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My magic system introduces an additional energy form that one can convert at a rate leaving out surplus energy, thus generating more than what was initially utilized.

For instance, using Arcana to create food: the energy consumed to produce the food is converted into chemical energy when consumed. The body then utilizes this chemical energy to produce more Arcana, thus compensating for the energy lost during the food creation process.

This example is simplified, as there exist multiple energy/magic forms, many of which possess the characteristic of generating surplus energy that did not previously exist.

The question arises: can a universe sustain such a system, or is it destined for implosion or similar catastrophic events? Additionally, it's essential to consider that the magic humans utilize to convert one form of energy to another is also universal.

Just as we harness nuclear power to extract various forms of energy such as heat, light, and voltage, celestial bodies, like planets and suns, continuously engage in nuclear processes. In this universe, suns also influence the magic energy forms.

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    $\begingroup$ It's hard to believe that contravention of the laws of thermodynamics would end well. I suspect an exponential run away energy effect that would burn everything to a crisp. Although with magic that can easily be avoided (by use of more magic). The truth is that magic and physics are not good bedfellows. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Apr 13 at 10:32
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    $\begingroup$ What are you looking for here? This is magic, which by definition does not follow the normal physical laws that we understand to explain how the universe works. You have tagged this as [balancing-magic-systems] but the text does not appear to be asking about balance, whether between magic users or anyone else - what aspect of balance are you looking for? $\endgroup$ Apr 13 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Xenophile you universe will be fine with extra energy being created. Thermodynamics are also probably the first thing to fall when it comes to creating magic system. Also the universe expands infinitely so you will likely never run out of space. Though generally creating objects out of thin air is going to turn your worlds economy upside down. Which is a thing i am as someone with economic background am very allergic to but that does not have to be of your concern. $\endgroup$ Apr 13 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Xenophile though if you create infinite energy within an instance and not an infinite amount of time your universe will simply explode. This is because you try fitting infinite in a finite space and the universe is not made to handle this. But as long as you don't do that you should be fine. $\endgroup$ Apr 13 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055 balacing this magic system that breaks thermodynamics, balancing it to avoid the universe collapsing in on itself in a giant black hole of evergrowing infinite energy... I dont want the universe to go kaboom! $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 13 at 12:10

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While this infinite energy generating process does technically break thermodynamics, which has catastrophic implications for physics, it’s unlikely that this magic system would be problem for the universe at large if it’s only being used by humans. The amount of energy added to the universe by a wizard conjuring a sandwich is negligible in the grand scheme of things. Even if every human on earth dedicated themselves to full time sandwich summoning it wouldn’t be enough total energy created to substantially affect the Earth, much less the universe.

There might be some noticeable effects on the Earth’s ecosystems. But keep in mind that the Earth is receiving massive amounts of new energy all the time - from sunlight, asteroid impacts, cosmic rays and the like. Whether an equivalent quantity of energy was removed from somewhere else in the universe or not is irrelevant as far as the Earth is concerned. From that perspective, consider how much energy can your wizards really add to the planet? At most, maybe enough to cause global warming on a scale similar to the Industrial Revolution. Given enough time, and enough sandwiches, they might cause the planet to get a couple degrees warmer. Which would be lethal for many species, but would not be catastrophic for life as a whole and utterly irrelevant to the rest of the universe.

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    $\begingroup$ In fact, I would even say that even if every living human was dedicated to summoning entire Earths into existence, they wouldn't be able to affect the universe at scale (unless the mass of the Universe happens to be very close to critical mass already). $\endgroup$ Apr 14 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ "We need to stop using so much magic, or the ecosystem will collapse" "But I need my freedom sandwich!" $\endgroup$
    – Christian
    Apr 14 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ And keep in mind, the problem with the Industrial Revolution, and everything that came after, is retaining energy, not producing energy. If the use of magic makes heat, but the atmosphere keeps a low CO2 level because magic replaces releasing ancient carbon, you're much better off; the excess heat is still able to radiate out into space mostly unimpeded much like excess solar radiation. $\endgroup$ Apr 15 at 12:34
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    $\begingroup$ @ShadowRanger And now it's all about how the summoning works. Does it accelerate plant growth? That might be fine. Does it conjure a ready-made sandwich out of thin air? Oopsie, now you have a net carbon dioxide production. In fact, this kind of magic would be pretty much exactly equivalent to using fossil fuels :D $\endgroup$
    – Luaan
    Apr 16 at 7:50
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    $\begingroup$ Would it be catastrophic when someone started summoning infinitely heavy worlds, or supermassive black holes into existence? Coz someone will ... $\endgroup$
    – mcalex
    Apr 16 at 13:17
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Bacteria, fungi, and other microbes are the problem.

