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taerkitty

Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.

-- Galileo Galilei

===

(Thanks to limited.or.no.connectivity for the suggestion.) This is a thread about fictional physics, to discuss how some plot mechanic in a given setting might work. Why do verbal spells work best when invoked in faux Latin? How might light-sabers intercept one another? Why would a missile be launched at an angle normal to line-of-sight to the target?

However, this is not limited to just physics (though those are probably the most prominent questions.) How would money work in a world where alchemy was possible? If not gold, then on what standard would currency be based, if all backing elements could be somehow synthesized for low cost? Would a race of telepaths with a rudimentary hive mind as a subconscious find the Mona Lisa still as compelling? How about music, which relies on a bit of the unknown, the unpredictable?

However, I'd like to keep this relatively flame-free. Let's not debate this-v-that, such as "My Jedi can kick your Bene Gesserit to the moon." Also, the point of fiction is to talk about what can be, not what is, so real-world physics form the base, not the axioms for discussions here. I'll admit this is a personal bent, me having lost many a debate about the viability of real-world Mobile Suits and Mobile Armour (twenty-meter tall mecha) in modern warfare.

This can be show-and-tell, or it can be question-and-answer, or even brainstorming place. How do the basic natural laws of your your setting differ from the world we the authors share?

1/31/2010 . Edited 1/31/2010 #1
Vulpine Ninja

LonC suggested it, not me XD;

I need help for my murder mystery idea. Each victims will have different method of being killed, and also depending on their occupation. I have to note that it's in a parallel victorian era-like world. And no fantasy creatures or magic allowed!

1. One victim is a camerawoman, but using the old fashioned camera. After she was murdered, her body was found with her eyes bloodied. Erm, not neccessarily gushed out. But if it was spooned out it should be after she dies. The thing is, how will she die? If possible, I want her to die while taking a photo of something. Or anything that could relate to camera-bleeding eyes-death.

2. The other victim will die due to poisoning. She's a dancer, and she danced her way to her doom. She ends her performance collapsing, but audience would think it's the epic finale. When the shows over, when the crew noticed that she's not moving at all, that's when they found her dead. She consumed/inhaled the poison before her stage performance, the murderer would either send flowers or serve her tea (if there's any other methods please suggest). I want a type of substance that doesn't make a person too dizzy and slowly leads the consumer to death.

Whatever the methods are, it should be difficult to investigate considering there's no high tech stuff during that time. And the required materials needs to be attainable for a low class citizen.

1/31/2010 . Edited 1/31/2010 #2
taerkitty

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

-- Arthur C. Clarke

===

I'll start. I'll even admit to being a boor. Foster's Gambit is the only story I'm working on right now, so its setting is the one most familiar to me, second the Real World.

FG is my attempt to write a magical story without describing the story as 'magic.' Yes, Foster does call it magic, but only as either a figure of speech or in attempting to dumb it down to discuss with another character.

However, I must disagree with Sir Arthur here. I feel the one key differentiating factor between science and magic is inherent in the definition of science itself - repeatability. Do this, with that, under these conditions, for those steps, and you will always get thus. Not just me, but you. The point of science is to have predictable results for every person. You needn't be somehow blessed with magic in your genes or blood or birthline. You do those steps correctly, you will get the same thing I do.

FG is not science. He knows there are some who are better at it than others. Some are better at being Power sources, others better at utilizing Power. It could be talent, it could be mutation, it could be something. Some are just better than others. However, with enough training, everyone could do at least the basics.

For those who haven't read FG, the metascience is what is commonly called 'wish magic' - you want it hard enough, it will happen. Personally, I believe that to be hogwash, but that's not the point here. FG is not a scientific treatise. He wants something, and he concentrates, and he does it hard enough, long enough, and it will happen. Maybe. Depends on how much Power he has, and how outrageous his want is.

So far, we've seen manifestations of Power such as:

Nudge - he imposes a thought into another person's mind.

Mass Illusion - he causes people in the vicinity to see things not as they really are.

