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Dear colleagues from the Institute of Subatomic Research,

as you will have noticed, our latest expedition to the Magic Realm (TM) through the Strange Portal (TM) was a considerable success. No one turned into a frog this time or got eaten by a random Monster jumping at us from the high grass.

Which means, we had plenty of time to do actual science this time. Well, at least we tried, but we ran into a problem when setting up the base: Our Radio Thermal Generator for the research base under-performed by an order of magnitude. But it went back to nominal power output once it came back to our world. Even more, the engineers still are claiming, that the RTG is free of any faults.

Which brings us to the first question for our meet-up: Why does the radioactive decay produce less heat than here. Some of our field researchers pointed also out, that the radioactive background radiation is surprisingly low over there. But we do not know if that is tied together.

Out best shot currently would be that maybe there is another product of decay over there, that takes away part of the energy. But an additional sub atomic particle would mean, that most of the other sub atomic processes would be affected too.

But that should have such an impact on everything else, that even the existence of stars should be questioned. But... as you see on the pictures, the sunset in the Magic Real is quite... well... magical. And the night sky is full of stars too! And... oh, why are those pictures in here... well, these Water Nymphs were quite curious about the clothing we were wearing and... ANYWAY.

We would be grateful if any of you experts on the field may be able to offer an explanation about what else could have happened to the RTG, and if we have an addition to the sub atomic particle zoo at our hand at the other side, or if something else is happening. Something, that seems to disappear once the affected device is brought back through the portal.


Yes, I asked something like this about two years prior, but I think it wasn't the best question to ask, as either "it stays the same" or "the universe would break" were answers for it: Effect of adding a fourth kind of radioactive decay

But while the scope has evolved, I still find it hard to find a plausible explanation that is more solid than "its magic!"

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you looked at WIMPS? How you'd justify decay into these "ghost particles" is another matter and way beyond me. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 7:43
  • $\begingroup$ As a matter of fact, something like this was kind of my first thought, but I ended up questioning every design I tried, because of all the things one can overlook. Like the fact, that fiddeling around with the nuclear decay would have an severe effect on geogenesis, or what its called $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ I would recommend changing your post title, as it is not representative of your question, but rather just one possible kind of answer you're interested in. That harms you and posterity. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Nov 28, 2023 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Tom, done... is it better now? $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2023 at 5:45
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    $\begingroup$ This question should never have been closed. OP describes the problem clearly as well as some potential solutions, so the answer space is reasonably well defined. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Nov 29, 2023 at 6:44

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Quantum Demons

Suppose there is a magic user, or a class of them, that is capable of using magic to drain energy from nearby quantum fields. This explains the energy loss observed by your expedition, while also not interfering with cosmological factors:

  • Your expedition took place within the domain of such a magic user, and it drained some of the energy of their RTG.
  • These magic users cannot (or did not) venture across the entire primordial universe to drain energy from the countless reactions that led to the large-scale structure of the universe, the galaxy, or solar system, so all the big stuff is still normal.

In quantum mechanics, every particle is just an excitation in a quantum field. A "field" is just a property that has a value at every point in space.

Magic commonly has "fields" too: force fields, slow-motion fields, death rays, etc. In a realm where magic is possible, it's not inconceivable that a sufficiently skilled practitioner might devise a way to magically create a local field that intercepts and swallows some of these excitations for their own purposes, whether to harvest energy and grow more powerful, or as part of a scheme to exert control over some region.

It's up to you whether the magical field that drained the RTG is limited to just one clearing, the whole forest, a valley, a continent, the entire planet, or the entire solar system. Presumably, the greater its extent, the more powerful and intelligent its creator, so be sure to calibrate this accordingly.

I would not expect these magic users to understand quantum mechanics. To them, the fabric of space simply feels abuzz with invisible activity, and their blind groping ultimately resulted in a way to harness some part of that buzz. The magic users probably do not know which quantum particles are being absorbed, which natural forces are being drained or suppressed, and would probably not recognize the truth if your scientists showed them the QM take on the situation.

In this regime, I would stipulate that gravity is not quantum, because that helps eliminate the possibility that magic users might weaken local gravity, which could lead to a warren of other physics problems.

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  • $\begingroup$ Two other classic motivations for creating such a field: (A) peace and quiet, which powerful magic-users famously crave; or (B) part of a controlled experiment: they are suppressing the normal buzz so it can't interfere with whatever they're cooking up in the magic lab. Different motivations like these will help you justify whether the RTG drain is always in effect in that part of the Magic Realm, or only sometimes, and in a way that can be sensitive to narrative needs. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Nov 28, 2023 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ Dear Prof. Dr. @Tom, that would explain a lot without breaking to much. In fact, that does make a lot of sense for an already defined lineage of demons (In/Su:ccubbi... hell, how is one supposed to gender those?) . Usually they drain energy created by biological processes. Now I cannot shake off the image of the Ancient Evil (TM), that was locked away deeper in our base' cave, because this hill is somehow shielding it from the outside. And now some morons show up and place a nuclear power source next to it. But... how can we avoid the demon wrecking havoc at OUR side? $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2023 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ "How can we avoid demon attacking our side" seems like a separate question. But my assumption, from your post, was that magic simply doesn't work on our side of the portal. This is a common trope in fantasy fiction. Often, magical creatures either cannot exist in the mundane realm, and they lose all their magical abilities while in the mundane realm. In your case, perhaps denizens of the magic realm just can't open the portal. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Nov 29, 2023 at 6:00
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that is why initially the question resolved around differences between the two universes physic; You know, I am one of those guys who dislikes Harry Potter because the magic feels... arbitrary. To the extreme. And now I dragging with me the urge to create a magic system, that can be explained with its kind of physic, and maybe even formulas. But... until now, I never found something satisfying. $\endgroup$ Nov 29, 2023 at 6:20
  • $\begingroup$ While I will let this open until next week, at the moment I must admit that I somehow prefer this answer for my context. It somehow ties in very well to some of the other things I am pondering currently (like some more esoteric stuff for the Magic Realm people). Also... any world internal answer to the "how does it work in detail" then can be postponed until they could set up a second CERN there... which means "most likely never". $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2023 at 6:08
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The "easiest" explanation is not that there is an additional decay, but that there is some unknown field which slows down the decay by about a factor 10, explaining why your RTG performs 1 order of magnitude lower than its rated power. Wanna call it "slow force"?

