Mad Science: Chapter 3

Nov 27th, 2015 (edited)
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  1. Mad Science
  2. By IceMan
  4. Chapter 3: Thermodynamic Potentials
  6. >Two things are absolute: human stupidity and the laws of thermodynamics.
  7. >At least, the former was true in your home universe, and, for a while, you had assumed the latter to be true as well.
  8. >That was what you thought, until 15 minutes ago.
  9. “It just doesn’t make any sense,” you mutter.
  10. >First, you had calculated a predicted angular velocity, an estimate for how fast the magnet was spinning, based on the measured voltage from the magical battery.
  11. >Then, you compared the actual measured angular velocity to your predicted value, taking down a few values to get an average.
  12. >A simple test.
  13. >Except your measured values were significantly higher than predicted.
  14. >So you ran the test again.
  15. >The values, once again, came significantly higher.
  16. >You check everything: the voltage of the battery, the resistance of the wire, the friction on the magnet’s axle, air resistance, whatever.
  17. >Everything is not high enough to cause a significant change.
  18. >So, you try a different approach.
  19. >There are several constants of proportionality that determine, for example, how far a magnetic field can permeate.
  20. >Starting from the predicted value for the magnetic constant, you work backwards and derive it from a measured voltage produced by the spinning magnet.
  21. >Within a reasonable margin of error, to account for air resistance, electrical resistance, and friction, it equals the predicted value from your universe which you have memorized, being one of the essential constants for doing physics.
  22. >Not particularly surprising, considering the magnet-using electronics of your suit didn’t seem stronger, weaker, or malfunction.
  23. >So, you can confirm that the extra energy is definitely coming from the magical battery.
  24. >But how?
  25. >If magic is a form of energy (which you presume it is), then how could it violate the first law of thermodynamics, especially considering that simple mechanical energy does not?
  26. >Where is the extra energy coming from?
  27. >You need more information, but, unfortunately, the only way to get is from... her.
  28. >Sighing, you get up from the workbench and head upstairs.
  29. >Twilight is organizing books, levitating them here and there, flipping open the covers and looking at the black ink stamps inside for various bits of information for where they’re supposed to go.
  30. >She takes a look at you and says, “You’re up early.”
  31. “I had work to do,” you reply. “But my work has only led to further questions.”
  32. >“Isn’t that what good experiments do?” Twilight asks as she places a red hardcover into a slot between a black leather-bound tome and a blue paperback.
  33. “Yes, but they are not questions I can answer by experimentation. I would not know where to begin. I need more information about this... magic.”
  34. >“Okay,” Twilight says, turning around. “What do you need to know?”
  35. “Why is the energy produced by a ‘magical battery,’ proportionally, far greater than a rough equivalent, such as a mechanically-powered electrical generator, and greater than the supposed ‘voltage’ of said battery would theoretically provide?”
  36. >“Oh, you’re talking about one of the effects of Starswirl’s Grand Law of Magic,” Twilight states matter-of-factly.
  37. “Explain.”
  38. >“Hang on.”
  39. >Twilight walks upstairs, comes back with a wooden chessboard.
  40. >Following her into the kitchen, she sets the board on the table and begins setting out the dark brown and light tan pieces in their proper positions on the two sides of grid.
  41. “What’s this?” you ask. “Chess?”
  42. >“Yes, chess. You want information from me, and I want some friendly companionship from you. So, I’ll make you a deal. We can converse about magic over a game of chess.”
  43. “Why not just converse over this without a game in the way? Then we could focus on the matter at hand instead of having to multitask.”
  44. >“Because it would be fun? Don’t you have time for fun in your life, Anonymous?”
  45. “My experiments are fun.”
  46. >“C’mon, play a game. It won’t kill you.”
  47. >You frown, but relent.
  48. >You have always liked chess.
  49. >Plus, considering that Twilight wants you to be cooperative....
  50. >Deals need to be struck, exchanges to be made.
  51. “Fine.”
  52. >You take a seat at the table, Twilight following suit on the other side.
  53. >“Black or white?” she asks.
  54. “Black,” you reply, choosing the side you’re already on.
  55. >As such, Twilight takes the first move, moving the pawn in front of her queen two spaces forward.
  56. >You do the same.
  57. “Alright,” you say. “Explain this ‘Grand Law of Magic.’”
  58. >“It’s quite simple, actually. The amount of energy produced by any magical spell, or a battery, or whatever, is approximately the square of the amount of energy put into that thing.”
  59. “Approximately?”
  60. >“As with all things magical, it’s not perfect. There are some cases where they extra energy could be as much as the energy put in cubed, or to the fourth power.”
  61. “But where does the extra energy come from? If it comes from nowhere, the void, or whatever, that’s in violation of energy conservation, is it not? And, if energy weren’t conserved, I would mostly likely be dead right now.”
  62. >“We don’t know the answer to that. It’s never been fully figured out. There have been a few experiments, but all of them have failed to produce any conclusive results.”
  63. “What were the experiments?”
  64. >“Mostly looking at ways that magic could absorb energy from the ambient environment. So, a casting a spell could cause a temperature decrease, for example. But there was no significant decrease in temperature observed. And, this seemed to contradict the fact that you can use magic to heat objects up.”
