In my world, the different human subspecies appeared when aliens arrived and decided to play around with human DNA. Gorgons appeared when they tried to mix magic in the mix.

To make it short:

Petrification works by diffusing the particle responsible for magic into the object or living being, bonding them to the atoms(through magic) and stopping them from moving.

My question is, how can it work without sending everything into absolute zero? If the particles make the atoms to move together in the same direction, keeping them moving yet still in relation to each other? Any other ideas on how you could petrificate someone by manipulating their atoms, no transmutation necessary?

To be clear, the creature or objects atoms remains of the same type and should return to the same state prior to the event.(to avoid any catastrophic events when un-petrifying).

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    $\begingroup$ Pretty sure if you sync up all the atoms as you suggest, you've just created some weird kind of Einstein-Bose condensate. Or if not that, then another exotic state of matter. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Sep 1, 2021 at 14:30
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    $\begingroup$ Stopping atoms from moving is the definition of absolute zero. Moreover, lots of interesting things happen when atoms and molecules slow down their relative movement; for example, water becomes a solid called "ice", which has very different properties from liquid and gaseous water -- among others, it has a different volume. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2021 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Since you're adding magic into the mix, isn't it possible to explain that "protective effect" by blaming it on the very own nature of magic? $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Sep 1, 2021 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @T.Sar I'm trying to keep magic more grounded. Allowing that would cascate in a series of changes in other parts of the system that would break how magic works in my world. I'm looking for a way that uses the special particles with the least amount of arbitrary changes to how it works. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2021 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP you're right. That's why I'm looking for a way that doesn't lead to that, all in the attempt to keep the power with a petrifying feel rather than cold, otherwise it would just be freezing, rather than petrifying, eyes. $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2021 at 15:53

3 Answers 3


Let the atoms still vibrate in place.

Consider a quartz crystal. Or a bar of steel. Or any solid substance with a high melting point, really. Are the atoms "frozen in place"? Yes and no...

  • Yes: they are frozen in place such that - assuming no great heat and/or mechanical forces are applied - they will maintain their configuration relative to each other indefinitely (in human-scale time-frames, anyway). They are very much solid.
  • No: they are still vibrating relative to each other all the time, transferring heat to and from the external environment and within itself. They are very much not at absolute zero.

Simply treat your enchanted atoms as having an extra, magical force that gives each atom a "spring" between it and each of the atoms that were around it when the force took effect - it is free to vibrate locally, but the further it is pulled from its neighbours, the more forcefully it is drawn back. (This is what chemical bonds already do, by the way--we just add a new set which are defined by your magic instead of by mundane chemistry/physics.)

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't this what freezing means? Unfortunately, frozen water has very different properties than liquid water... In particular, it has a different volume, which makes it Very Difficult™ to "return to the same state prior to the event". $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2021 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP: Yes, exactly. OP seemed to be saying that the magical "freezing" implied zero motion, but there's no problem (that I can see) with having a magical "freeze" that still allows atomic vibration... $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Sep 1, 2021 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ The problem is not with freezing, the problem is that the question wants the frozen things to "return to the same state prior to the event", which is unfortunately hard to do. Even mountains are eventually reduced to dust by repeated freezing and thawing; most living beings won't survive even one cycle. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 1, 2021 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ I mean, that depends on the nature of the freeze. When water freezes, the atoms assume a very different configuration which disrupts their original state. If the OP's magic particles freeze atoms right in place without re-organizing them in any way (which is what I understood from their post) then we should have no problems when un-freezing. $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Sep 1, 2021 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Qami I see. So the magical particle would work as heat and momentum transferring medium, locking the particles in a restricted space while still allowing it to "look" and work like normal. I guess it would look as if the target had suddenly stiffened. It would also work as an explanation to slowing and heat( hot and cold) spells. The particles could "steal" a portion of the heat( vibration) of mundane ones and release it elsewhere. That was a very good idea! Thanks! $\endgroup$ Sep 1, 2021 at 15:57

Temperature is a measure of atomic vibration, the degree of vibration of the atom imparts certain properties on the molecule it is part of, including freedom of motion, the degree to which a molecule moves tells us it's phase, solid, liquid or gas. Now you're proposing to create a phase change without changing the temperature of an object, that can't be done by any known process but if you are introducing a magical effect then that is workable fine and good.


Any living thing you "froze" with this process would "thaw" as dead matter unless you were also suspending (not stopping the activity but holding in its current transition state) all electrical activity in it somehow, otherwise the charge potentials in its neurons are going to bleed away very rapidly indeed, like in nanoseconds.


Unless the magical effect also plays fast and loose with thermodynamics the object/creature is going to cool to room temperature when it's electro-chemical processes stop producing heat. A human body will chill to ambient temperatures in about 12 hours depending how cold it is outside a fraction of that is lethal without drastic medical intervention on warming.

  • $\begingroup$ @ Ash: aren't the charge potentials in neurons based on the diffusion of charged ions through the cell membranes? If the ions are "frozen" in place, is there still a mechanism for the potentials to bleed away? (definitely ready to be corrected here, but I thought freezing the ions in place would be sufficient) $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Sep 2, 2021 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ You make an EXCELLENT point about the temperature, though. As far as you know, would there be a safe temperature you could warm them to, assuming you're about to do an instant-unthaw? Or would it be difficult/impossible because of the gradient that would be needed...? $\endgroup$
    – Qami
    Sep 2, 2021 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Qami The ions themselves will exchange charge if only they are held in place, you'd need to halt the flow of electrons, which are slippery little fiends, as well as the motion of the atoms to maintain the charge potentials. You'd need to get the core temperature, and brain, up to normal operating temperatures ~36ᵒC for a human before you unfreeze them, you do risk some skin damage doing that from the outside in, because the skin is not used to operating at those temperatures, and you may sterilise men because testicles are on the outside so they can stay cooler but in theory you could do it. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Sep 2, 2021 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash. Thanks! While I would wish that any living being to remain alive after the event, dying can be also acceptable. As the magical effect works on everything on the gorgon's line of sight, the greatest problem would be all non living matter going haywire. Cooling down slowly is okay also, as on non organic matter it works only for a few seconds, and they're probably room temperature already anyway. As for living beings, cooling to room temperature as they body temperature bleeds away is also very good. All in all, thanks for the help! $\endgroup$ Sep 3, 2021 at 9:44


Absolute zero freezes atoms my removing energy from them. If you were to freeze them by slowing time around the object, the object would appear petrified without freezing.

Still requires handwavium magic.

  • $\begingroup$ Probably the only way you could get a living creature back out the other side. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Sep 2, 2021 at 7:12

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