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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Oct 2012
    Boston, MA

    Default Re: Silly Childhood Misconceptions on Fantasy Elements?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatWyrmGold View Post
    Spoiler: Science and Physics
    Science doesn't work like that. If there's something which violates the apparent laws of physics, scientists don't throw up their hands and declare that this is something that doesn't make sense and shouldn't happen—they leave that to philosophers and theologians. Instead, they quantify the something and try to understand where they went wrong when describing the laws of physics.
    This exact thing happened with neutrinos, though on a less interesting scale. Conservation of energy and momentum seemed to be violated, so the scientists worked to figure out why; they made theories and figured out how to test them, and understood the universe better as a result. In a world with magic, the same thing would happen—except these "violations" would be incorporated into the laws of physics from the very beginning!
    And just because people conclude something is "random" doesn't mean it necessarily is; there could well be patterns they haven't managed to figure out. A lot of biological patterns started out this way, such as species distribution ("Why are these species here but not there?"); then evolution and continental drift and so on came along, and we could piece it together, and now species distribution is...well, it's not as certain as the orbits of the planets, but it's still well-understood.
    Spoiler: Science and Physics
    In real life, that's all true. But fiction, or at least a certain subset of fiction that can use this kind of magic, doesn't run on real-life logic. It runs on symbols, on meaning. Within the context of a story, magic is perfectly capable of being inherently nonsensical and nonscientific, because that's what it represents in the story's allegory. I think the appropriate term might be Doylist vs. Watsonian thinking: in this case, you're concerning yourself with the Watsonian explanations for the way magic works in a story, while I'm focusing on the Doylist. My point is that you can't apply both perspectives to every kind of story. Some fictional settings are constructed specifically to appeal to Watsonian logic, to be internally consistent in a way the characters can understand just as well as the reader (that'd be your Sanderson); conversely, there are settings where Doylist logic is the only thing that's reliable, because they make symbolism a priority over in-world consistency (that'd be your Tolkien).
    Last edited by Amaril; 2016-09-22 at 11:29 AM.