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The Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by LucyInTheSkye, Sep 3, 2020.

  1. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    I'm assuming we have to create a new thread for this since the other one is specifically about possible minor exceptions, and any old threads about this seem to be quite old. (Sorry if this has been discussed to death already.)

    So, what are the five principal exceptions according to you?
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
  2. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    Food is definitely one. You can't transfigure something into a ready meal, and I don't think you can transfigure a leaf into an apple and then eat it. I think you can transfigure a stone into an animal, then use magic or muggle skills to butcher it and prepare it and cook it and eat it. I think the magi behind all of these steps would be quite complicated and not just anyone can do it. Making good meals (not just edible) with magic seems to be a rare skill since Mrs Weasley is really the only one emphasized to have this skill.

    From the previous thread, I'm of the opinion that precious metal/stones should be just one of the exceptions. I think it's likely that the wizarding world would group 'money' or 'valuables' together as a concept. The goblins clearly aren't bound by this same law, or possibly are behind the reason that wizards can't just transfigure things into gold if they want to.

    For the others I'm not very set in my views. To me it makes sense that magical creatures are one of the exceptions, although in the other thread there were well-explained views on why things inherently magic should not be included in Gamp's Law.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
  3. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Preliminary 1 - The scope of Gamp's law and the nature of its exceptions

    Gamp's law is not the sum of all transfiguration theory. The fact that you can't use Transfiguration to levitate objects is not going to be a part of Gamp's Law and its principal exceptions. That's just a feature of what transfiguration is: it is not Charms.

    There will be many aspects of Transfiguration, including limitations, which fall outside the scope of Gamp's law. Gamp's law appears to simply say something like this: transfiguration can make any physical object. The exceptions are the objects that cannot be created.

    Therefore every limitation of transfiguration which does not relate to a class of physical objects is outside the scope of Gamp's law and this discussion.

    Limitations on transfiguration which are not part of Gamp's law:

    - Inability to create souls (not a physical thing).

    - Inability to create enchanted objects (see: Transfiguration is not Charms).

    - Inability to create magical species (relates to an object's magical rather than physical nature).

    For an illustration of the last one, consider this: could you transfigure a horn onto a horse? I think yes. In which case, transfiguration can create a physical unicorn. What it cannot do is create the magical nature of a unicorn. That is not a matter for Gamp, but rather arises out of the nature of transfiguration as the magic of physical change.

    In contrast, you simply cannot create "good food" with transfiguration. It's not that you can create good food and there will be something wrong with the object which prevents it from giving you nutrition. If that were the case, you could still use transfiguration to create flavour, but we know that is precisely what the trio were unable to do in DH.

    In DH, the trio had ingredients, but they couldn't turn them into something that tasted good. Ron commented that Molly can create good food out of nothing, and Hermione responded that you cannot create good food out of nothing. Their problem was their inability to create something appetising, not their lack of ingredients. The rule amounts to a rule that you cannot use transfiguration to skip to the end result of the cooking process. To produce good food, you must still know how to cook (albeit with cooking magic rather than Muggle techniques).

    Preliminary 2 - Bad candidates

    Some options that don't work.

    Clothes. This would fit thematically with "food" as a basic human need, and would help to explain the existence of clothes shops. But we see clothes being transfigured in FB1. Potentially a good candidate for a minor exception.

    "Knowledge". Transfiguration can definitely create knowledge. Animals are created without knowledge of how they work. Furniture is made without knowledge of carpentry. Transfiguration is not just a process by which you save time in making things you know how to make. It is a magic which allows you to create things that you don't know how to make through non-magical means. But there are definitely classes of knowledge that I think should be restricted - thus my Minor Exceptions thread.

    Love. Not a physical thing.

    Life. Can definitely be created with transfiguration - see pigs, dogs.

    My Proposals

    I think the exceptions should all be categories of concrete physical things. Gold is, I think, a very good candidate, as we know you need the Philosopher's Stone to create it. Given that, I'd consider gold to be semi-canonical.

    Once you include gold, I think you need silver and bronze as well, as they form the basis of wizarding currency. It's hard to see how that could work if you could create as much of the metals as you liked. It would also make the role of Cursebreakers somewhat pointless.

    Finally, we see gems being exchanged in Gringotts, which would again imply that they have value in the wizarding world.

    So my five exceptions are: Food, Gold, Silver, Bronze, (Precious) Gems.

    Alternatively, you could go: Food, Precious Metals, Precious Gems, and still have 2 spaces for more.
     
