Mad Science: Chapter 4

May 2nd, 2016 (edited)
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  1. Mad Science
  2. By IceMan
  4. Chapter 4: Special Relativity
  6. >The candlelight does a casual tango along the walls over the library loft as you carefully dip a thick quill into a crystalline pot of ink and scrawl out the short phrase you began your ritual with:
  7. >“Dear Princess Celestia,” the letter begins.
  8. >“I apologize in my delay in writing this, as I have been quite occupied with recent events. Three days ago, a human known as Anonymous appeared in Ponyville. He is, obviously, from an alternate dimension, though not the same as that which the Crystal Mirror leads to, as he has no knowledge of the universe I visited. He arrived in Equestria via a portal of his own design, operating on mechanics that Equestrian technology could not hope to replicate. He looks down on our society as primitive. More vexing, however, is his philosophical bent. Anonymous, quite simply, rejects friendship on a philosophical level.”
  9. >“I have dealt with many beings in my tutelage in the Magic of Friendship, many of whom had simply said that they have no need for friends, but this is not Anonymous’s way. He would probably see the reasons that others usually reject friendship for to be irrational. However, I remain ignorant of the source of his philosophy, and he is unlikely to be forthcoming with that information at this time.
  10. >“I only hope that I can eventually figure out how to teach Anonymous as much about the Magic of Friendship as he knows about physics. As always, I seek your counsel in this endeavor. If you have any advice to give, perhaps advice from some of your previous students or even from my earlier tutelage under you, than I would gladly accept it. I will also try to bring Anonymous before you at some point, as I am certain that you would like to meet him.
  11. >“As always, your student,
  12. >“Twilight Sparkle”
  14. >Mornings were never your strong suit.
  15. >You always preferred to stay up late into the night, flipping through a good book, huddled beneath the woolen blankets of your bed with a mug of black tea by your side.
  16. >Fortunately, you learned a near-instant boiling spell a few weeks ago, and that should help you -
  17. >You find Anonymous awake early in the morning, sitting at a table in your library, a stack of books and papers by his side.
  18. >A yellow pencil sits in between his thumb and forefinger, the graphite currently being worked to a flat nib as it marches letter by letter across a formerly blank sheet.
  19. >“Oh, good. You’re awake,” he says, before returning to his scribbling.
  20. “A ‘good morning, Twilight,’ would be nice,” you say in response.
  21. “Let’s assume I said that then, and move on,” he replies.
  22. >Your lips form a paltry frown.
  23. >“We have much work to do today,” Anonymous continues. “From your books, I have come to understand that Equestria has a very advanced picture of classical physics, up through electrodynamics, but no forays into the quantum realm. This will be a hindrance as we .progress in our research into the origin of magic.”
  24. >Walking over to the desk, you take a look at the nearly illegible scrawl written on the sheets of paper, barely making out words like “electromagnetic interaction,” “W-boson,” and “quantum chromodynamics,” plus long rows of mathematical equations in symbols that seemed to simply melt into an illegible mess in the same way that sugar melts into boiling lead.
  25. “You read all of those books?” you ask, lifting up one of the six heavy tomes with your telekinesis.
  26. >“Skimmed for the most part. Read a few parts,” he says.
  27. >Faintly, he mutters something that you can’t quite make out, but sounds something like “haven’t been sleeping much.”
  28. “What?”
  29. >“Nevermind. It’s irrelevant,” he says. “The point is, your understanding of force is completely out of date. This may be because of technological limitations, but, regardless, it will be a hindrance if we are attempting to determine the origins of forces.”
  30. >He pauses for a moment.
  31. >“My understanding of magic, so far, is that it is a force, in whatever sense you choose that to be. There are some pieces of the picture that I am beginning to build that you will not be able to understand if I do not teach you what we humans have learned past classical mechanics. Furthermore, I want to prevent covering ground that has already been tread.”
  32. “What are you proposing?” you ask.
  33. >“I’ve prepared a short quiz to determine if your knowledge of classical mechanics is up to standards.”
  34. >Shuffling through his papers, Anonymous digs out a piece covered in what you can make out to be equations and diagrams.
  35. >“Just get it back to me when you’re finished,” he says, then returns to writing.
  36. >Frowning, you say:
  37. “Anonymous, are you sure this is really necessary? I’m fairly familiar with physics. Or, at least, our physics.”
  38. >“Then you shouldn’t have any qualms about showing me your abilities. In addition, I need to better understand your mathematical prowess. These problems should also test that; they cover most of the tools you will need to understand even the cutting edge of physics.”
  39. “Maybe if you told me what your hypothesis is, then we could focus on what exactly we need to learn.”
  40. >The pencil stops.
  41. >“Very well. I do have a hypothesis.”
  42. >Your purple ears perk up as Anonymous stands from his chair.