  65. “And I probably would have felt a temperature change like that. The wires would have been colder instead of hotter.”
  66. >“Exactly. Another was to look for magic causing chemical reactions within materials, but this obviously doesn’t make sense, because then the objects you cast spells on would be altered chemically by the spell. Or they would have to reform once the spell was complete, which would produce either a net zero or a negative energy change. So, yeah. Inconclusive.”
  67. “Great. Another mystery to solve.”
  68. >You move your rook to trap Twilight’s bishop
  69. >She can’t maneuver it out of the way without your knight taking it instead, and so it falls.
  70. >In return, you lose one of your pawns by Twilight’s knight, only to take it with your bishop.
  71. “How can such a relationship exist at all?” you realize. “You said that magic was more of a skill. And, presumably, that means as you use it more often, it becomes easier to use it. So, is it using less energy to do the same amount of work?”
  72. >“Well, no. It’s more like strength training. The more you use a muscle, the stronger it gets. But that doesn’t mean that it takes less energy to lift the same amount of weight that you did previously. It means that you just have more energy at your disposal, and so lifting that amount of weight uses less of it.”
  73. “I understand. Does this also mean that certain people - er, ponies - have more magic at their disposal? Just as certain people are predisposed to develop muscle mass more easily?”
  74. >“Well, yes. The Princesses of the Sun and Moon and other magical beings, like Discord, the Lord of Chaos, have a great affinity for using magic. As well as, to be a bit immodest, myself.”
  75. >You think for a moment, considering both this information and your next move in the game.
  76. >Many of the pieces have been eliminated on both sides, but everything is still going according to plan.
  77. “How much power do the princesses have?” you ask. “And this Discord character? How much power does he have?”
  78. >“I don’t think it’s exactly quantifiable -”
  79. “Like most things with magic.”
  80. >“Yes. But, as far as I know, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna can tap into a far larger reservoir of magic than any unicorn can. They have enough power to rotate the planet-”
  81. “This planet has no rotation on its own? So that means that the asteroids, gas, dust, whatever, had net zero angular momentum when they coalesced to form it. Not impossible, but very unlikely. Or there was a catastrophic impact event that resulted in the same thing, net zero rotation. Once again, not impossible, but also unlikely.”
  82. >Twilight nods.
  83. >“Those are both the most popular theories. Although we haven’t found any significant impact craters, so the first theory is generally preferred.”
  84. “Hm. You also mentioned these princesses have the power to rotate the planet.”
  85. >“Yes. Alicorns have significantly more magical potential than any unicorn, but there are other magical beings and artifacts with similar powers. Nightmare Moon, Luna’s evil alter-ego, could stop the rotation entirely, leading to eternal darkness, Discord can completely change the nature of reality, and then there’s the power of the Elements of Harmony.”
  86. >You blink.
  87. “I’m going to hold off on some other questions for now. Obviously, the fact that your planet is rotated by two magical princesses is a bit of a curiosity, and there’s more I’d like to know about that, in due time. And the fact that a being that is the embodiment of ‘chaos’ exists in this world is also a curiosity. But I will hold off on that to remain on topic. What are the ‘Elements of Harmony?’
  88. >“Not what, but who,” Twilight says, moving her bishop to counter your knight.
  89. >Unfortunately, that just allows you to take it with your queen with no risk to your pieces.
  90. >“My friends, the ones you met yesterday. We are the Elements of Harmony. Applejack is Honesty, Fluttershy is Kindness, Rainbow Dash is Loyalty, Pinkie Pie is Laughter, Rarity is Generosity, and I am the Element of Magic. When the six of us are together, the magic of friendship flows through our elements and allows us to defeat evil.”
  91. >You think for a moment, plotting the final moves of the game and your next question.
  92. “I’m going to delay asking more about these ‘Elements of Harmony.’ There’s more I could ask about them, but I think that prompts its own discussion. But, what you’re telling me is that you’ve faced an evil version of one of these princesses, and some sort of Lord of Chaos, and they didn’t try to, you know, just separate or kill one of the Elements of Harmony so that they couldn’t be used against them?”
  93. >“Well, Discord sort of did that. He took away our connection to our elements and -”
  94. “Check. If he has the power to completely change a being’s personality, interfere with these incredibly powerful magical artifacts, and alter the nature of reality itself, then why couldn’t he just, I don’t know, trap one of you within the core of the sun while keeping you alive, under the threat that, if you tried to do anything against him, he’d kill that person - er, pony? Or just make you all forget that the Elements existed at all? Just do anything to keep the Elements separate but make it impossible for you to use them against him without dire consequences. And, if Princess Luna’s evil form is comparable in power, why didn’t she do something similar?”
  95. >Twilight moves her king out of the line of sight of your bishop.
  96. >“Maybe they were blinded by their own power.”
  97. “Check again. Possibly. All it simply means is Discord and Nightmare Moon are A. not as powerful as we think, so they couldn’t do those things or B. not as smart as we think, so they didn’t think to use their powers that way. Most likely the latter.”
  98. >Again, Twilight is forced to move her king, this time from threat of your queen.
  99. >“You really think that the Nightmare Moon and Discord were... dumb?”
