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Related to this question.

Imagine a newly discovered, and thoroughly scientifically scrutinized element, which has been discovered to have the following traits:

  1. The substance is semi-gaseous. It is normally inert, but generates a disproportionately massive amount of energy when exposed to a thinking, living creature (i.e. It doesn't work on plants or germs, but works with dogs, cats or humans).
  2. If an eligible candidate is put inside a container that is non-analogous to their physical form (ie, a box or a car) and exposed to the gas, they will start reacting as though under incredible psychological duress before entering a catatonic state, shortly after which they will self-terminate. The container is always damaged after such an event, seemingly twisted somewhat to simulate the subject's form. The human subjects would always be screaming or loudly complaining about being unable to move.
  3. The most successful result was when a subject was placed into a large, humanoid container (something like a hollow golem), which was then filled with the substance. The subject claimed to feel '10 feet tall' (The golem was, coincidentally(?) 10 feet in height), and moved the golem about, despite the structure not having joints. This flaw caused the structure to fail shortly into the testing, as the bending of the structure material at the non-existant elbow and knee joints caused it to fail.
  4. Following the success of the previous test, a similar humanoid structure was built, and the subject told to sit calmly inside while the energy generated was used to power a gauge. The readings were extremely high, but the subject quickly began complaining about feeling extremely uncomfortable ("As though you're sucking out a ton of blood"), before turning violent when the procedure was not stopped quickly enough. He was then subdued.
  5. In the tiny amount of time tested, it generated comparable energy to a nuclear reactor, while being a nearly weightless substance.

In the face of all this information, what would the scientists (or the government) do with such an energy source?

Note: If you see any loopholes in this thing, please point them out.

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    $\begingroup$ Should be a SCP object :/ $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Lie May 18 '15 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ @HendrikLie I was extremely inspired by that, yes. $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz May 18 '15 at 6:05
  • $\begingroup$ If you've got your answer, consider post it on scp-wiki :) $\endgroup$ – Hendrik Lie May 18 '15 at 6:09
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    $\begingroup$ Could you detail the type of energy generated? Thermal, electrical, radio waves, etc. $\endgroup$ – Scott Downey May 18 '15 at 8:23
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    $\begingroup$ "thoroughly scientifically scrutinized" - "eligible candidate [...] will self-terminate." - allow me to express my doubt about validity of these "scientific methods", considering the dubious ethics of the science team. $\endgroup$ – SF. May 18 '15 at 9:06
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Assuming totally amoral scientists:

First, we would attempt to quantify the effect of intelligence:

works with dogs, cats or humans

If the energy source works equally well with a cat, there's no need to expose humans to this kind of situation. PETA will be annoyed, but in the face of incredibly cheap energy, they're not likely to get much traction. One could even argue that the sacrifice of one animal to reduce pollution/environmental damage will be overall a very good trade.

On the other hand, I suspect that if energy generation is tied to intelligence, then humans will be better/more efficient at it. At that point, we would do a study to see if there is variation between humans (different IQs, knowledge, training, etc) and look for correlations.

Second, we'd check the impact of consciousness and other altered states.

Can we drug a person, putting them to sleep, and then let them generate power for a few hours while they won't feel the pain/sucking blood sensation? What about someone in a coma? Or someone who is awake, but under the impact of strong painkillers - can they stay calm while generating power?

Third, we'd look at long-term effects.

Does the "sucking blood" sensation mean energy is being drawn from the target? If so, do they have increased metabolic needs, or does it draw from the body's reserves/mass? Is there a negative or positive impact on the target's lifespan, or other medical effects that differ from the control group?

Fourth, we'd explore secondary uses of the substance.

While energy generation is the most likely use, there are enough hints that it can be used to potentially power suits or other devices that it would definitely be studied.

Note: I list these as First/Second/Third/Fourth, but of course we'd study them simultaneously when possible, as long as we can maintain useful control groups.

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    $\begingroup$ Your third point seems to point to an excellent way to deal with America's obesity epidemic. Free energy from the fatties. $\endgroup$ – Samuel May 18 '15 at 20:26
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If an eligible candidate is put inside a container that is non-analogous to their physical form (ie, a box or a car) and exposed to the gas, they will start reacting as though under incredible psychological duress before entering a catatonic state, shortly after which they will self-terminate.