To test this hypothesis you can bring in the realm half of a sample with a short lived isotope, let's say few hours half life, while leaving the other half home. Bring the realm sample back after 1 half life and compare the activity of the two samples.

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  • $\begingroup$ Dear Prof. @L.Dutch, that sounds like a promising suggestion. What do you think causes this Slow Field? Is is a local phenomena, because otherwise we had to assume, that every nuclear reaction should be subjected to this... shouldn't that disable stellar nuclearsynthesis too? $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ @ConfusedMerlin I know jack shit about quantum mechanics, but I do know that stars FUSE elements, not break them apart. So if fusion is unaffected by this force (or maybe even enhanced!) then I don't see why stars should be affected. At least it sounds plausinble. Hmm.... that makes me wonder - what if the weak/strong nuclear forces would be just a tiny bit larger? Would that perhaps lead to the desired effect? $\endgroup$
    – Vilx-
    Nov 29, 2023 at 1:02
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Expanding on L.Dutch's answer a little: consider the possibility that in the other universe, the weak nuclear force is weaker still, or even absent entirely. A "weakless universe" is a thought experiment that people have considered before, and it isn't entirely impossible. A universe with a even-weaker-force than our own could still have stars (given sufficient primordial deuterium created in its equivalent of the big bang or big handwave or whatever) and nuclear reactions mediated by the electromagnetic force still work just fine, including fusion, fission and alpha decay. That means that the stars still work, but also geothermal heating through radioactive decay still works too, which has important effects on things like plate tectonics and material cycling and even the geodynamo that provides a magnetic field to help hang on to the atmopshere in the face of cosmic radiation.

Weak nuclear force mediated decay notably includes beta decay, which is the mechanism by which strontium-90 RTGs produce heat. Betavoltaic devices also necessarily require beta decay to work. Most RTG fuels are alpha emitters, so your expedition used weird old soviet-flavor tech might be stretching credulity a tiny bit, but 90Sr devices did exist. Betavoltaics might be used in places where RTGs cannot... eg. very small devices, or things intended to work under very high ambient temperatures. Again, that doesn't sound like the sort of thing you might ship off to a benign Earth-like environment but it isn't completely beyond the realms of plausibility. Self-recharging portables computers with a 10-year lifespan sound like useful bits of kit.

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  • $\begingroup$ Dear Prof. @Starfish Prime, I think we are better off to not question where this RTG was acquired from. Some things better being left un-questioned...The usage of such an device, however, was suggested as we treated the Magic Realm as another planet of mostly unknown setup. Also, the portal ends in a cave, where we set up base, which is not the best place for solar cells or wind energy. But maybe we just should shift to a hydrogen energy cell... Still, is it safe for us to go over there, even if the weak force may be absent? $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ @ConfusedMerlin it should be safe... the absense of the weak force affects big things, like stars and geothermal heat, and if you can see stars and the planet isn't a cold lifeless ball but instead has a breathable atmosphere then you're probably fine. Hydrogen fuel cells are a bit rubbish. If you can't manage methanol or ammonia fuel cells, you'd be better off with regular fossil fuel generators, and maybe run some big power cables through the portal. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ Well, at least that seems to be a very human thing to do: we found an untouched magic realm. What is the first thing to do? Haul Diesel generators over there. The ones, we found in the basement, without particle filters and stuff... But I see why the weak force may could be removed, if I already stated "sun, stars and breathing life" to be available. ... Say, could it be replaced with something? $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ @ConfusedMerlin bruh, you took intensely toxic and radioactive material into fairyland. Don't look at me because I suggested that you burn stuff instead. You could replace the weak force with something similar, or maybe tweak decay paths, but honestly that's quite a complex thing to try and do in a coherent way and it doesn't obviously add much to your setting. Just glossing over it all with "your fancy EDC beta lights don't work here cos the weak force is different this side of the portal" and try to avoid going into much more detail seems safest... $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 12:56
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As an option to add some field/particle, you may want to play with time. For example, if your expedition finds out that they spend twice time in Magic Realm than lasts for observers in our reality - then it's easy answer why radioactive decay is twice worse.

I still find it hard to find a plausible explanation that is more solid than "its magic!"

As a side note I would add that at some level you have to say 'it's a magic'. Would it be the Power for jeday, wormhole for FTL or positron brain for android - authors stop explaining the world and starts telling a story. So you may want don't go deeper and don't answer 'why the time is slower'.

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    $\begingroup$ Dear Prof. @ADS.... if time is slower in the Magic Realm, it would be for everything, so the decay would happen at the same rate... or not? To make this work, every living being would need to perceive stuff at an elevated rate, while the decay stays the same... or wouldn't it? Beside this; yes, sooner or later "its magic" must happen, but I somewhat hope to find some kind of rule I can use to create a seemingly "hard" magic system. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2023 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ @ConfusedMerlin yep, I mean that decay rate is much slower because of time anomalies. Such anomaly would effect to other aspects as you wish. For example, every living creature spends it's lifetime twice faster which means ... many things which is just off topic. $\endgroup$
    – ADS
    Nov 30, 2023 at 8:57

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