not related to magic in the HP universe in any way. Magic repeatedly breaks those 'laws' just because it does. You can absolutely apply scientific thinking to magic, but established muggle science doesn't really cross paths with magic by anything other than coincidence.

    EDIT: The ol' sneaky new page trick. Really need to check for that.
     
  9. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    I used to be a huge fan of "technomagic", but nowadays the idea just doesn't seem sound to me. There's nothing muggle technology can do that magic can't do better. Hence, any combination of the two is pointless as technology doesn't bring anything to the table.
     
  10. Oblivion2007

    Oblivion2007 Squib

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    Except that is wrong too. Knowing how the world works when magic isn't a factor can only help in the development of magical theory. A lot of experiments in the real world have been about isolating a sample from the phenomenon you are trying to study. By comparing how the samples react in both experiments you learn more about what the phenomenon actually does.

    And all of that is more theoretical sciences, I'm actually more interested in what would be called applied sciences. The difference between a scientist and an engineer as it were.

    Understanding chemistry, especially nuclear chemistry, would probably lead to amazing breakthroughs in transfiguration. If not in the theory of transfiguration than in the practical application of it. It probably wouldn't be too hard to transfigure pure elements and for battle there are tons of dangerous chemicals that people could transfigure. Hell with enough research someone might be able to even transfigure anti-matter, or perhaps exotic theoretical elements that don't actually exist in nature that we have found.


    I feel like people are assuming I think science is better than magic, which if you read my first post is definitely not what I am saying. Frankly the whole idea that science and magic are in some sort of caged death match against each other is ridiculous. You must pick a side because only one of them will live through the night!

    Frankly it's just as bad to say 'oh the scientific method and all the knowledge we learned from it is useless to wizards' as it is for people to bash the Wizarding World as a backwards and archaic laughingstock that needs to be 'enlightened' by the muggles.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2016
  11. Ghosthree3

    Ghosthree3 Unspeakable DLP Supporter

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    But that's not canon magic, it's just an idea. And that's fine, just don't act as though that's actually what HP magic 'is'.
     
  12. Oblivion2007

    Oblivion2007 Squib

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    I actually agree that there is nothing muggles are inherently better at than wizards. The opposite is true that there are things wizards can do that muggles can't, but anything a muggle could do so could a wizard.

    However there are a bunch of capabilities the muggle world has that the wizards never developed. Probably because it didn't occur to them to do so. I like reading a story where a clever wizard sees those goods or services missing in the Wizarding World and tries to fill them.

    Also I don't mean by just copying a muggle device and making it 'run off magic'. I hate when authors have the characters make a spell that protects muggle items against magic. (Which they mostly don't need, the only time in canon something failed around magic was at Hogwarts, nowhere else.)

    I prefer that they create something that has similar functions but uses magic to accomplish it, because magic often does it better. Don't create a magic-proof cellphone, make a communications device and network using magic! Maybe based off the enchanted hand-mirrors? Use you imagination!

    I have no idea what you are even trying to say with this. I haven't ever said I know exactly how HP magic works. I do know a few things about it from the books.

    A) It is reproducible. There is a book series called 'The Standard Book of Spells' which means spell casting, and hence magic, is consistent enough to become standardized throughout a decent population. People research magic, even together in research teams, and then publish their research as spells, potions, or magical theory that other people then use. They even have schools that teach them magic. This isn't Dresden Files where magic works differently for every wizard that uses it. It is reproducible and hence subject to the scientific method.

    B) It can permanently transform one form of matter into another.

    C) There is no magical power levels or energy. Wizards never run out of power to cast spells in the book. Any time wizards fail at magic it has been out of a lack of skill, proper tools, or lack of knowledge.


    There is nothing to suggest that wizards can't transform one element into another pure element, or even into a complicated molecule. In fact they constantly do so throughout the series whenever they perform transfiguration.

    You are right however that it isn't something they ever developed in canon. Don't pretend, however, that this ability is beyond them or that any spell to do these things is more 'non-canon' than other spells people have created for their fics.
     
