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Setting is based heavily on the works of HP Lovecraft, set in a world where mankind has to contend with extradimensional monsters known as Horrors.

The Horrors vary in ability and physiology, but a common thread is that their bodies are often distributed across multiple planes of existence.

Using physical attack work at best if you get a lucky hit or are an annoyance most of the time.

You cut off a limb with a sword, but the monster has hundreds of others others folded away in other dimensions that can take the lost limb's place.

You unload a magazine at a thing made of tentacles and gelatinous fog, only for the creature to decide to shift its mass away from your plane and shambles towards you uncaring.

You try to hide in a bunker from a hungry Horror, unaware that the creature can enter your room in spatial directions that you yourself have no way of knowing.

However the exception always seems to be electromagnetic in nature. Where a gun fails to hurt, a cattle prod can outright kill a smaller horror or cause larger horrors to be banished from our 3d plane.

Powerful electromagnetic fields seem to also disturb their ability to manifest. Similarly creatures that can walk through walls like ghosts, are wounded if passing through an electrified fence.

Is there a plausible enough explanation for why the Horrors would be vulnerable to this phenomena whereas bullets and even artillery barely bother?

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    $\begingroup$ Like the woman in the movie "Everything Everywhere All at Once" except yours got a pacemaker 😱 $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jan 17 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ What makes this particularly difficult is that the solidity of matter is itself an result of electrical fields. So any explanation needs to explain why some electromagnetic fields (those associated with the electrons in an atom) have no effect but other electromagnetic fields (those associated with electrons hopping between atoms) do have an effect. $\endgroup$
    – smithkm
    Jan 19 at 5:47
  • $\begingroup$ @smithkm The EM fields of nuclei and electrons cancel each other out (except at subatomic lengths). A generated EM field is large-scale. The physics of such a horror is entirely handwavium, so an author can simply postulate that it's the large-scale fields that hurt - or maybe it's just tickling them and their appendages retract on reflex. $\endgroup$
    – toolforger
    Jan 20 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ Broadly because you chose not to define anything about what 'extra-dimensional' might mean. Will you go back and put that right? I think physical blows can't be 'trans-dimensional' but how could that follow from your Question or exposition? Many people see things 'electrical' as somehow less specific than things 'physical' and what does that mean to you? If you want your built worlds' monsters to be vulnerable to electricity but not to physical blows, why not just write your story so as to build such a world? $\endgroup$ Jan 22 at 20:52

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Electromagnetism is Mirrored Across Dimensions

This is at odds with how we understand actual additional dimensions to work, but so are extradimensional horrors, so we can roll with it.

If you shoot a bullet, or throw a punch, you're doing so in the good-old four-dimensional spacetime we're all used to. When you run voltage through a radio transmitter, the resultant emissions are spread across all the various eldritch dimensions. Some of the more intellectual Horrors are big fans of NPR.

Conversely, electromagnetic phenomena (aurorae, ball lightning, places with weird magnetic fields) are all manifestations of Eldritch Horrors doing their own thing in the higher dimensions.

The cattle prod makes less sense, because both prongs need to make physical contact and its effect comes from running electricity through tissue, but a handheld Jacob's Ladder, a microwave gun, or anything generating VHF interferes with the Horrors' brain-equivalents.

For the electric fence, it's not the electricity itself, it's the induced magnetic field. For that reason, DC is much less effective against the Horrors than AC.

