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In my world magic is inter-dimensional energy that came into the world after a group of scientists opened a portal. After being exposed to it some humans gain the ability to warp reality - to an extent. I also want magic (inter-dimensional energy) to cancel out any technology. But I want to give a reasonable explanation as to why this is: something more complicated than "it is magic and that is what it does".

So what is a plausible reason magic would cancel out technology?

By technology I mean any technology above high medieval level machines.
By canceled out I mean that magic either makes machines just not work at all or break down.

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    $\begingroup$ Define technology. Digital? Chemical? Electronics? Mechanics? How about "simple machines" like the level, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, and screw? $\endgroup$ – Nex Terren Jul 13 '16 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ After defining technology, please define 'cancel out'. Do guns just not work? Or do they disappear? Are all computers non-functional all of a sudden or do they only cease to function when in the range of any magic use, or do you have to cast a specific "turn off the computer" spell? $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Ford Jul 13 '16 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with @NathanielFord, the definition of "cancel out" may be very important to the answers. Without it, this is actually a tremendously broad question. There have been dozens if not hundreds of reasons why magic and technology do not interact well invented over the years, any one of which would meet the requirements set forth. However, if you have a very particular meaning of "cancel out," that definition may decrease the number of potential answers enough to fit this Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 13 '16 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ I forget the specifics of how it works, but in "The Dresden Files" magic basically shorts out electronics. So this basically covers most anything built since the 1950s. So Dresden has to drive around in an old VW beetle, doesn't have electricity in his apartment, and can't use computers or cell phones. $\endgroup$ – Jason K Jul 14 '16 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ Including mechanics and chemistry may not be the best idea, especially if you want a scientifically plausible answer. Having magic short out electronic tech could be managed easy enough though. $\endgroup$ – James Jul 14 '16 at 18:58
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The simplest way to have magic conflict with technology is to have magic subtly alter the laws of physics, perhaps in somewhat unpredictable ways.

For example, what if the presence of magic can affect how much friction there is between two objects? An increase in friction could make the grease used ineffective and cause machines to literally grind to a halt. A decrease could affect timings and throw them off, or break a part intended to pull something else along.

For electronics, it gets even easier - it wouldn't take very many transistors behaving unexpectedly before chips could get shorted out and damaged. I don't believe we have any semiconductors in our bodies, so if that's what's breaking transistors it wouldn't affect people.

If you want, you can say that people are immune to this effect. Otherwise you'll have to consider how people are affected by the presence of magic (is magic a carcinogen?).

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    $\begingroup$ ...And as friction increases the human body universally wears out faster, and as electrical impulses are no longer dependable people begin to fall over, brain-dead... $\endgroup$ – Nex Terren Jul 13 '16 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ This is a real phenomenon. Really powerful wizards irl can't even work cigarette lighters. ;) $\endgroup$ – SudoSedWinifred Jul 14 '16 at 5:14
  • $\begingroup$ @SudoSedWinifred Way to quit. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Aug 2 '16 at 17:50
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Magic takes energy from its surroundings in order to work.

Think of it. If you use magic to levitate a rock from the ground to the top of a table, you just put some potential energy in that rock. The energy was provided by magical means, so the magic needs to take that many joules/calories from somewhere else.

In the absence of viable energy sources for machines, that energy may be the very calories stored in the body of the mage. But this would disable or kill a mage who tried to do something big on her own. Magic may draw from the same energy sources that machines use so that the mage can accomplish greater feats. For example, if you have gasoline or coal nearby, magic may take energy from the chemical bondings in those.

Explanation: when you burn wood, coal, gas etc. for fuel, you are extracting the energy in their chemical bondings. If magic has already drained that energy, then those sources of fuel become useless for engines, for example.

As a side effect, magic may either be literally burning those to fuel itself, or it may extract that energy through means other than combustion (after all, magic is a magical thing), chemically turning coal, wood, gas etc. into other substances.

If there are electrical currents running in metal, magic may take energy from there. This starves electrical machines off of energy.

And so on...

The cool thing about this method to explain how magic interferes with technology is that it does not cause magic to simply cancel out tech... It makes both compete for energy. So it takes a lot of magic to stop a huge machine, for example, or a large concentration of tech to starve off a really powerful spell.

This also allows you to do some back-of-napkin calculations as to what you could achieve given some source of energy. For example, with access to a 220V socket, you could heat food just like a microwave oven would (but without the need for that oven), or you could set small things on fire. But if you sap the tank of a car that is full, you can move a ton of stuff for a few hundred miles. Or you can fly yourself for ten times as much distance. Or you can cause a projectile to fly at hypersonic speeds! Be creative ;)

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  • $\begingroup$ best answer so far. $\endgroup$ – Bryan McClure Jul 13 '16 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ Why is my tree turning to ashes?! There's not even any fire! $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Aug 2 '16 at 17:51
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Just have your magical energy increase the electrical resistance of any silicon it passes through. That way it won't mess with any living systems, but it will make all of our computer chips heat up as the energy fails to pass along the expected paths. Shortly after any spell is cast, all the active chips within a certain radius overheat and let out their magical white smoke.

As for magic messing up other, non-computerized modern technology...? These days, there are no modern technologies that don't use computer chips in one way or another.

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new technology cancels out older technology most of the time because the new technology does a better job than the old technology. For an example, More people use Windows 10 over windows 98 because it does a better job in the purpose of its creation. I see this as the same case with Magic. In order for Magic (the new technology) to cancel out Technology as we see it as today (the old technology) it would had to do a better job than the the old technology.

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