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New here! Now let me be clear: I'm well aware that telekinesis and pyrokinesis are both impossible, as I've been rudely informed on every science forum. Nonetheless, I don't just want to "make it up" either, as every fantasy forum has suggested. I write science-fantasy, neither hard sci-fi or high fantasy. While I'd like the magic system in my story to be as closely based on real physics as possible, I am willing to fudge some numbers for the sake of bigger booms, but I'd really like to handwave as little as possible. Because I'm sure I'll still have to handwave a lot.

So to be more specific: What known scientific mechanisms could levitate objects, remotely ignite objects, and manipulate any subsequent flames? I've heard of magnetic levitation being used for trains and frogs,microwave radiation to heat objects, and EM fields for containing plasmas. But I'm not sure how far I could stretch that into levitating other objects, manipulating flames, etc because I suck at physics and math.

As for how the brains of my characters would produce such energy....Well that's a problem for a different time, one which will probably require the most handwavium. All the more reason to avoid the h-word as much as I can. As fantastical as my world is, I'd like it to be as "realistic" as possible. There's already enough in Ea that can't be explained.

Sorry if this post is too long and I need to break it up, or if these questions are otherwise inappropriate; I can and will edit however necessary to get the answers I seek. And to reiterate, please no "that's impossible" or "use your imagination", I'm just looking for that sweet spot between physics and handwavium. The in-story obstacles presented by scientific limitations are a fun challenge, such as the massive caloric requirements for magic, but it just isn't fantasy if earth physics are follow to the letter. Since magic is impossible and all.

I also only write as a hobby, a very very serious hobby, so whatever any audience might think is irrelevant. That's another thing I get a lot too, variants on "just worry about suspending the audience's disbelief". I write as a mental exercise, and that includes both thinking outside the box and thinking INSIDE a box. This particular box being physics.

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Use nanotech. The atmosphere is saturated with tiny, flying nanomachines that are powered by sunlight and can respond to commands, allowing people to manipulate objects from far away. Some people have devices in their brains that let them command said machines at will.

Perhaps Ea is actually our Earth in the far future. Humanity had created these nanomachines and also infused certain people with other nanomachines that produce the control devices, which are passed from mother to child. (Or they could be genetically modified with the ability to naturally have control devices). Civilization collapsed and people forgot this technology (perhaps it was deliberately hidden), but the atmospheric nanos and the descendants of their controllers still remain. Maybe the nanos were almost all wiped out, but a few remained and it took them hundreds of years to restore their population and allow the "magic" to come back.

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Let's start with the much maligned Schrodinger's Cat, which has become a science-fiction trope for justifying a causal relationship between observation and physical effect. Assume that Schrodinger was a closet telekinetic with a sporadic and unreliable talent. From his own experiences with his gift, he knew that telekinesis was real, but could not personally provide a repeatable experimental method to satisfy the scientific method. Realizing Tesla's mistake and knowing that the scientific community would laugh at him for even suggesting the existence of another fundamental force, Schrodinger created the cat thought experiment. The purpose of the experiment was not only demonstrate how weird quantum mechanics can be. It also served to soften intellectual skepticism and prepare the next generation of scientists for an even more complicated physical world.

Expectation is a fundamental force which can affect the strength with which molecular bonds resist other forces such as heat. A watched pot actually does take longer to boil; but only if none of the observers are scientists. Scientists come with a predefined set of expectations which cancel out the "less informed" expectations of the other observers. They strongly expect that observer expectation will have no effect in the physical world. As with other fanatical believers across history, their strongly held expectations overwhelm the wills of mere laymen.

So how does all of this heresy get us to telekinesis and pyrokinesis? The answer is in those molecular bonds. Weaken the bonds in some object enough and the surrounding oxygen will overwhelm the existing pairings, causing the object to oxidize and spontaneously combustion. Strength the attraction between adjacent air molecules enough and you can create invisible funnels which focus and direct existing winds enough to move small objects. When there is enough wind available, you can even levitate an object by directing the moving air to strike it from below, lifting and suspending it without any visible means of support.