Minor Telekinesis - he can move things without touching them.

Ward - he can compel living entities (including other-dimensional 'spirits') to not cross certain barriers.

Spike - he can also interpose a Ward within a living entity and cause it to split apart as it is being compelled to separate from the Ward. This tends to get messy.

Scalpel - he can form a Ward that separates consciousnesses from bodies. The consciousness with the stronger affinity to the body will reattach almost instantly, exorcising the other consciousness(es) from the body.

Some of that is within the possibility of my limits of 'wishing,' but I'm saying that his training allows him to wish harder, more vividly, so it manifests itself.

===

The key point is that I want Foster's abilities to be analogous to martial arts - it may seem impossible to punch through a brick, but with the proper training, it can be done.

1/31/2010 #3
taerkitty

I don't know the feasibility in terms of availability of the materials for these crimes, but how about this:

1. The camerawoman's flash power was somehow laced to produce noxious fumes when triggered. If she were to be alone, taking photos of something, then enough poofs would cause her to fall unconscious, or be sufficiently debilitated that she be unable to offer resistance when the murder approaches, spoon in hand.

2. Unsure. Perhaps a skin agent that is activated by sweat?

1/31/2010 #4
Vulpine Ninja

Quote by Taerkitty: The key point is that I want Foster's abilities to be analogous to martial arts - it may seem impossible to punch through a brick, but with the proper training, it can be done.

It's either mechanical resonance (when external frequency hits the brick frequency, it will break - but as far as I know it only applies in constructions), or breaking the molecular bond. There's a total energy that keeps the molecules together. With sufficient energy, you can even break diamonds! Well since it's using magic, this would be possible. Since using magic Foster can manipulate the amount of energy he wanted to use. However, some materials like bricks are a mixture of different materials. The energy required would be so much higher. therefore Foster probably needs to understand the composition of different kind of materials so that he won't hurt himself if he tried to punch a wall.

Erm, my explanation is rather shallow, less detailed and probably inaccurate. But I don't think you have a need to turn your story into a science textbook.

As for the crimes... well, I do need to know the chemical used in the murder. Something that is easily attainable.

1/31/2010 #5
Mizzuz Spock

1. One victim is a camerawoman, but using the old fashioned camera. After she was murdered, her body was found with her eyes bloodied.

It's a bit of a stretch, but the camerawoman could suffer from photosensitive epilepsy. The murderer replaced her old camera flash with a much brighter bulb, causing her to go into a seizure and die. *shrugs*

2. The other victim will die due to poisoning. She's a dancer, and she danced her way to her doom. She ends her performance collapsing, but audience would think it's the epic finale. ... I want a type of substance that doesn't make a person too dizzy and slowly leads the consumer to death.

I'm thinking rat poison. It would make her dizzy, but not too dizzy. Also, depending on how much she took, it could take awhile for her to kick the bucket. Ugh. I can't find that link for the proof, but I'm pretty sure it could take a couple of hours to a day to kill a person.

The only problem I can find is that I don't think rat poison was invented that far back...though the first patent was in the 1920's. However, most of the ingredients were probably around back then. You need the specific poisons, right?

I'll try and find those...

1/31/2010 #6
1.21 Jigawatts

It's either mechanical resonance (when external frequency hits the brick frequency, it will break - but as far as I know it only applies in constructions), or breaking the molecular bond. There's a total energy that keeps the molecules together. With sufficient energy, you can even break diamonds! Well since it's using magic, this would be possible. Since using magic Foster can manipulate the amount of energy he wanted to use. However, some materials like bricks are a mixture of different materials. The energy required would be so much higher. therefore Foster probably needs to understand the composition of different kind of materials so that he won't hurt himself if he tried to punch a wall.

