4
$\begingroup$

It seems that Mathematicians are more powerful than we expect.
They've found the "Fundamental Universal Laws Rune", which is a mathematical symbol, that when added to the end of any mathematics that has to do with the universe will make the equation true.
The formulas must be:

  • Visible (Someone can see it, eg. no invisible ink)
  • Understandable (No scribbles, no broken equations)
  • Focused (Cannot apply one rune to govern both the Schrodinger Equation and Relative Physics) to change a law of physics.

The world is formed by subconscious thoughts (Consensus Reality), so the more the people believe that any mathematical formula is real the more it applies to the world.


Some specifics:
  • Variables can be kept (They start with an underscore)
  • _world is an array holding the entire universe contained within.
  • Variables are backwards - dependent, if a is defined off of b, and a is changed, b will change.
  • The laws of the universe would change to allow the formulas to be true; any mathematical formula needs people to subconsciously believe it; and therefore must make sense to be perceived.
  • math is the basis of reality, not the other way around.
  • For more intricate equations there are more terms, and thus harder to write. It is a plot point; intricate math for complex situations is harder to change than simple math for simple situations. My world takes into account simplification - if you write an equation without air resistance it will only change what you wanted, so for an object traveling 10m/s forwards with air friction of 0.2%, and you only change the speed, such as $ \_objSpeed = 15 m/s $ it will not affect the air friction of 0.2%, the equation now is $ 15(0.98)^{x} = S $. This applies for an equation 1000s of terms long, changing three will not affect the rest.

Desmos-ish formulas allowed, like:

$ a^{2}+b^{2} = c^{3}\ \{\_c_1 : 1\} $

$ \_c_1 -> 1 $

$ \_info -> [0,1,1,0,0,0,0,1,0,1,1,0,0,0,0,1 ... ] $

$ [ticker : 1ms]\ \ \ getthiswall(\_world) -> decode(\_info)\ \{\_info !: []\} $

Example: The formula $ l \times h \times w = V $ governs volume for a 3d rectangular prism. Let's say some mathematician wanted to make it so that there is less volume for size (so things are lighter, even if it's that big). He would write something like this: $ \frac{l \times h \times w}{2} = V $ and get people to believe it. This can be applied to larger things and for larger effects (e.g. planetary motion).


The question is, how will the common folk defend against this form of seemingly omnipotent system?

$\endgroup$
5
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Worldbuilding Meta, or in Worldbuilding Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 3, 2023 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ I was the last close voter and I'd like you to understand why. We have no point of view to work with but the Real Universe where all those laws you're allowing to change are immutable. We do know that if you change one it has an impact on almost all other fundamental laws. But worse, from humanity's current point of view, if you break the universe, it ceases to exist. What this means is that you are required to tell us what happens when a law changes because what happens can only be a part of your story. If you tell us that, then we might ... (*Continued*) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 3, 2023 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ ... be able to help you figure out how people can protect themselves. But I suspect that once you've gone to the effort of explaining what happens, it wouldn't be hard for you to answer your own question. Note that due to our one-and-only-one-question rule, you would need to explain the consequences of changing a law one law at a time. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 3, 2023 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ 'k, thanks deleting. $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2023 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, no. Read the faq a bit more thourougly. $\endgroup$ Jul 4, 2023 at 15:35

15 Answers 15

17
$\begingroup$

They won't, they'll die

Someone is likely to mess with the planet and destroy it fairly quickly. As written, your magic system is an apocalypse waiting to happen.

$\endgroup$
10
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelChen : there is no need for "1=2". Any change in any equation describing anything in physics would break possibly the entire universe. Change how particles interact, and you won't even have physical matter anymore. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Jul 3, 2023 at 5:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "Assume pi=3" is an easy to manage equation, and one which would destroy the world quickly. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Jul 3, 2023 at 10:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelChen h = 5 Js ↯. Makes perfect sense: I can perceive it just fine. Goodbye chemistry. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Jul 3, 2023 at 14:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MickaelChen Well... The state of Indiana almost agreed to change PI to a straight, round 3.2. While it's certainly false, the representatives who are not used to maths did vote by majority the change. At very deep levels you'll get issues too : There are systems where our initial premises are added or changed as needed. The most famous example is the imaginary number i (i² = -1). It's "impossible", but it does exist and is actually used in physics. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 14:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MichaelChen then how can the equations ever be used to effect any change at all? $\endgroup$
    – minseong
    Jul 3, 2023 at 15:10
8
$\begingroup$

how will the common folk defend against this form of seemingly omnipotent system?

They won't need to, because the system is in fact not very potent at all. Its disabling weakness is this:

the more the people believe that any mathematical formula is real the more it applies to the world

and so by extension if a lot of people don't believe in a given formula, then it will not have as much of an effect. So it's basically a democratic system in which the supposedly all-powerful mathematicians are always a (very small) minority, and constantly outvoted by the supposedly powerless common folk.

