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first post ever here. I've read the guidelines, but please do let me know if I'm breaking any rule or doing something wrong.

So, I am creating a magic system based on the energy of a star. More specifically, on certain wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted by this star. It was relatively straightforward to come up with most of the things that are part of this, through some research and speculation. But I have two questions that I can't answer in any way yet.

To give some more context, if this sun's energy's the source of magic, then plants are the main takers as they naturally take sunlight in to perform photosynthesis. Only certain beings (that is, certain vegetal and animal species) can channel this energy to achieve the extraordinary. And I'd assume these "talented" plants would be fairly dominant.

Animals would obtain some trace magic from direct sun exposure, in a similar way in which us humans do use some of that energy (vitamin D, correct?), but most of it from eating plants or other animals that eat those plants. Non-magic users will still be able to benefit from using parts of these magical plants and animals.

My question then is: how does the mineral realm (to name it some way) relates with all of this? More specifically, (1) where does the sun's energy which is not reflected back to space or used by plants go? And if it does indeed accummulate somehow in the planet, (2) where would that be? The oceans, the atmosphere, rocks?

Thanks in advance and please ask if additional details are required!

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    $\begingroup$ Just about all the solar energy falling on Earth is eventually either reflected or radiated back into space. Some very very small tiny part of it is kept in the form of fossil fuels, or at least materials (such as peat, for example) which will eventually become fossil fuels in the fullness of time. (Think about it this way: if a non-negligible part of the solar energy falling on Earth was not radiated back into space, after millions and millions of years the surface of the Earth would be as hot as the Sun. Not a good thing.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 4 '21 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ Somewhat related on Astronomy astronomy.stackexchange.com/questions/17990/… $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Dec 5 '21 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for this, I'll give it a read! $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Dec 8 '21 at 20:10
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Most of the sun's energy is visible, infrared and ultraviolet.

http://agron-www.agron.iastate.edu/courses/Agron541/classes/541/lesson09a/9a.3.html

radiation

Two kinds of infrared radiation exist, the near infrared and thermal infrared radiation. Looking at the energy coming from the sun on some scale with the amount of energy called radiative intensity, the energy from the sun may have a peak at about 0.5 µm (Fig. 9.7). The light that we see is between 0.4 and 0.7 µm. Solar energy has its peak in the yellow of the visible light range. To the left of the visible at shorter wavelengths, solar radiation drops off quite quickly. This is the ultraviolet, labeled as UV. To the right of the visible, beyond where our eyes can see, is the IR, the near red IR. The wavelengths of the colors of the spectrum (violet, blue, green, yellow, and orange in the middle, and red at the right end) are also depicted.

Light that hits the earth that is not reflected is absorbed, and almost all of it winds up as heat. Some tiny percentage might effect chemical changes (like with photosynthesis). For your fiction you could have the magic rays at the far ends of the spectrum - xrays, or longwave radiation.


Or you could fiction up a new kind of radiation, heretofore undiscovered! Perhaps light with a wavelength in the magical dimension, bringing power to magical things. Some of this light can power magic things. Magic light that has very short wavelength is too energetic and disrupts magic things, like ionizing radiation (xrays or gamma rays) distrupt molecules into ions. The magic frequency radiation that hits the earth does not heat it up, but magicks it up in various ways. Maybe there is a magic accumulator stratum deep in the earth. Strange doings down there.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer! I had not considered the intensity of it all - there is actually a book series by Brent Weeks which focuses on magic of the kind you suggest: mages use ultraviolet or infrared (or similar) kinds of energy. Definitely worth thinking about this additional dimension (the intensity). Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Dec 4 '21 at 21:28
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    $\begingroup$ Note that about 3% of the Sun's output is in the form of neutrinos. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 5 '21 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf - the figures I find all seem to deal only with electromagnetic radiation. It would be interesting to see a graph total solar energy output of all types at 1 AU. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Dec 5 '21 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk: There are also energetic particles emitted - the solar wind, coronal mass ejections, and so on. No idea what percentage of the total that is. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 7 '21 at 4:03
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You can follow the same path which is used with other forms of energy in the real world: the magic energy which is not used by an apt user goes simply wasted, or better get degraded in its ability of producing magical work.

