# How to limit magic mirrors so they're not overly powerful?

Based on a set of questions by Pavel Janicek about how to address and then monetize magic mirrors in today's modern world.

The short version of these magic mirrors is that any one magic mirror can make a 2-way connection to any other magic mirror by the user asking their mirror to connect to another mirror by its unique name.

Many of the answers to the monetization question suggest using mirrors to replace wires/fiber-optic cables/radio signals in current communication technology. The magic mirrors as described appear to:

• Not use any power (no apparent power source involved, no apparent degradation from use)
• Not have a limit on range (tested at 1500 km apart)
• Transmit both vision (which we've all assumed means light, the full EM spectrum) and sound in high or perfect fidelity
• Not require an infrastructure like wires or cell towers to carry a signal between mirrors
• Understand natural language in at least 5 languages and presumably any language spoken by a human
• Require a unique name, which can be any unintelligible combination of syllables, leaving an absurdly wide address space.
• Understand and correctly interpret drunkenly slurred as well as computer-generated speech. (They may possibly interpret unspoken intent in the speaker's mind, further testing is required.)

• "50 of materials" when built by hand, by a layman, at the same size as the original. The same layman built their second for $30 and in half the time, still by hand. Once a manufacturing base was up the cost per unit would be comparable to a 4G LTE modem chip. Oct 10, 2018 at 11:25 Anyone could be watching. If i understand the mirror correctly, then anyone could say your name and find you at any time. This may not be desireable. Any measures people take to avoid being watched would also impact the usefulness of the mirrors, meaning it would be difficult to reach the ones you seek. I think that between the creepyness of being watched at any moment, and how useless the mirrors would be if everyone blocked them, there is plenty of drawbacks. ## Each Mirror Requires a Unique ID Unfortunately these ID's have a limit on size. So eventually there will be more mirrors than ID's and they don't connect to each other but interfere with other valid connections causing the 2 working mirrors to stop functioning as intended. It would not be immediately noticeable and any mirrors currently owned and used could stop working causing customer complaints and even lawsuits. • By "limit on size", do you mean "only x number of IDs can exist at a time", or "each ID can only be up to x in length"? Because if the latter - the existing examples are "Creator's Name, then 2 words". There are over 170,000 words in the Oxford Dictionary - if we discount half of these as "unsuitable", that's still over 7 billion combinations per creator. Oct 10, 2018 at 22:57 • @Chronocidal each ID can only be up to X in length and cuts off the rest of the characters – Reed Oct 11, 2018 at 13:30 • I was going to post something similar. Instead of IDs I would just say there are a limit of bands the mirrors communicate on. By default they discover a free band, but once they are full you will just ease drop on someone else Feb 4, 2020 at 19:49 The problems Some of the ways in which the mirrors are overpowered based on the previous answers are: • As a computer component for long distance data transfer they blow current technology out of the water, with their light speed, degradation free transfer of data. • data transfer is totally secure • they have no interferance • As a method of energy transfer they are overpowered, capable of transferring unbounded amounts of energy at lightspeed without loss • They may be able to break the laws of thermodynamics by creating energy (if a small mirror is paired with a larger mirror, and this mirror produces an image of the same intensity as if it were there, then the number of photons being emitted by the larger mirror would be greater than the number hitting the smaller mirror) In short The key problem with these mirrors is that they are too perfect; adding lots of minor limitations to all the areas where they seem to be perfect will be a more subtle way to make them less overpowered than adding a single major flaw. It will also be more robust, as a range of minor limitations will be less likely to break physics in new ways, or to be subject to easy work arounds. Suggested solutions • Firstly, make the transfer of data slightly less than lightspeed, and variable depending on location. (But close enough to lightspeed that Pavel's physics geek friend who set up a simple experiment to check it could not detect the difference). This gives a little leeway, allowing for a mechanism for the transfer which does not break physics as we know it. It also makes this tech more equivalent to fibre-optics and satellite communication. • Secondly make the product of Intensity and Surface Area constant between mirrors as explained by Chronocidal. This avoids breaking the first law of thermodynamics. • Add some subtle signal degradation. For example you could have a brightness factor which decreases over distance, such that $$r = ic^d$$ where $$r$$ is the total light output of the receiving mirror, $$i$$ is the total light hitting the input mirror, $$d$$ is a measure of distance, and $$c$$ is a constant less than 1. • Add some interference - when lots of mirrors are used close together they are all cloudy and unclear, or have random flashes and sparks flying across the screen. • limit the amount of energy they can transfer - perhaps it is possible