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I've just been transported into a world where I have god-like powers, they are near absolute as far as I can tell, at least I've yet to find their limits.

The guiding principle of my powers seems to be "if I understand it, I can use it."

I want to experiment and figure out the extent of them, but also figure out the physics of this universe to extend my powers (assume physics comparable to our own).

As a fresh graduate of college in a science discipline, I have a broad but not very deep understanding of chemistry, mechanical physics, relativity, quantum mechanics, etc.

What would be a well informed testing regiment? What are some of first experiments I should perform to form a solid basis? Optionally later, what shall be my magnum opus? The test that justifies all this time and effort, and what does its results tell me?

META: I am new to this community, I don't know if this questions fits within worldbuilding, if not where would be a better place for it? Or simply a more fitting variant for this community?

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, this seems to be a legitimate world-building question (at least to me). Should generate some interesting answers, too! $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Aug 15 '19 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ What does "understand" mean? Does observing that things fall down when you drop them allow you to fly? Or do you need to understand how gravity warps spacetime for that? If your powers allow you to defy known physics, then your model of physics is manifestly incorrect - your powers paradoxically preclude the understanding you require to use them! $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Aug 15 '19 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Zeiss, I'm happy to hear that! @NuclearWang, I think it would depend how I wanted to fly. If I used the aerospace knowledge that having more air pass under me than over me would create lift, I could fly. Seeing an apple fall may tell me that some force exists always pulling down, I don't think it'd let me control gravity because in newtonian physics gravity is just a force, I don't know what causes it, so I can't manipulate it. If I knew of spacetime warping, I then had the knowledge to affect gravity by affecting change in spacetime? Maybe? Either way I dig your paradox. $\endgroup$ – Tryer Aug 15 '19 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Can you please add some examples of things that you can do and what understanding was required to do them? I'm uncertain of the link between "understand" and "do" in this. For example, what can you do with knowledge of refraction, and how much knowledge do you need? $\endgroup$ – Corey Aug 16 '19 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE Tryer, glad you found us. Please check out our tour and help center. $\endgroup$ – Cyn says make Monica whole Aug 17 '19 at 16:53
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Given the rule "If I can understand it then I can do it" - which I feel needs some expansion - then the obvious first goal should be to increase your methods of improving your understanding. Ultimately you're going to want to get as close to omniscience as you can reach, which will give you the maximum amount of possible actions.

From one of your comments:

If I used the aerospace knowledge that having more air pass under me than over me would create lift, I could fly.

This implies that any effect that you know the mechanism of - generation of aerodynamic lift in this case - can be produced directly without having to mess about with the actual mechanics of lift. You understand how wings generate lift so you can generate lift without in fact having wings.

This seems to be contradicted a bit later in the same comment (regarding Gravity):

If I knew of spacetime warping, I then had the knowledge to affect gravity by affecting change in spacetime?

This implies that in order to alter the force of gravity you have to go all the way down to affecting the (to the best of our knowledge) fundamental cause of gravity. You can't magically generate gravity but you can bend spacetime to your whim.

Let's say you understand Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. You know that there is a force called Gravity that acts between particles with mass, you understand the formulae and so on. But your understanding is based on a flawed model. Actually gravity is a fictitious force that is due to motion through curved spacetime. Or it might be a quantum field effect. Or the interaction of mass with some unknown field. Or any of a number of other things. How would you progress from your understanding of Newtonian Gravity to Relativity?

Unfortunately this is going to be a big problem. Before being exposed to Einstein there were very few people who ever even considered empty space to be a thing that could bend, let alone time being part of it. There are people today who don't believe that time is dimensional who think that Relativity is a handy model but isn't actually true. If you have to understand what is actually, really true about how the universe functions then you might never be able to do much without revelation.

