So I'm brainstorming a new magic system where each form of magic is specialized yet very versatile; however they require extremely in-depth knowledge on a particular multi-disciplinary branch of science, philosophy, math, arts and what-have-you. I don't really want to go too much into the magic system, because that's not the point of this question and I plan to ask further questions about it later.


  • Limited Time Control: allows one to rearrange their own flow through the temporal dimension; requires theoretical physics.
  • Hard Light: allows manipulation of light, and can be used to make lightsabers or "teleport"; requires knowledge in physics and photometry.
  • Sound Amplifier: allows manipulation and projection of energy as sound, and allows petrification and shattering; requires physics and acoustics.

I'm interested in knowing how many disciplines, including science and languages, a single human could become "fluent" in, such that they have at least a MA, and then a Ph. D. I'd like to know in regards to:

  1. Pure brain/neurological power.
  2. How much time, in hours and age, it would take to become fluent in x disciplines.
  3. Plausibility assuming the person has an average 8-5-ish job with plenty of vacation and sick time and will live to 100.
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to nail down "fluent" to some qualification equivalent? I'm guessing Master's degree level in a specific subject. And obviously there would be some cross-over between similar subjects. In real life, it might be easier to extend a Physics or Engineering undergraduate degree with multiple physics-related Masters courses than to extend them with subjects which share less of the fundamentals (e.g. organic chemistry, computer science). $\endgroup$ – Neil Slater Apr 21 '16 at 8:49
  • $\begingroup$ I added MA and Ph. D. Is that satisfactory or should I specify more? $\endgroup$ – Justin Alexander Apr 21 '16 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinAlexander: That works for me, and gives a ballpark figure - answers can be based on real-world times for gaining those qualifications. MA/PhD still gives a lot flexibility - but then of course your world could have people who are better/worse at magic, depending on the relative quality of their understanding. $\endgroup$ – Neil Slater Apr 21 '16 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ @NeilSlater Yup, that's exactly what I'm going for. $\endgroup$ – Justin Alexander Apr 21 '16 at 10:27
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinAlexander, I like the question that you're trying to address but it's just too broad. I started to write an answer and got bogged down in examples where "minimum competency" takes a decade to acquire, as in medicine, but in architecture or engineering minimum competency comes in just 4 years of general study. The variation is just too great across disciplines without considering the intellectual capacity of an "average human". $\endgroup$ – Green Apr 21 '16 at 12:43