Musing on magic

“Magic is just science that we don’t understand yet.” That’s one variation of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous musing on the nature of magic.

An article by Ted Chiang explored further. He suggested that the key distinction was how ‘reproduce-able’ the act of apparent magic is.

“Roughly speaking, if you can mass-produce it, it’s science, and if you can’t, it’s magic. As an example, suppose someone says she can transform lead into gold. If we can use her technique to build factories that turn lead into gold by the ton, then she’s made an incredible scientific discovery. If on the other hand it’s something that only she can do, and only under special conditions, then she’s a magician. And I don’t mean that she’s a charlatan; she might actually be able to transform lead into gold. But scientific phenomena are reproducible by other investigators; they aren’t dependent on a specific person.”

One of the key tenets of shamanism is the ability to create/influence reality. It’s how shamanic healing works, for instance. In effect, ‘reaching into’ the the energy of the injury or illness and repairing it. To those who don’t understand (or accept) the fundamental concept of the inter-relatedness of all things, that can come across as magic. Or bunkum, to the cynic or ‘Rationalist’.

Einstein’s equation of matter with energy fits here too. I extrapolate from there that applying the right amount, or right sort (wavelength?) of energy can change the form of matter. Heat turns ice into water, and enough heat turns the water into steam. What sort of energy might turn lead into gold? We don’t know yet. Or at least, I don’t. If anyone else does they haven’t shared it with me.

The Unknown is where a lot of fiction begins. My musings on the nature of magic has led me to a series of stories. You can find the first book in my Dubious Magic series — “The Wizard of Waramanga” at https://www.patreon.com/Renoir . Stop in and visit!

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