I’m writing a story and the summary is extra universal aliens going to war with each other The magic system used is Clarketech known as the void system it’s more or less based on this formula Magic = area of space /Explosion area

Explanation: Wherever or whenever there's a vacuum in space-time the potential for energy to fill into the vacuum increases proportionally to the size of the gap for energy, The energy does not come from anywhere, although it’s unknown where it comes from. This is caused by the isolation of space. When you poke a hole in space, random energy flows into it, complex sub molecular nanites (the nanites are the little robots that actually move around the matter to complete your commands) there small about 100,000 atoms is the mass of the lightest size nanite , they harvest and then manipulate the energy. In whatever way the user chooses, dependent on how much space is isolated. Having a larger nanite count offers up lots of versatility. The effects that can be achieved are only limited to how many nanites you have. There only a few hundred million magic users spread out over our observable universe also do not have access to lots of nanites

It’s a cycle: you need the nanites to harvest and distribute the energy for whatever effect you’re trying to achieve and you need the energy to make nanites effective. But nanites burn out faster the bigger your spells are, and it's hard to make due to their sophistication, yet magic has a downside: isolating space slowly expands the universe cause it to tear apart slowly over a period of time via the Big Rip, think the climate change debate.

Another way of using magic without nanites is by using a specialized weapon or tool that can isolate space, but when the energy is harvested. It can only do one specific thing. Like, for instance, you have a glove, and the glove is programmed to harvest the energy to make a fireball. It can’t do anything other than that, effective its extreme specialization over versatility.

Question: Can this magic system directly violate the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy?

  • $\begingroup$ please fix or explain: 'isolating space slow expands the universe cause it to tear apart slowly over a period of time" $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ How are these "nanites" made? Can a "nanite" make more of itself? $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ What is a "gap in space time"? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ I strongly dislike your trivializing the effects of climate change by your comparing it to your magic system. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 2:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How is OP trivializing climate change?? In OP's universe, climate change literally quickens the destruction of the entire universe. Not exactly trivial, esp considering that is what climate change is doing to Earth: quickening its (and the human race's) destruction $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 13:36

4 Answers 4


Can this magic system directly violate the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy?

There's two halves to this. The energy leaking into the Universe, and the nanites which use it. First the nanites.

When you poke a hole in space, random energy flows into it, complex subatomic nanites, that harvest and than manipulate the energy.

Whatever energy your space wizard traps in those nanites must obey the laws of physics. The biggest limiting factor is energy density and directing that energy. Let's look at some upper limits.

If the nanites release their energy via fusion you'll get 500 MJ per milligram of nanite. This is about half the energy of a lightning bolt. It's enough energy to shoot about 10 kg into space.

If they use anti-matter, you'll get about 90,000 MJ per milligram of nanite. This is enough energy to run a car for a year. Its twice the energy of the largest conventional bomb.

And that's about as energy dense as you can get.

The energy does not come from nowhere, although it’s unknown where it comes from.

This makes things interesting. Some, like Conservation of Energy, only apply to a closed system and your system is not closed. It's getting more energy from... somewhere outside the universe. Probably best not to explain where, hold onto that for a major plot point.

The laws only need to apply to our Universe, not the other side.

Let's go through the laws.

Zeroth Law

If two systems are both in thermal equilibrium with a third system then they are in thermal equilibrium with each other.

If a = c and b = c then a = b. Might seem obvious, but it's important to state your axioms. Irrelevant here.

First Law / Conservation of Energy

In a closed system (i.e. there is no transfer of matter into or out of the system), the first law states that the change in internal energy of the system (ΔUsystem) is equal to the difference between the heat supplied to the system (Q) and the work (W) done by the system on its surroundings.

Your energy is coming from outside the system, it is not closed, the First Law does not apply here.

Second Law

Put very, very simply (and I apologize to any actual physicists reading this) energy flows from hot to cold and will eventually reach equilibrium.

Regardless of whether the Second Law applies to the other side, our Universe considers itself to be "colder". This works well with the idea that it only works in a vacuum.

This also implies if you poke a hole in a place which is "hotter" energy may flow the other way.

Third Law

A system's entropy approaches a constant value as its temperature approaches absolute zero.


The validity of your setup hangs on these points.

The energy comes from Somewhere Outside The Universe

This avoids the problem of Conservation of Energy when space wizards gather their energy.

Space wizards can't use more energy than they can store

This avoids violating Conservation of Energy.

And it puts a limit on how much energy your space wizards can use. That's important for narrative purposes and limiting the power of your characters.

The energy flows best in "cold" areas like vacuums

This keeps things good with the Second Law, even if exactly what "cold" means is not clearly defined.

And it puts another limit on when and how fast your space wizards can recharge. Also important for narrative purposes and limitations.

Don't explain what you don't have to.

For the normal reasons: if you don't explain it, you can't be wrong.

It also leaves open opportunities for interesting plot points down the road. Just what is that other universe? What are the rules there? What else might be coming through? Are the holes one way, or two? What happens if you poke a hole at a spot that's "hotter" than the other side?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note: It sounds like "Isolating space" is a lot like creating a vacuum. The process of Isolating that space should take energy, no? The energy taken to isolate it would be the extent of the "potential energy" for the isolated space (conservation of energy more or less) The random energy from outside that closed loop still remains as valid but, it still takes energy to generate energy when looked at from this perspective. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @ITAlex Presumably you get more energy out of the hole than you spend opening it and keeping it open, or more accurately keeping the "temperature" difference positive so energy will flow in. Maybe there's natural gradients they can exploit? Maybe it's a whole new quantum field? What does "isolating space" mean? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Probably best to keep this science-fantasy. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ Valid points. I was merely pointing out some interesting additions rather than trying to contrast with your answer :) $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 19:01

This is probably much less exciting that you make it sound.

