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For what I'm working on, humans (some humans, anyway) develop the abilities to communicate telepathically, move things with thought, possible premonitions, maybe psychic projection (but that might be a little too far out for what I have planned) and I'm looking for an explanation to how these abilities work.

However, it's very important that in this work no one thinks of these abilities as magic or a gift from the divine (no humans, a certain alien species that clings to some of their superstitions might). I've considered explaining psychokinesis as the person manipulating a possible "fifth force" (not what Obi-Wan was talking about, just sayin') nobody knew existed until now, but that likely wouldn't work for telepathy or precognition- any ideas for what would?

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  • $\begingroup$ I have troubles getting your idea of "rational"... its not magic, okay, but what about ... whats to word for "Grenzwissenschaften" in English? Hmm... paranormal explanations? Would you accept answers, the hard science faction wouldn't consider? For example, real world psionics are said to perform astounding... stunts using their bodys energy (aura stuff). $\endgroup$ – Confused Merlin Feb 26 '16 at 7:41
  • $\begingroup$ The big problem with a "force" that people just didn't notice until now is explaining how did they evolve the body parts to use it? These things take hundreds of generations... $\endgroup$ – colmde Feb 26 '16 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ @colmde- the short version: humans come across a way to speed things up (at least it works for some people). $\endgroup$ – king of panes Feb 26 '16 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Confused Merlin: preferably either a hard science or something that can seem plausibly scientific- pseudoscience may work as long as it's not too silly or too full of holes. $\endgroup$ – king of panes Feb 27 '16 at 1:47
  • $\begingroup$ @ConfusedMerlin When I used google translate I received "border science". So science that has a scientific basis but nobody has successfully provided a successful test of it. $\endgroup$ – Friendlysociopath Apr 12 '17 at 18:01
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We use our minds to move objects all the time. We say "hey, could you please pass the salt," and the salt moves towards us. Of course, there was another person to communicate with and do the work, but perhaps that could be the start of something.

If there was an entity which was generally omnipresent, which could interact with the environment, we could ask it to do things for us. It could also tell us things we otherwise wouldn't know, forming a basis for potential telepathy. More importantly, if the entity didn't want science to "discover" it, it might intentionally shape its actions in a way to make it hard for it to be observed scientifically, such as refusing to permit science to squeeze it into independent identical distributions, science's favorite statistical tool.

Perhaps science is getting good enough at its job that that entity realizes it needs to work with the scientists, rather than merely avoiding them, so it starts making an effort to make itself known.

Much of a such an entity's power could come from its ability to interact with the human brain via channels other than the 5 senses. If it could do so, it could do many strange things. Western culture generally assumes your thoughts are your own, and if your story permits an entity to mess with those thoughts, we get surprised at the outcomes. For example, it could appear to be a ghost, simply by ensuring everyone in an area halucinates the same ghost at the same time.

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  • $\begingroup$ OK, maybe, though I can already picture some idiot saying this entity is God, and there'd be questions to why said entity lets humans and aliens use the abilities it grants to harm each other. $\endgroup$ – king of panes Feb 26 '16 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @kingofpanes they would not be idiots, it would be definite evidence of a God, or at least a deity. After all, not every deity is omnipotent, or omnipresent. Or even all powerful. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 26 '16 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ Personally, I find those sorts of questions very interesting. Unlike God, there's no obligation to assume the entity is omnipotent, so it very well could have trouble distinguishing between what humans would call "good" and what humans would call "evil." Or perhaps it can distinguish just fine, but it doesn't care because its "morality," if that word can be used, is different enough from ours. An entity playing "the long game" over millions of years would have quite a different sense of "right" and "wrong" I would think. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 26 '16 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ Why would this "entity" help humans. Would you help out ants even if you know what they want? $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Feb 26 '16 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Sam I think that is a great question, and potentially the topic of a book ;-) I do have a few ideas of my own on the topic, and not all of them reference Ghandi, who would even help out ants as they crossed his path. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Feb 26 '16 at 21:50
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Take a look at the book "To Ride Pegasus" by Anne McCaffrey. It explores exactly this sort of scenario. Essentially they accidentally find a way to "measure" people using psychic abilities.

This then allows them to find people with genuine abilities and train them, using the signals from the device, allowing much stronger abilities to be developed and trained.

"How" the psychic powers work is never explained but by having a way to measure and study them it becomes a science rather than mystical.

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It's all just electromagnetism. The Human brain already runs on electrical impulses. Over time, these become strong enough that people have an EM field. And some people, with the right training, can manipulate that field to do incredible things.

Telepathy is just reading someone else's EM field, or implanting your own message into it.