If magic is accessible enough that non sentient stars can use it, there's a big risk that microbes can use it as well. The likely consequences of that are massive stacks of bacteria up into space that edge out all other life. Infinite food benefits fast reproducing organisms.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Grand Magus, what happened to you?!!" "Someone forgot to sanitize the roadway and a microbe found its way in. Damn stack destroyed the whole city..." $\endgroup$ Apr 15 at 19:19
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Emmy Noether's theorem is a law of physics that demonstrates that for every symmetry in nature, there is a corresponding conservation, and vice versa.

Momentum is conserved because of space translation symmetry -- that is, an identical experiment performed on different sides of a class room, or on Mars and Earth, will work the same. Angular momentum is conserved because of rotational symmetry -- that is, it doesn't matter which way the experimenter is facing.

And energy is conserved because of time symmetry -- that is, it doesn't matter when the experimenter did it.

Creating energy may therefore be the means by which Arcana is performed -- you have broken conservation and therefore time symmetry. Using it up restores the symmetry. OTOH, it's quite possible that it may have effects besides your spells. Broken symmetry is not just broken for you, but for everyone. And everything.

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    $\begingroup$ I've had to become wary of the "because" relationship between conserved values and their associated symmetries. I've started using Alan Watt's phrasing of "they go together." In particular, the conservation of energy is a tricky one because it got baked into the underlying assumptions of Lagrangian mechanics. Trying to assign causality is tricky, because conservation of energy proves time invariance which proves conservation of energy. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 13 at 15:55
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    $\begingroup$ And Lagrangian mechanics does not require time symmetry. It's valid for a Lagrangian to not be time symmetric. Of course, without time symmetry, the rules of physics may appear to change... but that's not all that unreasonable for a world with magic. And, if you tweak the equations to provide another symmetry, we may gain just as much proving power from it--- but something other than energy will be conserved. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 13 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon sounds like an abundant source of complications! And limits! $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Apr 13 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ A more accurate statement of Noether's Theorem is that symmetries and conservation laws are equivalent: there's no "because" relationship, it's simply that a symmetry and a conservation law are the same thing. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Apr 16 at 0:35
  • $\begingroup$ That's taking too narrow a view of what "because" means. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Apr 16 at 0:36
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One more alternate solution: Magic also removes energy.

A wizard casting "create sandwich" creates matter. A wizard casting "fireball" creates energy.

Meanwhile, a wizard casting "obliterate enemy" removes matter. Another wizard casting "freeze" removes energy.

Does this automatically (automagically) balance out? Probably not on its own. But if the universe seeks balance, it just might:

Spells are more easy to cast if they aid the Balance of the universe

It might be that casting "obliterate enemy" becomes easier the more magically created mass messes up the balance of the universe. Since "create sandwich" is a staple spell for every lazy mage, "obliterate enemy" remains a very efficient spell.

An ice archmage constantly freezing his enemies might find his freeze spells becoming harder and harder to cast, while fire mages rejoice at how easy their fireballs come to them recently. Until this leads to people making "fireball" the default attack spell, stuffing more energy into the universe than that one ice archmage removes on his own - and then the next generation of mages finds fireballs hard to cast, and the old mages complain about how weak these kids are.

If you want it to, your universe can be self-balancing, and at least close to conserving its energy. There will be some fluctuation, but it will even out in the long run.

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If it is a problem for physics, it's one you can easily ignore for story purposes. However, it's also a missed story opportunity.

Consider the implications for storytelling if that energy is not infinite and does need to come from somewhere. This has been used by a variety of professional authors to good effect, including Larry Niven, N.K. Jemsin, Watt-Evans, and many others. Adding a "cost" to magical energy -- whether that cost is paid by the main characters or by others -- adds limits which enhance the narrative.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm no book writer $\endgroup$
    – Xenophile
    Apr 13 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ Same answer applies to games. $\endgroup$
    – FuzzyChef
    Apr 13 at 23:03
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Frame Challenge

In the "creating food" example, why should this actually create anything? Instead, for instance,

  1. A quantity of matter disappears from another location. Preferably a quantity of unwanted matter, so nobody cares or even notices its disappearance. Waste in the local sewer system is a good candidate. For heavier items, maybe the local dump.
  2. A quantity of energy (sufficient to provide the organizing energy in the created food) disappears from another location. An obvious source: the local sun. We are probably talking about no more than 1-3 times the Calories one would get from the food, and so a sun wouldn't notice it, even if everyone on its planet was creating food.