  4. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    All makes perfect sense, thanks for writing it out!

    It does hinge on your (probably correct) statement that Gamp's Law is that transfiguration can create any physical object, is there a canon source for that? It's making me think that the law might instead be that conjuring as a branch of Transfiguration can create anything, and that one or several of the exceptions is that it can't create things that aren't concrete, like spirits or concepts etc.

    I also wonder in general if souls might actually be a physical object in canon, based on how oddly some supposedly conceptual things behave, like secrets that take a more physical shape, if you will, when they can be hidden within the fidelius, magic that can be felt at your fingertips and leaves traces other people can see, and memories in a pensieve sort of becoming physical as well. A soul can be split into pieces and can leave imprints in the shape of ghosts, so that to me suggests something almost physical. Maybe all of these form a subcategory of their own, neither physical nor conceptual, and together form an exception in this law.

    Edit: and what about humans? Surely one exception has to be that you can't make humans? Or can you?
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2020
  5. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    These are my Headcanon
    1. Food
    2. Noble Metals
    3. Clothes(I disagree with Taure about this being in Fantastic Beasts, since the clothes there where transformed from other clothes, not created from something else, Hermione also confirms that transforming food is possible). Though this does not include accessoires.
    4. Gems( I personally dislike this, but Greyback confirms that rubies are quite valueable, even to wizards)
    5. Shelter( just seems like the obvious missing one when the others are food, clothing and wealth)
     
  6. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    I quite like that, more so because I just tried to google it a bit and the full name appears to be Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration. Unless my English is failing me, I think shelter or housing or maybe even home, would make sense to be elemental for a witch or wizard, along with the others you mention.
     
  7. Hansar

    Hansar First Year

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    I think gold, silver and gems could all be categorised together under the exception of "wealth", which would be anything that people consider to be money or to only have the purpose of being worth money.

    This has its own problems, like civilisations that relied on barter systems should, by that logic, have been able to conjure gold as easily as they could conjure iron and I don't think magic should be that dependent on an individuals view of the world.

    It could be that when enough people in the world agree on something's intrinsic value, it stops being possible to conjure but that still feels like making magic a bit too mutable and anthropocentric.

    I'm fairly sure muggle paper money is also out, but do you think it would be possible to conjure convincing counterfeit muggle money or copies of credit cards? Also what about weirder currencies like the giant stone discs that some Pacific Islanders used as money?
     
  8. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    I agree with you, I would also group those together!

    As for counterfit, I think all fake wizarding money was referred to as leprechaun gold? But then again, Hermione did make fake DA galleons that were convincing enough to pass the Inquisitorial Squad's inspection, and presumably she made them herself?

    Wizards don't seem to use a lot of paper, wonder if that would be an issue if they tried to make muggle bank notes? Maybe not. I think they probably can counterfit muggle money, but as with anything muggle they wouldn't be very interested in it in the first place, and would maybe not want to attempt to go into the muggle world and buy things. If they brought the fake money to Gringotts to exchange it, the Goblins would no doubt be able to tell the difference.
     
  9. Sauce Bauss

    Sauce Bauss Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

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    I would reverse cause and effect on the gold part. You assume gold can't be transfigured because it is money, rather than gold being money because it can't be transfigured.
     
  10. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    What? Shelter is such a broad term, and it comprises things that definitely could be transfigured. Can you conjure some long sticks of wood and a canvas sheet? If so, you've got yourself a basic tent. Can you do 4 stout polls and some large, thin sheets of wood? If so, you've got yourself a basic cabin. How about some blocks of stone?

    Basically saying that shelter can't be transfigured would mean that a huge number of things that would seem extremely basic and simple can't be transfigured.
     
  11. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    I mean what I said, we are talking about principal exceptions here, meaning things you can't directly transfigue. That doesen't mean you cant transfigure the things they're made of, like you can transfigure animals that can become food.

    The proposed exception basically being that if you can live inside it, even for a short period, then you cant create it through Transfiguration. Yes, this includes tents, caves and huts. Though nothing stops you from using transfiguration to create the things they're made of and building it the hard way or through charms.
     
  12. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    I like the idea of a double meaning with the 'elemental' in the title of the law (would fit JKR's style) and in that case a home/place you can live in permanently could be one of the five. Not sure about just shelter, though.

    We know from Harry's description that the Burrow is likely made up of different elements kept together by magic, not sure whose argument that helps :p

    And tents are something people try to claim back money for from the ministry in GoF.
     