  100. “Well, that’s putting it rather bluntly, but if you have ultimate power at your fingertips but cannot figure out creative ways to use that power, then, yes. You are by definition an idiot. By the way, checkmate.”
  101. >Twilight examines the board.
  102. >Your rook, bishop, and queen have trapped her king in one corner of the board, preventing it from maneuvering.
  103. “Of course, there is another possibility,” you say.
  104. >“What’s that?” Twilight asks.
  105. “It’s incredibly unlikely, but it must also be considered. Your enemies were both intelligent and powerful, but you were simply... allowed to win. Or, at least, conditions were made such that a situation in which it would be impossible for you to win would not be possible.”
  106. >“Maybe with Discord,” Twilight says. “Nobody really knows what his motives are. He seems to just consider the world and all the people in it to be his plaything. Or, well, that was how he acted before we convinced him otherwise. But what about Nightmare Moon? She seemed completely evil to me, and completely convinced of the rightness of her cause. Why would she let us win?”
  107. “I don’t know. I don’t know enough about your previous adventures or the characters in them to deduce which of my hypotheses is absolutely correct, though I am of course predisposed to believe that people who want eternal darkness and absolute chaos are misguided idiots. Why you were successful is ultimately irrelevant to my current task at hand. Something for you to wonder about, not me. I have bigger problems.”
  108. >“Such as?”
  109. “Such as figuring out why you let me win in this game of chess.”
  110. >Twilight frowns.
  111. >“What? I didn’t -”
  112. “Oh, come now, don’t give me that look. You played incredibly sloppily. No one gives up their rook to take a knight, or their queen for a bishop. I refuse to accept that you are that incompetent.”
  113. >“Was that a compliment?”
  114. “Take it whatever way you like. The point is, I refuse to accept that victory.”
  115. >“But you won. Don’t you want to -”
  116. “No. I can’t know why you did it, but the fact that you did raises complications. Possibly, you were planning on revealing the deception to me later, so that I would do some other thing with or for you. Or perhaps you wanted me to underestimate you, so that you could later beat me. It doesn’t really matter. The point is, I want a fair game. I don’t take well to being deceived.”
  117. >You reset the board, placing the pieces in their proper spots.
  118. “I’ll be white this time.”
  119. >“Anonymous, I swear, I didn’t let you win, I was playing as best as I could. I’m really not that good at chess. I’m not devious enough-”
  120. “You’re really not fooling anyone with that. Come now. Plus... nevermind, it’s irrelevant.”
  121. >You move the pawn in front of your bishop forward two spaces.
  122. “Your move.”
  123. >Twilight gets up and paces for a moment, then sits back down.
  124. >“Urgh, fine! If you’re going to be this stubborn, then I guess I won’t need to go easy on you just to be friendly.”
  125. “So you admit you did let me win.”
  126. >“I wasn’t trying to manipulate you! I just didn’t want you to lose the first time I played against you. It didn’t seem right.”
  127. >Twilight moves the pawn in front of her king forward two spaces.
  128. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why didn’t you give it your best? I did.”
  129. >“Because I thought, well, maybe you come from a universe where chess doesn’t exist, or chess is played differently, or who knows! I couldn’t expect you to immediately be good at a game you might have never played before.”
  130. “Your concern for my feelings was unfounded. I clearly recognized the game, and you didn’t make any comment on me breaking any rules. So, obviously, we play the same game in both of our universes. And, I can take losing a simple game, when I know that both parties have played fairly.”
  131. >You advance your knight over your line of pawns.
  132. “I see a way how that we can make this fair. I asked you questions. Now you can ask me.”
  133. >“I thought we were trading questions for a game of chess?”
  134. “Isn’t that what we’re doing now?”
  135. >“But you didn’t accept the last game, so this game makes up for it.”
  136. “Forget the deal. Just keep playing. What do you want to know?”
  137. >Twilight moves another pawn, this time in front of her rook, forward two spaces.
  138. >You advance another pawn to counter it.
  139. “What, you meet a being from an alternate universe and you have nothing to ask? What do you want to know?”
  140. >“I’m thinking. C’mon, be a little patient,” Twilight says. “Alright. Why are you a scientist?”
  141. “Because I want to advance human knowledge and technological prowess. That is what scientists do. Do you not have scientists here? I thought you said you were one.”
  142. >“I think I remember my response being ‘of sorts.’ ‘Scientist’ tends to be a bit of an odd profession here. Most prefer to be called natural philosophers, or alchemists, or magical scholars. I guess those are kind of like scientists. I’m more of the last one: a magical scholar.”
  143. “Presumably, those professions contain aspects of things I would consider to be pseudoscience in my universe. Alchemy and magic, certainly. Although, I guess those are more serious topics of study in this one.”
  144. >Twilight nods.
  145. “What you would call alchemy would most likely fit into what I call chemistry,” you explain. “And the study of magic may fit into what I study, namely, physics. But how much overlap there actually is between these fields remains to be seen.”
  146. >“Possibly more than you think.”
  147. “Possibly. The bigger question is not what it is being studied, but how. Science relies on making empirical predictions and testable hypotheses capable of disproving a claim about the natural world.”
  148. >“Disproving? Not proving?”
  149. “If you want to get technical, you can never fully prove an inductive argument, because any evidence counter to your claim disproves it. All scientific claims are inductive arguments. If we find that our models of reality do not match up to what reality is, then we would have to revise them.”
