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My first post on Worldbuilding, hello all!

So my question is what could be some interesting logic or thoughts behind having a lightning magic user being able to fly?

To quote another user who wanted to build a lightning rifle... (Lightning Rifle)

"Typical lightning requires a large difference in electrical potential, and something that prevents equalizing this difference. In lightning storms the ground and clouds (in normal cloud-to-ground scenarios) the "polarities" of our difference in charge. The air itself insulates the exchange of electricity to balance out these charges.

Lightning produces "leaders" prior to the actual flash of electrical discharge we see. Leaders are Channels of ionized air that effectively seek out shortest path (and produce the zig-zag pattern of the bolts)."

The idea I am toying around with is that the lightning casters will do exactly this, generate a massive charge around themselves and a corresponding opposite charge around their target. That said, I'm curious if there could be any potential for this to eventually lead itself to some form of flight.

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  • $\begingroup$ Can your wizards ride their own bolts? (like the aliens in War of the Worlds) $\endgroup$ – Magus Dec 20 '18 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ I hadn't thought of riding their own bolts, literally riding the lightning. That would be neat! But its not something i think I wanted to run with for this type of caster $\endgroup$ – Govinator Dec 20 '18 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ Once you use the word "magic", why bother with the rest of the logic at this point? You can just make stuff up. $\endgroup$ – Nelson Dec 21 '18 at 2:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Nelson A magic world has its own rules and the everything in that world must follow those rules. You can't just hand-wave away all problems with "magic". Checkout Brandon Sanderson's Three Laws of Magic. $\endgroup$ – Paresh Dec 21 '18 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Magus Just so you know, that is so not in the book. $\endgroup$ – Shawn V. Wilson Dec 21 '18 at 17:40
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Ion flight. http://news.mit.edu/2018/first-ionic-wind-plane-no-moving-parts-1121

Unlike turbine-powered planes, the aircraft does not depend on fossil fuels to fly. And unlike propeller-driven drones, the new design is completely silent.

“This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system,” says Steven Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. “This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”

The team’s final design resembles a large, lightweight glider. The aircraft, which weighs about 5 pounds and has a 5-meter wingspan, carries an array of thin wires, which are strung like horizontal fencing along and beneath the front end of the plane’s wing. The wires act as positively charged electrodes, while similarly arranged thicker wires, running along the back end of the plane’s wing, serve as negative electrodes.


The fuselage of the plane holds a stack of lithium-polymer batteries. Barrett's ion plane team included members of Professor David Perreault’s Power Electronics Research Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics, who designed a power supply that would convert the batteries’ output to a sufficiently high voltage to propel the plane. In this way, the batteries supply electricity at 40,000 volts to positively charge the wires via a lightweight power converter.

Once the wires are energized, they act to attract and strip away negatively charged electrons from the surrounding air molecules, like a giant magnet attracting iron filings. The air molecules that are left behind are newly ionized, and are in turn attracted to the negatively charged electrodes at the back of the plane.

As the newly formed cloud of ions flows toward the negatively charged wires, each ion collides millions of times with other air molecules, creating a thrust that propels the aircraft forward.


This was the simplest possible plane we could design that could prove the concept that an ion plane could fly,” Barrett says. “It’s still some way away from an aircraft that could perform a useful mission. It needs to be more efficient, fly for longer, and fly outside.”

It's the newest thing, and since your caster is a giant electricity generator, they should be able to do this. Either with their fingers to look really talented, or with specially designed suits.

This has a rather unique and terrifying benefit that it is completely silent, so your lightning mage is also a perfectly silent flying assassin, able to go anywhere and hurl bolts on unsuspecting foes.

