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I am looking to create a magic system that is grounded in science. My initial thought was the ability to manipulate electrons on the atomic level. Since I do not want the magic users to be walking bombs, I am okay with some conduit or electric device (crystal, magic staff, wand, etc.) that gives control over which types of atoms and what they can do with them, such as form water by removing the humidity from the air or even remove oxygen from the air around an enemy so they can't breathe and then, the true masters might use the oxygen as a bomb. I also like the idea that there are constraints, and because of the volatility, there is inherent risk in manipulating the natural balance.

I started thinking about this after reading: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151022191912.htm

While physics may not be my forte, I am eager to explore any resources that can assist me in engineering a magic system that is scientifically grounded yet infused with fantasy elements to heighten the story's excitement. I welcome any insights or suggestions from our community to enrich this endeavor. I'm writing this for my son to read, so if I go the science route, I want to avoid bad science. Nothing is set in stone, so I'm open to any ideas or suggestions to refine the concept and aid in a magic system that is as grounded in science as possible without becoming overly technical.

I also like the idea of a science-based magic system as it allows anyone who will take the time, study, learn, perfect and it isn't some ability you must be born special.

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    $\begingroup$ This looks more like you are asking us to brainstorm with/for you around a vague idea, rather than seeking our help to solve a specific problem. As you can read in our help center, we don't do brainstorming. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented May 29 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ "A science-based magic system as it allows anyone who will take the time, study, learn, perfect" is called $\rightarrow$engineering$\leftarrow$. In particular, people who specialize in "manipulating electrons on the atomic level" are called chemists, or if they do it on a large scale, chemical engineers. Yes, they can remove the humidity or the oxygen from the air. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented May 29 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ @alexp Yes, if you make your "magic system" concrete enough and reality-based enough, you end up with mundane engineering. That's an interesting problem. It leads to either the "magicians" being engineers with knowledge that most people don't understand -- queue Arthur C Clarke's famous "any sufficiently advanced technology etc" -- or you have to introduce some element that is non-scientific and magical that all the rest relies on. $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Commented May 29 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ Subatomic physics is a big subject, with the rest of physics, chemistry and biology - there's no way to encompass the knowledge in those fields within an answer here. Either: study the sciences so you can write peripherally to them convincingly - or - concentrate on your story and don't worry too much about explaining the details of how you get there. There are advantages in writing about what you know. $\endgroup$ Commented May 29 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because we've been asked this question so many times that it's no longer worth the effort to look up the previous questions, which would cause this question to be closed as a duplicate. Note: While some efforts have been imaginative, they all fail. That's because science isn't magical. It conforms to rules that magic cannot abide. And thank goodness... the universe would be boring if magic conformed to science. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented May 29 at 20:19

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How about Magitrons?

Take an atom. It exists out of a protons, neutrons, and electrons. Now in your world that is mostly true, but there also exist Magitrons as a fundamental particle. These act for most intends and purposes as neutrons, with something a little more, that is still very much unknown about.

Your mages can manipulate these Magitrons directly, affecting the materials they are bound to in the process. Mages have also been observed turning protons into Magitrons or vise-versa.

While still very much is unknown about the mechanics, observations have been made about the materials containing Magitrons getting slightly different (magical) properties. This means that certain things can be quantified about your magical system.

It also gives you A LOT of options. Since isotopes are a thing, and different combinations of neutrons and Magitrons may react differently. (2n & 1m vs 1n and 2m)

example:

Hydrogen-3(Tritium) 2n, 1p, 0m.   Radioactive   Used in nuclear fusion and tracers
Hydrogen-1a         0n, 1p, 1m.   Stable        Reacts like a negative hydrogen.
Hydrogen-3d         2n, 1p, 4m.   Stable?       Emits and attracts Magitrons

Now making a whole magic system like this would be either a ton of work, or very opaque in how it works, but it is an idea.

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    $\begingroup$ I balanced out the -1 with my own +1 because this is often the path taken by authors seeking to create scientifically-justifiable magic: the creation of a magical particle or element that can be defined in scientific parlance that rationalizes the magic. You can buy a cup of the stuff off your local hardware store shelf - or see it fleetingly in the most energetic of collisions at the Large Hadron Collider. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented May 29 at 20:25
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This system already exists, and is in use as we speak. It works, too.

We rarely see it because it does not work on matter directly, but rather as a two-step process: first you do a magic working that changes somebody's consciousness, and then that person performs an action in the physical world based on their now-changed consciousness.

Imagine that you want to eat a sandwich. You can't just magic a sandwich into existence; that would be working directly on the material world, and magic is not the right tool for that. But you can absolutely magic somebody (or indeed yourself!) into wanting to make a sandwich for you.

Advertising in particular basically runs on this stuff. The purpose of an ad showing a group of young, fashionable and attractive people doing some fun things and just coincidentally drinking Coca-cola is not to objectively prove to you that drinking it is good according to some metric; it's to make you think that it's awesome. And then once you get this into your consciousness, you are more likely to buy Coca-cola, which was the change in the material world that advertiser was aiming for all along.

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  • $\begingroup$ OK, +1 because I've never before heard the suggestion that brainwashing (marketing, education, indoctrination, etc.) is founded upon if not the very essence of magic. I love it. This would make Warren Buffet the Grand High Poobah of the Wizarding Guild. He'd probably appreciate the accolade. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented May 29 at 20:23

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