But maybe it's enough to have confidence in your understanding. You've figured out that you can do magic, but your brain is trained in logic and reason and won't let you just accept the situation. It demands that there be reasons and limits and so on, because otherwise the universe can't possibly make sense. So when you try to lift a rock with your understanding of physics, using your understanding of warped spacetime for example, what you're actually doing is simply justifying your ability to make the rock move. Actually you're just moving the rock by force of will. If you didn't believe that you could because you don't understand enough about the physics then, sadly, the rock remains unmoved.

It would be kind of sad if you spent decades trying to understand things only to discover that you just have to want it to happen and it does, huh?

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  • $\begingroup$ This is an absolutely lovely answer that deserves votes but was late to the party. You're correct in that my comment does contradict itself. I hadn't thought about the actual system until after I posted the question. I now have a more solid basis in mind, it isn't yours but I will mark it best answer. Your speculation towards the end about how a logical brain needs justification has really nice consequences. 1. Its a nice dramatic twist. 2. It explains most inconsistencies. If I think areodynamics will let me fly it will; if I think that newton isn't enough to control gravity, then it isn't. $\endgroup$ – Tryer Aug 19 '19 at 14:25
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry it was late, I thought I posted it and left it open over the weekend. Oops :) Very glad you liked it though. $\endgroup$ – Corey Aug 19 '19 at 22:44
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This has a bit of a meta twist to it.

"If I understand it, I can use it" is pretty much the rallying cry of engineers. Once science is understood, it is applied by the engineers. As such, if you undertake many engineering tasks, you can build up confidence that you understand "If I can understand it, I can use it." Yay recursion!

Once that step is complete, you may wish to tackle understanding understanding. That's a monumentally challenging thing. Oddly enough, those who ascribe to "know thyself," have a strange tendency of arguing that anything they want to do is achievable. Food for thought.

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Fortunately, you've given us a very important clue when it comes to figuring out the limitations of your new universe - it exist. This lets us apply logic from the fine-tuning problem.

All laws of nature stem from applications of the prior laws, for instance atomic interactions laws can simply be said to be a natural extension of the laws that create them in the first place, i.e. the Strong Nuclear Force and the Weak Nuclear Force. Right now, we've boiled the forces of the universe down to four fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force), and they're theoretically all unified in one force, the single unifying force (which is known as the 'Unified Field Theory').

Now, for a universe to have different laws from out universe, it needs to have a different Unified Field Theory - at which point the universe falls apart. Everything in our universe only works because of how finely tuned the forces are. If gravity was a magnitude stronger or weaker, we wouldn't have stable stars. If nuclear interactions worked differently, elemental atoms couldn't form or interact, depending on the forces. Any change to the Unified Field Theory means that the fundamental laws of the Universe now prohibit existence. That means since your universe exists, it now follows all the rules you know and love.

Is there another possibility? Yes. Since proving negatives is impossible, it's possible that another configuring of the Unified Field Theory could produce a workable universe. But that would be near-incomprehensible. Literally, we're designed to operate in a universe that obeys our laws, and a universe that obeys entirely different laws wouldn't be able to interact with you well. And, even in the event that you somehow could, you'd have to start from scratch. So, either you understand everything, or you understand nothing and are stuck doing everything from ground zero up.

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    $\begingroup$ Well, for one, we don't have a unified field theory, and we still don't know if such a theory is possible (as a good fit for the universe we live in). Second, while small changes to the underlying laws of physics (whatever they actually are) would make the universe very different, that doesn't mean that e.g. stars or life would be impossible - they'll just be different. For example, if the weak nuclear force didn't exist, stars like our Sun wouldn't work - but others still would. Of course, as we get better understanding of physics, some constraints are relaxed, and others tightened. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Aug 16 '19 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ The concept of 'stars emerging differently' was addressed in my post - I said that other configurations might produce a workable universe. Which is currently incomprehensible. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Aug 16 '19 at 13:26
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First you need to verify the unaltered physics of your new home. Ideally, someone who does not have god-like powers should recreate Galileo's and Newton's experimental work (pendulums, centripetal force, etc.), while someone performs or researches the equivalent of Tycho Brahe's and Johannes Kepler's observational confirmation of orbital motion and a non-geocentric (or even non-heliocentric) universe.