  13. S1234567890m

    S1234567890m Third Year

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    My favourite bit of HP lore is if you enchant some muggle technology, and then whack it real hard it comes to life.
     
  14. Ghosthree3

    Ghosthree3 Unspeakable DLP Supporter

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    We're clearly talking about different topics so I'm just going to stop.
     
  15. Download

    Download Squib ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Sciences is the just the application of rules to what we observe in nature, so yes it can be applied to magic otherwise they wouldn't really be able to do anything with magic in HP. You need a set of rules to work under if you want to ever move beyond the basics.

    That doesn't however mean those rules are in any way compatible with the rules that govern muggle science.
     
  16. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I'm not 100% convinced the scientific method is applicable to magic. The scientific method has certain assumptions:

    1. Temporal consistency. If you replicate a situation, the same thing will happen.

    2. Geographical consistency. The rules of the universe are the same everywhere.

    3. Objectivity. The rules are the same between people.

    4. Unity. There is just one set of rules in the universe.

    I'm not sure any of these are strictly true in the HP world. The rules of magic seem to be intrinsically tied up with human concepts. Some observations, in no particular order:

    - Sometimes, random things just happen without any cause and you can't replicate the feat. (E.g. Ford Anglia spontaneous sentience)

    - Matters of linguistic coincidence determine how similar two objects are (beetle and button). Presumably this varies between different languages.

    - The idea of "food", which is a concept relative to not only human biology but also cultural norms, forms a fundamental rule of magic.

    - What is deemed impossible in one area of magic is perfectly possible in another (e.g. making gold). It seems that each branch of magic has largely independent rules.

    Yes, wizards study magic and make theories about it. But humans have been studying things for a lot longer than we've had the scientific method. It seems much more likely to me that the Unspeakables are closer to Thales' "everything is made of water" type of study than any kind of scientific method.

    It's just that in the magical world that sort of study bears a lot more fruit than in the Muggle world, because magic isn't the same as nature. In science, there is a right and a wrong answer. There is "the truth". Magic seems much more pluralistic than that. You come up with a narrative about magic and that narrative allows you to make and cast spells. It's not true or false, it's just a way of thinking about things that, because you're a wizard, has power. One of these narratives is called "Transfiguration", another narrative is called "Charms", etc. You might even be able to come up with meta-narratives that join up your individual narratives, but what you're doing still isn't really finding "the truth". You're still just making up stories.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2016
  17. DerHesse

    DerHesse Auror

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    The only scientific field which can be applied to magic, in my opinion at least, is psychology.

    For example: Harry saw himself cast the patronus charm, which gave him the confidence (or whatever) to cast it without flaw.

    I also believe there's a big part to casting, which involves what an individual thinks or feels is right.

    Edit: or possible.

    Transfiguring a small kitty to a huge lion. Mammal, cat and similar in almost every way. No problemo.

    Transfiguring a small pink dildo to a huge lion. What?
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2016
  18. T3t

    T3t Purple Beast of DLP ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Taure: none of that is intrinsic to the scientific method, except as higher-level abstractions. The only thing necessary is a reductionist universe. Rules can be different across space and time (heck, our universe has "different" rules at different scales!), but as long as meta-rules exist, you're fine.
     
  19. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    I have zero interest in this debate, however, you should probably get your sciences straight. Chemistry == the science of the outermost electron shells. I.e. not Transfiguration == changing one element into another, that's nuclear physics. Further, "exotic theoretical elements" will be more or less radioactive elements, since we know all completely stable ones.

    On the magic side, there's nothing at all suggesting the knowledge of the structure of matter as studied in physics has even the slightest bit of relevance to the process of transfiguration, and laws, such as exist, are of completely different nature than physical laws ("food" can't be transfigured).

    And on a personal note, a story where people build a magic space-ship rates -9999/5 before I even read it.
     
  20. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    I think that's far too loose a definition of the scientific method. If that's all you require then a lot of stuff that definitely wasn't science historically suddenly becomes science.

    I didn't really go into it fully because it's a notoriously complex topic (defining science) but most philosophers of science also consider the social aspect (i.e. the institutions of science) to be a pretty major part of it.
     
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