Telekinesis uses unified field theory to turn that EM into minute amounts of gravity waves. Between that and magnetism itself, this allows the manipulation of small to moderate sized objects.

Psychometry is reading the EM field imprinted on objects by other people.

Clairvoyance could be either reading light waves (again, EM radiation) at a distance, or a subset of telepathy (seeing what other people at the remote location are seeing).

Precognition is the tough one. Potentially the EM field reading, if precise enough, negates the Uncertainty Principle. Knowing both the speed and location of elementary particles allows one to predict their location. Precog could be a macro expression of this.

Teleportation could be manipulating gravity to create temporary wormholes.

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  • $\begingroup$ A plot suffers from having more than one difference from real physics to be accepted by the reader. Having the different effects be related would be better than handwaving unique cartoon-physics for each one. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 28 '16 at 8:58
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Ok, each of these take a piece of real science and adds a pseudoscience twist to the concept. I don't believe any of them but they make interesting science fiction.

Telepathy: Quantum entanglement between identical twins. Entangled atoms influence thoughts in a way that forces the twins to think the same thing at the same time. Entanglement begins in the womb before they split - the later they split, the more entangled atom pairs are available to influence thoughts.

Psychic premonition: Quantum computing. If part of our brain utilizes quantum computing to tiebreak decisions when the information is too plentiful or subtle to analyze, then the most probable outcome could be envisioned as a premonition. With very subtle cues, these outcomes may not be the same as simpler analysis and therefore seem uncanny.

Teleportation: Quantum tunneling is able to teleport someone through a wall. It is highly unlikely, but technically its probability is greater than zero. If someone could control the probability better, they could be seen as having a psychic power.

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    $\begingroup$ Basically, you say "quantum" instead of "magic" and TV audiences (but not serious SF fans or real scientists) finds it convincing. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 28 '16 at 8:55
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it's very important that in this work no one thinks of these abilities as magic or a gift from the divine

To avoid having someone believe this is magic or a divine gift there has to be an explanation that is well known and accepted through out your setting.

The difference between magic and technology is understanding.

I believe a technological explanation is the best. As this will give everybody something to explain it by that does not require acceptance of other dubious assumption.

The people that gets these abilities has either voluntarily ingested, or had operated into them some device that allow them to do these things.

As for the technology it allows manipulation of gravity to move objects = telekinesis. It gives the user the ability to manipulate electrical impulses and thereby send messages into another persons brain.

If you want a twist on it you can have the explanation everybody accept be false. Maybe it is a divine gift or magic, it is just hidden behind a lie of technology.

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Assuming that you have a multi-verse and that the laws of physics could be very different from one universe to the other. These are assumptions that might break your world though, so they might not fit. Psionics as describe might be the norm in a different universe: their laws of physics are based on set "fields" that inhabitants' neural circuitry can interface with. Their "red field" could be a manifestation of a momentum-like field allowing their minds as well as physical force to impart momentum. This bumps the problem one universe away and solve it by redefining the laws of physics there.

Entities from that universe are trying to terraform ours to suite their needs. Psionics is just how their laws of physics enter and modify ours universe. Maybe there is even a feedback mechanism where our laws interact with their world.

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I don't know what kind of story you want to write, so I don't know how helpful this suggestion will be, but just keep in mind that there is nothing holding you to the "standard" set of psychic powers.

This is somewhat of a pet peeve of mine, because to me it seems like sci-fi writers would want to think of new and unique sets of powers for their universe to set them apart from the rest while still being fairly plausible. It almost boggles my mind that with the vast range of plausible, interesting, and varied kinds of abilities that are available to them, most writers will still rigidly stick to the exact same few kinds of powers that have already been used countless times before.

Just off the top of my head, you could have some people who are exposed to conductive elements in the womb grow up to have a different kinds of ability; such as projecting white noise to block radio communication, sensing magnetic fields, or being electrosensitive and able to track down both natural and artificial electric fields.

Or, for an even more believable universe, just give them the same “powers” that already exist in some individuals today:

  • totally perfect memory
  • not needing to sleep
  • ignoring pain or injury
  • etc.

Obviously, these may not work in the kind of world you hope to make. Just keep in mind: literally the only limits here are what makes sense within the fabric of your own world.

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Electrical fields can be manipulated by the body, muscles contract, neurons fire, messages sent. Depending on what level of psionic power you are wanting you could have the ability to manipulate fields outside of a persons body. Range and power depending a person could have an ability to sense and manipulate the neuron processes in another sentient brain.

Through training the psionic could develop a feel for another sentient thought process, possibly able to alter (project into someones mind) or "read" the thought processes or brain patterns. Ultimately full control may be possible or even rewriting a process.

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