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    $\begingroup$ Before everyone starts attacking this answer for ignoring the OP's hard-science tag, let me point out that the OP specifically mentioned that they were "looking for that sweet spot between physics and handwavium". Although not pure hard science by any definition, this answer is (IMHO) a demonstration of that sweet spot. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 8 '16 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ “Schrodinger's Cat, which has become a science-fiction trope for justifying a causal relationship between observation and physical effect.” no, that not SC at all. SC is about how there is no real division between small (quantum) and large (classical) systems. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jul 9 '16 at 7:48
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor. Combining secret history with smuggling mind over matter via allusions to Schrodinger and his paradox. I had considered using the quantum observer, but that's been done to death like the poor superposition cat. You have simply used psychokinesis on the molecular bonds and got the same conceptual result. Nice handwaving though. Scientists are always postulating new fundamental force and that's no joke. No-one would laugh at Erwin for doing so. Just check his equations to see if they were right. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 9 '16 at 9:51
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    $\begingroup$ @JDlugosz, That is exactly why I called it "much maligned". Writers have been misinterpreting the cat for decades. It is easier to take your readers down a false path, when you are not also trailblazing that false path. If other great writers have done it before you, share the blame with those predecessors. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 9 '16 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ @JDlugosz, I see how my words can be read that way. My mistake. I was originally referring to this list and other stories where the collapsing wave is interpreted as being caused by the observation. Sort of like some misinterpretations of the point of reference aspects of Einstein's work. There are well trodden interpretive mistakes that are very helpful to an author when they want to write about how the world isn't, but could be. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jul 9 '16 at 22:02
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Let's assume telekinesis and pyrokinesis are impossible. Despite parapsychology, there is no known mechanism for either psychic ability. There is no scientific explanation for anything like the phenomena. This takes care of the situation in our universe.

So let's postulate there exists a universe where telekinesis and pyrokinesis are possible. What then would nature look like to produce these abilities in biological organisms? I say biological organisms because it is quite likely these parapsychic abilities will be manifest in animals as well as humans.

Firstly, there needs to be organs of perception in either the nervous system or the brain proper so the organism can manipulate whatever forces it needs to manipulate to move or ignite objects. Secondly, there needs to be organs of manipulation so the organism can manipulate whatever forces it needs to manipulate to move or ignite objects. Thirdly, there needs to be a medium to project these forces from organism to object.

I will assume the medium is provided by the physical nature of this alternative universe being more strongly coupled than is the case in our universe. To such an extent that even biological organisms can interact with the physical vacuum, in effect they move through it like fish move through or we land animals move through air. The brains of organisms in this alternative universe have developed (OK, evolved) parts of their nervous systems (which includes their brains) that perceive aspects of the quantum vacuum such as the virtual particles bubbling in and out of it and organs that can manipulate them too.

This manipulation propagates through the vacuum like sound waves which influences the levels of virtual particles emerging from it. The really tricky bit is how this influence emerges only at a distance from the manipulating organism at the pace where the target object is located. Perhaps it doesn't need to?

Pyrokinesis then is easy. The pyrokinetic activates her fire-power and projects a 'force' that causes virtual infrared photons to emerge along that line of 'force' with sufficient thermal energy to ignite the target. This also means that anything in the line of 'force' will be heated too.

Telekinesis isn't very much different. Our telekinetic causes virtual photons to rise in a more or less coherent volume inducing the Compton Effect on the particles of matter in the target. The transfer of momentum to target matter will make it move in the direction wanted by the telekinetic. The incident virtual photons will disappear back into the vacuum.

Just don't stand in the way of telekinetic or pyrokinetic when they work their magic. You be moved in ways you don't want or get burnt. If the lines of power can be refracted or bent in a way that they only emerge where the target is, then these powers could act at a distance (so to speak).

This is, of course, making assumptions about nature that are wholly unjustified about nature as we know it and accompanied by hurricane-force handwaving. But it does sketch a hypothetical alternative universe designed to accommodate psychic abilities. To make them even remotely possible definitely involves massively rewriting nature as we know it.

