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I'm trying to build a world that blends science and manipulation of the elements through chi based powers, in a modern society. However, I'd imagine in a world like our own many scientists and skeptics, faced with such powers, would develop a logical and scientific explanation. But how would they try such a thing? Or is this something that would be near impossible to explain in such a manner?

Update: The basic principles behind this power is that power comes from energy of the user's body, and through exercises and mediation, they are able to modify their own body and the world around them. For example, the benders in Avatar: The Last Airbender.

I'm looking for specific scientific theories which a scientist might adopt in order to explain such abilities.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE. The coexistence of science and magic has already been reviewed a few times here like this question, that question and this one. Due to the nature of your magic, I am not sure those question are duplicates, but I recommend that you read them and if you did not find any suitable answer, improve your question with the information you have found in there. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Jul 10 '15 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ It may also be useful to define with a bit more detain what you mean by 'chi' and 'chi elemental manipulation'. $\endgroup$ – ckersch Jul 10 '15 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ What @ckersch said. As this question stands, without knowing a fair bit about "chi based powers", it's very hard to answer (and likely would be hard to understand any answers given). I recommend that you, if nothing else, edit your question to clarify this part. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jul 10 '15 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ The only known scientific force which could possibly be used would be electromagnetism (gravity is unidirectional and the other forces are too short ranged). But there's no scientific method of using "chi" to manipulate it. Please comment on whether the answers may provide plausible sounding forces too. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B Jul 11 '15 at 1:16
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Without knowing further details (and the Devil, or God, is in the details), the process would be fairly straightforward. It would require that chi powers be reliably and uniformly exhibited. Then, in order to explain these repeatable results, various theories would be proposed, tested, and discarded or modified depending on further experiments. Science works by testing theories (well, hypotheses, technically - "theory" has an entirely different meaning in science) against physical evidence until someone comes up with an idea that works.

The proposition that there are mind-mediated manifestations of some otherwise undetectable energy/ field / flow is certainly conceivable, but it's up to you to provide the patterns and explanation. Certainly there is nothing in current mainstream science that can do this.

And, of course, any practitioner must adhere to the first 30 seconds of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEDaCIDvj6I, and strictly avoid the last 3 minutes.

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The problem with real world Chi is that it is actually a conflation of various unrelated concepts.

In medicine context, Chi might refer to the nervous, circulatory, or endocrine system.

In martial arts context, Chi can refer to manipulation of one's own or the opponent's center of gravity, or to the use of psychological intimidation, or to make use of reflexes to force predictable response. Any martial artists would tell you how important it is to maintain a sense of balance to avoid being thrown, how to shift balance to prepare for certain moves, or how to manipulate opponent's center of gravity to take people down with less than brute force. A street brawler would tell you how they would intimidate their opponent to make them hesitate during critical moments of an attack. A martial artist may also tell you how an attack to the face would cause most (untrained) people to reflexively try to protect their vitals (eyes) in fairly predictable ways which is used to lead for the follow up attack. Of course all of these are commonly over exaggerated in tales and frauds to unrealistic extents.

Essentially, ancient eastern culture uses Chi in similar way that ancient western culture uses God to explain away any unexplained natural phenomenons or disasters on which people know it happens, but don't know why or how it works. A close scientific scrutiny would show how these previous explanations are unsatisfactory.

If you want to include elemental manipulations, you necessarily have to either invent new forces that we don't have in our world (e.g. some sort of magical ether) or allow the use of external tools (e.g. using low ignition oil/gunpowder to make fire, throwing sand to blind an opponent, sleight of hands, etc). You would also necessarily have to include low scientific literacy, such that most of the world's inhabitants are ignorant of how the physics in their world works.

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