The powerful people in this system would be those who can influence minds: politicians, leaders of social and religious movements, con artists and the like. They very much could have a mathematician craft an equation that would work to their advantage and then spread belief in its correctness, thus causing the advantage to materialise. But even they would be able to reach only a small minority of people, which would limit their effectiveness.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes! This is the real frame challenge. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Jul 3, 2023 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM, thank you but it isn't really a frame challenge. It's the OP's system working exactly as described in a world with 8 billion people in it, most of whom can't be reached by any one person, nevermind convinced of the validity of this or that mathematical equation. It's a big place full of people who don't necessarily think like us; worldbuilders forget this at their own peril. $\endgroup$
    – ihaveideas
    Jul 3, 2023 at 18:04
6
$\begingroup$

Frame Challenge

What is the difference between a God and a being that can change the fundamental laws of the Universe?

And the follow-up question: How does a Mortal defeat a God?

That is my 'answer'.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ They are not gods. If a god has no faith, is he an god? No. If a mathematician has no believers (read the last few paragraphs) they don't get to many people's subconscious, and thus no significant change in the universe. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 3:33
  • $\begingroup$ "How does a Mortal defeat a God?” -- you don't. Why would you even pick up a fight that you will surely lose? There are better uses for your time, such as getting on the god's good side by practicing a religion; then you wouldn't even need to fight in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – ihaveideas
    Jul 3, 2023 at 18:23
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelChen I believe you missed Demon's point. The answer to the question "how can I defeat a godlike character?" is always "you can't, unless your god has a weakness." Your mathematical system is just another form of godlike character. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 3, 2023 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelChen - just to re-iterate - Your Mathematicians, with a stroke of a pen, can change the universe. They are, for all intents and purposes, Gods. Think of Q in Star Trek. Belief doesn't need to enter into it. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 21:19
5
$\begingroup$

How do common people protect themselves against people with powerful weapons?

They either find ways to get access to those same weapons (a la USA firearm possession laws) or they as a coolective find ways to make laws which regulate and make the usage of those weapons hardly accessible (a la most European countries firearm possession laws).

They can make writing or studying those symbols strongly regulated, or even make writing completely taboo, similarly to how it was taboo in Stargate.

This will not nullify the chances of being hurt, but will significantly reduce them.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ This is great! Thanks. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 3:33
4
$\begingroup$

Basically, you would get a world which is constantly changing. Alice and Bob have a contract to sell grain by barrel, Bob and Carol have a contract selling bread by the pound. So Alice would have a strong incentive to reduce the amount of grain which fits into a barrel of prescribed dimensions, and hire a mathemagician to make it happen. Bob would have a strong incentive to increase the amount of grain which fits into a barrel of prescribed dimensions, and hire another mathemagician to make that happen. (Or, if Alice wasn't careful in hiring her mage, even the same mage. Talk about job security.)

The way for people around this would be to organize, to hire mathemagicians to protect "consensus reality," and to hunt violators down. Or even suspected violators. I smell torches and pitchforks.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ This works also. I like the idea of an mathematician task force, running and scribbling on paper after a violator... $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 3:35
4
$\begingroup$

Your magic doesn't work at all

Your magic depends on people believing things. In your example:

He would write something like this: l×h×w2=V and get people to believe it.

Nope. The epidemiologists and climate scientists of the whole world combined had been unable to convince large swathes of the population that vaccines work, or that Covid or climate change are real. Your mathematic is not going to convince anyone because the population divides exactly in two non-overlapping sets: those who doesn't understand the formula at all, and therefore are distrustful of the mathematician' claims, and those who understand and know the formula is not correct, so they don't believe the mathematician.

As the late Stephen Hawking was told when he was writing "A brief history of time", 'for every equation included your sales will drop by half'. As such, the only successfull wizards in your world are the ones who doesn't use any formulas at all, but since your magic system requires mathematical formulas magic doesn't exist in your world.

$\endgroup$
3
$\begingroup$

Stop the world from changing

Having ultimate power is nice. You can change the universe. However, if anyone can do it, you can see a big problem forming. Anything you aquire can be taken away. Now only that, you yourself aren't safe either. Someone could eradicate everyone called Michael in this world.

If we use some basic psychology like the pyramid of Maslow we can see the bottom layers are perserved for physiological needs and safety. Even if you can get anything you want, you cannot guarantee safety or permanence of gotten gains. So you do the only sensible thing.

You remove the use of the rune. With a single pen stroke you make the whole rune obsolete, guaranteeing your safety from any ill changes by the rune, as well as preventing anything gained from being lost.