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  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean by "generating virtual particles"? Virtual particles are just computational tools in quantum field theory, but they have no existence as actual states what one could measure or otherwise ascribe reality to. In particular they cannot "induce the Compton effect" - the Compton effect is the scattering of a real photon on a free electron. The computation of it in the full quantum theory may involve virtual particles but that doesn't change the fact that the "main" photon participating in it is real. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jul 23 '16 at 11:59
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind Mathematical entities have a tendency to turn out to be real physical entities, eg, antimatter and neutrinos. Particles are scattered by photons with the Compton Effect. Assume photons popping out of the vacuum impinging on matter, and the matter moves. This is an alternative universe. The physics is different there. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jul 26 '16 at 7:20
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I would've liked to post this as a comment, as this is just fruit for thought, but I have no privilege to do so. The following is strictly simplified, but maybe that's enough inspiration to come up with something useful. Some details might be not quite the newest physical knowledge.

If we are talking about telekinesis first. Telekinesis is all about exerting a force on something. The question is what is force. In classical newtonion mechanics force equals mass times acceleration and has some properties or laws it follows. One of them is the famous action equals reaction, which essentially says that each action will create an equal and opposite reaction. So far so easy.

Now, in quantum mechanics you find a very similar concept except, although your mass and acceleration are not simple variables but fields. Think for example of the electrical field of an electron, another charged particle will have a potential generated in that field (hence fields are also called potentials) and will act accordingly (i.e. be attracted or repelled).

The important point now is, that these reactions are governed by the properties of the particles and the fields they generate. There are physical principles governing these properties. There can be different variables, for example momentum and space. If for example for two identical particles the momentum or spin is parallel, the spatial variable is not parallel, which translates to a repelling force between the particles. You can also turn this around, where the spin is not parallel, the spatial variables become so called symmetric, which translates into an attracting force.

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exchange_interaction

Force itself is expressed or transported via force carriers. These are for example photons for the electromagnetic forces or the Gluon for gluon gauge field (forces in atomic nucleus). These particles do not have mass in and of itself, but carry energy which is equivalent to mass.

With that in mind, you can establish Telekinesis as a way/technology/ability to manipulate quantum fields and create and manipulate those force carriers. The energy required to do so, is available in todays particle accelerators, so you might get a hint on what energy is required to achieve anything like that.

Pyrokinesis is in my opinion a special case of telekinesis. Flames are oxidating gases, that can be moved by the same principle everything else is moved. I do not have an idea how to "create" flames out of thin air.

Heat itself is just the movement of atoms/molecules/particles. In thermodynamics the heat or temperature of a fluid/object is the average kinetic energy of its particles. But flames and fire require fuel by design. Flames or burning in general is Oxidation and Reduction, therefore you always have an oxidizer and a reductant.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer is utter nonsense. Mass and acceleration are not "fields" in quantum mechanics, the former is a number and the latter a bit ill-defined. I also have no idea what you are talking about in the part about parallel momentum and attractive/repulsive forces. Why are you talking about "manipulating photons and gluons" as "telekinesis". Stripping away the unmotivated use of quantum theory, you're saying that generating an electric field that then causes charges to move is "telekinesis". Which is what the question alredy mentions. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jul 23 '16 at 11:53
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I am a newbie here too. I think I may write similar to you in respect to not wanting the reader to constantly have to suspend their disbelief. For instance I desire a certain level of realism to be retained, where the powers of characters are not purely supernatural in nature, instead having its explanation done up in fancy sci-fi or pseudoscience.

This may not be necessarily what you are looking for but it kinda fits in with your goal of "that sweet spot between physics and handwavium".

Pyrokinesis (The power gifted upon character A).

  1. In multiverse theory, an infinite amount universes similar and dissimilar to our own exist. In one case Universe A will have a set of physical law that are the direct inverse of the laws of physics that make up Universe B, where matter from Universe A would destabilise in a fission event the moment it came through into Universe B from a handwavium wormhole Character A can create. Effectively only a very small amount of matter needs to be transported through said wormhole in order to produce a level of energy that would set something ablaze or just plain incinerate it.

  2. Perhaps Chacter A has a handwavium set of processes that allow them to absorb a potentially limitless amount of energy and retain it in a state of metastability. When necessary, Character A could disrupt the metastable state that the stored energy is in, causing it to gush forward in a form of infrared radiation. This one I got the idea from an answer to the question Realistic perspective on "shadow/void/darkness"?.

I do not really have any ideas for telekinesis except for being able to induce gravitational fields of their own, however I do not know any ways you could come up with pseudoscience to make the reader go "Oh OK" and just accept it. However with the discovery gravity waves, perhaps there are theories on manipulating gravity that are now more plausible for a reader to accept.