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    $\begingroup$ I think if electromagnetic fields/radiation were going into more than 3 spatial dimensions, the intensity would fall faster than quadratically in the distance. But that can probably be handwaved. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Jan 17 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ Bullets interact and do damage via electromagnetism (just like you touch your chair via electron repulsion), so it is unclear in this model why can't bullet electrons interact with horror in higher dimensions. $\endgroup$
    – Basilevs
    Jan 17 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Basilevs Maybe a stupid question: I thought physical interaction was a result of Pauli exclusion, not electron repulsion? $\endgroup$
    – Idran
    Jan 17 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinHilyard Electron degeneracy pressure is only relevant at star-high pressures. Mundane interactions are all electromagnetic. $\endgroup$
    – Basilevs
    Jan 18 at 11:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinHilyard, The Pauli exclusion principle limits the number of electrons within any atom's orbital shells. It is electromagnetic repulsion that drives shells away from each other. $\endgroup$ Jan 18 at 16:47
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It boils down to the "true nature" of electricity on your setting:

Electricity is a seven-dimensional phenomena.

Humans have no way to understand, or interact, with the true nature of electricity, as how it works under the hood touches way more dimensions that the 3 we usually perceive.

That doesn't mean we can't harness its seven-dimensional nature to do stuff, however - in this case, keeping giant tentacle monsters at bay.

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You can't dodge an electromagnetic field.

Horrors' apparent invulnerability to most forms of physical damage stems from their ability to dodge into dimensions humans cannot access or perceive. Anytime you swing a sword or shoot a bullet at them, they simply "duck" into another dimension, out of the plane of the incoming attack.

To overcome this, you need pervasive area-effect weapons which occupy an entire volume of space for a duration of time which cannot be dodged - electromagnetic fields, fire, or corrosive gas come to mind. If a horror enters the three dimensions occupied by humans in an area affected by such a weapon, it will be affected - the only way to "dodge" is to not be there. An extradimensional horror must still come into our dimension to affect us, and EM fields are a good way to continuously affect a volume in a way that a bullet or other physical weapon cannot.

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Paper and ink explains it best

Our 3D world is like a 2D sheet of paper to them, while their world is 3D. We are restricted to movements along the 2D plane of the paper, but the Horrors can move into additional dimensions: they can dodge our punches by moving above or below our sheet of paper, becoming essentially unreachable.

Bring in the ink. If you drop some runny ink on a sheet of paper, it spreads in every direction. If you have a 3D thing made of paper (structure made of paper mulch, a stack of sheets, a 3D box made of paper sheets, you name it), the ink does not care: it will spread anywhere. It is not limited to 2D.

Electricity is exactly like this. It is not restricted to the specific sheet it was dropped on. The effects will spread wherever there is something it can interact with.

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Everybody here is answering in a way that suggests electricity flows through "higher dimensions" while mostly everything else doesn't, as if that were some mystical and fictional thing.

Guess what... String theory (or at least one of its variants) fully supports that notion! So it is still mystical and fictional, but at least it is mystical and fictional in a way that is supported by maths (and might be supported by physics if we ever make String Theory live up to its last name).

I recently wrote about it in another question. I'm gonna copy the relevant, interesting bits here:

String theories say that the Universe actually has 10, 11 or 26 dimensions depending on the one that you choose to use. Four of those dimensions are space and time as we know them, the rest are too compact for us to experience them.

Particularly relevant to this question is the Kaluza-Klein theory:

In physics, Kaluza–Klein theory (KK theory) is a classical unified field theory of gravitation and electromagnetism built around the idea of a fifth dimension beyond the common 4D of space and time and considered an important precursor to string theory. In their setup, the vacuum has the usual 3 dimensions of space and one dimension of time but with another microscopic extra spatial dimension in the shape of a tiny circle.

(...a metric ton of mathing and nerding...)

Kaluza presented a purely classical extension of general relativity to 5D, with a metric tensor of 15 components. Ten components are identified with the 4D spacetime metric, four components with the electromagnetic vector potential, and one component with an unidentified scalar field sometimes called the "radion" or the "dilaton". Correspondingly, the 5D Einstein equations yield the 4D Einstein field equations, the Maxwell equations for the electromagnetic field, and an equation for the scalar field.

In plain English: by applying general relativity to a universe with five dimensions - length, width, height, time, and an unnamed one which is minuscule and looped - dudes were able to output the original Einstein field equations AND the ones for electromagnetism. This extra dimension is very in line with those extra ones described by string theory.