Based on this, I assume we're dealing with unethical scientists. However just because they are unethical doesn't mean they care little about these finer points. They are still scientists and as such, you would see ample detail about the psychological effects this material has on the human state. A general rule of thumb is if you'd want to know the answer to a question, in all likelihood also the scientists would want to know as well.

I also assume that putting a human subject in a container with the material is not an obvious conclusion. Scientists would have no reason not to put them in a quarantine room for testing. Maybe you want to eventually show how this material could be used to "extend consciousness" to golem-like forms, but don't forget that the scientists have absolutely no idea about this property, at least not at first. You should approach the study of this material from a scientist's perspective, with each successive test being a logical conclusion of the previous until you obtain the results you want to portray to the reader, keeping in mind that there will be many failures or unexplainable phenomenon along the way (you likely wouldn't want to explain away everything, since you want your reader to want to learn more). Show what happens when a subject is put into a quarantine room that might lead a scientist to think that the container is significant that would lead to further testing in smaller boxes or humanoid shapes.

In the face of all this information, what would the scientists (or the government) do with such an energy source?

Realistically? It seems to be a fool-proof way to assassinate your enemies. It would serve as a car bomb, without having to take nearly as much time installing the bomb and hence less risk. I would expect more studies to be performed regarding how much this material expands to meet its container (Could a gram kill everyone in a building or just everyone in a car? What are the adverse effects of someone in such a container that is too large to be afflicted by this material when it expands? How long does it take before it takes affect? Could someone escape if they tried? Etc.).

You seem to hint at a possible power source as well. How long does the patient survive while providing power? Does the power levels vary over time or stay consistent? Could this power be used as a generator, powering the facility in an emergency?

You also seem to hint at this material turning inanimate humanoid objects into human-powered golems, so an unethical scientist would naturally want to explore that route. What happens when they are put inside a golem with full joint movement? Is the person contained within able to withstand it longer in a container that facilitates movement? To what extent can said subject move the golem? Is their strength comparative to the that of the subject or is it amplified/diminished? What are the long-term effects of being put in said golem?

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. I never even thought about the car bomb thing. Nice! $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz May 18 '15 at 11:17
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Giant battle mech armor suits

You get a human shaped, fully articulated, 30 foot tall suit, put a person inside, and pump in the gas.

For weapons, energy weapons make a lot of sense since the gas generates electricity.

Electricity generation

Build human shaped shells laying down. Gather comatose (but not brain dead) patients and/or prisoners that have been sedated, and strap them down inside. Harvest the power, replacing occupants as needed.

Rockem Sockem Robot

Ultimate giant robot boxing. Similar to the battle suits, but without the weapons. They punch each other until the shell cracks and the gas drains out, or the occupant is mashed into jelly by the force of the blows.

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The premise is contradictory, as a magical universe would not have scientists who, like in our universe, are confidant that natural law doesn't work that way.

Any number of stories are written with the framework of people discovering that magic or über-technology is "real", and there are also depictions of scientists in fantasy "super-hero" universes. Their portrail is characteristic of that kind of story, and no more "real" then the magic element itself.

A more proper question might be "how can such a charcter be better portrayed", not "how would a real one react".

If you are going the über-technology route, not straight fantasy, then note that this substance, as with the referenced question, is not an element.

So for the apparent question implied by the tag applied to this scenareo, I'd say "fail". Bad B-movie made for the syfy channel.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well... I didn't know what other tag to use. I KNOW the substance is unrealistic. I'm asking "Its too late to complain. Here it is. What now?" $\endgroup$ – Feaurie Vladskovitz May 18 '15 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ I looked through the tags, and fantasy seems to be the default position, with science-based marked if desired. reality-check is contextual according to the tag wiki, so it's not implying real-world but in-story plotting or storytelling treatment. The tag was correct to ask "is this OK for a good story in this kind of story", which I answered. Superman is "unrealistic" but good novels are possible, so that's not the issue. Your characters should act like that is the normal universe and not detract from (e.g.) kryponite as a necessary plot element. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz May 18 '15 at 12:10

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