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Synthetic Mana is a form of artificially created energy that is used for various purposes, such as power sources, fuel, etc. These substances can be made in large quantities and stored away for many years in prime condition. What it has in quantity, it lacks in quality compared to natural Mana found in humans. Natural Mana is ten times purer and richer, making it vastly superior to the artificial version. Unfortunately, humans possess a limited supply of it, and extracting it is dangerous to them.

I am a young entrepreneur who has developed a scheme for securing high quality Mana. As extracting it from humans is illegal, I have begun targeting the more deplorable groups of society to allay suspicion. You know, the typical useless dregs who produce nothing of value and wouldn't be missed: liberals and illegal immigrants. In the case of the latter, my method involves attracting these people through advertisements to my country with the promise of work and eventually a green card. As they become settled, they will send for others (wives, husband's, children, etc). At some point, I will murder the families, extracting their Mana through a dark ritual, and dispose of the bodies in a crematorium to remove the evidence. As they were undocumented, it would appear as they never existed, making my plan foolproof.

Unfortunately, I have discovered that high quality mana is difficult to contain and store, making it more expensive to secure. Even after I have managed it, it tends to dissipate quickly, only lasting a few months at best. I am essentially spending more money for a product that lasts for a shorter timeframe, making this a failed investment.

How can this be the case?

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    $\begingroup$ I'd like to point out that your plan isn't foolproof. For one, YOU'RE MURDERING PEOPLE! Why are you murdering people??? (Also, if your concern is that extracting mana from humans is illegal, I'll point out that murder is also illegal.) $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 19 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre also why couldnt it be extracted a bit at a time and with the person willing but it in secret? $\endgroup$ – Topcode May 19 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ Surely immigrants have family back at the original country? Wouldn't they notice if suddenly all communication stopped? And wouldn't there be some questions asked about the source of all this high quality mana? I expect there would be government regulations if it comes from humans, a bit like blood. $\endgroup$ – marcellothearcane May 20 at 8:43
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Like many chemicals the purest form of mana is highly reactive. Think of hydrogen peroxide or acids: you hardly find them pure, rather diluted in some solution.

Or think of neutrons outside an atomic nucleus. They are unstable.

A similar concept can be applied to mana. When it's too pure it's highly unstable and thus bound to either destroy its container or degrade.

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Mana can only be properly contained withing a living, organic receptacle.

Taking a look at these people, despite absolutely worthless to the point one wouldn't ever know if they were to disappear, their mana stays within them so well, better than any other container, and the same can be said for those with higher levels of mana. But there's essentially one similarity between them all: living, organic tissue.

It's easy to see that mana stays very well contained and non-reactive inside living tissue. Maybe due to the oxigenated tissues, maybe due to special signals from the nervous system, perhaps even to some other binding agent current magic science is uncapable of detecting. The point is that Mana requires living tissue to remain truly stable, starting to dissipate naturally once it leaves the body. It doesn't immediately becomes unstable and reacts with the environment around it (that'd be rather troublesome for the mage who use it all the time), but it starts to disintegrate nonetheless, similar to the half life process of radioactive atoms.

That means that, you'll need to somehow create and mass produce artificial beings capable of working as living containment units; being responsible for absorbing, stabilizing and storing this natural mana inside themselves, releasing it again whenever needed. Otherwise, this business is likely be bound to fail due to mana having too short of a half-life once outside one's body.

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    $\begingroup$ Another option is -- rather than killing your victims outright -- you give them a good ol' frontal lobotomy and them store them in your underground bunker until you're ready to suck them dry. Being technically "alive" they still work as mana storage units, but without that pesky free will getting in the way of your plans. $\endgroup$ – Daron May 19 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ Case Study: youtube.com/watch?v=XCCR8D7C0PU $\endgroup$ – Daron May 19 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Daron while I did think of it, it's kind of a bother to need a human-sized container, plus they start requiring extra attention in case you want to decrease the size by chopping off the limbs, as they become much less capable of getting rid of heat. $\endgroup$ – ProjectApex May 19 at 12:42
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It's haunted!

Mana, obviously, is a mixture of the life force and psychic energy of the beings it came from. Laymen think it's a piece of their soul, which obviously is just superstition. Nevertheless, it contains an imprint of the will of the being it came from.

Artificial mana is high in life force and low in psychic energy, because it is made by simulating ritual murder on a fermentation tank full of yeast. Fungi are quite lively but have no willpower whatsoever. This makes the artificial mana less powerful, as it is poor at powering any magical device that manipulates psychic energy such as mesmerists' wands, etc, and completely unsuitable for powering artificially intelligent agents such as golems, imps, sprites, etc.

The advantage of artificial mana, other than being cheap, legal and easy to procure, is that it will never make an escape attempt more complex than bubbling over the rim of a beaker, nor will devices powered by it try to act out vague memories of the dreams of the men it was taken from if left unused for too long.

As a compromise between the two, natural mana can be blended, so that no individual's will is discernable. This makes it easier to handle, as it no longer has coherent desires beyond the basic drives common to all men, but any imp powered by the resulting mana will have the personality of a block of Velveeta and be unsuitable for complex tasks.

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What is mana? It might be :

  • A divine spark,
  • Psychic energy,
  • or some alternate form of undiscovered physical energy.

If mana is psychic energy, the problem might be your choice of degenerates as a source. There might be an as-yet-undocumented quality of personal character that effects how rapidly mana becomes decoherent. History provides plenty of anecdotal evidence that great people of awesome personal character leave psychic marks that last generations after them. And, additionally, many people of poor personal character are barely remembered at their funerals, their psychic mark fades so quickly.

In that case, selectively pooling "degenerates" for harvesting has given you a pool of product that depreciates in the tank much more quickly than your competitor's.