  150. >Twilight manages to trap your bishop between a rook and knight, forcing you to sacrifice it.
  151. >“I hope this doesn’t sound too similar to the last question, but what does it mean to be a scientist? What do scientists do in your universe?”
  152. “Research. Experimentation. Modeling. Theorizing. That’s mostly what I do, anyways. I work for an institute specializing in theoretical and experimental physics.”
  153. >“Do scientists typically work alone or in teams?”
  154. “Usually in teams. There are some who say the idea of the lone genius working in the lab, solving problems by himself, is dead. The problems in physics these days are, supposedly, too large for any one person to solve. There’s usually a Principal Investigator - a PI - who leads the project, plus a few other professors and researchers, a few post-doctoral students, a dozen or so graduate students, and a larger number of undergraduates. How is it here?”
  155. >“Typically alone.”
  156. >In return, you take a knight and put her in check, only for her to slip out and take one of your pawns with her bishop.
  157. >Except the pawn was bait, and your rook springs the trap.
  158. >“How did you manage to work with a team, considering your... interpersonal skills?”
  159. “I managed.”
  160. >Twilight moves her queen to take the rook, while you set up your remaining bishop to eliminate her knight.
  161. >“That’s not much of an answer.”
  162. “I mostly had the other researchers and graduates deal with the students. As PI, it wasn’t my job. I had bigger problems to deal with. I was overseer for the entire experiment.”
  163. >Both sides trade pieces and maneuver around one another until you are left solely with two pawns, a knight, a rook, and your queen.
  164. >Twilight still has a pawn, a bishop, and both rooks.
  165. >“But you weren’t always a PI, were you?”
  166. “No.”
  167. >“So what did you do then?”
  168. “I worked with students. I did the best I could. But the directors quickly realized my talents were wasted as a researcher and promoted me to a higher position.”
  169. >“Were you any good at it?”
  170. >Twilight’s queen is forced into an unfavorable position between your knight, bishop, rook, and a pawn, took the rook, but is captured by the bishop.
  171. “No.”
  172. >One of your pawns is three squares from the other end of the board, and you are planning on promoting it to a queen.
  173. >Twilight’s king is protected by her twin rooks and pawn.
  174. >If you move a piece into check, it will probably simply get captured in return.
  175. >“And why do you think that was?”
  176. “Why do you think?”
  177. >With your remaining pieces in fairly safe positions, you advance the pawn forward.
  178. >“Because you’re not very friendly.”
  179. >You nod.
  180. “And I’m not a very good teacher.”
  181. >“Because of that or for other reasons?”
  182. “Everything about teaching simply annoyed me. I don’t like having to explain things multiple times to my students. I hated giving up my time to give lectures, grade papers, go over problem sets. They wasted my time when I could have been doing far more important work. But it was part of the job. So I did it as best I could.”
  183. >Twilight slides her rook over a space, putting it in line with your knight.
  184. “Plus, my students were absolute idiots. I couldn’t believe that the institute was accepting these people into our program. It was like they knew nothing of physics and couldn’t solve even the simplest problems. It was all just such a huge waste of time. Why should I be forced to deal with these morons when I could do such more important work?”
  185. >“You really put that little faith in them?”
  186. “The work they were doing was very simple, and they still messed it up all the time. Constantly making errors in their analyses, constant small errors in calculations. It all added up and delayed everything. It was almost absurd.”
  187. >“Maybe you weren’t explaining what you wanted, or you weren’t explaining the ideas clearly.”
  188. “No. I was definitely clear. There was no reason why they should have been making such grievous mistakes.”
  189. >Probably just an empty threat, considering that, if she did take your knight, your bishop would swing down and take her rook.
  190. “But what infuriated me most was the institute directors constantly recommending me to teach more, as if that was what I was there to do. I was there to do research, not to teach. Did they not know that?”
  191. >You move your pawn forward another space.
  192. >“They were trying to help you,” Twilight says.
  193. “What, by wasting my time? I was about to make the discovery of the century.”
  194. >“No, they wanted to help you be a better person. Isn’t part of being a good scientist the ability to explain ideas to others?”
  195. >Twilight re-adjusts her rook, placing it at the end of the board.
  196. >There goes that plan.
  197. “Of course.”
  198. >“Then why didn’t you work on that by teaching?”
  199. “Because I can explain my ideas to others just fine. My papers were always clear and concise.”
  200. >“Maybe to experts -”
  201. “They were only read by experts.”
  202. >However, you now simply move your queen to put her king in check, the best space now out of the line of attack of the rook.
  203. >The black king is forced to reposition out of the sight of the queen’s all-seeing eye.
  204. >Next, you adjust your queen to attack Twilight’s rook on the last row.
  205. >“Are all humans in your world like you, Anonymous?”
  206. “In what regard?”
  207. >“Cold. Arrogant. Unfriendly.”
  208. “No.”
  209. >“Check. ”
  210. >Twilight’s rook now sits in line of sight to your king.
  211. >You shift it to the right.
  212. >“Check. Then why are you?”
  213. >Not again.
  214. >You move your knight to defend your king.
  215. >Twilight moves her rook to defend hers.
