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In my modern fantasy story, magic users are shown creating 3-dimensional light structures or holograms by bending the light source from a flashlight to create a holographic images such as animals and models. Would this theoretically be possible using pseudo-science while still keeping suspension of disbelief?

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    $\begingroup$ You said the magic word (ambiguity intended). "Magic" is shorthand for "To the best of my knowledge, that thing that just happened, ought to have been impossible". Well we do lots of stuff that is "magic" to 9 out of 10 of our forebears (the total amount of humans that have every lived is approximately 100 billion individuals), or 99.9% of the time humanity has existed (100 000+ years). So if you have then just postulated that the seemingly impossible is possible in your story... well... there you are then. $\endgroup$ – MichaelK Oct 5 '17 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ It's magic, only available to magic users - why do you need pseudo-science as well? $\endgroup$ – Lee Leon Oct 6 '17 at 8:54
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SMH, once you throw magic into this the answer is always yes

Physically light cannot be bent (its path can be distorted by gravity). So sure if you say your magic is bending light than by all means it is reasonable.

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Light can be bent with mirrors and lenses. You can create effect like this by using different mediums with different refraction properties such as glass. You might be able to use a system that uses a manipulated magnetic field can alter specialized charged particles of some glass-like material. The end affect would be a "glass sculpture" that changes over time as the field changes, which could potentially be possible. Such a device isn't possible today because we don't have the power to manipulate magnetic fields this well but may be in the future. The glass like substance doesn't even have to be solid which would make for something similar to 3D holograms.

Another idea would be to program people's vision directly. This would involve sending data directly to people's optical system. Pretty much a HUD for everyone and this can allow for additional information. Today this can only happen with a screen in front of their eyes and a headset like Hololens. In the future, we might be able to implant a chip that can alter your optic nerve directly to allow for additional images to be added.

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To you, what is the difference between "creating holographic images" and simply bending/absorbing light in the exact way a real object was? The latter may be easier. Rather than doing all of the tremendously complicated interference games required for holography, simply bend light right where the surface of the animal's skin would be, and bend it exactly the same way it would have been reflected off the real skin.

Basically, what you'd be doing is raycasting a 3d model of the animal, in real time.

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  • $\begingroup$ Both playing with interference and bending light the way real object would reflect it is ultimately about creating the same wavefront. Why one should be easier than other? I got 5 (equivalent of usa A grade) in synthetic holography class and I believe creating small interference structures should be easier than large real size ones. It was with technology, at least. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 6 '17 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot Making real objects lets you take advantage of locality. The information about any one point in a hologram is spread across the entire hologram. The information about one point in space is stored in one point in space. Since you took a class on it: can we make real-time moving holograms yet? When I last researched the topic, the calculations to create such a hologram were far too slow. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Oct 6 '17 at 21:39
  • $\begingroup$ in theory it should be possible now, with single color holography and relatively low resolution. Years ago calculating one frame, three planes on an old cpu (would be, like, dozen years old now) took about 10s. About locality, you need the same amount of information, one wavefront. It's only a matter of how it's stored. And with holography you can create only the part of wavefront that's actually going to hit someone's eyes. So less information needed, total, and less work with light, even if more complicated. But these holograms are kinda magic anyway, aren't they? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 7 '17 at 11:14

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