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    $\begingroup$ Trevor. This answer needs to be expanded to include the relevant content from the link you provided. If the answer cannot stand on it's own without the link it will get deleted since the link may go dead in the future. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 20 '18 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @James Ok added some of the article, it loses some meaning by losing the videos. But it's pretty easy to google if the link goes dead, it's major news and a huge scientific leap forwards. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Dec 20 '18 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ Hmm... prerty certain you’d need a clever little wing suit to make use of the generated thrust, and I think you’d also need to have quite a decent area covered by your electrodes to avoid accidentally creating lightning arcs (destroying your useful ion drift). Nice answer though! $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 20 '18 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ But, looking at the video - how much of that thrust is from the "Ion Engine", and how much is from that big rubber-band launcher it sets off from though? $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Dec 21 '18 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Chronocidal Well they have a video with just the rubber band. But I imagine it was just to kick start the test since they lacked a runway. However, if initial thrust is a problem and this is only suitable for gliding around, then JMac's idea would be a good source of initial thrust, then using ion flight to fly around, only needing JMac's idea for additional thrust. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Dec 21 '18 at 13:48
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I think Trevor's idea of ion flight is much more reasonable and in line with what you would want to do, so that's probably the best approach.

But for the sake of exploring options, they could also potentially ride the shockwaves of their own lightning. When lightning strikes it heats up the air significantly (up to 30 000 K), and this air quickly wants to expand due to the nature of gasses and the reaction to heat.

This produces a large pressure blast, which, if carefully positioned should be able to generate a pressure shockwave that is able to push them in the desired direction. It would be a tough balance of being far enough away to not injure; but close enough to still be within the range of the wave before it breaks into thunder. You may need to be wearing protective equipment, or handwave it away. Considering they are able to generate lightning in general, it might be best to assume the pressure doesn't harm them.

You could probably make it a lot better by wearing some sort of glider or wings to increase the lift from the pressure wave. I would think someone dedicated to this may even build some sort of framework that goes behind them that has two surfaces which could build opposing charge; with a lift generating device placed directly in front like a sail. You could essentially make a heat engine that uses ambient air and is worn like a backpack.

The benefit of this is that you would look like an absolute badass riding a trail of successive lightning bolts to your destination. You would be practically riding the thunder (if you ignore the semantics about when the pressure wave actually becomes "thunder").

This option is essentially the opposite direction from Trevor's option. The ion flight would allow a stealthy controlled approach. Riding the thunder would definitely make an entrance, which may or may not be beneficial depending on if you wanted to intimidate or not.

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    $\begingroup$ That really would look cool. And they would know you were coming from such a long distance people would have time to go to church and pray before you arrive. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Dec 20 '18 at 18:20
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Electrostatic levitation

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=electrostatic+levitation&page=&utm_source=opensearch

Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv__Zln-h5Q

Not sure how to summary a video.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrostatic_levitation

Electrostatic levitation is the process of using an electric field to levitate a charged object and counteract the effects of gravity. It was used, for instance, in Robert Millikan's oil drop experiment and is used to suspend the gyroscopes in Gravity Probe B during launch.

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Use them to make plasma thrusters!

If they can bend their lightning bolts around into rings, and exercise great control, then the more skilled of the casters could use them as make shift plasma thrusters, only instead of expelling ions of xenon fuel, they can use additional bolts to form plasma and blast it through the ring via magnetic fields. After all a strong enough arc will rip the electrons off of atoms to form plasma, it could even be used to melt/weld things ( arc welders and arc furnaces? )

The end result being a bright ring spewing out fire, a makeshift weapon, as well as expert casters being able to fly as far as the edge of space, or make multiple appear to lift heavy objects

The bonus is, there's sort of real world precedent, this is equivalent to a magnetoplasma rocket, such as VASIMIR, except instead of magnets you have rings of electricity/lightning

enter image description here

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  1. Magnets, have some magnets in your clothes (possibly electromagnets) then generate a set of repelling electrical fields around yourself making your armor wanting to escape in the direction you want to fly

  2. get some wings (of paper or something) then partially transubstantiate yourself to lightning much reducing your weight enabling lighter than air flight

  3. Don't fly. Teleport by becoming lightning and aim yourself where you want to go

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