  13. JuniorAL

    JuniorAL Second Year

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    According to me, the 5 Principal Exceptions are:

    1- Food: This includes fruits and vegetables and anything else that is edible.

    2- Gold: You can transfigure gold into other things, but not other things into gold.

    3- Silver: Same as gold.

    4- Precious Gems: You can repair them, meaning that you could turn a flawed diamond into a flawless one but you can't make them with transfiguration alone.

    5- Life: In the sense that you can't use transfiguration to extend your life, we know that Peter Pettigrew retained his human lifespan despite living as a rat for 12 years. While you could transfigure yourself to look younger, that would not increase your lifespan.


    I am not the master of truth, but I still disagree that you could circumvent the 1st law just by transfiguring random objects into animals to then kill, butcher, and eat them. I believe the law should apply to everybody regardless of magical power and creativity.

    Thanks to DLP for allowing us to have these discussions.
     
  14. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    If you can transfigure a small block of stone, you can transfigure a large block with a hollow interior to create permanent shelter. It makes absolutely no sense that you wouldn't be able to.
     
  15. aAlouda

    aAlouda Seventh Year

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    You can transfigure a chicken, but not a chicken nugget.

    This is exactly the kind of limitation we are trying to find here.
     
  16. Polkiuj

    Polkiuj Squib

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    I would like to present an argument for some definition of "Knowledge" to be on the list of Principal Exceptions.

    The same could be applied to "Knowledge."

    You cannot transfigure something into a book detailing the anatomy of a pig, but you could transfigure something into a pig and dissect it in order to study its anatomy. The act of learning in relation to my proposed Principal Exception of "Knowledge" serves the same role as the act of cooking does for the Principal Exception of "Food."

    This would explain why nobody transfigured a list of Horcruxes in the books. They had to learn the knowledge for themselves.

    Simply put: The exception amounts to a rule that you cannot use transfiguration to skip to the end result of the learning process.
     
  17. wordhammer

    wordhammer Supreme Mugwump DLP Supporter

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    Reference from a previous thread: https://forums.darklordpotter.net/t...ns-to-gamps-law-revisited.38140/#post-1072255

    Gamp's law of Elemental Transfiguration
    = A perfect transfiguration results in an object with the properties and qualities of the intended end-result, with no vestiges of the object's prior state left behind. There are five exceptions- qualities where magic cannot transfigure or conjure them properly.

    Food- life feeds on life; conjured food has no nutritive value and non-consumables transfigured into food are similarly incomplete

    Life - one cannot conjure sentience, nor can a non-animal be made into an animal with the capacity to procreate. Hearkening back to the first exception, such an animal will deteriorate as the living material that originally had no life fails to replicate new cells (or something)

    Rare elements - transfigured materials made of elements higher on the periodic table tend to deteriorate (magically), meaning transfigured gold and silver lose their chemical properties over time, as does titanium, uranium, plutonium... the highest stable material appears to be Bromine [just declaring a line in the sand on this one]

    Enchantment - transfiguration in and of itself cannot bestow or remove magical properties; turn a horse into a unicorn and it may be attractive but its blood and horn will have no greater value than that of any mundane creature; transfigure a horcrux into a plushie and it will still retain the soul it protects (also see below)

    Magic - magical creatures resist permanent transfiguration while still alive- the effect will wear off, unless the creature is actually happier in its new state (see Quintped, Animagi 'going native')

    People in the habit of 'conjuring' beverages and sauces with their wands are actually using a charm to draw the fluid from a known nearby source- water condensed from the air, mead from a flask, Hollandaise from the pot on the stove or even breathable air from above the surface of a lake (cf. Bubblehead charm)


    Also, the food exception brings to mind the fables about visiting with faerie creatures - that eating their food will trap you into staying in their realm. If they only use transfigured food (as often fables will reveal), it could be that the consuming of these temporary nutrients will lead to holes appearing in the body when the food's digested material dissipates.
     
  18. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Second Year

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    That sounds quite cohesive to me, nicely put!