Basically you can extend the concept of entropy also to this magic energy, and have that also in this case entropy can naturally only increase. Low entropy is good for getting some effect out of it, high entropy is not usable.

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  • $\begingroup$ I understand the basic implications of this, but wouldn't for example plants be able to store this energy, and animals (or smart humans!) be able to harness it, effectively prevennting this decay/degradation? Thanks for the answer! $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Dec 8 '21 at 20:11
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My question then is: how does the mineral realm (to name it some way) relates with all of this?

Somewhat scientific answers: Pretty much all the heavy elements on the universe are created inside stars, and then turned into dust when they explode as a supernova, dust that eventually accumulates into planets.

So in a very simplified way you could say that living things use the sun's energy now while minerals are embodiments of past suns' energy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Would it be reasonable to expect at least some minerals to be "magically charged", as that's how they were created? They would have an overal net-negative energy balance, as different processes (most of the natural ones) would remove that energy, but they would have no way of gaining more of this initial energy (assuming magic behaves as regular EM radiations) $\endgroup$
    – Stivsko
    Dec 8 '21 at 20:15
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Light that is not reflected back into space by our planet, is always absorbed in some way or another. This might be by photosynthesis, but it also happens with any more or less dark surface. Unless the material that absorbs the light does something special with the energy (photosynthesis or photovoltaic), the light's energy is simply converted into heat. That heat typically follows many different pathways of further conversions and either ends up as mechanical work (wind, ocean currents, and precipitation, which lead to all kinds of erosions) or is eventually radiated back into space as our planets heat radiation. As such, we can conclude

  • Magic surrounds you wherever you go. You find it in the air as warmth and wind, as well as in the falling rain (magicians just love thunderstorms), and it is released in great quantities from flowing water (that's why you always find magicians living near waterfalls).

  • Fine sand should be literally loaded with magic, as it is the end product of most erosion processes.

  • Most of the available magic is eventually lost to space, unless it is made use of and bound into artifacts.

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    $\begingroup$ One of the more interesting ways to cool something down is to use the black body radiation. Block off the sunlight and point it towards a dark part of the sky and the black body radiation can cool even in a hot desert. It isn't practical in most places as it is hard to properly block off the sunlight as it bounces around in the air. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Dec 5 '21 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidR Plus, you need to properly insulate the radiator from the surrounding air. But indeed, space is cool, and all it takes to reach it, is to look at the sky! $\endgroup$ Dec 5 '21 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ Insulating from the surrounding air is not needed. It is insulating from light (added energy). See realclearscience.com/blog/2018/07/09/… What happens with an overcast night sky is that a bunch of radiated energy bounces off the clouds back to earth and keeps things warmer. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Dec 6 '21 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidR You misunderstood me. If you want to get rid of heat energy at ambient temperature, radiative screening is sufficient. But if you want to cool some object down to temperatures that are significantly below ambient, you absolutely need to insulate against the influx of heat from the surrounding air. It's the same principle by which a black surface in space can easily reach several hundred °C while the same surface on earth won't get hotter than 100°C; the surrounding air constantly removes the heat that's being deposited by the sunlight. For cooling, it's just the other way round. $\endgroup$ Dec 6 '21 at 16:47
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    $\begingroup$ Influx of heat from surrounding air is dependent upon air currents. If you insulate the bottom and sides and have a stable column of air above the surface, that surface can cool via black body radiation. Stable air above a cold surface will not move heat down to that surface. It takes outside force to move the heat down (air current). The only other way heat can be moved is through Brownian motion which isn't a big enough of transfer. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Dec 8 '21 at 15:23

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