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  • $\begingroup$ What is the exact "multiverse theory" you are referring to, and what does it mean for "laws of physics" to be inverses to each other? $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jul 23 '16 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ The exact multiverse theory that I imply here is the one where it states there are infinite permutations of our universe that exist parallel to our own. I don't know of any other versions of this theory, should it be hypothesis? In terms of the "inverse of our laws of physics", in hindsight it was a vague way of describing my idea. I should have said that the physical properties that govern how energy can maintain a form as matter are different in our hypothetical universe, such that matter can be considered an unstable state, and often breaks down back into thermonuclear forms of energy. $\endgroup$ – Brent Jul 30 '16 at 1:57
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So... a couple of answers, a weekend to think about it and a tiny bit of time to spare did yield something the answers are still missing.

But how to start... well, if you want to stick to reality, first thing you need to take care of is the most beloved argument of "that can't work" screamers:

Conservation of energy: So every force needs energy, to put it simple, right? Lets scramble through my favorite source of useful explanations for off-this-world-things: games and tv! And thankfully Star Gate and the X-Files offer two interesting examples right off the start.

First, in Star Gate there was that girl... something with C... Cassandra! Anyway, she was a - beside being a bomb - super human experiment of... Neferti (?)... some Indian looking female member of the never ending cast of Goua'uld. When getting older some nasty stuff caused a high fever, which she could expel from her body by channeling this heat inside iron stuff lying around, which made her levitate chess pins by electromagnetism.

Okay, thats maybe not the most day-to-day-friendly way of transferring energy for the sake of telekinesis. So than look over to the X-files. Hell, they do have several cases of this. One of the last episodes was about a guy which was a prime telekinet as a child but ended up manifesting a strange soap-opera to make him feel ok when he was grown up. In that case electro-magnetism and... spectral matter (?) were used to explain this. But thats not the case I was looking for. Yes, they do have a telepath (that chess playing kid), but I was going for The Pusher.

I can't recall his movie-name, but the Pusher was able to talk people into any stuff he wanted by forced suggestion. Unfortunately (for him) he had to pay for this: a tumor in his head at the first place, and extreme exhaustion at the second place.

So, in this last example the body himself was used to create the excess energy needed to do some paranormal stuff. That is something you could use after all - your paranormal people would suffer from extreme exhaustion if they use their abilities in great quantities. On problem still persists:

Appliance of Force: So... you have a source of energy, bu no way to apply it to a target. Its like a spacecraft in space that produces way to much heat without being able to radiate it. So you need a medium to transfer this energy.

What do we have? Air? Water? Hm... could work, but would need fancy telling to make it sound plausible. What else do we have? Ah... the Aura.

Subject of controversy first class. What it is and how it does work is not entirely sure at the moment. Going the more scientific approach would lead to something like "the electromagnetic field the body radiates", which isn't as implausible as one might think at the first moment, because our brains, muscles and nerves working by applying electric currents at the right destination.

Going more spiritual would lead to words like "Ki" and "Chi", which come from the far eastern religions... and here we are back to the esoteric guys, which tell you that you need to meditate to ... I don't know, sometimes I think its their way to force away others by keep on claiming "you are doing it wrong" when their explanations wont work after all...

Anyway. If you want your Aura to lift cookies, you need to know how to use it. Applying extreme magnetic fields will lift anything - even insulators - but thats out of question. Right here the science ends and the narrative steps in, gently taking the "why" to realms where the answer is "I can't explain... its like describing a blind guy how a field of flowers does look during a solar eclipse below an aurora".

But still, using your own magnetic belt to influence stuff around you isn't such a blind shot. After all, we all did feel the pressure a old monitor could apply to you fingers when charged. it wasn't a real barrier, just a bunch of static electricity, but still you can feel it! Sadly nowdays no kid will know what I'm speaking about, because flat screens doesn't do something like this any more.

Conclusion: But if you want my version, keep the possibilities at a low end - no matter how angry you get or how well you can apply your Chi to objects around you, it won't make you able to lift a car, because your whole body could not generate the energy needed to pull this of in such a short time I think. but grappling the towel from the other side of the bath-room? Here we go.