In essence, people will find out about the rune, a few try it out, see how it works, realise it's potential and danger, grab as much power as they can before nullifying the whole thing. Possibly an exception is made for themselves, or they changed the symbol to another method for changing the universe. Something only they know.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ "or permanence of gotten gains." this point is nowhere in Maslow's pyramid. In fact it is only relevant to us because we have grown up in a very materialistic/consumerist society. In a world where you can magically conjure almost anything, nobody would care much about material possessions $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 3, 2023 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm. This is an caveat to the rule; however this world is formed from consensus reality, so everyone would have to agree to not use the rune forever, which would never happen. (e.g. our American Government) $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 3:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Hobbamok gains do not have to be material and can be anything or supporting anything on the pyramid. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Jul 3, 2023 at 7:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Trioxidane hm, looks like I was the one thinking too materialistic all along $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 3, 2023 at 7:50
3
$\begingroup$

Consensus reality works against the rune itself

(this might be considered as a frame challenge)

If we start on the idea that the ability of this rune to change reality is based on how people believe so, then there would be little way for it to actually work.

Imagine the following : one day, a mathematician comes to you and tells you they can rewrite the laws of reality by writing a symbol on a piece of paper, but it will only work if enough people believe in it.

Most people's natural reaction (as far as I know) would consider this as either a scam, a lunatic's ramblings, or some sort of sect.

As such, apart if you already have a very large cult of brainwashed followers, it would be very difficult to make enough people believe in your rune's potency. And if you manage to do so, you most likely have the monopoly on the rune by telling your army of followers that only you can use the rune, thus making it reality.

The egg or the chicken?

Another issue is how the rune could be found out in the first place. For someone to understand its true potential, it would need to have an effect on reality. However, for it to have an effect on reality, enough people need to know about it and believe in it.

But if it hasn't been discovered yet, nobody can believe in it. Then it has no effect, and thus cannot be discovered. See where I'm getting at?

The only way for the rune to exist and be usable by humanity is if some god-like entity brainwashed most or all of humanity into believing that the rune exists and that the rune works.

$\endgroup$
3
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nice frame challenge! That's an issue I have to fix... or not because of suspension of disbelief... $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ Frame challenge doesn’t work… all you need is to start small, changing local effects as proof to small number of believers. How do you start a cult? Start with small miracles and work up to the big stuff with gullible people. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Jul 3, 2023 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ @SRM that is if you can make those miracles in the first place. No matter how small, if the large majority of humanity believes it's impossible, it won't happen. Except, of course, if you rule the opposite. $\endgroup$
    – Matthieu
    Jul 3, 2023 at 17:57
2
$\begingroup$

Religion

The world is formed by subconscious thoughts (Consensus Reality), so the more the people believe that any mathematical formula is real the more it applies to the world.

In any world where common faith makes things real, it's usually a good idea to organize faith.

So when there is a large cult that believes that math does not work and that considers it of utmost importance to keep sincere faith in this believe, that would counter-act the power of this rune. As long as this religion exists and has many faithful adherents, the power of the math witches hell-bent on destroying the universe with their faulty logic will be held in check.

It might be a good idea to actively persecute any heretics who threaten the faith by downplaying the dangers or exaggerating the usefulness of math. This mindset is a threat to the universe, after all.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Yes! That's the point of adding consensus reality. Religion is a good idea. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 13:42
2
$\begingroup$

(Yet another) Frame Challenge

The way things work in real world is, the universe exists and is governed by a number of laws. Things work the way they do because the laws governing the universe are what they are. We humans happen to be a species that is sort of intelligent enough to try to figure out some of those laws, but they exist independently of us.

The world is formed by subconscious thoughts (Consensus Reality), so the more the people believe that any mathematical formula is real the more it applies to the world.

I understand of course that this is a fictional world, but a world like this cannot logically exist. A mathematical formula either correctly describes one of the laws that make the universe work, or it does not. Science is binary like that. If it does, people who believe that formula are right and people who do not are wrong. In your world, the universal laws are determined by what people believe. So if 40% of the people believe that a formula is right, and 60% believe it is wrong, then the formula is 40% right and 60% wrong. That is not a thing, it can only be 100% right or 100% wrong.

It gets worse. In Galileo's time, most people believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth, but Galileo believed it was the other way around, because data indicated that the popular belief was wrong. In your world, he would have no reason to believe that, because the popular belief would make it so that the Sun actually revolved around Earth, however that would work. Hell, at one point most people believed that Earth was flat and stood on the back of a giant turtle (or maybe turtles all the way down), so that belief would have to manifest itself as reality, flattening the Earth and bringing the giant turtle or turtles into being.