I don't know what you mean by gap in spacetime or isolating space. But it sounds something like the vacuum energy, where a large area of so called empty space has a small nonzero potential distributed across it. So if you take a cubic mile of space and look at every point at once there is a 0.000001% chance you find an electron somewhere. Then it sounds like your nanites somehow collect these electrons and use it to power something.

It probably breaks thermodynamics.

Harvesting this zero point energy sounds like a textbook violation of thermodynamics, since the energy is present everywhere, including inside the nanites, so moving it from one place to another would be like harnessing the heat in a 100 degree room without ever leaving the room. Yes if you were outside the room you could let out the heat and use it to boil water. But if you are inside the room you cannot boil water since all the water is already boiled and so on.

Thermodynamics is allowed to break.

Of course quantum stuff often breaks thermodynamics, since thermo is just a bunch of empirical laws that are true on average. So this is not a problem in of itself.

The problem is that the vacuum energy is VERY small. So if you find an electron somewhere you probably need to move it a few billion lightyears to where it is useful.

Also the fact that these things are nanites doesn't seem important at all. Is the idea the nanite is the same size as an electron?

Other Universes.

Something that sounds a bit more consistent is harnessing vacuum energy from other universes. This is the same principle as letting the heat out of that hot room. Find a universe with a huge vaccum energy (the inhabitants won't notice this) and somehow bleed out the energy into our universe. Of course the question Does that break the laws of physics then becomes a moot point.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The vacuum energy can be very low or insanely large: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_energy. Like you say it is hard to extract energy without the option to let the energy flow from one end to the other. But what if this hole in reality creates that energy difference? Say it makes the 10^-9 joule true on one end and the 10^119 joule on the other end you can let it flow for energy, and a lot of it too. And yes, thermodynamics is definitely allowed to break. Black Holes for example could very well delete information from the universe breaking currently "unbreakable" laws. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan Keep in mind the question is does this break the laws of physics?. You are of course free to think about about holes in reality all you want. However once you go down that road the answer to the original question becomes yes. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan I have never found a satisfactory definition of information as the black hole physicists call it. . . . $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Oct 30, 2020 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ the question seemed to be focused on Thermodynamics, rather than the creation of holes in reality. Since we arent sure what the proper definition of the laws of physics is the way these holes could use energy does not have to break them. That was more my point. As for information, all particles have several traits such as spin and each of those traits is handled as the information of that particle. A BH does not have that information anymore and when the energy of the particle changes to Hawking radiation that info is likely lost. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 6:29
  • $\begingroup$ There are theories that the information is embedded in the 2D surface of the schwarzchild radius and when Hawking radiation is released that information is taken along with the radiation, preserving it. But its still a theory. Just like Hawking radiation is still a theory and has yet to be observed. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 6:33

You need to consider that famous formula:

$E = mc^2$

Energy doesn't just pop into existence. Maybe you had virtual particles in mind, but that does not create energy out of nothing. If you want to have usable energy for something, you've gotta harvest it from where it already exists in another form. So if you wish to get a joule, either bring it with you, or convert 1/90,000,000,000,000,000 grams of matter into it.

And here lies the violation of thermodynamics: your magic allows you to call forth an infinite amount of energy wherever.

  • $\begingroup$ Conservation of energy only applies to closed systems. $\endgroup$
    – Schwern
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 2:13

Use Higgs Field Theory

What you are talking about roughly resembles the Higgs Field theory of quantum mechanics. Basically, the Higgs Field represents the energy in the universe that is so evenly distributed that it creates no local sum effects, but various theories have connected it to being responsible for gravitational drag, the effects of dark matter and dark energy, the expanding universe, and even the origin of the big bang.

How much energy is in the "false vacuum" of space is unknown, but it could potentially be enormous (we just don't know because we can not measure a zero sum effect). But, what you are proposing would probably involve tapping into this energy field.

The problem is that you can not tap into this field as a source of energy according to the laws of thermodynamics because all of the energy in this field is already maximally dissipated. Our current understanding of thermodynamics is that things go from where energy is high to where it is low; so, there is nothing to tap into using our current understanding of technology and energy.

How to Technobabble it:

The energy of the universe can be compared to the Ocean. On the surface there are waves that rise and fall and transfer energy this way and that. The lowest troughs representing the vacuum of space, and the peaks representing concentrations of mass. Thermodynamics is like explaining how you can move things around on the surface of this Ocean. From the perspective of a leaf, floating on its surface, things can only move as the waves move, and you can never move in a way that those waves do not move.

But the Ocean is far more complex than this, under the waves there are currents that you can not observe from the surface. A ship with deep enough of a keel has been known to drift in directions different than the waves seem to imply you could; so, what your mages are doing is extending their influence into the subspace of the Higgs Field to find currents moving in other directions from the surface waves that we can see and feel. These currents are the energy differences that they exploit. So you appear to be violating the conservation of energy and thermodynamics, but you are actually following them, just finding energy exchanges in places that modern science just does not know how to exploit.


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