And if you need more practical appliances, just knot the bad guys shoos together. That would be as useful (and funny) as levitating him. EDiT: What about pyrokinesis? Apply your energy at a really small point, and you will just went beyond the inflammation point.

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While many explanations for telekinesis have often been based on magnetics, there is as mentionned no known biological organs for generating such fields (though some organs capable of electromagnetic sensing have been recently identified). Another limitation of that it would make telekinesis only possible on magnetic susceptible materials.

However in my opinion ultrasounds offer a much better scientific background for telekinesis:

  • many living animals have ultrasonic generation capabilities (bats, whales, moths, ...)
  • science is starting to experiment on ultrasonic tweezers which are capable of even lifting small animals (source)

Pyrokinesis can then also be explained through high intensity focused ultrasonic waves (for details). Of course the condition is to have stochiometric mix.

Of course, like with any new branch of science you might be faced with a lot of disbelief that it is actually science, so you might be better staying with the long line of magnetic based telekinesis and leaving the how to future developments of science.

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  • $\begingroup$ Only magnetically susceptible materials is just the kind of limitation I look for. Magic shouldn't be as easy as snapping your fingers and BOOM goes magic nuke, it should be something that requires immense energy, intense focus, just the right conditions, and a willingness to sacrifice a part of yourself. Otherwise basic animal needs, like food, water, and shelter, can all be easily solved with a wave of a wand. The issues that drive humanity would all be rendered moot, thus in a sense a mage would no longer be human. Which is fine if they aren't supposed to be. $\endgroup$ – BurningScroll Jul 10 '16 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ Magic shouldn't be able to solve all problems, it should present a balance of pros and cons that make its usage a difficult decision, just like every other decision in life. $\endgroup$ – BurningScroll Jul 10 '16 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ @BurningScroll, with ultrasounds you could easily be limited by the amount of acoustic energy your entities biology can generate :) $\endgroup$ – Auberon Vacher Jul 11 '16 at 14:23
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Henery Taylor suggested there could be a "watched pot never boils' principle. For example, by ignoring a brick because it won't move if you watch it too carefully and now freed from the 'pressures of observation' it moves.

The Zeno effect in quantum mechanics concerns unstable particles and has the "prediction that frequent measurements during this nonexponential period could inhibit decay of the system" which means the decay of a system can be inhibited. There is an opposite effect -- the anti-zeno effect (I thank JDlugosz for drawing my attention to this phenomenon) -- where the decay of unstable particles is enhanced by frequent measurements -- and this might be considered the basis of the 'watched pot never boils' principle.

For more information on both the Zeno effect and anti-zeno effect go here.

However, the WPNB principle seems to be more due to frequent non-measurements ( or observations) of the system to be influenced such as the brick to be moved telekinetically or wood to be ignited pyrokinetically. This suggests whatever its nature, this mechanism depends on something that is an anti-anti-zeno effect. The enhancement of a change of state (the decay of unstable particles in a system) by the frequency of not taking measurements. Now we are getting into strange territory indeed.

Possibly this requires physical effects to be caused by the mental states of the whatever-kinetic. This isn't a concept I feel exactly comfortable with, but we are looking for plausible explanations for different forms of kinesis.

Ditto with fire starting. The power of negative thinking at work. Dale Carnegie would be mightily annoyed.

This answer was possible because of the contributions of Henry Taylor and JDlugosz.

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I’m surprised that no one has mentioned quantum entanglement, especially the bit that physicists pointedly avoid discussing: (1) in quantum theory, it is the action of your brain, as an observer, which collapses a quantum wave function outside your body into a definite state; and (2) that two quantum particles can also become “entangled,” meaning that a change in one particle’s state is instantly mirrored in the second particle, even if that transmission of information occurs faster than the speed of light.

Quantum phenomena can also “transcend” into the macro realm: some 30% of US GDP comes from discoveries in quantum physics. Moving past there, Hannu Rajaniemi has extrapolated this into a wonderful trilogy beginning with The Fractal Prince - which might inspire any number of plausible pathways to your "seemingly" impossible psychic phenomena.

One immediate possibility comes to mind: that someone can learn how to control a massive amount of quantum states in his or her mind, and "magically" transpose those quantum states into entanglements with other particles, causing whatever effects you desire. (Also very hypothetically, those quantum states in the brain do not necessarily need to result, e.g., in a fire inside the brain just because the change of state in the entangled particles at a wooden "target" might result in flames.)