to make them more robust to deal with high intensity energy - but increasing the current upper bounds will be a slow process of research. • limit the minimum size of these mirrors (at least without ongoing research), making them less useful as computer components (this is realistic as the original creators would never have conceived of people wanting really tiny versions of the mirrors). The result If these limitations were added the mirrors would still be revolutionary new components for computers and be used in ingenious ways, but they would not be quite so overpowered as to totally change computing. They would also be less likely to break physics as we know it. As two way face-to face communications devices and visual links on earth, these limits could be calibrated to be hardly noticeable. A note on security Without knowing how these devices connect I believe any serious cyber-security expert would be extremely dubious about using them for secure communications - since this would be essentially security by obscurity. Who knows if someone has a copy of Baba Yaga's lesser known work "Intercepting Magical Communications"? Secure signals over magical mirrors would need to be encrypted. Thus I don't think we need to add any artificial limits to their security of connection, other than doubt. • The concern about breaking the First Law of Thermodynamics is a bit overblown, I think. What you need to worry about isn't getting "free" energy per se, it's being able to loop your energy generation so that you can get exponentially increasing amounts. I would note that most of the time, when people think they're not creating energy, they actually are (have you considered how gravitational fields come into play, for instance?) Oct 12, 2018 at 5:35 ## The mirrors don't actually transmit light or sound Instead the mirrors provide a psychic illusion which is, to a living creature, indistinguishable from a transmission of light and sound. But it cannot be used to transfer energy or provide communication between mechanical components. I think they only appear perfect, but they are still magic transceivers. They transmit through the magic domain to the receiver, but diffraction and side lobes still apply. Larger mirrors work better than smaller ones, but every mirror in service contributes magic noise to every other receiver. They fill with smoke until the magic tunes properly. The ever growing number of mirrors, especially the convenient, portable, smaller mirrors, the higher is the noise floor. The smoke doesn't clear quickly, and eventually not completely. Communication degrades as the magic splatter interferes with the magic by intention. Soon, reliable communication requires larger mirrors, which uses more of the magic ingredients. In a response to the monetize post, found here, it is stated: If it handles sufficient intensity then a mismatch in sizes makes some interesting industrial processes possible. (May have some problems with the laws of thermodynamics, but hey, this is magic, right?) Consider a 2 meter mirror connected to a 1 mm mirror. Put the big one outside. Now you have about 4 kW coming out of a hole 1 mm in diameter. To prevent breaking laws of thermodynamics, what if the mirrors could only connect to other mirrors of their own size? This way you aren't allowed to compress the energy. Also, in response to your point, can't be misused by a mad scientist to easily destroy the world (eg duplicating photons in a loop to instantly create massive amounts of energy from nothing). being limited to connecting to only one mirror at a time would also prevent duplicating photons. # Mirrors are immobile A mirror needs to be grounded to dissipate excess magic harmlessly. This grounding effect is invoked when the mirror is ritually placed where it belongs, at which point it cannot be moved more than a couple meters from the original location on Earth it was placed. this means you can't use it for mobile communication or launch it into space, and you need someone familiar with the grounding ritual to install it. • This is a good suggestion, but it's something that Pavel would have noticed when testing the effects of distance between mirrors. Oct 11, 2018 at 13:18 • @MartinCarney That doesn't mean it can't be a good limitation. You can play around a bit with what exactly causes a mirror to be grounded and ways around that. Maybe it needs to have a direct connection to the ground to be grounded, possibly through a wall. So you can still move it around after it's grounded, but you can't have it on a mobile phone, in a ship or in orbit because to use it you need to reground it. Oct 11, 2018 at 13:24 1. The mirrors connect to the nearest mirror with the requested key, regardless of which alternate reality it is in given some distance metric. • For the most part this could easily go unnoticed, after all the difference of a decayed particle 2 * 10 ^ 30 lightyears away does not have a great affect on things happening on earth. But occasionally two mirrors connect and transfer the wrong information. Or a mirror refuses to connect, because already connected. 2. The mirrors derive their energy from a simple void energy reduction, this increases the amount of Dark Matter, increasing gravity. The effect is negligible with a handful of mirrors, but the demands for billions of mirrors in use for modern telecommunications is quickly increasing Earths gravity. 3. The mirrors used an ingredients that original came to$50. Unfortunately there is no known way to recycle the mirrors, and the supply of this particular ingredient is non-renewable. Prices soar, only the wealthy own a mirror.

