Quote Originally Posted by Winter_Wolf View Post
That's because they're not that similar. Shao means "a few", or little as in "a little bit". Xiao means "small-the opposite of big". In Chinese their meanings are significantly different and you're in for either a long debate or the more likely "shut up you're an idiot" from native speakers.
Assuming it's not one of those "your language doesn't have words to succinctly explain the distinction" things, they still sound closely related. I mean, yes, you wouldn't want to use one to describe the other (just as you wouldn't say you have a few waters or lots of shoe in English), but they're both clearly describing lesser amounts, just varying if the number or size of the units is being changed. And in cases where the object is a mass of units, I can see the two being almost interchangeable (fewer gallons of water, less water).

Quote Originally Posted by Amaril View Post
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).
So? Even in Doylist settings, readers can (and, for reasonably popular ones, probably have) come up with explanations or at least patterns that are never mentioned in the works set in said settings. Imagine what someone who lived in the world could do.

Quote Originally Posted by Arbane View Post
The problem with doing scientific experiments on magic is (in some systems, at least), the nonzero possibility of giving yourself a hideous curse, sending an unstoppable horde of brooms to fetch water, or getting eaten by a demon.
Putting aside observational studies, models, scientists who accept the danger, etc, in most settings that stuff is in some way related to what the magic-user does (uses magic maliciously, gives a poorly-considered order, fails to properly bind the demon). I'd be willing to bet that a scientist could design safe experiments for almost any kind of magic that exists in fiction.

Quote Originally Posted by Mahonri Violist View Post
[a paragraph about what science can't do that should have been multiple]
1-3. It's true, science can't deal with subjective stuff. It's simply not designed to do that.
4. I generally take the stance that if you can't observe a force/object/entity or its effects, it doesn't exist in any meaningful sense. Obviously, some people disagree, but I guess that's one of those subjective things. You can't really prove the value of objectivity or logic or anything like that without taking it as an assumption that such things are how to judge things.