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A while back, I came up with a magic system designed for a scientifically-oriented book, but am not sure if its actually scientifically possible/explainable. It goes like this:

Magic is a product of human (and sometimes animal) cognitive activity, just energy manipulation by electromagnetic fields produced in the cranium. Not everyone can do it because most people have thicker skulls and/or less power to the magic centers of their brains, but some people with a sort of genetic mutation have thinner skulls and/or more power to the magic centers of their brains, allowing them to actively use magic. Any mage can produce either of two types of magic, "volatile" or "permanent". Volatile magic requires them to actively power the spell, keeping it on with their own concentration. Permanent magic is far more complicated and uses heat energy to keep "entwined" electromagnetic fields on atoms/molecules/entire objects working. That way a spell can be produced that maintains itself. Power is limited based on total current to magic centers, thickness of skull, and skill.

Is any of this scientifically plausible, given scientific knowledge of the 21st century?

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    $\begingroup$ What sort of things can they do with this scientific magic? Telepathy? Telekinesis? Cast fireballs? Move mountains? These things require different amounts of power. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Mar 23 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ "Plausible" is a function of the skill of the story teller. "Possible" is a function of the real world, and has nothing to do with plausibility -- they are orthogonal. A story must be logically self-consistent and skillfully told, to create pausibility. It does need to be physically possible. (And the technobabble in the body of the question is scientifically silly: but this should not discourage you. Just go with the story and forget about the technobabble (on the model of Star Wars), unless you intentend to use it for kicks and laughs or as cheap padding, as they do in Star Trek.) $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 23 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ When you can explain magic scientifically, then it's no longer magic. It's a new branch of physics. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Mar 23 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ The swapping of possible, explainable, and plausible makes it difficult to know what you're hoping for. Could 'magic' like this be real? Does this explanation seem scientifically grounded? Do heat and EM fields work the way you've described? $\endgroup$ – rek Mar 23 at 18:38
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Magic systems always work better when they are logically laid out and internally consistent. You can always use maybe some existing tropes to help you out.

A big one you could use is Iron instead of skull thickness. A thinner skull as a trade off for a mage will naturally lead you to a long time trope of a mage being physically more fragile than a character with massive thews. I would suggest instead that you use anemia instead. Iron has a long history in stories and folklore as being something that blocks or interferes with magic. Iron in the blood (or even in the bone) of a normal human causes problems with projecting magic. An anemic, with less iron in the blood would fall in line with the trope of a physically weak mage and give a "logical" reason why they are able to use magic. If you want to tie your magic more tightly to electromagnetism, perhaps your mage will have a build up of metallic elements in his blood stream that a normal person would process out. I just tend to think of iron as it is already a common part of folklore.

Volatile magics vs enduring magics is also a long standing trope in many stories, so you are on more solid footing there. you have lots of room to play with materials, such as glyphs carved in granite and heated by the sun lasting hundreds of years where a carving in a wood staff won't endure anywhere near as long.

Just remember if you decide to use the idea of an anemic mage that you also make it extremely difficult to enchant iron to keep things consistent.

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  • $\begingroup$ but if the magic is done via manipulation of electromagnetism, powerful conductors and magnetic substances should amplify it. lead is a more likely substance to actually weaken electromagnetism due to absorbing ions and photons. $\endgroup$ – zackit Mar 23 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @zackit maybe. I'm thinking more along the lines of faraday cages and grounding properties. We are talking about magic after all, so we don't have to get too wrapped up in the material sciences, only acknowledge that they matter. Cold Iron as an anti magic substance has a really long history in folklore. Also, why would a conductive material amplify anything. Channel and direct, certainly.. But Amplify? sounds too much like a free lunch to me, and we are already talking about Magic. Anyway, as long as things are internally consistent and logical in world, does it matter? $\endgroup$ – Paul TIKI Mar 23 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ amplify its impact on electricity. a conductive substance makes it much easier to get an electrical current started with magnetism than a material with a much lower conductivity. @Paul_TIKI $\endgroup$ – zackit Mar 23 at 14:09
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Putting aside the consideration that if any of what you describe was scientifically plausible for the scientific knowledge of our century we would have it or we would be working to have it, the thing I find more hard to swallow is that

Not everyone can do it because most people have thicker skulls and/or less power to the magic centers of their brains

Skull bones have a thickness of about 5 mm on average, and when they are 4.3 mm thick they are considered already thin. If half a mm can make the difference between having or not the capability, so should be also for long/short hair, wearing or not a hat/bandana/helmet and so on. And let's not ask what would happen with a wall or a metallic layer in proximity of the head.

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  • $\begingroup$ My question says genetic mutation. So like 3mm skull. $\endgroup$ – nerdguy Mar 23 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ @nerdguy a skull's thickness should have almost no measurable effect on how high the impact of their brain's magnetic field is. you need some sort of material that acts as a suppressant, not just a barrier $\endgroup$ – zackit Mar 23 at 13:48

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