  216. >“Well, do you have an answer?”
  217. “Hang on, I need to focus on the game here.”
  218. >Sending your promoted queen behind the rooks, you place Twilight’s king in check.
  219. >One rook blocks your queen from further assault.
  220. >You move your bishop to finish pinning the king down, but, then, Twilight slides her rook down, putting your king in check.
  221. >Twilight looks at the clock.
  222. >“I think we’re going to have to call this a draw,” she says. “I have to go run errands soon, or else my whole schedule will be ruined for the day. I’ve already dropped re-organizing the books for this.”
  223. >You’re forced to take it with your original queen, as your king is near the edge of the board and lacks pieces to defend it.
  224. “This won’t be much longer,” you reply.
  225. >This leaves the queen vulnerable to Twilight’s rook, and she takes it, putting you back in check.
  226. >“You still haven’t answered my question.”
  227. >Shifting your king diagonally one space up behind your knight, you escape.
  228. “Hm?”
  229. >You place Twilight’s king in check with your promoted queen.
  230. >“Why are you so unfriendly? No, it’s even more than that. You’re not just unfriendly. Unfriendliness doesn’t explain why you despised your students so much.”
  231. >Twilight moves her pawn forward one space, protecting her king.
  232. >You attack again, this time with your bishop.
  233. >The king retreats one space backwards.
  234. >“Why do you see no value in anyone else other than yourself? Why do you think everyone but you is an idiot?”
  235. >Your stomach clenches.
  236. >You cannot make any more attacks without placing your bishop and promoted queen at risk from Twilight’s rook, and any attempt to bring your knight in would most likely end its demise as it left a defensible position.
  237. >“Are you going to answer me?”
  238. >But you must win.
  239. “Give me a moment, I’m thinking.”
  240. >Taking the risk, you angle your knight forward towards the fray.
  241. >Twilight puts your now undefended king in check with her rook.
  242. >“Well?”
  243. “I’m still considering my response. You’ve asked me a difficult question.”
  244. >You move the knight back.
  245. “I’m not answering that question right now,” you say.
  246. >“Why not?”
  247. “You’re asking me why I am the way I am, and you’ve known me for a few days. Do you really expect me to open up that deeply? Is that how things work here or something?”
  248. >“No. But this seems to be important. I want to help you, Anonymous, but you need to give me something.”
  249. “I don’t need to be helped. I don’t need to be fixed.”
  250. >Twilight moves her pawn forward.
  251. >You move your bishop back one space, preventing the pawn from reaching the other end of the board and promoting itself.
  252. >Can’t allow that whatsoever.
  253. >But, this allows Twilight to get her rook to a different angle and put your king in check again.
  254. >Again, you’re forced to reposition.
  255. >“I refuse to believe that you just don’t know how to make friends, or that you don’t think it’s good to have friends. You’re not stupid. You’re not deluded. It’s like you’ve seen the value of friendship, and rejected it.”
  256. >You feel the oddest sense of deja vu, of discussions much like this one you must have had 100 times with dozens of therapists.
  257. “Fine. There’s really no purpose in keeping my reasoning secret. One way or another, you’ll figure it out. Plus, I need to see if it’s defensible. I’ll tell you what I think, or rather, what I don’t. I don’t think friendship is valuable.”
  258. >Twilight sighs.
  259. >“Why don’t you think friendship is valuable?”
  260. >You pause.
  261. “People tell me friendship is valuable, and that it is valuable in and of itself,” you begin. “I can’t see a way that could be.”
  262. >The pawn marches forward, one space from its goal.
  263. “I see that friendship is valuable because we gain something from our friends: knowledge, companionship, material. Our friends lie to us to keep this arrangement. In friendship, you are forced to be inherently false to someone to keep them happy and to keep them around you. We are forced to have moral obligations to our friends that we wouldn’t have for other people, and I see no reason to do that.”
  264. >Twilight frowns.
  265. “Obviously, people still find friendship is valuable regardless of this. Maybe it’s something unique to me. But, to convince me that friendship is valuable, you must defeat that argument.”
  266. >“You’ve given me a lot of premises. I’m going to need some time to think of a counterargument.”
  267. “That’s fine. I’ve given you a starting place. Figure out why friendship is valuable in and of itself and see if your reasoning convinces me. I think you can do it. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”
  268. >“If it’s so easy, why haven’t you done it?”
  269. “Because I have bigger concerns. I worry about the structure of the universe, not petty interpersonal relationships. It doesn’t bother me that I can’t justify friendship, because I don’t need friendship.”
  270. >You move your bishop one more space down.
  271. >At least now, if the pawn does get promoted it, you can snipe it before it can do too much -
  272. >“Checkmate.”
  273. >You trapped your king behind your knight.
  274. >You can’t retreat, because that would put it in check from Twilight’s rook.
  275. >You can’t advance, because that would put it in check from the promoted queen.
  276. “Well. That’s that I suppose. Well played.”
  277. >“I did the best I could.”
  278. “And your best was clearly adequate.”
  279. >Twilight thinks for a moment.
  280. >“Wait, how do I know that you didn’t let me win?”
  281. “Well, you don’t. But, knowing what little you know about me, would you really expect me to just give you an easy victory?”
  282. >“No.”