This could allow you some twists...

  1. Can you create food without seeing the sun? Maybe a campfire suffices, but is noticeably impacted by the spell.
  2. Has someone noticed the draining of the sewers and made spells to make it more likely to be drained?
  3. Creating some things (gold coin?) may result in things disappearing from strongrooms and the like. So maybe there are spells to protect one's hoards.
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  • $\begingroup$ Also known as "The Pratchett Way" $\endgroup$
    – biziclop
    Apr 14 at 11:22
  • $\begingroup$ You could just convert local matter, like air, you would need more energy for element conversion. Or you could steal matter and energy from the sun, which will never notice. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 14 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ @John I will admit I was trying for a relatively low-energy solution. Considering OP seems to stipulate the catalyzing energy comes from the body, this seems like a good idea. "elemental conversion would call for a lot of energy, most of which it would provide, and very very careful balancing. Reminds me of the "beer replicator" in The-Whiteboard.com $\endgroup$
    – David G.
    Apr 14 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ @biziclop "Omniscient POV" may not be appropriate for storytelling, but I personally think it is appropriate for designing one's world. Ideally, one should understand one's science and magic before using it. $\endgroup$
    – David G.
    Apr 14 at 23:17
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As others have already said, humans would most likely never create enough energy for it to become a problem, but i'd recommend to not actually allow energy to come out of nowhere but, let's say, for it to be borrowed from another "dimension" to give it a name, so that it'll eventually run out. And it could be replenished somehow, for example, by destroying energy on our dimension. That way you could have the ability to create matter or destroy it, but there could be balance. Depending on a wizard's magic power, he could create just as much matter or energy as he can destroy, and viceversa. Such a thing could allow for interesting "mechanics", like adding a little more complexity to battles, but I don't know if that's what you want.

For that idea about creating as much as you can destroy, a problem arises; you could destroy dirt out of existance, and make it come back as gold! To fix that the process could not be instantaneous but take some time on function of something that makes sense, like "can only create or destroy 10 kilojoules per second". Something like that would allow for things like fire spears and fire balls to make more sense, you're just modifying the composition and temperature of the air, turning it into a flammable compound and igniting it, and at the same time consuming energy from somewhere else.

Legendary wizards being struck by lighting to cast super powerful spells, or making use of the rotatory motion of a giant engine to warp space time; want sciency wizards?, you can have em!

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If you want to go into strange cosmology, why not have a universe that is in a non-equilibrium steady state? Arguably, most physical systems are in such states. These are systems that are traversed by energy. There is an energy source and an energy sink. The total energy stays constant, but energy is not conserved. A few examples:

  • Turbulent hydrodynamic systems are fluids that are vigorously stirred. The fluid reaches a complex and interesting steady state that is maintained as long as the stirring is. The energy source is the stirring and the sink is in the fluid's dissipative viscosity. The energy eventually goes to heat.
  • A computer plugged into a socket operates in a steady state (keeps working, forever). It takes energy from the wall and dissipates it as heat. A lot of interesting things happen in the middle.
  • The earth it's self. Energy comes from the sun and is dissipated into space in a different form. The earth does not accumulate the sun's energy. If it did it would just heat up. Life does not take energy from the sun, it takes organised energy and returns disorganised energy.

In physics, these systems are included into larger systems where energy is conserved overall. These so-called driven-dissipative systems are however very useful simplifications where the effect of the outside world is reduced to sources and sinks of energy.

In your story you can imagine that the universe is fundamentally driven-dissipative! There are cosmological sources (that magic users can tap into) and sinks of energy. What are these sources? What if someone is able to block (one of) them? What about the sinks? The energy just disappears there. Can someone catch it just before it's wasted? What if someone tried to short circuit the universe by connecting the source directly to a sink?

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Nothing catastrophic happens if in the process they also expand the universe ever so slightly so things keep in balance.

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