    I think I now have two different lists, one for how I originally imagined it, which includes non-physical things:

    1. Food
    2. Souls (both human and animal, be they the same in practice or slightly different)
    3. Love (stolen from taure's bad candidate list, I think it makes sense that this most important element storywise is in here. You can't manufacture the real thing as we see from love potions and the unspeakables have to study it because it's such an oddity)
    4. Precious metal and stones
    5. Magical creatures

    Physical list:

    1. Food.
    2. Precious metal and stones
    3. Clothes
    4. A place you can call home
    5. Souls (for the purpose of this list, I'm arguing it's a physical thing in the HP world)
     
  19. arkkitehti

    arkkitehti Groundskeeper

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    My take on the Gamp's law is that wizards don't really have any clue on how magic fundamentally works, and magical theory is more or less random experimental findings that are presented as "laws". So "you can't transfigure food" is less a hard rule similar to, say, laws of thermodynamics, but more of an observation that bad things happen if you eat the tasty sandwich that used to be a rock.

    Similar to Dumbledore's famous "discovery" of the twelve uses of Dragon's Blood; I find it very hard to believe that there is a "natural law" that says one of the exactly twelve uses of Dragon's Blood is as oven cleaner.
     
  20. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    "Has no nutritive value" never fails not to make sense, though. I feel like it's this typical thing that someone once came up with, and everyone continued using without thinking about it any further. What does "nutritive value" even mean, and where is your line?

    A salad consists out of 95% water, much of the rest is cellulose (the actual fibres). Cellulose is a polymer of saccharides, which can be digested by humans (and deliver energy) in small quantities, but not very well. If you say you can conjure salad, but it has no "nutritive" value, then what is your salad gonna look like? A salad without water? Or a salad without water and cells? That means nothing is left! Same thing for pigs. You derive the nutrition from the flesh of the animal. A pig without "nutritive value" is ... a pig without flesh?

    It gets even weirder if you consider pure nutrition, say, sugar. It's a very simple chemical compound (C12H22O11). Given that it consists of literally nothing else, does this mean you can transfigure sugar, but it's going to be non-existent?

    And if you start to argue that it's going to look like sugar, but it's actually, I dunno, a lump of chalk, then it factually is not sugar, but chalk.

    This kind of headache is exactly what you want to avoid, because arguing chemistry when doing magic is the biggest turn-off ever. So your definition of "nutrition" can't mean what it commonly means, but then what does it mean? If you now come up with some sort of magical property, what you just introduced is a biological difference between IRL humans and wizards. So for closing the supposed loophole of Gamp's, you now have a ridiculous overhead of suddenly needing to talk about wizarding biology.

    At this stage, even the "it's not permanent" solution is easier. It contradicts Canon, granted, and you have to bully words to make "no good food" mean "good food, but only for 15 minutes", but it's at least straight forward.


    All of which can be avoided by having the exception simply refer to the concept of a ready-made dinner. It does come with its own problems, seeing that there is a sliding scale (is a patch of carrots in the earth ready-made dinner?), but from everything I can see, it slots far more easily into the framework we are given than any of the alternatives.

    --

    Anyway. Gamp's. We run into a problem even before the exceptions. As per Rowling, things conjured "out of thin air" don't last. Ron uses these exact terms, when he talks about "food out of thin air" in DH. This, clearly, means conjuring. Hermione then nixes that -- "no one can" -- but refers to Gamp's Law on Elemental Transfiguration, which we know differs from Conjuration precisely in the fact that transfigured items do last.

    So we must assume that Gamp's also covers conjuration. But for one, we already know that conjuring food is dumb given that nothing conjured lasts, and this implies a fairly trivial wording for the Law of the kind "anything mundane can be transfigured (and conjured)", in the meaning of "created through transfiguration ..."; unless you want to make a rather weird point about "nothingness" being an "element", for a reading of "any one element can be transformed into any other element", which is like ... arguing a straight line is a circle of infinite diameter. Technically true, but weird.

    However, it does have the charm that you can limit the exception strictly to conjuration, i.e. the transformation of Nothing into Food, which is what Hermione in DH seems to imply when she explicitly links the Exception to "food out of nothing".

    Leaving aside the food; this time around, I would probably simply go down the list of what a philosopher's stone can create. That's gold and silver (not bronze, because the Goblins would have special magic to ensure no counterfeits anyway). Additionally precious stones (which we see handled in Gringotts too, as pointed out above), and then you can pick between two quirky options: flexible glass or a homunculus.

    A homunculus (or more generally, human life) isn't too bad: Since we know it's possible to transfigure animals, there does arise the question of why a human is out of reach. The exception would explain that.

    1. Food
    2. Gold
    3. Silver
    4. Gems
    5. Homunculi

    (Also, you just know someone tried #5 anyway, and the result was House Elves.)
     
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