Brick is basically a heterogeneous ceramic. If reduced to a spring-mass-damper model, it's spring constant would be really high since ceramics are very stiff and have very small elastic response regimes. Ceramics have low strain energy capacity but high stress capacity. This would indicate that the resonant frequency of the fundamental mode for such a material would be really really high - so Foster would have to some kind of quick vibration that he could tune on his fist for him to break a brick by resonance. And since brick is heterogeneous as mentioned by VN, different parts of it would have slightly different resonance frequencies depending on their elastic response properties, although for the types of ceramics used in brick it should be pretty similar. The problem with brick being heterogeneous is that the presence of constituent materials in the matrix will disrupt the mechanical waves that are induced into the material, so even if Foster did know the resonant frequency and could reach it on his fist, the incident wave would need to be stronger than expected in order to excite the whole structure.

When materials fail by resonance, they usually do so due to what is called fatigue loading - cycling of a load which causes crack propagation. When a material resonates, the amplitude of those load cycles are higher - causing the material to fail in a shorter amount of cycles. In order to cause it to fail in a very small amount of cycles, the load amplitude must be really high.

So basically, for Foster to break a brick by resonance, he has to know it resonant frequency of its matrix material (maybe he has an ability that can sense stuff like that intuitively?), he has to be able to reach that frequency on his fist with his strike (magic pulse?), it has to be strong enough to survive dissipation by the constituent materials, and he has to hit it pretty hard (but not necessarily as hard as it would take to simply overpower the stress capacity of the brick) for the brick to fail in a short amount of load cycles (maybe it doesn't shatter on contact, but after he leaves his fist there for like a second).

1/31/2010 #7
1.21 Jigawatts

1. One victim is a camerawoman, but using the old fashioned camera. After she was murdered, her body was found with her eyes bloodied. Erm, not neccessarily gushed out. But if it was spooned out it should be after she dies. The thing is, how will she die? If possible, I want her to die while taking a photo of something. Or anything that could relate to camera-bleeding eyes-death.

The flash powder used in the camera could have been something like powdered magnesium or some other metal, which would release a really intense light when burned with oxygen (excitation states of combustion radicals, all that jazz). The light could have then been concentrated by the lens with which she looked into the camera, creating a focusing effect on her eyes that could have rendered the light radiation strong enough to burn off a small section of her eyeball. Or, the energy released (either by straight heat or light radiation being absorbed and converted into heat) could be such that it instantly raised the vapor pressure of the liquids (not necessarily by a really high amount) in her eyeball to burst a blood vessel - which are delicate structures.

Back-of-the-hand calculation needed to confirm plausibility.

1/31/2010 #8
taerkitty

By the by, Foster doesn't punch through bricks. The bit about bricks was an analogy to show the feel I was going for in the story - it's not magic, just the result of training and skill.

2/2/2010 #9
McKinley Cooper
It would be incredible if music could defy the laws of physics...imploding diamonds, making people fly, stopping wars, giving people superhuman powers. I know what effects music can have on the viseral part of you, but I would love to see somone unleash (if only through fiction) the power of music beyond romance and booty grinding
2/5/2010 #10
Vulpine Ninja

It would be incredible if music could defy the laws of physics...imploding diamonds, making people fly, stopping wars, giving people superhuman powers. I know what effects music can have on the viseral part of you, but I would love to see somone unleash (if only through fiction) the power of music beyond romance and booty grinding

There's a sci-fi anime with that theme, called "Black Heaven". There's a space war and the fend of their enemies with music :3. I was younger and stupider when I watch it, but I remember the destructive effects of the sound wave. Now that I think about it... W**. Sound wave cannot freakin' travel in space/vacuum! So there, it DEFIED the laws of physics. Also, there's one manga called Bremen -it's about a four piece band- , there's one evil rock band who gives their audiences some kind of drug, whose effects trigger whenever they play their music. What happened to the audience? They went outta their minds, start killing and raping each other. O_O;;

Well, for me, I DO NOT want music to completely defy the laws of physics (since it's my major, seeing too many of scientific laws farked up is blasphemous!!). BUT, I am able to accept it if the author enhances or 'manipulate' the laws/theories to make the phenomena sound more logical. Like I mention earlier about mechanical frequency, a wineglass can break when someone sings loudly at the right pitch. Therefore using your left and right brain, and your initiative to do some research on "sound waves", then you could probably have a logical explanation on how your guitar player is able to shoot lightning bolts, or how your drummer cause earthquakes and vocalist doing mindcontrol etc.