  283. “Then work it out from that.”
  284. >“That doesn’t really answer the question.”
  285. “Well, the only way for us to truly know is to play another game. And, if I beat you more easily, then you’ll know that I wasn’t playing my best.”
  286. >“Anonymous, we really don’t have time for another game like that. I really need to get these errands done before the day is through, or my schedule will be thrown entirely out of -”
  287. >There’s a firm knock on the door.
  288. “Do you want to get that?”
  289. >Twilight gets up to check who’s there.
  290. >“Hi, Rarity!” she says from behind you as you reset the board.
  291. >“Hello, Twilight dear. Could you tell me, perhaps, if Anonymous is in?”
  292. >“Yeah, he’s right here. Anonymous?”
  293. >With a frown, you get up from the table and walk over to the doorway.
  294. “Hello. What can I do for you?” you ask the white unicorn.
  295. >“Oh, I was just going to offer my services as a seamstress. I can imagine that you can’t stand staying in the same outfit for the rest of your time here,” Rarity says.
  296. “I am happy to accept such services. If I need you, I’ll be sure to give you a call.”
  297. >“Do you not want me to just take some measurements now, or anything? I mean, it would really be no trouble.”
  298. “Maybe not for you, but certainly for me. I am in the process of an important development here and -”
  299. >Twilight gives you the look of “If you do this for me, I’ll be very happy.”
  300. >You ignore it.
  301. “- I really don’t have the time for tailoring right now. But if I need it, I’ll be sure to see you.”
  302. >Rarity thinks for a moment.
  303. >“Well, the thing is, I do get very busy from time to time, so I think it would be much more convenient for me if you came now.”
  304. >You rub the index finger and thumb of your right hand across the bridge of your nose.
  305. >You do need new clothes at some point; it’s only a matter of time before the kit you’re wearing becomes ruined, turn, wet, or otherwise.
  306. >If getting new clothes tailored doesn’t take too long and Rarity doesn’t pester you with questions, you may even still get time to ponder over this “Grand Law of Magic.”
  307. >Two tasks at once.
  308. “Are you certain that it won’t take too long? I have a lot of work to do, and I really can’t afford to great of a distraction at this time.”
  309. >“Of course not. It won’t be much longer than half an hour,” Rarity says.
  310. “Fine. Alright. I’ll be back in half an hour, Twilight.”
  311. >Twilight smiles and nods.
  312. >Following Rarity, you leave Twilight’s library into the crisp, bright day, the sunlight hurting your eyes at first.
  313. >“So, Anonymous, what do you think of Equestria? I mean, of what little you’ve seen so far,” Rarity asks.
  314. “Huh?”
  315. >“I asked what you thought of Equestria, darling.”
  316. “Uh, it’s nice, I guess, sure.”
  317. >“Surely, it must be difficult adjusting from your home universe, but I assure you that the ponies here are very hospitable.”
  318. “Didn’t seem that way when I got here. Everyone took one look at me and ran away or locked up their homes.”
  319. >“Well, you are a bit strange. We don’t see many creatures like you around here. Walking on two legs, with those strange... things on your forelimbs.”
  320. “Hands. These are hands.”
  321. >“Right, right. Plus, we have all sorts of strange creatures and oddities coming in from the Everfree Forest, so, when something strange shows up in town, it’s sometimes best to assume it’s dangerous. Last week there was this ghastly beast prowling about. Some sort of goat, tiger, snake hybrid. Applejack sent it scurrying off right-quick, though.”
  322. “If magical creature attacks are a common occurrence around here, then perhaps the citizens’ caution is a wise policy.”
  323. >“Well, there’s also the problem that ponies around here are a bit skeptical of things that are strange just because they’re new or different from them. So you have to be careful sometimes. Sometimes what seems like caution is actually more prejudgement.”
  324. “Hm. I’ll keep that in mind.”
  325. >Rarity leads you down the High Street of Ponyville, past shop-keeps hawking their wares of fresh vegetables, artisan crafts, and various other fine goods, and out into the outskirts of the city, towards a large, cylindrical building resembling a large circus tent in pastel blue, lilac, white, and gold.
  326. >Only, you don’t notice these things, as you instead ponder the new problems presented by your discoveries this morning and the Grand Law of Magic.
  327. >“Oh, that shop over there sells the absolute best chocolates, I’ll just have to take you there sometime,” Rarity says. “Have you at least seen much of the town yet, Anonymous?”
  328. “No.”
  329. >“Then I’ll have to take you on a grand tour at some point. There’s all sorts of great little places to stop by. I could take you after I finish getting your measurements.”
  330. “I’ll have to decline. I really don’t have time for that.”
  331. >“Maybe some other time then.”
  332. “I don’t know. I’m going to be very busy with my research.”
  333. >“Is Twilight helping you with something? Or are you helping her?”
  334. “I’m working alone. I’m trying to figure out what magic is and how it works.”
  335. >“Well, I know Twilight has to be able to be of some help to you. She is the Element of Magic and all that.”
  336. “I work better alone.”
  337. >You resume thinking.
  338. >“Ahem. So, Anonymous, I’ve noticed that your outfit is a bit, shall we say, uninteresting? Is that what’s fashionable in your universe or -”
  339. “I don’t really know or much care for what is fashionable.”