4. The mirrors are all quantum entangled with each other. While a connection does indeed occur between just two mirrors, the strain is spread across them.

• due to increased production, mirrors are feasible indestructible. The latest methods of throwing them into a star results in melting every mirror in existence.
• due to increased production, each mirror made is making every mirror progressively more brittle. A single person dropping their mirror results in many thousands of mirrors cracking.
5. The mirrors are actually part of an experiment being conducted by n dimensional beings. The mirrors in fact do nothing, but the n-dimensional beings are moving the data back and forth themselves. However this is an experiment so they are not faithfully replicating all data. The intent of this experiment is not actually known.

6. The mirrors are slowly becoming dark, the cause is unknown. It does not appear to have anything to do with their construction. Its almost like the source of their power is dwindling. Certain parts of the planet are still capable of powering them, but their are growing dead-zones.

7. The mirrors are slowly twisting space time. Every time two mirrors connect they are sowing two disconnected places together. When the mirrors are moved the seam still exists.

• the seam forms a scar, the longer it is used the rougher that piece of space time. A person might walk through such a spot and have their heart appear twenty thousand miles away.
• light starts leaking through places where mirrors have been in continual use and then removed, like two super imposed images.
• These seams might store the anti-energy generated through use of the mirror, when it collapses and annihilates it causes a huge explosion. The amount is relatively stable in small amounts or during infrequent test, slowly releasing. But the frequent widespread use in dense areas, or the amounts produced by industrial 8metre mirrors can become unstable and quickly release.

On top of needing the name of the mirror you wish to connect to, you must also align the mirrors to some reasonable degree of accuracy. The physics-y answer is the mirror is acting like a portal letting the photons through, but the caveat is the photons must still travel in the same direction as they did before (consevre momentum), thus the mirrors must be pointing towards each other. Over long distances it gets harder to point them at each other, so they become less useful for individuals looking for long distance communication. Large organizations however build large central hubs with mirrors pointing to other hubs. You could then have normal mirrors reflecting the light to other magical mirrors (to get round the pointing at each other issue) and thus you build up a series communication hubs with point-to-point magical mirrors,which might then go to smaller hubs before eventually reaching the destination. You'll need a small army of people to change the pointing of non-magical mirrors route your message to the right magical mirror, much like telephone operators in the past.

This is magic. Magic always has a price on the wielder.

The mirror uses energy of the invoker. It takes 1 calorie/minute per square inch of both mirrors. So a pair of 2x2" mirrors have 8 square inches. 1440 minutes per day. It takes 12,000 calories per day to keep it running. This is doable. Pre-chainsaw, a lumberjack would eat 6-8 thousand calories per day. Similar to what a teenage male in a growth spurt eats.

A bathroom medicine size mirror at 16 x 25 inches linked to a tiny spy mirror takes 400cal/minute to use. By comparison basal metabolism is about 1 cal/minute. Using this mirror would be close to instantly fatal, depending on the mechanism it harvests energy.

Adjust the 1 cal/minute for your story.

Perhaps the energy used is proportional not to the area but the largest linear dimension. This makes larger mirrors easier to deal with.

Or perhaps to the distance between the mirrors. If it was proportional to a power of the distance, then you have an interesting control mechanism:

Victim is forced to link two mirrors. I take the two mirrors. As long as he behaves, I keep them in the same drawer. If he mis-behaves, I put one on a freighter going to Australia.

With analogy to black mail, this is silvermail.

We institute a new title: "The conscience of the King" On ascension to the throne, the king invokes a pair of mirrors. These are put in the charge of an Abbot at monastery near the capital. The abbot can't tell the king what to do, but can let the king know when he doesn't approve.