2/5/2010 #11
McKinley Cooper

Oh, you are so far above my head...but I remember seeing ads from the 50s when the "establishment" thought rock n roll had that evil rock band effect on the masses...some of those are so freaking hilarious. I'm guessing you've seen the film Close Encounters where a series of musical notes successfully contacts an alien race and brings them to earth?

2/13/2010 #12
Mizzuz Spock
I'm afraid to ask, lest I open up a can of worms, but I need to know: What's the most plausible explanation for time travel? And, what are the effects? (Like, can you completely create a whole other timeline, or does time change for no one? Like, you can prevent yourself from wrecking your car one way, but a different circumstance arises where you still wreck your car.) In fiction, I suppose I could go with whatever I wanted, but I wanted to ask which is the more logical route to take first?
2/23/2010 #13
Indestructible13
*cracks knuckles* Alright, time to get into theoretical physics! Keep in mind though that while the following is widely accepted, it is still a theory and cannot, as of yet, be proven through any known methods.Time is considered the "fourth dimension," just as length, height and depth are the first three. While we can travel at will in three dimensions, we are constantly traveling through the fourth at a rate we cannot change nor even determine. As such, the past cannot be changed without creating a paradox, which the universe does not allow. So if you went back in time to prevent yourself from wrecking your car, you would either fail completely and not have any effect or you would only cause your car to be wrecked in the first place.If you actually want to have time be changed, than you'll have to pull some alternate timeline thing; which you could do, as such a thing could not be disproven. If I were you though, I'd have some awesome "merging of the timelines" thing go on toward the end of the story.Or you can have the time machine or w/e does it not make the user travel back in time, but have it just rewind time.There's some more complicated crap I can explain, like how gravity and speed affect the flow of time, but I'm not going to get into that unless I really need to.
2/23/2010 . Edited 2/23/2010 #14
Indestructible13
what the hell? I had that in five paragraphs, what happened?
2/23/2010 #15
taerkitty
Welcome to the brave new FictionPress. See the Front Page, where they say we're in for two weeks of bumpy riding while they bring us up to feature parity with FanFiction.net. Hang on!!!

For your reading ease, here's an attempt to poke back in the four paragraph breaks in your previous post:

*cracks knuckles* Alright, time to get into theoretical physics! Keep in mind though that while the following is widely accepted, it is still a theory and cannot, as of yet, be proven through any known methods.

Time is considered the "fourth dimension," just as length, height and depth are the first three. While we can travel at will in three dimensions, we are constantly traveling through the fourth at a rate we cannot change nor even determine. As such, the past cannot be changed without creating a paradox, which the universe does not allow.

So if you went back in time to prevent yourself from wrecking your car, you would either fail completely and not have any effect or you would only cause your car to be wrecked in the first place. If you actually want to have time be changed, than you'll have to pull some alternate timeline thing; which you could do, as such a thing could not be disproven.

If I were you though, I'd have some awesome "merging of the timelines" thing go on toward the end of the story. Or you can have the time machine or w/e does it not make the user travel back in time, but have it just rewind time.

There's some more complicated crap I can explain, like how gravity and speed affect the flow of time, but I'm not going to get into that unless I really need to.

==

For those curious how I formatted this post, please see the FAQ: Help! I Can't Make Separate Paragraphs in Forum Posts thread in the About FictionPress: FAQ and Help for New Users Forum.

2/23/2010 #16
Indestructible13
Thank you kitty. I haven't had to write in raw html in a while. I also didn't realize they converted to html.
2/23/2010 . Edited 2/23/2010 #17
taerkitty
They didn't, I don't think. I suspect they broke something trying to port the FFnet code over here, and this is a breakfix. Better half-a-loaf. I only realized this when I was trying to bemoan the WYSIWYG editor and posted a link as an example of what was lost in the name of progress.