  340. >“Surely you must have some taste in clothing. You must be able to see the artistry and talent that goes into making a great outfit or have some idea of what makes a good design and what doesn’t.”
  341. “I really don’t. It’s all the same to me.”
  342. >“Then maybe I could teach you. I’m Ponyville’s leading fashionista; I could make you a great outfit. My designs are worn all over Equestria and -”
  343. “I really just need you to design some simple things for me to wear. I’m really not interested in the highest of high fashion.”
  344. >“Are you sure that you don’t want anything nice? It really would be no trouble at all, and I think I’ve got some great ideas for what I could -”
  345. “No. As much as I appreciate the offer, I’d really prefer we stick to something simple.”
  346. >“Alright then. Fine. Maybe after you see some of my work, you’ll change your mind.”
  347. >Rarity leads you up to the tent-like building, a sign nearby reading “Carousel Boutique.”
  348. >She opens the front door with a flourish and the jingling of a bell overhead.
  349. >The interior is filled with pony mannequins covered in lacy dresses placed on lightweight metal stands, some in small curtained alcoves.
  350. >You take a look at a midnight blue dress, the lightweight silk falling like curling river rapids in a torrent of soft fabric.
  351. >If this what accounts for the best of fashion in this place, then you may have to be a bit specific in what you want.
  352. >“Just let me get my things, and we’ll get started,” Rarity says.
  353. >She steps out of the main room through a small door, then quickly returns with some pins and a fabric tape measure, as well as a small pair of half-moon seamstress’s glasses propped upon her nose.
  354. >“Oh, do you like that one, Anonymous? That’s from a new line I’m producing. I call it ‘Moonlight Waterfall.’”
  355. “It’s nice. As I said, I do prefer things simple. Not too many frills,” you say, lifting up a bit of fabric on the dress delicately.
  356. >“Of course, of course. You just need something to wear so that what you’ve got now doesn’t get too filthy. I understand, don’t you fret. Now, come along. I’ll just take a quick measurement, and then you too can be off, and you can expect the new clothes in a few days.”
  357. >Rarity grabs a quill, some ink, and a pad of blue-lined paper.
  358. >As she unfurls the tape measure, you lift up your arms to allow her to begin measuring.
  359. “So, you are the Element of Generosity, are you not?” you ask.
  360. >“Yes, I guess I do get called upon to serve that role from time to time,” Rarity says as she jots down a few numbers.
  361. “Then perhaps you can answer this question I’ve been having. What exactly does it mean to be generous?”
  362. >“Well, it just means that you do good things for others and expect nothing in return.”
  363. “Of course. That seems satisfactory. But, maybe I should rephrase the question.... Are generous for its own sake, or are you generous to others because you know that they will reciprocate that generosity?”
  364. >“Of course I’m generous for its own sake,” Rarity says, wrapping the tape measure around your waist.
  365. “Really? I find that hard to believe. Are you saying that you’ve never, not even once, done something for someone and later expected something in return?”
  366. >“Well, of course that happens sometimes. I have a business to run, and there is all sorts of tit-for-tat in the fashion world. But, with my close friends, I certainly don’t expect things in return for my good deeds.”
  367. >You chuckle softly.
  368. “Are you so sure of that? Deep down, you know that every time you do a little favor for someone, you can check off a little box saying that you can ask that person for something in return. Deals are struck, bargains are made. The value of being ‘friends’ with someone is that it makes it easier to make those little agreements. I reject such a value.”
  369. >“Anonymous, please stop this. I don’t agree with what you’re saying.”
  370. “Friends know that they are both dealing in good faith. And so you get things from people. Favors. Money. Gifts. Knowledge. But what if those people have nothing of value to give to you? What will you do then?”
  371. >Rarity sets her notes and tape measure down, having finished your measurements.
  372. “Well, do you have a counterargument?”
  373. >“Friendship isn’t just about the things we get from people,” Rarity says firmly.
  374. “Then what is it about?”
  375. >“It’s about enjoying company with someone and their personality.”
  376. “Is companionship not something that someone gives to someone else? Do you not benefit from enjoying someone else’s personality? How are those thing not examples of someone ‘giving’ something to you?”
  377. >Rarity ponders for a bit, frowning deeply.
  378. >“Where are you going with all this?”
  379. “Nowhere in particular. It was just a question I had that I thought you might be able to answer.”
  380. >She clenches her jaw a bit and furrows her brow.
  381. >“If friendship and generosity are the way you think it is, would it not be possible that we would simply exchange our friends for better ones? To just find a new person with a similar personality to give us companionship.”
  382. “Well, yes. Why, do you think we shouldn’t do this?”
  383. >“I’m not so certain about ‘shouldn’t,’ particularly if you are so convinced that you are correct. But I would like to believe that I wouldn’t just replace my friends for someone else because they could give me more things. That seems to be against any sort of definition of ‘friendship.’”
  384. >Rarity thinks some more.
  385. >“There is clearly something that people gain in a true friendship that isn’t quantifiable.”
  386. “But what is it?”
  387. >Silence.
  388. >Rarity paces about for a moment, runs a hoof through her mane, and checks a seam on one of her dresses.
  389. >“I don’t know. The concern we have for our friends’ well-being. The experiences that we share with them - yes! That’s it!”