While that work is going on, you could give someone a jump start on the knowledge to recreate Maxwell's electromagnetic equations, along with Franklin's, Faraday's, and eventually Stinmetz and Tesla's work with electricity and magnetism.

Starting from the knowledge base you describe, all of this should be accomplished (given a reasonable level of recruitment) in a matter of a few years.

The real trick will be biology -- unless you understand biology better than our society, you can't extend your own life to god-like immortality. Better get the smart folks on that one.

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    $\begingroup$ However, would it be possible to reach the tech...I mean god singularity by trying to understand intelligence and how the mind works? Just get philosophers to try and really nail down how the brain works. Any time you understand something about it, you can influence it and improve it. So, you can improve your philosophers. Repeat. Eventually, with enough understanding of the brain, you should be able to create a mind that can understand more than you but then also be able to explain everything to you. So, it's a perpetual self-improvement feeding back all knowledge to you. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Aug 15 '19 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ Sounds to me like you're saying it's turtles all the way down... $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Aug 15 '19 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, but also I just took the idea of a self-improving AI and transferred it to here. It's also a well known exploit in D&D 3.X that relies on a similar mechanic - basically, you summon a creature, improve it to where you can, then give it the ability to improve you which bypasses your limits, improve it again and repeat the cycle ad infinitum. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Aug 16 '19 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ Don't forget the Elder Scrolls games. Alchemy -> intelligence potion -> potion of alchemy -> better intelligence potion -> better potion of alchemy -> ... $\endgroup$ – Luaan Aug 16 '19 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan yeah, that, too :D $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Aug 16 '19 at 7:45
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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is mostly about this. For example in chapter 28 Harry uses his scientific understanding for partial Transfiguration, deemed hitherto impossible:

"Fascinating," said Dumbledore. "It's exactly as he claimed. He simply Transfigured a part of the subject without Transfiguring the whole. You say it's really just a conceptual limitation, Harry?" "Yes," Harry said, "but a deep one, just knowing it had to be a conceptual limitation wasn't enough. I had to suppress the part of my mind that was making the error and think instead about the underlying reality that scientists figured out."

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    $\begingroup$ FYI, the scene in question has Harry exploit timeless physics, a concept that has basically no real-world basis. $\endgroup$ – Sora2455 Aug 16 '19 at 1:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Sora2455 Doesn't mean it isn't sufficient to overcome the conceptual limitation. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Aug 16 '19 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 Just to further this and bridge it to another example of fiction, there was a short story of somebody who was raised without concept of time. Or something to that effect - he simply didn't understand stuff like "I'll see you tomorrow" or "That happened yesterday". He was thus able to learn to manipulate time because he didn't think of it as a limitation. Not likely to happen IRL but still another example of a conceptual limitation. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Aug 16 '19 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Sora2455 Well, the point of timeless physics is that "all" our equations still work if you remove time and deal only with position and momentum configurations. Of course, it's still mainly a fringe simplification of general relativity, and isn't really kept up to date with all the newest stuff (though incidentally, quantum field theory also doesn't require time), but "no real-world basis" is going too far. It's very hard to distinguish a world with a separate "time" component from a world without one (in both cases, you still get the perception of time). $\endgroup$ – Luaan Aug 16 '19 at 7:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Luaan I think QFT's lack of T-symmetry is what was being referred to. That's not strictly ruling out timeless physics, but it suggests that it's a bad model. (All Harry was trying to do was convince his brain that rubbers aren't fundamental atomic objects, though, so it doesn't matter whether the precise model he used to get into that state of mind was technically in accordance with modern models.) $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Aug 16 '19 at 7:50

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