But I'm sure it'll be better soon. They don't write raw HTML in FFnet, do they?

2/23/2010 #18
Indestructible13
hell if I know, I've never been over there.
2/23/2010 #19
sophiesix

For a narrative version of Indie's lecture, try Punslinger's It's About Time

and no, they don't have to write in html over there in FF land, bless their precious little fingerlies.

Bleeding in the eyes can be caused by heaps of stuff, try: http://en.diagnosispro.com/differential_diagnosis-for/bleeding-from-eyes/23942-154.html. Personally I like the idea of a toxin (maybe rattle snake?) or per-acute virus applied to the view finder, then transferred via teh eyelashes to the eye. ouch! direct contact! one thing that would work for both deaths is something like adrenalin: it caused teh heart to work overtime, increased blood pressure, bursting teh eye blood vesels (especially if they aer weak), and eventually causing a heart attack. The dancer would have high adrenalin anyway, because they'd be psyched up for the performance and then performing, and so wouldn't notice anything strange for a while.

3/23/2010 #20
InkBlotTheatre founder

Hello,

If it's alright I'd like to ask for help on a particular element with a high fantasy story I'm working on. This is directed to anyone.This will mark my first time posting here on FP so please forgive me if this isn't the proper place/way to do so. ^^;

My problems pertain specifically to the physics, world laws and other such limitations of Changelings. I've done some research on my own, learning about various shape shifters in fiction - Envy (Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa), Odo (Star Trek: Deep Space 9), and Mystique (X-Men) - but thus far I haven't really been able to solve these problems by myself.

I knew I'd have to make certain creative decisions concerning their transformation abilities-- Do they also change their clothes, or do they have to carry lots of clothes around with them, otherwise they'd be n***? I decided I wanted to opt. for the former rather than the latter, but that in itself presented some major snags I hadn't counted on.

"If they can manipulate the structure of their clothes the same as their own bodies, if their clothes get damaged, wouldn't that be akin to being injured? And further, if the basis of their metamorphic ability is the alteration of their cells, what about their hair? If it's cut, does that mean they'll have to detract that amount from their body as a whole?" These aspects never seemed to be addressed all that clearly with the existing shape shifters I've looked into.

What I have so far is this: The Changelings in my story transform by manipulating their biological cells at will to assume the physical appearance of humans/humanoids. Further, they can "stretch" their overall body mass to turn into some animals (no smaller than medium-size dog, and no larger than a horse), like pulling a balloon over a much larger object (If stretched too much, their cells will start to break down and cause problems when reverting back). Their most distinguishable feature is their mismatched eyes, which is a result of generational gene deterioration; their eyes are the one part they can't change. Their original form is something they can't remember. Their mothers will place them in a relatively secluded, usually forested area, and then leave them untended, much in the way sea turtles do their eggs. Until a Changeling can gain mental cognition, their powers run subconsciously, turning them into whatever sentient lifeform they first encounter. Depending on the circumstance, they can spend years in this form before attaining sentience enough to become aware of their situation and to control their abilities. As such, they tend to have very little concern for familial ties. This also means that they themselves aren't fully aware of their actual age.

8/13/2010 #21
YasuRan

Hi InkBlot! I can hardly consider myself an expert on things sci-fi but I'll try my best to help.

As you've already pointed out, the feature of changing their clothes presents a lot of issues that crop. Quite likely, there would be intra-molecular changes that affect clothes if they were to transform with the rest of the person. Perhaps you could create some specific type of clothing that adapts easily to the morpher. In the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate, the transformers use ordinary leotards or bodysuits when morphing into animals.

Another thing, certain 'organic' materials can play their part. Cotton, for instance, may have a biological structure that may be easier to manipulate. Since leather is made from cow-skin, wouldn't that be another similar case?

Those are my two cents. Please feel free to discuss :)

9/2/2010 #22
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