  43. >“I have a hypothesis,” he speaks. “But I’m not certain how to test it.”
  44. >“In the late 19th century, approximately 150 years before my time, we discovered that electricity and magnetism were one and the same, and they also produced light. This force was known as electromagnetism. It became one four fundamental interactions, four basic forces that define the universe. They are electromagnetism, gravity, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. Each force produces a field of a certain strength and range, and has a particle or a group of particles, a focused point of that field, associated with it.”
  45. “So, what are you saying?” you ask.
  46. >“Hold on, there’s more. In the 1960s, about 60 years before my time, physicists hypothesized that there was a point where electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force became indistinguishable. We proved this to be true. From that, we deduced that there was a point where all four forces became indistinguishable from one another, perhaps at the beginning of the universe or at conditions that replicated that point. Despite our discovery of the graviton, thus completing the force particle chart, and solving the problems we had with merging gravity with the other four forces, we have yet to observe this possibility.”
  47. “And?”
  48. >“I have observed magic used to produce both electromagnetic interactions directly. I theorize that its capability to produce telekinesis and teleport objects to be gravitational interactions. From this, I have determined that magic appears to be a fusion of the electromagnetic and gravitational interactions. Gravity is supposed to be the first of the four forces to deunify, having the highest unification energy.”
  49. >He turns and faces you directly.
  50. >“Magic is a unification of all four fundamental forces.”
  51. >Puzzling over Anonymous’s statements, you blink.
  52. >Seeing as you’re giving him no response, Anonymous returns to the scratching of his pencil across the parchment.
  53. “So, what do you plan to test? How do you want to prove that?”
  54. >“Well, there are several things I wish to examine. Quantum effects, primarily. For one, I am interested in how telekinesis works, though this may have to wait for some preliminary results to determine if I can even understand the source of the phenomenon.”
  55. “I think you may have to revise your theory. Telekinesis is understood as simply producing a force on the moved object -”
  56. >“Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way,” Anonymous says, cutting you off. “I’ve read a bit of your literature on the subject; it’s all wildly inaccurate.”
  57. “How do you know that? You’re from a completely different universe -”
  58. “Yes, yes where the laws of physics could be completely different. Of course. But, so far, I have no reason to assume the laws of physics are different here, beyond the addition of this field you call magic.”
  59. >Pausing for a moment, Anonymous collects his thoughts again.
  60. “So, to continue, if the force produced during telekinesis were a mere contact force, then it would be transferred, at root, by the electromagnetic force, as the charges of electron clouds around the atoms composing the objects in the collision repelled one another, transferring down the line and eventually producing motion,” he says.
  61. >“But there is no contact involved in the telekinetic force produced, beyond the shimmering aura that appears around the object. The production of photons is generally not a response to a simple contact force, or at least, none that I know of. So there must be some other interaction occurring.”
  62. >Sighing, he says, “I’m beginning to wonder whether this partnership was a completely waste of time. I almost would have been better off figuring these things out on my own.”
  63. “No! It’s not! We can work through this and -” you begin to reply.
  64. >“And what? Your theories of the fundamental forces of nature are completely out of date. Of course we can explain where the telekinetic force comes from in a classical sense. It’s just a force acted on the object opposing gravity. But which force is it? Where does that force truly germinate from? Where, Twilight?”
  65. “I - I don’t know. My understanding of magic only goes so far. I understand what magic can do, but not how.”
  66. >“And I don’t fully understand what magic can do, but how it could do it. We’ve gone over this many times. This is precisely why we must establish this foundation. So, I advise you to get to work quickly on that.”
  67. “And what are you going to do?”
  68. >“Study some more of your books. Fortunately, my current place of residence is a library. I may as well search the scholarship for some answers to questions I still have. There are many specifics that I need to factor into my hypothesis.”
  69. “Then what exactly do you need me for?”
  70. >“Clarification. Guidance. A source of the phenomena. Presumably, there are more recent developments that have not been written down yet, of which you may be privy to but your books... not. Plus, I am best when self-taught, and I am hoping you are as well, as you can expect no grand lectures on these subjects. We don’t have time for that. And, in the interest of that time, I should expect that exam back by the end of the day.”
  71. “I’m not sure if I can do that.”
  72. >The graphite snaps.
  73. >“Why not?” he says in a low, growling tone.
  74. “Well, I was planning on going to lunch with Rarity today, and I wanted to organize the east stacks and -”
  75. >“You will make time for those things later. I hope you understand that this is far more important.”
  76. “And you have to understand that you can’t just expect people to drop things for your needs. It’s not friendly. Weren’t you going to try to be friendly?”
  77. >“Oh, good, we’re still all on about that nonsense."
  78. “It is not nonsense!”