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To be honest, I was thinking the exact same thing. I am still trying to figure out a scientific explanation behind telekinesis, but I know that there are many different ways to make chemical fire by adding desired chemicals, some of which are found naturally. If one could somehow mix these chemicals, then the byproduct could be fire. The method of mixing is unknown, but it could possible happen via an organ or gland. Fish's gill passages are used to remove oxygen from water, so I'm sure a possible scientific adaptation could make it so a variation of chemicals could be pulled out of the atmosphere, the soil, etc. If this helps: https://www.thoughtco.com/make-chemical-fire-607502

Best of luck!

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First I'd like to state that I don't believe that it is actually impossible. The way I see it is that magic is just science we don't understand, and telekinesis/pyrokensis is magic. In same pagan mythology/belief it is said that with enough training and devotion a pagan can gain abilities in divination, telekinesis, and other things thought to be myth. I mean, yes it's highly unlikely, but you can never say it's impossible!

Here's my take on telekinesis. Our body has an electromagnetic field surrounding it generated by the fact that our body uses electricity in the firing of neurons. Now if we could control this electromagnetic field and "amp" it up to a much larger level (someone with some mutation that has abnormal bundles of neurons in super high concentrations that aren't cancerous) they theoretically could use their field to interact with out electromagnetic fields. This would allow for telekinesis.

Another way this could be done is by using these fields to interact with other electrons/protons and manipulating them to force atom interaction and generate energy, thus propelling an object.

My take on pyrokensis would be very similar to my take at telekinesis. With the genetic mutation of abnormal neural bundles in huge quantities. With this you could theoretically interact with protons/electrons and cause them to vibrate/interact with each other. If you can generate enough energy, the energy will turn into heat, and thus something bursts into flame. This could be done with as something as simple as oxygen and thus we have a fire bender!

Another thought about these mutations would be the cost on the person. Maintaining that many neural bundles would take a lot of energy to maintain, but I believe it would be a feasable amount.

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  1. Tweak the laws of physics in your universe. Make the energy flows in the world stronger. A person's brain and nervous system now has a stronger EM field. Make the flows only semi-stable so that a properly trained brain can cause "ripples" in the energy flows around it. A properly trained brain might then be able to direct large amounts of force at specific points by generating vibrations that have a peak or trough at the right position (similar to how you can forcibly eject someone from a water bed by building up a set of waves which have frequencies that converge in the right place.) What effects would be possible with this depends on how precisely it can be controlled.

  2. Invent a species of non-corporeal life forms who exist as pure energy twisted in on itself into a semi-stable, standing wave. (Substitute hand-wavium of your choice.) Have them live in symbiosis with humans and provide PK and TK abilities in return for some service that they can't perform themselves. (Being in a human body keeps them safe from solar flares maybe? Or they can use excess electrical energy from our nervous systems as a food source? Both? Use your imagination.)

  3. There exists some fifth dimension which some portion of the population has gained the ability to perceive (through genetics or training) Once a person can perceive it, they can learn to move through it with varying degrees of success, and it functions as a shortcut through "normal" space. Telekinesis is just reaching out and pushing something that's further away than your arm should reach. (Pyrokinesis is doing the same thing with a lighter or blow-torch in your hand.) Advanced students might well be able to pull off effective teleportation by moving their entire body instead of just an arm.

  4. Artificial assistance: The people in this world have learned to build some kind of "psy-amp" that allows amplifying brain-waves with an external power source and directing them with an antenna. Power output is limited by the amp's energy source, but "brainwaves can be modulated quickly and precisely to create the desired effects more efficiently than controlling it by computer."

  5. This world is actually a computer simulation which has a daemon process searching for entities which match certain specifications saying "wingardium leviosa" and waving pointy sticks in the proper patterns.

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A rather tongue-in-cheek answer here, at least for pyrokinesis:

Probability is your answer. For a spark, and consequently a fire, to spontaneously appear, you would probably need a critical concentration of fuel (oxygen) and heat. There is a very, very, very small but non-zero probability that enough oxygen molecules bumping around a space at any one instant could all come together to form a sphere of concentrated oxygen for one moment.