We could say that the electromagnetic force moves through this dimension.

If the idea above holds (we have no way to test that), then electromagnetism really does move through more dimensions than just spacetime. Even if a cosmic horror exists outside spacetime, as long as its presence has an intersection with the 5th dimension described above it can be zapped, possibly affected by magnets as well.

If you want to lose some sleep over this, consider that this implies that electricity might be able to affect things outside time. To me this is more insomnia fuel than the double slit experiment and the problem of matter-antimatter imbalance put together.

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What about the horror's composition? Physical blows do little or no damage due to the creature's physiology being robust against that sort of thing, but powerful electromagnetic fields and currents disrupt those n-dimensional bonds of its body on a molecular level, causing it to quite literally fall apart.

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Two thoughts on this:

  • Perhaps those earlier scientists who hypothesized that electromagnetic phenomena propagate through the aether were closer to the truth than we once thought. Aether is a phenomenon that is cross-dimensional, and since that portion of them that we're able to perceive is only the part of them that is able to manifest in our dimension, it disrupts their ability to manifest. Were we to travel in the other direction, the same would be true of us.

  • We don't know why, but we're darned lucky we figured it out and we hope that nothing too big to be impacted by our electrical/electromagnetic weapons comes along until we figure out the why.

Personally, if you're doing something with horror, I prefer the latter.

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At first sight what you describe is impossible: electricity and a physical blow both act because of electromagnetism. When Jim punches Tod's face, it's actually the electron cloud of Jim's fist which interacts with the electron cloud of Tod's face transmitting the force and causing damage.

So how can it be that physical blows do not cause damage while electricity does?

Well, the reason is simple: electricity causes damage in the 3D cross-section we are able to experience, while physical blows cause most or all damages outside of that cross-section, so we do not see them. We only notice something when the damage happens to be projected in our sensible domain, and we usually belittle it as "very limited damage".

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Electricity does not, in fact, cross dimensions. In fact, it does quite the opposite - strong electrical current acts as a planar anchor, forcing an object or being to remain in this reality. Of course, electricity also has the usual effect of burning tissue, so it becomes a rather double-edged sword against extra-planar beings: it keeps them from leaving, and it hurts the whole time it does so!

That explains cattle prods, tasers, and electrified swords, but what about moving through electric fences? Couldn't the being just "phase out" entirely, and not bother getting shocked at all? Well, "through" is a dimensional term. If you are moving along a plane in the X direction, you'll move from X0 to X1 to X2 - that is, starting at X0, you move through X1 to get to X2. But, if you fully disconnect from this reality, the plane you move along is no longer the XYZ plane, but the QRS plane. You don't move in the X direction, you move in the Q direction. Once you reattach to this reality, your actual position is either going to be completely different, or entirely unchanged. Either way, you won't be able to move a few steps past a fence.

Thus, these otherworldly creatures must keep at least a tenuous connection to our reality, or be once again lost in the ether, even though in so doing they injure themselves.

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The Horrors are robots

Maybe not literally, but they have a physiology that uses magnetic particles (cf. hard disk drives), magnetic fields, or electrical currents to play a critical role in the functioning of their bodies. (As do humans.) Or their n-dimensional proteins happen to be especially vulnerable to electric fields.

So, you could have Horror's brain neurons be made of magnetic material and relying on electrical or magnetic signals, to the extent that a sufficiently powerful magnetic degausser can erase its brain. Perhaps “just” a small portion of its brain near our three-dimensional space, but it's enough to stun the Horror into confusion, and make it forget that it was fighting you.

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It doesn't, but it noises up the cross-dimensional forces that allow the horrors to distribute a coherent form across dimensions.

Much like you would have a very bad day if an arc of electricity through you interfered all along its path with the strong nuclear force, this can be catastrophically bad for the horror.

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