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In the book I am writing, one of the main characters has the ability to convert their own energy (chemical or mechanical) into light/photonic energy, and only that form of energy. I know that this would allow them to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum. However, while doing my own research on the subject, I was wondering if they would also be allowed to manipulate magnetism and electricity due to photons (or virtual photons) being a force carrier of the electromagnetic force. I know magic is magic, so it doesn't need to match with real world physics, but this is more for making sure I'm not actually creating a plot hole within the story as well as a way to create more limitations.

Thank you for the help!

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    $\begingroup$ I have a magical device (available for purchase worldwide at modest prices) called a mechanically powered flashlight which allows me to convert the chemical energy stored by my body as fat or glycogen into electromagnetic energy in the visible spectrum. Sadly, I haven't yet learned how to use my cheaply acquired superpower to manipulate the electromagnetic spectrum, magnetism or electricity. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 16 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ Even without technology, bioluminescence is a real thing, but fireflies and the like don't have any special abilities to manipulate other forces. Other than being (presumably) stronger, how is your character's ability qualitatively different compared to a firefly or deep ocean fish? $\endgroup$ Jun 16 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ Turning chemical energy into light is called bioluminescence, something seen in arthropods, bacteria and several species of abyssal fish. While it means many of them have the ability to lure creatures that are attracted to light and communicate through light, it make them able to control photons, or to become the firefly equivalent of magneto, or the fish equivalent of supershock. You might want to review whether this conversion is simply the magical cost of using the superpower or if you're not distorting an otherwise cool but non-anomalous ability into a magical superability. $\endgroup$ Jun 17 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ Comic-book logic says no, light blasters don't use magnetic fields. However, it's your story, do what you want. $\endgroup$
    – NomadMaker
    Jun 17 at 5:37
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He is still figuring it out.

It is not like breathing, this power. One or two aspects came easy and then he realized he could do more and he started trying to figure things out. Then a buddy had a suggestion and he has been working on that one. Maybe there are other things too? Leaving his abilities open ended makes for exciting narrative because he might pull off something amazing in a pinch, or think he is going to and do something very dangerous by accident.

I am reminded of the Justice League cartoon episode where Flash falls out of a plane. He figures out how to fly on the way down by making two tornadoes with his hands in the air that hold him up. It is not very cool looking but he does not go splat. And I said "Flash you just now figured out how to fly after - how many years of super speed?". Others in the room reminded me that Flash could not hear me which is probably for the best because it was kind of a snarky comment. But true!

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It could go either way. Perhaps the powers operate instinctively, and he can't figure out how to expand them. Perhaps given the differences in how they work, the power can't cope with breaking it down into magnetic or electronic, only the unity.

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Yes, definitely.

Light interacts strongly with materials in an electromagnetic way. Radios work, say, because light causes the electrons in the aerial to vibrate in such a way that you can get an electrical signal which you can make into a sound. The photovoltaic effect is common and useful.

The reason why it's hard to see light impact things is because most light we care about is of a very short wavelength, around 500nm, and that's too small for us to see. Radio and microwaves have much more visible and interesting electrical and magnetic effects, as anyone who has stuck a fork in a microwave would know. They have wavelengths of a useful size for humans, and so observing their impact is much easier. If he experimented with such waves he'd see lots of sparking and magnetic effects.

Doing it precisely would be harder. Sound lets you manipulate objects because it causes vibrations. But, I doubt you can pick up a cup of tea and drink it with a sound wave. Light is the same, it's a fiddly tool.

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Your problem isn't whether your character can manipulate both light and magnetism. It's what good it will it do him regardless.

A quick check reveals that Olympic level athletes need to consume about 12,000 calories a day to remain their performance levels. (Compared to say 1200 to 1600 calories for the average adult). This tells you they 'burn' call it 11000 (ish) calories a day competing in world class sports.

EDIT: Converting their entire daily intake of calories into watts means gives you an output of about 14 watts. (I am advised this is enough to run a vacuum cleaner for about one hour.)

So you see the problem. Your hero has to obtain the energy he needs for his heroics from some source other than his own body e.g perhaps other electric fields in the local surrounding area if he or she wants to generate significant long lasting electromagnetic effects.

(Unless of course you use handwavium to allow him to do something like direct conversion of body mass to energy without the destructive side effects (i.e there's no 'boom' when he does this).

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    $\begingroup$ Watts are already a measure in time. "1.2 watts per hour" would mean you are producing more energy each hour (0.6 after half an hour, 1.2 after first hour, 2.4 after second etc.). Also, we are talking about kilocalories. Average daily intake for adult is about 2000 kcal (at least that's what all food packages in Poland tell). One kcal is 4184 joules, or about 1 (1.16) watt hours. Converting average daily intake would let you run a vacuum cleaner for an hour. It's not that much, but definitely enough to be a human torch for a whole day. $\endgroup$ Jun 17 at 11:00
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, I didn't allow for that. I though my calc was too low. Still not a lot of power for a super hero. I will upgrade my answer. $\endgroup$
    – Mon
    Jun 17 at 11:27

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