There is a also a non-zero probability that each of those oxygen molecules happens to join the sphere with sufficient energy that the resulting energy of the sphere system is high enough to cause it to spark off. This is probably several orders of magnitude smaller than the initial condition of sphere formation.

If both of those conditions are fulfilled, spontaneous combustion could happen! As such, your character would simply have to be EXTREMELY lucky, and here I'm talking about odds of googolplexes upon googolplexes to one. But not impossible, per se.

Good luck!

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I don't have a great answer for telekinesis, but if you do crack telekinesis, Maxwell's Demon might give you pyrokinesis.

Maxwell's demon is a thought experiment in thermodynamics. Essentially, temperature is a statistical quantity - the average energy of a large group of particles. However, some particles are much more energetic than others. If you knew the energy of each particle and were able to use telekinesis to steer them, you could create hot pockets of gas. Nudge the fast moving air towards the target, the slow moving air away from it, maybe flood it with O2 for good measure, and let it burn.

In reality, if this did work it probably wouldn't heat up all that fast. It's really a question of how large a volume of air you're willing to pull from - all the hottest particles in a room still isn't that hot, but in a city...

This doesn't happen in real life because we can't work with that fine a precision, and even if we could it would almost certainly take more energy than it's worth. But if you're telekinetic and have some way of applying it intelligently to, like 10^30 particles at once, you can move heat from one place to another more or less for free.

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About the only form of "action at a distance" that exists within modern physics that can operate operates on human scales is electromagnetism. Gravity really only does anything meaningful when masses comparable to planets are involved, and the strong and weak nuclear forces hardly do anything outside of atomic nuclei.

Your question has shades of a kind of offbeat telekinesis idea I had a while back: A person that is (via magic) able to control electric fields with their mind. They could throw around copper hoops, then induce string electric currents flowing through them. The currents would create magnetic fields, turning the hoops into powerful electromagnets, which could then be used to attract or repel each other as needed.

This doesn't need to be magic. If the hoops were equipped with some electronics and a power source (which may need to be handwaved a bit- these things need a lot of power), it would work just fine. Rather than a brain operating on the hoops directly, a remote control of some kind would keep track of where they are and what they need to be doing, and send them commands wirelessly. Or maybe the hoops communicate with each other directly, more like a hive mind.

Also note that with rapidly oscillating magnetic fields, the hoops don't all need to be powered. As this video shows, enough A/C power pumped into a big coil of wire can levitate any random chunk of metal.

Taking a hard-science approach to pyrokinesis might be more difficult. Plasma has free-floating positive and negative charges, and thus is an electrical conductor. You wouldn't be able to guide it around very well with electric fields, though, since the electrons would go one way and the positive ions the other. However, both charges will tend to follow magnetic field lines lines, as can be seen in solar prominence and some kinds of fusion reactors, so you might be able to get somewhere that way. Other than electric arcs, lasers, or actual flamethrowers, I dunno.

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This is not a trivial question.

Perhaps look at the randomness involved in thermodynamics and propose a rare condition where things suddenly have a correlation, a new form of entanglement that occurs at a larger scale. Maybe some predestination fun where this happens to be the universe where people mostly try things that will end up happening.

Another option is something like or involving gravity, an equal "acceleration" on all masses, a new way to distort space time even. I can imagine the kind of rules that would have to follow....

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jun 16 '17 at 11:44
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Rather than a direct answer, this is a tangential observation that my 7 year old son came up with after watching Avatar the Last Airbender. All bending is energy bending. The bender changes the kinetic or thermal energy of the targeted medium. Based on events depicted in The Legend of Korra, all bending is mediated through a common structure in the brain (a water bender is able to disrupt any benders ability by manipulating the brain). While Nickelodeon didn't care to get scientific about it, and your world isn't theirs, this may stimulate discussion.

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Implants

Sound can do some crazy things such as the sonic tractor beam and ultrasonic welding which could be pretty close to what you are looking for. It's ok for small objects and starting a small fire but you're not going to lift cars and create walls of flame.

Your person could be fitted with an experimental sonic projector that links to the brain. The emitter is embedded in the palms and thought can vary frequency for a variety of effects.

On top of telekinesis and pyrokinesis, the person could shatter objects, pick locks, project their voice and even induce vertigo in other using sound.

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protected by L.Dutch Jul 8 at 12:42

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