  79. >“In comparison to the work we are trying to do here, it absolutely is. Do you even remotely understand that we are not only attempting to figure out one of the fundamental forces of your universe, but attempting to return me to mine. Furthermore, I’ve already extended an olive branch by asking for a research partnership, as opposed to simply figuring out these things on my own -”
  80. “Which you still seem to be doing anyways....”
  81. >“This is the preliminary research stage. Doing research on my own is by far the most efficient means. There will be later opportunities where a more direct partnership will be more efficient.”
  82. >Groaning, you almost want to bang your head into a large, flat object, such as cinderblock wall, a wooden desk, or Anonymous’s stubbornness.
  83. >“Oh, come now, don’t be like that. Patience is a necessary part of science.”
  84. “No, it’s not that.”
  85. >“Then what is it?”
  86. “Do you know you are the most difficult sentient being to work with?”
  87. >“Of course.”
  88. >Frowning in response, you say:
  89. “Well, seeing as you have given me no compelling reason to complete your quiz in a timely manner, I think I’ll perform the daily activities I was planning on doing beforehand. I have a very tight schedule to keep, and I prefer to do things that I actually enjoy or for people that actually seem to appreciate me. Have a pleasant day with your research, Anonymous.”
  90. >You strut towards the door.
  91. “I am going out.”
  92. >Before Anonymous has a chance to retort, you slam the heavy oak door behind you.
  94. >Lyme and Dare’s is a small cafe on the edge of town, catering more to those who knew that being the soft fluffy center of the bread was far superior to being the hard outer crust, but still appreciated the finer things in life.
  95. >It was set on the bottom floor of a small, stone shop, with a large glass window revealing the moderately-lit interior filled with small booths and a front patio with large round umbrellas covering small, four-chaired tables.
  96. >The menu was short, custom created by the chef every day, based on fresh-picked herbs and small plates of artisan greens and other relishes.
  97. >“Eclectic and interesting!” the reviewers, and your friend, raved.
  98. >Unfortunately, today you are distracted by your lunch salad of mustard greens and arugula with bleu cheese, strawberries, and a lemon-pomegranate-pepper vinaigrette by other things on your mind, namely a certain human from an alternate dimension who seems to not understand exactly what a “partnership” means.
  99. >Similarly, you are concerned about how he may have treated your seamstress friend, currently sitting across the small, round, metal table sipping from a small mug of tea.
  100. >“I’ve been working on a absolutely fabulous new set,” Rarity says, having a bite of her roasted beet salad. “There’s this new fabric that I just ordered that’s divine. Soft, lightweight, supple, shimmers like a placid lake. You’ll have to take a look at it when it’s finished.”
  101. “Yeah, absolutely. Right,” you reply.
  102. >“Something wrong, darling?”
  103. “Sorry, just a bit distracted.”
  104. >“Has it been busy at the library lately? Or do you have some new friendship problem that you need help with?”
  105. “No, nothing like that. I mean, the library has been almost quieter than usual. Probably, with school out and all, no fillies are coming in looking for research books for their book reports.... Hm. Maybe I need to do something to get more people into the library. Although, then again, maybe now isn’t the time for that, considering my... current guest.”
  106. >Rarity takes a sip of tea.
  107. >“So, how has your little pet project been going?”
  108. “What? Oh, you mean -”
  109. >“Anonymous! Have you made any progress with him?”
  110. “Well, I think I’m getting through to him somehow. He offered for me to be his ‘research partner,’ but so far all he’s done is sit around and read books from my library. He’s completely insistent on doing everything as some sort of trade. He gave me this,” you say, pulling a sheet of white paper from your saddlebag, covered with what appear at first glance to be inane black scribblings.
  111. >Rarity takes an incredulous look at it.
  112. >“What is it?”
  113. “A quiz of sorts. He wanted to know what how much mathematics and physics I already understand. He’s been incredibly pushy about it, for whatever reason, to the point that he expected me to miss our date to work on it. On the other hand, I’ve already looked over a few problems, and they seem solvable, but there’s one at the very end that seems to be vexing me, because I would have to make an assumption that I’m not quite certain about.”
  114. >“Natural philosophy has never been my forte, Twilight, so I don’t know what help I can give,” Rarity says.
  115. “I know,” you say, biting into a tea cookie and swallowing.
  116. “How did it go yesterday with Anonymous?”
  117. >“I mean, it was certainly different and interesting, taking measurements for a human, but it shouldn’t be that difficult to adapt some of my designs to his body structure,” Rarity says. “I think I may finally be able to make use of some design books I had for minotaur garments, but I may even then have to size those -”
  118. “Not that. I mean, how was his behavior? How did you take him?”
  119. >“To be frank, he was rather... well, he was rather....”
  120. “Cold, calculating, distant, rude, blunt, and generally unfriendly?”
  121. >“Well, I’m not so certain the degree he was the last three, but certainly the first few.”
  122. >Taking another sip of tea and a bite of salad, she frowns.
  123. >“He asked me some rather difficult questions. He’s not exactly one for casual smalltalk, he prefers a grand discussion about the nature of generosity itself. He was very curious about my Element.”
  124. “What did he say?”
  125. >“He was just going on about how generosity isn’t valuable because everything is just a tit-for-tat trade off, sort of like you were saying. Everything is just some sort of give and take to him. He seems to think that friends would only do things for one another to get their friends to do things in return. But I told him that if this were true, then we’d simply replace our friends with others who would give these things to us, and we don’t do that. We as friends have unique interactions that we share with one another.”
  126. “I see. I agree. That’s a great thought, Rarity,” you say, nodding.
  127. >“I certainly thought so, but Anonymous didn’t seem that convinced. He seems to think there must be some ‘flaw in my reasoning,’ as he put it. But he couldn’t think of what, and dropped the line of inquiry.”
  128. “Strange. I’d imagine he would have been able to come up with a counter-argument on the spot but.... Oh well, he’ll probably come up with something.”
  129. >“I think if you give Anonymous a bit of time, he’ll come around. We’ve never been incapable of showing anyone that friendship is worth far more than lonesomeness, and I’m sure Anonymous will come to see that as well. Now, are you sure you don’t have time for a little tea cake?”
  130. “Oh, alright, I can’t resist. But this had better be quick. I really wanted to get around to organizing the east stacks today, and to stay on schedule I really need to get home.”
  131. >“Garçon?” Rarity calls to the waiter, giggling a bit. “Two more cups of tea and two tea cakes.”
  133. >You sit in a comfortable chair, reading a heavy textbook on elementary magical studies, as you have for the past 18 hours.
  134. >Silence fills the library and your mind, Twilight being out with some friend doing something you couldn’t care less about.
  135. >A stack of papers, covered in what appear at first glance to be inane black scribblings, sits on a nearby table, along with a pencil, the soft graphite ground down to a flat nib, as you hadn’t a chance to sharpen it.
  136. >There are many things vexing you, most of which you had written down.
  137. >First, that ponies had mostly been exploring what they could do with magic, as opposed to what it was.
  138. >Then again, the catalogue of feats capable by “magic” seemed near limitless, so arguably that was not without good reason.
  139. >Discovering some new spell to increase crop growth or automate manufacturing could often be more useful than figuring out the actual source of that spell, at least in the proximate sense.
  140. >However, despite Equestria’s vast knowledge of “magic,” they lack any knowledge of physics from beyond around 1890 or any technology from beyond around 1920.
  141. >That presented many limitations, including that calculations would mostly have to be done by hand.
  142. >Although, you also suppose you could work out a way to use your hazard suit’s internal computers to handle some of the heavier calculations, if necessary, and perhaps construct a crude charging device to refill its batteries.
  143. >Until then, time to learn to use a slide-rule, you muse with a wry chuckle, only to be interrupted by a loud, percussive knock on the door.
  144. >You assume Twilight’s dragon servant, whose name you can’t be bothered to remember right now, will get it, and your hypothesis proves correct by softly audible pattering of stubby legs on the wooden floor and the creak of the heavy oak door opening.
  145. >A conversation beginning on the threshold between the servant’s high-pitched, prepubescent male tones and another voice, colored in the brash twang of banjo-playing, cotton-picking, country-seceding, moonshine-running, and sibling-loving, slowly increases in volume as it moves toward you.
  146. >You manage to pick out a few phrases: a pair of greetings, the guest asking if Twilight was home and if she could help with some problem, Spike answering in the negative but stating that you were present and that you might be able to help.
  147. >“Well, you can ask him, but I don’t know if he’ll be very keen,” you distinctly catch Spike says as the two finish their approach.
  148. >“Heya, Anonymous,” the other voice says.
  149. >You peer your narrowed eyes over the edge of your book like a cave dwelling creature emerging into the outside world.
  150. >An orange horse with a blonde mane and a Stetson hat stands in front of you.
  151. “Oh. Hello -”
  152. >What has her name again?
  153. >She has what looks like three red apples on her upper thigh, so it must be something to do with apples.
  154. >Didn’t Twilight have a friend that was named like a brand of cereal or -
  155. “- Applejack.”
  156. >You return to your reading.
  157. >“Ahem. Anonymous, I wanted to know if you could help me with somethin’,” Applejack says.
  158. >Again, your eyes are forced to sneak above the pages.
  159. “What?”
  160. >“Well, it’s like I said a couple ‘a days ago. We’ve been have a pinch ‘a trouble with our threshin’ machine, and I was wonderin’ if you might be able to -”
  161. “No. As I said a few days ago, my expertise is in theoretical physics, not mechanical engineering. There wouldn’t be anything I could do for you.”
  162. >“Are ya sure? I mean, couldn’t ya at least just take a look at it or -”
  163. “No.”
  164. >Rubbing her hat against the back of her head, Applejack says, “I guess that was what I expected and all. I mean, if you really don’t think you could help, then I guess there’s no use tryin’ to convince you. Just gonna have to wait for Twilight to get back I guess....”
  165. “Right.”
  166. >Applejack begins to walk away.
  167. >Turning a page of your book, you realize something.
  168. “Although, I suppose there is something else that I... nevermind, it’s not important.”
  169. >“You can’t just leave it at that. What is it?”
  170. “Twilight has been bothering me about trying to be more friendly with people, and I’ve been trying to make an inquiry into what are supposedly the six primary ‘elements of friendship’ of sorts in this universe. They seem to have some sort of metaphysical significance. As such... you are the ‘Element of Honesty,’ are you not?”
  171. >“Yeah. What about it?”
  172. >Rising from your chair, you pace towards one of the windows.
  173. “You see, I’ve done a bit of thought on the subject of honesty, and I haven’t come to a very satisfying conclusion for this next question. Why do you suppose that we value honesty, particularly in our relationships with other people? It seems to me that friendships are primarily based on, to put it bluntly, lying,” you say.
  174. >“Why do you think that?” Applejack says, cocking an eyebrow.
  175. “Oh, come now, surely you must understand this. We are forced to tell lies all the time to protect our friends feelings. We are pleasant and polite to people whom we have no particular liking to. We reserve our true feelings about unpleasant subjects so as not to upset people. There are long lists of “polite” behaviors that consist of being deceptive with our friends and not saying what we truly think.”
  176. >Briefly looking towards the door, Applejack adjusts her hat slightly.
  177. “It seems to me that we value deceit as much as honesty in our relationships with others. In fact, it doesn’t seem possible that we cannot be absolutely honest to anyone. For example, if a brutal axe murderer were to show up on your doorstep one day, asking where your friend was so that he could kill him, would you tell him?”
  178. >“No, of course not,” Applejack says.
  179. >You smile.
  180. “And that would be lying. So, I think it is clear that honesty is not the absolute virtue that we so think it is. There are situations in which lying is more virtuous.”
  181. >“Now, you just.... You just take a minute here and think about what you’re saying. Being honest with your friends is completely different than being honest with a murderer.”
  182. “How so?”
  183. >Applejack scratches her mane under her hat.
  184. >“Look, I ain’t some rationalizing natural philosopher like you. I can’t come up with the most perfect argument that will just blow you away. But you’ve got this just twisted up view of how friendships work. Friends who have to always lie to each other... well, they just ain’t really friends.”
  185. >Your eyes narrow.
  186. >“Your friends are supposed to be the people who can be most honest to ya. You gotta have... uh... beings who can help you evaluate your own life, ponies or people or whatever that can help you realize who you are and if your life is good or bad or otherwise. They’re like a mirror on yourself. Your friends should be the people who can be most honest to you. Yeah, sure, it’s not absolute. Sometimes we have to say things that aren’t true to protect people. But, when it all comes down to it, when worst comes to worst, your friends should be the ones who’ll be honest with ya when others won’t.”
  187. >Frowning, you pour over the response, the farm pony’s words echoing around your brain, until another interruption emerges.
  188. “Oh, good, you’re back.”
  189. >“Hello, Anonymous,” Twilight says. “And hello to you, Applejack. Did I interrupt something between you two?”
  190. “Not at all,” you say. “Applejack and I were just having a brief inquiry into the nature of honesty. She seems to have made a good point for now, though I think I will be able to come up with a counterpoint at some point soon.”
  191. >“Similar to what happened with Rarity yesterday? Except with generosity, of course,” Twilight says.
  192. “How did you - oh, so that’s who you were having lunch with,” you say.
  193. >“We’re going to talk about that later, by the way,” Twilight says, a bit more firmly.
  194. “Very well,” you say with a short grimace.
  195. >“And what about you, Applejack? Why did you need to seek out Anonymous?” Twilight asks.
  196. >“Well, I wasn’t really lookin’ for him. I was actually lookin’ for you, but you weren’t here and all, so I decided to ask Anonymous here if he’d help with that broken thresher I told you about. There’s a problem with the magical generator, and I thought you might be able to help with that.”
  197. >You ears perk up at the mention of the words “magical generator.”
  198. >Now, that is something you’d very much like to see, you think to yourself.
  199. >Perhaps it will help you better understand magic’s relation with the electromagnetic force.
  200. >Yes, this is an excellent idea.
  201. >“Anonymous says he can’t really help with that, but I bet you can.”
  202. >“Sure, I’ll take a look at it if I get some time,” Twilight says. “I’m really booked up today - I’ve got to organize the east stacks and sort out some new arrivals sent that Celestia sent me from her personal library - but I think I could get over there in a couple days.”
  203. >“Alrighty then. Shouldn’t be too much trouble.”
  204. “I would like to take a look at this ‘magical generator,’” you say. “There may actually be something I could do, plus I’d like to study how it works. I couldn’t do it today, as well, because I am... a bit too caught up in this research.”
  205. >“Okay,” Applejack says. “Guess it can’t hurt to have two hands to help. See you guys then.”
  206. >Applejack trots out the door, and Twilight abruptly slams it shut and glares a hole six feet deep into you.
  207. >“What exactly have you been doing with my friends?” she asks.
  208. “Is it not appropriate to have philosophical discussion with someone?”
  209. >“Not when you first meet them!”
  210. “Oh, please. Why waste time with empty platitudes when there is a far more interesting discussion to be had?”
  211. >“Because - because it’s just not polite conversation to just ask someone what they believe about some philosophical topic, especially when you first meet them.”
  212. “Well, I don’t care about that. There are far more important matters at hand. Your friends are literally the Platonic ideals of the ‘elements’ of friendship, or harmony, or whatever you want to call it, and I want to make an inquiry into that. Or are they not?”
  213. >“Well, I don’t know what a Platonic ideal is.”
  214. “Plato was an ancient philosopher who believed that there were absolute forms or ideals of things such as good or justice, a sort of metaphysical object or definition that everyone would agree was the absolute essence of the thing it represented. At least, that was how I always took it,” you explain.
  215. >“Okay.... And, you think my friends are these forms made manifest?”
  216. “Perhaps. That is a fairly close approximation to what I interpret these ‘Elements of Harmony’ to be. It would at least seem to me that your friends should have some deeper insight into their element.”
  217. >“Okay, that might be true, but even so, do you really think that it’s okay to just go around asking people about their deepest philosophical beliefs?”
  218. “I was just curious.”
  219. >“You can’t just go around trying to get people into philosophical debates with you all the time. What, would you invite a bunch of people over to your house and then try and get them to determine the nature of justice with you?”
  220. >You stifle a chuckle.
  221. >“This isn’t funny!”
  222. “I think you patently fail to see the humor in this situation, and probably couldn’t. Regardless, as I have told you before, I really don’t care about this whole ‘trying to be friendly’ thing. I have inquiries to make into the metaphysical and physical nature of your universe. I would rather make progress on those than relationships with others that I don’t care about.”
  223. >Turning the next page of your book, you attempt to return to research, before Twilight levitates the text out of your hands and tosses it aside.
  224. “I was reading that,” you say flatly.
  225. >“I thought we were having a discussion.”
  226. “I thought the topic was closed. Don’t you have stacks to organize? And a problem set to complete for me, so that we may continue our research?”
  227. >“Our research? All you’ve done is sit here and read! This test is just to make sure that I even remotely understand some things which you’ve told me humans discovered over 150 years ago. Why do you even need me for your research? Why should I even help you, considering that you’ve been so callous towards my friends? And when are we actually going to get to serious experimentation?”
  228. “To answer the first question, I was attempting to make an overture as part of your desire that I try to be friendlier with people, but I guess that has utterly failed.”
  229. >“As have all your other ‘attempts,’ if we can even call them that.”
  230. >Blank silence fills the room.
  231. “As for the second, what if I told you that my inquiries into your friends’ elements has been to answer some of my own objections about friendship?”
  232. >“What do you mean?”
  233. “It’s like you’ve said before. I’ve seen the supposed benefits of friendship, and determined them philosophically unsound. I think that all relationships ultimately are based on mutual exchange. I think that all relationships ultimately involve lying to the other person more than they involve being honest with each other. At least, those were in particular the objections I made to Applejack and Rarity’s elements. And yet, they were able to present counterarguments to my own. Decent counter-arguments,” you say, rubbing a hand against your cheek.
  234. “I’ll come up with a counter myself, eventually, of course. There’s plenty of time for that, but, even so... things to consider in formulating a stronger position for myself.”
  235. >“And what if you can’t?” Twilight asks.
  236. “I can. There is no puzzle my mind cannot solve satisfactorily, given enough time. Now, as for the third -”
  237. >You get up from your chair.
  238. >If she really is going to be so insistent about this, you may as well humor her desire.
  239. >You do have an experiment that you could perform right now, though you had hoped to delay it so that you could maybe find if the result had already been proven.
  240. >However, you suppose that you could simply prove it yourself.
  241. >Furthermore, you might be able to show Twilight just how unprepared she is for actual experimental work.
  242. “You want real experimentation? Fine. We can begin right now.”
  243. >You head towards the basement.
  244. >“But I thought you had research -” Twilight says.
  245. “Enough research. The best answers are found by experiment. So, we shall experiment. Now, come. I thought this was what you wanted?”
  246. >Soon enough, chalk scrawls across a blackboard, an equation written behind it, an unwilling master teaching a new student.
  247. “Classical physics lacks two key features of the universe,” you explain.
  248. “The first... shall be dealt with at a later occasion, but, the second is quantization. At the fundamental level, energy and other properties exist in distinct numerical steps, as opposed to a continuum, as predicted by classical theory.”
  249. >You pause for a moment while Twilight takes notes.
  250. “We will prove this property now,” you say, walking over to your hazard suit and fiddling with something for a moment.
  251. “This would normally be the time where you would ask questions, I think.”
  252. >You begin writing a few more necessary equations on the board.
  253. >A quill faintly scratches on parchment.
  254. “Nothing, then? Good.”
  255. >“Uh, Anonymous? Could you maybe just -” Twilight begins, before you cut her off.
  256. “Oh, good. I was afraid for a second that you had gone mute.”
  257. >“But -”
  258. “Today, we will be testing the photoelectric effect. This is the observation that metals produce electric current when struck with light rays. We will be testing to see if this effect occurs with magically-generated photons.”
  259. >“And what will that prove?”
  260. “That magic is quantizable. If magic can produce some quantizable field - which, essentially, is what a photon is - then, presumably, the generative field behind the photons is, in turn, quantizable.”
  261. >You rub your chin.
  262. “Of course, we may run into some problems with the magical energy effect, but I think these will be surmountable. It may change some of the thresholds, but we are testing to see if the threshold even exists, not where it is.”
  263. >Twilight scribbles down a few more notes, then asks, “So, what is a photon? And could you perhaps -”
  264. “A photon is a quantized unit of electromagnetism. It is, in some sense, a ‘particle’ of light, though that is not quite an accurate definition. The precise explanation is that it is the force carrier particle - a gauge boson - of the electromagnetic force, which light is an expression of. Now, observe.”
  265. >You point to an equation on the chalkboard.
  266. “If light hits an electrically charged plate, we should observe the following. First, there is a certain frequency below which no photoelectrons are produced. Second, there exists a stopping potential, that is to say, a negative voltage below which no photoelectrons are produced. And, third, there appears to be no time delay between the absorption of a photon, and the emission of an electron. Understood?”
  267. >Twilight merely nods.
  268. “Good. You seem to understanding this all better than I thought. These properties are reflected by the equations laid out here.”
  269. >You point to a diagram on the board.
  270. “Now, as for the apparatus - this is where I will begin to require your assistance. We require one metal plate on one side of an evacuated container and a separate metal plate with a small hole in it through which to shine light. Then, we connect the plates to a circuit containing a voltage source, an ammeter, and a variable resistor. By charging the solid plate with the source, we can use the light to knock off electrons - this is the photoelectric effect. The electrons will be attracted to the other plate because of the voltage difference, and we will then measure the intensity via the ammeter. Understood?”
  271. >Again, Twilight merely nods, but, before you can get in another word, says, “Could you maybe slow down a bit? And I have a few more -”
  272. “No. There’s no time for that. We have much experimentation to do and there is very little time to do it. We can deal with further explanations later.”
  273. >Twilight sighs; you walk over to your workbench and set up the pair of former vacuum tubes you’ve fused to together to form your chamber.
  274. >As per the experimental design, a grey metal plate sits in the middle of the chamber, which you have connected with some red and black wires to an exterior volt- and ammeter.
  275. >Everything is prepared, except for the vacuum.
  276. “Presumably, you have some spell to rid this vessel of air, do you not?”
  277. >“Yes. I could think of something for that....”
  278. >Twilight’s horn glows purple around the cylinder.
  279. “Do be careful, though. There’s no telling what kind of residual effects that there may be. Try to minimize the duration of the phenomenon. If you can’t guarantee that, then we may have to find a more... troublesome means of evacuating the chamber,” you say.
  280. >“I’ve never seen the spell I’m casting have affect anything after I’ve finished casting it. I don’t think we have anything to worry about,” Twilight says.
  281. “I’m just taking precautions.”
  282. >Twilight ends the spell, saying, “There. The chamber should be evacuated now.”
  283. “Good. Then we can begin testing. We’ll start at one volt and continue at the most precise increment we can manage until I max out the power source....”
  284. >Data collection proceeds smoothly and efficiently for the experiment, as it should.
  285. >You have learned through years of experimentation that careful data collection always leads to good experimental results, and a rough calculation off of the first few dozen data points clearly indicates the notable properties of the photoelectric effect, such as the presence of a cutoff at low voltages - no current produced by the knocked off electrons.
  286. >Twilight yawns.
  287. >“How many more points?” she asks.
  288. “Not much more. Patience. You asked to do science with me, and this is what we must do.”
  289. >Eventually, you reach the maximum of your power source.
  290. “Now, the truly interesting part begins,” you state. “We shall analyze the data we have recorded and determine whether magical power can replicate the same effects as pure electricity. Unfortunately, considering that I lack modern computing power, we will have to do the analysis... by hand.”
  291. >“And how long do you expect that to take?” Twilight says, again yawning.
  292. “Between the two of us, perhaps... three to five hours? That’s a rough estimate, of course.”
  293. >Out of curiosity, you check your watch.
  294. >It reads 6:34 PM.
  295. >“It’s getting late,” Twilight says.
  296. “And?”
  297. >“So, maybe we should wait until morning?”
  298. “And why should we do that? We’re here now. Any further delay will only lead to complications.”
  299. >“Yes, that’s true. I’ve already re-scheduled some things I wanted to do today to tomorrow for the sake of this experiment. But, wouldn’t you prefer to work on this with a fresh mind? Continuing until late into the night does not sound like a way to do this well.”
  300. >You frown, but relent.
  301. “You’re right. We’ll finish this tomorrow. Perhaps I can find some way to automate the process somewhat in the meantime.”
  302. >Walking over to your hazard suit, you pull a screwdriver from your pocket, shove the helmet on your head, and begin fiddling with the computer system.
  304. >“Finished,” Twilight says.
  305. “Finished?”
  306. >From your comfortable leather armchair, you sit up.
  307. >You had decided to take a break from your fiddling to do more research.
  308. >If you could find a spell for automating mathematical tasks, then perhaps Twilight could perform it to analyze the data.
  309. >It would be better than taking apart your hazard suit, and even that you weren’t sure would work effectively.
  310. >Twilight lifts her quill from the paper and telekinetically passes the page to you.
  311. >You take the limp sheet of paper from her.
  312. “I believed that one of the problems would stump you entirely, and that we would simply begin from there, but I guess I was wrong on that front.”
  313. >You take a brief glance at the page, getting an overview of Twilight’s impeccably neat handwriting and checking the solutions to make sure they’re accurate.
  314. >Then, you get to the final problem.
  315. “How did you figure out the last problem?”
  316. >“What?”
  317. “You weren’t supposed to be able to solve the last problem. At least, not correctly.”
  318. >“Why would you give me a problem that I wouldn’t have been able to solve?”
  319. “Your physics still rely on what is known to me as Galilean relativity. That is to say, there is no absolute frame of reference for a state of rest. This comes into problems when you include the fact that light moves at a constant speed, regardless of reference frame, and acts as a speed maximum for all objects in the universe. Your solutions would have been completely incorrect, but, you seem to have figured out this property so as to solve the final problem. How?” you ask.
  320. >“That... doesn’t really answer my question. But to answer yours... I guessed. Based on the fact that there’s been no verifiable proof of the existence of luminous aether or anything else that could act as a preferred reference frame for light, and that the speed of light seems to be constant in all directions. Both those have been proved rather recently, and they both contradict with your ‘Galilean relativity,’ as you put it,” Twilight answers.
  321. “That’s a very good guess,” you state. “I hadn’t found any evidence in your books that Equestrian scientists were even considering such ideas.”
  322. >“Yes, well the research into the luminous aether is rather recent. It’s a development from resulting properties of -”
  323. “The Maxwellian equations of electromagnetism. Or, I guess, their counterpart here. I know,” you say.
  324. >“I mean, it is a theoretical solution that solves the problem you gave me. I have no empirical evidence to back it up,” Twilight says.
  325. >Getting up from your chair to pace around the room, you say:
  326. “I assure you that with some brief experimentation - not even to the extent that we had experimented with the photoelectric effect today - we could prove that the speed of light is constant in all reference frames. The rest follows from some brief thought experiments about what one would observe were one to move at the speed of light.”
  327. >You turn back to Twilight.
  328. “Tell me. What would you observe?”
  329. >“I don’t know.”
  330. “Yes, you do. Think about it. If not soon, then in the morning.”
  331. >Returning to your chair, you flip open your book again, as Twilight begins to attempt to dig a rut into the ground of the library as she takes up the pacing.
  332. >About an hour later, the hoofsteps stop.
  333. >“If you were to travel at the speed of light, and the speed of light is constant in all reference frames,” Twilight says, “Wouldn’t it look like time has stopped?”
  334. “Not just ‘look like.’ Time would stop. As you approach the speed of light, time slows down, and eventually stops.”
  335. >You smile.
  336. “This very fact was discovered by one of the greatest physicists of my homeworld, and, now, so have you.”
  337. >“What are you trying to say?” Twilight asks.
  338. >You lean back in your chair.
  339. “Nothing in particular. Just that you have... exceeded my expectations.”
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