  390. >Rarity breaks into a beaming smile.
  391. >“My friends and I are greater than the sum of their parts. We have shared beliefs of how to live that are forged and maintained through our special history of interaction and the sharing of our lives. It’s not possible to replace every interaction that I’ve had and everything I’ve shared with my friends. We’ve faced both happiness and hardship throughout the years in our own unique ways. Because of that, it is simply not possible to substitute others for my friends without loss.”
  392. >You cross your arms over your chest.
  393. “How is that not the same as what you said earlier? That we benefit from the companionship and personalities of our friends?”
  394. >“Because it’s not just about one party benefiting. A good friendship isn’t one where only one party benefits. When I go to lunch with one of my friends, for example, I hope that she enjoys it as well as I do. That’s what makes it a good, friendly experience, and we have a history of those interactions that helps to strengthen our friendship. That history is unique and irreplaceable.”
  395. >You frown.
  396. “I need to think of an objection to this. I’m not fully convinced.”
  397. >“Well, maybe I’ve put you on a path to solve this conundrum.”
  398. “I wouldn’t call it solved. I still think there may be some problems in your reasoning, but I just need to find them. I know I can, I just need some time to think.”
  399. >You turn away for a second.
  400. “No. This is all distracting me. I shouldn’t have bothered you with that. I have bigger problems than paradoxes in the philosophy of friendship, and I need to solve those problems first. So, I apologize for troubling you with that. Are you finished with the measurements?”
  401. >“We’ve been finished for a while here, darling.”
  402. “Well, thank you for that then. I’ll be off.”
  403. >“Yes. Goodbye, Anonymous. I really enjoyed our little discussion. Maybe we could have another sometime.”
  404. “I don’t think that will be necessary. I have many things to do, and I am very busy. So, goodbye.”
  405. >You leave through the glass door, the bell jingling overhead.
  406. >As you wander your way back home, the idea hits you.
  407. >It’s a longshot, but it’s certainly worth testing.
  408. >You quicken your pace.
  409. >Flinging open the door to Twilight’s library, you jaunt towards the stairs to the basement.
  410. >“Hi, Anonymous. How was Rarity’s -”
  411. “No time for that. Science to do.”
  412. >You rush downstairs, Twilight following after you.
  413. >Finding a screwdriver, you detach one of the gauntlets, the one with the radiation detectors embedded in it, and the helmet from your hazard suit.
  414. >Jamming the helmet on your head and the gauntlet on your arm, you boot up the computers inside them and set up a radiation scan, erasing the background radiation from cosmic particles slamming into the atmosphere or any other sources.
  415. >You then set up your little motor, plugging the magical battery into the system and waving the gauntlet over one of the wires.
  416. >It detects nothing.
  417. >This detector can detect up to a nanorad of radiation, a single weak gamma ray bouncing off its detector, and it has detected nothing.
  418. >Disconnecting the magical motor, you strip a bit of insulation off one of the wires, and test again.
  419. >Still nothing.
  420. >You pull the helmet and gauntlet off.
  421. >“What were you testing for, Anonymous?” Twilight asks.
  422. “Matter-energy equivalency. A very small amount of matter can be converted into a very large amount of energy, per Einstein’s special relativity. Magic could break apart a few atoms by interacting with the strong and weak nuclear forces under the right conditions, creating extra energy. It would have been a very easy explanation. However, much of the energy that would be produced would have been in a useless or dangerous form, usually heat or high-energy ionizing radiation. But I’ve seen neither of those things.”
  423. >Twilight thinks for a moment.
  424. >“What if magic keeps energy in a useful form?”
  425. “How? And how would that be ”
  426. >“Well, we know it can interact with electromagnetism and gravity. And you know that it can interact with the strong and weak nuclear forces - whatever those are, I’ve never heard of them. So perhaps it converts energy produced from atomic breakdown into electromagnetic energy. At least, in this case.”
  427. “That doesn’t make any sense. It would mean that the emission and absorption of photons was being converted into a voltage or an electron movement. And that can happen, there are materials that become electrically charged as you heat or irradiate them, but pure copper isn’t one of them.”
  428. >You pause for a moment.
  429. “But of course, this an alternate universe. Anything could happen here. There could be a some ‘fifth interaction,’ some force that interacts with all four forces and can cause all of their effects. And that force could be... magic.”
  430. >You think some more.
  431. “This solution is overcomplicated. There must be some simpler answer. Also, it makes no testable predictions. How is magic converting energy into a useful form any different from magic simply creating the useful form of energy? All we see is more electrical energy then there should be, but magic could just produce the electrical energy through any other means than the one we’ve theorized. We need something to test.”
  432. >“And to get something to test, we need more tests,” Twilight says.
  433. >You turn to her.
  434. “Yes. I don’t think there’s much more we can glean from this apparatus, unfortunately. As revealing it has been, it still doesn’t answer all the questions. As much as it pains me to say it, I need... your help. You understand magic better than I do. I understand physics, or, well, what humans know of physics, better than you do. There are things that I know that you don’t, and vice versa. We both have things we can give to each other. It will be a beneficial partnership.”
  435. >Twilight looks you directly in the eye.
  436. >“Then let’s work together.”
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