If mana is divine spark (and maybe if it's psychic energy too) your method of collection may be causing the problem. Divine will might be that mana is given only willingly. Harvesting by force may damage the divine spark, causing it's accelerated rot. Or, as psychic energy, the attitude of the psyche involved provides stability (if given willingly) or instability (if taken by force) to the product collected in the tank.

Or, perhaps, both factors play a smaller part, but are compounding in this particular case because you're doing both: harvesting barely-coherent mana in the first place, and damaging that mana during the harvesting process.

If mana is a new kind of chemical energy then the spoilage problem could be related to the high concentration of mana itself. At higher purities, mana may engage in side reactions that spoil it. Or, natural mana may possess impurities that are caught in the harvesting process. These impurities may cause a kind-of fermentation, again ruining the product.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd say that people with difficult lives often get to have stronger and healthier psyche than wealthy people with wealthy families and friends, that had it all easy. $\endgroup$ – carlo May 19 at 23:20
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The difference between Synthetic Mana and Natural Mana is similar to the difference between the following two groups of food.

  • Fresh meat, baked bread, fresh grapes, and milk.
  • Jerky, hard tack, raisins, and water.

You can survive on the second, but the first is generally a better quality meal. The second has the advantage that it will last a significantly longer amount of time before going bad.

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natural mana is chaotic

A fundamental rule of nature is that it is a world of strife and conflict. Primal forces wax and wane in strength, but remain truly unreliable. In every living thing is a small reactor of unpredictability, entropy incarnate. It's in mankind, too, but in such great quantities. A wolf might be hungry or lonely, but it's man that hates. Natural mana builds to such a fury, that it is only through willpower that we can manage to control it. Some don't, and let themselves be taken over by their insecurities, jealousy, and the chaos of their mana.

To make something in a laboratory you must know it in its entirety. You must understand it fully and completely. A lab is a controlled environment. It is a place of worship for the religion of order. It is a place where you follow the rules, double-check your numbers, and if ever you find yourself hoping for the right outcome you've already made a mistake. Creating something fundamentally chaotic in a controlled environment could never possibility yield the legit thing. It is neutered, made a shadow of itself. This would-be imitation of something you might have laughably called "chaotic" is not hard to contain.

Containing the metaphysical avatar of chaos, that's quite a challenge.

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Mana accumulated in humans is the result of consciousness and the exertion of will and the presence of sophisticated ego. This is the most primitive form of magic - believing 'I am me' many many times over a life causes a mana-body to accrete overlayed with the physical body.

Perhaps in addition to will (the method), mana must be acquired somehow such as by having a metabolism as ProjectApex notes above.

Even non-mages maintain a mana-based self-image that can be linked to phenomena such as the placebo effect, auras, phantom limbs, etc.

Once the human will is removed, the mana-body is no longer maintained and begins to lose integrity and dissipates into the background noise.

Inspiration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caddisfly#Cases

Possible Consequences:

  • Sometimes the mana-body is complex enough to briefly attain sentience and cause trouble before it fades away, or learns how to feed...
    • Perhaps your mana is not gone, they ate each other or escaped to hunt.
  • The mana-body may be readable before it dissipates, allowing fragments of memory to be collected from the recently dead.

Given this theory, a longer term nefarious plan may be to locate/create individuals with a fractured or warped sense of self. It may be possible to cleave-off parts of their mana-body which might? regrow. A talented entrepreneur will be able to cope with the side-effects I'm sure...

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Wavelengths.

Natural mana exists in a whole spectrum. Artificial mana has a fixed number of wavelengths that give it the same coverage as natural mana, the same usage, but its efficiency is lacking.

Current storage methods hold in many wavelengths, including all those within artificial mana, but it cannot properly contain natural mana.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes yes YES! I was literally thinking this EXACT thing before I saw your answer. This makes sense for so many reasons: 1) Naturally produced mana arises from a cacophony of mana-producing sources. It both coalesces and disperses across a whole, complex spectrum of 'wavelengths' because of the variety of its sources. 2) Artificially produced mana would be coming from a simplified, repeatable process that cannot (without great expense) replicate the complexity of natural mana. This would account for its reduced quality - it would work fine for some purposes, but be inferior for others. $\endgroup$ – Qami May 21 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ 3) If containing mana requires preventing it from resonating with any mana-producing/consuming entities in its vicinity, it would be much more difficult to dampen/insulate the interactions of a 'white', every-wavelength mana than a single 'color'/single wavelength mana. $\endgroup$ – Qami May 21 at 16:34
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"Mana" is actually the name of a class of substances, much like "fuel" is. Just as there are different types of fuel having different properties, so there are different types of mana. In fact, it is possible to synthesize the so-called "natural mana", but it's really not a good idea because it is so energetic. Humans can naturally produce small amounts of it relatively safely, because even the most energetic material will not cause damage if there is barely any of it to release that energy. But once it's in a quantity large enough for any commercial use - the slightest shock will make a crater where your storage facility once was. Even if you can store it safely, the risk that it will damage whatever you intend to use it with is just too high.

There are analogues in the real world: chlorine trifluoride is one. It was used as an experimental rocket fuel until it was deemed too dangerous, being "hypergolic (sponateously combusting) with such things as cloth, wood, and test engineers, not to mention asbestos, sand, and water - with which it reacts explosively" and which is such a strong oxidizer it will burn things that are already burned. There are also things like dioxygen difluoride, often named "FOOF" because that's the noise it makes when it explodes in your face; and azidoazide azides, which will explode when you put it in an IR spectometer. For non-chemical reactions, radioctive material is safe (for some value of "safe") in small enough amounts but deadly in larger ones, as Harry Daghlian and Louis Slotin found out with the demon core.

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