Let's take something like black holes. They are very strange thing, so there would be a point in time when there are no formulae or explanations as to how they work at all. Would that mean that they don't exist? Let's say that somehow they manage to still exist. One scientist comes up with a formula (or set of formulae) that describe how they work. This is only one person who believes that these formulae are true, so they are true only to a tiny extent. His work is circulated around the scientific community and gains some popularity, but that is still only a tiny percentage of the total population, so the formulae are still not very true at all. Only when it's published in a number of popular newspapers and shown on TV (or youtube, if it exists at that point) the scientist's formulae start being reasonably true.

What about the time before humans evolved? There was no-one to have any subconscious thoughts to form reality - does it mean reality didn't exist? Or it existed before, but as soon as humans appeared, they started changing it with their subconscious thoughts?

Why do you even need the magic reality-altering mathematical symbol in your world already works like that?

I think it's an interesting idea, but it may need a little bit more thought.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Souls always existed; they formed the world through consensus reality. In my world, I've flipped "math describes the universe" into "the universe describes math", so math would form the basis of reality. Nice frame challenge though. $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 13:44
2
$\begingroup$

M.A.D Mages

Any changes have the potential to be catastrophic. So, a whole bunch of mages would get together to build contracts into the system - Because you can do logic with formula in your system, I'd expect a permissions system to form. Mages not on an includes list would suffer the consequences, and rules would be something like "If caster is not on permission list "_gravity_alterers" set caster bone temperature to 600 kelvin"

Basically, horrible, automated death for anyone violating the rules.

Rules between countries would be agreed by their fellow mages guilds, under threat of mutual destruction. Even if larger countries have the consensus, a first strike would allow a small country to take out a larger one before they can impose their own rules. So, it ends up very similar to the present day, with countries unwilling to attack each other in case their opponent responds.

Unless you're right at the top of this tree, doing magic would be closer to practicing law or programming - working out what you can do with the powers you're allowed to use, and how to get the effect you want with the limited scope available to you.

I'd imagine the rules would be tiered - i.e, "a caster of x rank can cast effects of 3000N in force or less, limited to x meters in diameter"

A extremely stable (because it's enforced by instantaneous, fatal, consequences), extremely bureaucratic organisation would form in each country, renting out services to wider society while keeping this power for themselves. Keeping up the mystique of their roles would mean that the general population believes in the rules, and therefore the formulas of this organisation stay strong. The base rules "The mages guild is the sole authority for magic" might end up in religious doctrine, to strengthen its power, and keep the state stable.

Research into new physics would be equivalent to weapons research - states or rival mages would be constantly trying to discover a new force, or a way to get round existing compacts. There'd be a constant battle of wills, perhaps, between rival mage organisations, very similar to the cold war.

Warfare between mages is likely to be irregular, either using newly discovered physics hacks or straightforward assassination. The common population is likely to stay in line, because of fear of magical death, but can also reject the existing mages guild by believing in a new one, which would undo all the existing contracts the current guild has formed.

EDIT:

The real fun part comes when you assume multiple layers of historic formula. For example, the ancients locked down a bunch of important functions of this magic, and it only has some more minor functions left accessible. Then the next lot of ancients do the same, and by the time you're done, you end up with very specific, narrowly scoped bits of physics defiance. Or, spells. Which work because everyone believes that this is how magic works.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

One of them learns mathematics until the secret is mastered.

That that one write out the rune to an question specifying that the rune no longer works.

Problem solved.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ this world is formed from consensus reality, so everyone would have to agree to not use the rune forever, which would never happen. (e.g. our American Government) $\endgroup$ Jul 3, 2023 at 3:39
  • $\begingroup$ Is it consensus or omnipotent? If all that is required is for most people to not believe, the rune has literally no force. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Jul 3, 2023 at 14:18
1
$\begingroup$

The question is, how will the common folk defend against this form of seemingly omnipotent system?

Any one who knows the "Fundamental Universal Laws Rune" is immediately killed.

If you knew math at all you would be under suspicion, and monitored carefully.

Think of being a leper in biblical times.

The governments of the world would monitor anyone any signs of math abilities.

In modern time they would have cameras on them 24/7, and if you wrote down the symbol even by accident you would likely be killed.

Either that or prevented from writing anything down, maybe they cut off your hands.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style - Steven Brust.

As this form of magic is developed, the people are likely to kill the magicians in self-defence.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Seems like your mathematicians found "God" and became "Angels". There could be a group of them that know the implication and potential for destruction caused by changing the universe, so they would likely group together to prevent their secrets from becoming known or easily accessible to public, think of the church (any church): they spread and protect Gods word (usually the books that are super old and rare).

Also the first thing to fight it would be to have super important formulas like say, air density, gravity, oxygen absorption rate (etc.) written on the roads so people unconsciously make them true and harder to manipulate those, matter of fact, the best opposition would be a relentless defamation campaign or a "Cancelation" of said person that wanted to attack people, if they don't believe in him, he cant really do anything.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .