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I'm trying to make a fantasy-esque magic system in which everything works pretty much the same as real life, except there's a sort of "magic particle" that makes magic possible, but with physics. In my story, this magic particle permeates the entire universe, and has been there since the creation of it. Half of the population of earth can control this magic particle to some extent. (Animals are also affected by this, and thus there's a couple of species of animals that specifically evolved alongside magic.) Basically, all this magic is supposed to follow the laws of physics, so for example an actual laser beam would never instantly vaporize things in real life, so it can't here either. The problem here comes with making that magic actually happen. The main problem is ceating the laser beam, not really how it'd work. My main goal here is to marry magic & physics to make a compromise between the two: the magic particle.

Thus, my main question: What properties would this "magic particle" have to make it able to mess with matter in order to make magic possible?

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  • $\begingroup$ Magic, generally speaking, is something which cannot be defined or explained. I would advise you not to do this, as it would no longer be a magic system so much as a unique type of matter with special properties. Ideally, this 'magic particle' should defy explanation - after all, it's magic. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Nov 22 '19 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ sure, but having something work "just because it does", is kind of boring, at least in my opinion. $\endgroup$ – SquarD4RYC Nov 22 '19 at 19:21
  • $\begingroup$ this really depends on what you want magic to do. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 23 '19 at 3:02
  • $\begingroup$ Any naturally occurring particle with effects like you describe is going to seriously stretch even "science-based." If you really want to stick to basing your magic on science, I might suggest going the "sufficiently advanced science" route. In this scenario the magic particles are really nanotech or femtotech machines left over from some ancient ultra advanced civilization. They were created to provide near limitless ambient powers for their users, and continue to function for those that have learned to interact with them. $\endgroup$ – Gene Nov 24 '19 at 0:34
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I think you rethink your question, as creating a "magical particle" which would smoothly fit into modern scientific understanding would require at least a degree to get it somewhat plausible to an expert and go right above most reader's heads anyways. Instead, I recommend you go a different route that will solve your problem (or at least what I think you want to create.

Let me present, an energy-based magic system in a step-by-step format:

  1. There is a "mana" or "magical energy" particle that just exists (handwave). This particle permeates everything and it's unclear where it comes from (however a large concentration seems to be at the planet's core and results in "magical hotspots" akin to how geothermal activity causes hot springs, geysers, and volcanoes). This mana particle does not usually interact with regular matter but is attracted by electrical currents.
  2. Due to all thinking creatures having a brain with neurons that communicate electrochemically, mana is attracted and hangs around in the brains of creatures.
  3. In order to "cast a spell" or preform magic, the caster must bring their mana particles into a stable pattern or configuration. To achieve this "mana-patterning" they must bring their mind or thought process (and therefore by extension the mana particles in their brains) into a template configuration. This explains why wizards have to meditate and study for a long time, as blanking one's mind enough and focusing on the magical pattern is difficult. Sorcerous people or creatures, through a quirk in their biology, already have a part of their mind pre-patterned, and can therefore easily achieve the required mental state to preform the magical feat.
  4. The mana particle is a master at energy conversion and can convert all types of energy to each other, provided the spell caster knows the specific mana patterns as to how. Almost all magic-capable creatures fuel their spell through chemical energy, effectively depleting the stamina (the chemical energy that would normally fuel their muscles, glucose or whatever) to power spells. This means like a pro-athlete, high magic expenditure is connected with a high caloric cost. The key here is that the mana particle itself has no energy, rather it facilitates energy conversion.
  5. In order to keep everything reigned in, let mana energy conversion at a distance fall off with the square or the cube to localize magical effects near the spellcaster.

Advantages of such a system:

  • Unlike most magic systems, laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy/mass would not be broken in such a system. In lots of fantasy, magic can "just happen" and powerful, world-bending effects can be cast by some old guy in a robe. Not so with this system. If each spell has an actual energy cost associated to it (and by energy I mean quantifiable in Joules or Kilocalories) then you're not breaking any laws of physics. Spellcasters would probably be buff and not glass-cannons as they need to power their spells
  • Knowledge of physics lets one easily calculate possible spell power and effects. For example, a high performance athlete can exert around 400 watts of continuous power for around an hour. That's around 1.4 million joules. By combining work/energy limits (measured in joules) with power limits (measured in watts) you can structure "realistic" spells.
  • Since the system conforms with traditional physical laws, creating perpetual motion machines or other infinite-energy sources is impossible. Of course, if a wizard figured out how to enrich radioactive materials and use those to power their spells, they could create quite powerful effects. This is unlikely though, it's easy to imagine how somebody in a typical fantasy world wouldn't have a solid grasp on work, power, and energy in the first place, let alone conceptualize the ability to harvest energy from gray rocks.

Example calculating a "spell" and someone's stamina:

First, we establish our spellcaster's stamina curve. This is the relationship between how much power they can output (measured in watts) for how long of a time. Take a look at this:

Energy vs time graph

Example calculation:

You can use these curves to calculate what sorts of spells that a magically-capable creature would be able to accomplish. To ensure the spell is possible to cast, you just need to make sure that the power levels and caloric costs never exceed the max. For example:

Levitating self spell

In this example, the spellcaster levitates themselves upwards 10 meters over the course of 30 seconds. During those 30 seconds, they are outputting ~330 watts of power. This would leave the average healthy person winded and be the equivalent of a short sprint. (according to the NASA curve on the graph, 300 watts is only maintainable for five minutes by healthy people until they're out of stamina)

To "cast" a laserbeam:

The spellcaster focuses themselves on converting their own power output into radiation. Converting from the spellcaster's chemical energy to radiation is something that mana particles can just do. The spellcaster needs to be skilled enough to manifest where this radiation escapes to be a concentrated point and needs to get all the radiation onto a proper wavelength and pointing in the right direction. How the particles get the energy from the spellcaster and into the point of conversion isn't important, you can just say that mana particles move on a different plane of reality, or like electrons, don't have a precise location but rather a probability distribution of where they're likely to be. Then, you can just use standard laser power levels and their effects. For example, a 60 watt co2 laser can burn through plywood around a centimeter or two thick provided it's properly focused. Now if you throw in some realism in the form of spell efficiency modifiers (presumably no fantasy spellcaster knows the most efficient mana pattern possible to convert to radiation) and have the beam loose coherence after distance (as focusing the beam takes immense spellcaster skill), you can have a "realistic" laser spell. The spellcaster might be firing off 80 watts of laser power (at an expenditure of 200 watts) and such laser beams would be able to instantly blind people, and give nasty burns at a distance. 80 watts would not be enough to cut anything at range. At the extreme, if a skilled spellcaster goes "all out" and is able to get off a 2000 watt beam before they fall unconscious from exhaustion that could do some damage. 2kw laser systems are cable of cutting centimeter-thick sheets of metal with ease.

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    $\begingroup$ honestly, that's probably a better solution than explaining how the particle works in itself, thank you! $\endgroup$ – SquarD4RYC Nov 24 '19 at 3:56
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One possibility is that it can, under special circumstances, interfere in specific ways with the normal fundamental forces so as to alter their effects. For most magical effects, really, you need only alter the electromagnetic and gravitational interactions.

For instance, in a specific area, it might increase, decrease, or redirect the effect of gravitational force. The applications of that are obvious; flight, levitation, increasing or reducing weight, tossing things around, and so on. Fool around with the electromagnetic field and you can do things like alter light, create lightning, throw around magnetic fields, fool with chemical processes, or even break down an object into its constituent elements (aka, the disintegration spell).

You could technobabble it by saying it's something like visible light: most of the time it's incoherent and doesn't have a huge physical effect. Focus it and make it coherent, and like light now you have a laser that's potentially capable of a great deal of physical effect.

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At heart, much of physics is probabilistic. Your new particle could be the quantum particle of luck, the tychion. That's from the Greek τυχη, meaning luck.

A means of generating tychions could achieve things like: influence the weather, influence a person's decisions, or influence the flip of a coin. If you fell out of a window you would land in a huge pile of cushions. If you bought a lottery ticket, you'd win but not the main prize because that would attract attention that would be bad luck.

Generating anti-tychions could be a method of bestowing a curse. Imagine the victim doused in them. He might never win a game of luck. He might have bad weather every day. Unless he wanted rain for his garden in which case it would be sunny. If HE fell out of a window, he would land on a big stack of kitchen cutlery.

Having a black cat cross your path could actually be unlucky because they suck up all the tychions in the neighborhood. Breaking a mirror could drive them away. The triangle a ladder makes could be a place that tychions are excluded. A horseshoe could be a structure that catches them and holds on to them.

Prayer could work because the deity drops a bunch of tychions on you. Or if you offend a deity, he could drop a bunch of anti-tychions on you.

Creating good luck particles might also create bad luck particles in equal number. Getting rid of the bad ones might mean you needed a victim. Or you might have to invest a lot of time accepting bad luck in order to save up for that one important time when you need all the luck you can manage. Or, you might get robbed of your stored good luck. What a stroke of bad luck!

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Your particle could be one that modifies the fundamental forces around it depending on how it is manipulated (I'll leave the details up to you). The fundamental forces, weak nuclear, strong nuclear, gravity, and electromagnetism, together control literally every particle interaction in the known universe. If your particle can affect even one of those forces, say it could increase or decrease the local weak nuclear force, you could do virtually anything. You could change atoms into other atoms, affect interactions with electrons, even create elements that would otherwise be unstable. From there you could affect gravity to focus radiation, and boom you have a magic laser based in physics.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a physicist, there's probably something heinously wrong with my scenario, but from my amateur understanding (watching a lot of physics lectures) the statement about being able to do virtually anything by modifying the fundamental forces should be accurate.

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The Higgs field contains a non-zero potential in a vacuum, and it's this non-zero vacuum potential that couples to charge giving charged particles their tiny bits of intrinsic mass. And, because these basic charged particles are moving around at relativistic velocities, this tiny intrinsic mass is greatly multiplied to the basic masses of the particles we know.

It's possible this magic particle is what gives the Higgs field that strange seeming energy from nowhere. Maybe, additionally, the magic particle couples through mechanisms like the Higgs to create the intrinsic electroweak charges.

Placed in this central position, your small changes to your magic field are multiplied greatly in nature, and most basic effects might be covered.

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