David Madore's WebLog: Gratuitous Literary Fragment #152 (a council of wizards)

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Gratuitous Literary Fragment #152 (a council of wizards)

I was the last to arrive and, as our host ushered me in his office and announced we may now begin, with just a shade of impatience in his voice, I considered the three men and three women who were to be my co-conspirators of sorts. Lord Ardemond was known to me, of course, as well as the elderly lady seated at his right, whom I recognized as our Dean of Magic, Anastasia Aldert. As I took my place I was rapidly introduced to Aron Azoulay, experimental wizard from the University of Tel-Aviv, a big burly man with an enormous black beard; Adelheid Aloysius, mathematician from Göttingen, a tall woman with slender features; Anatole Auber, theoretical mage from the École Normale Supérieure of Paris, whose rotund and dark-skinned face looked so boyish that almost I mistook him for a child; and Ambrosia Allegri, enchantress from the Alma Mater Studiorum, elegant and intimidating.

You will all be wondering to what end I gathered you here in connection with the recent events. Let me cut to the chase so we can get the disbelief out of the way as soon as possible: I need your help in investigating what I believe may be a case of physics.

The last word obviously caused the stir that Lord Ardemond was expecting. The Israeli wizard laughed incredulously. The German mathematician raised her eyebrows in a calculated air of disapproval, but said nothing. The French mage raised his hand in what I assumed was an expression of protest. The Italian enchantress quoted Shakespeare, though I couldn't understand the relevance of the line: We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep. Dame Albert did not react, but I assume she had heard the speech beforehand. As for myself, I imagine my dubiousness showed in how I looked at each of them in turn. Ardemond made a conciliatory gesture.

I understand your puzzlement, he said, but I assure you, I would not waste your time with a sorry joke. I speak of physics in earnest.

Auber: I don't know why I have to say this, Lord Ardemond, but we are all thinking the same: there is no such thing as physics. Outside of children's books and cheap illusions, that is.

Allegri: Isaac Newton believed in the stuff, though.

Myself: Isaac Newton also thought he was a theologian beyond compare. Who knows, in a different world, he could have become the Primate of All England. So yes, the great alchemist may have dabbled in physics, but the fact that he was a genius in one domain does not make him a master of all.

Azoulay: During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union probably had teams of magicians trying to come up with random stuff to get an edge over the other's stockpile of Armageddon spells, but it seems nothing came out of it except more destructive spells.

Aloysius: At the risk of stating the obvious, the very idea of physics does not even make any sense. The world obeys precise mathematical rules, as we all know. Magic leaves no room for anything else: what follows those rules is known, what is outside them is nonexistent.

Allegri: With due respect, the reproduction of rabbits does not follow any known rules, but rabbits persist in trying to multiply even when we do not conjure them into existence.

Aldert: Not to quibble, but the reproduction of rabbits would, I believe, be the province of biology, not physics.

Azoulay: You can call these fictional fields however you like, that doesn't make them any more real. I believe role-playing games like Advanced Poisons & Pythons have a discipline called chemistry as well, full of whimsical names for substances like praseodymium or thulium.

Auber: A good point. We have a perfectly good understanding of how the eight elements (Spirit, Life, Macrocosm, Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Time) relate to each other, and how they combine to make all the universe. This is not to say that, say, sulfur and mercury don't exist — of course they do — but it doesn't make sense to try to coerce them into being elements as the ancients might have thought, and as keeps popping up in so-called chemistry. There is simply no room for more elements or for a different way of arranging them: this would ruin all the beautiful symmetry of the eight that exist. Anyone who understands E8 cannot believe in chemistry.

Aldert: Physics could conceivably have its own set of rules, perhaps equally symmetric and mathematically elegant. One could even imagine those of physics and magic to be each interpretable in the other.

Aloysius: One is reminded of the famous quip by Arthur C. Clarke, any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology, I think it goes.

Azoulay: Indeed, who would have thought, a mere half-century ago, that we would be sending words, images and even spells across the planet almost instantly using the World Wide Weave? But why are we having this conversation?

Lord Ardemond let out an audible sigh.

Je reconnais que je rejoue-là un peu la même chose que dans ce fragment précédent (et puis toujours celui-ci), en même temps qu'il s'agit d'une sorte de continuation de celui-là et d'une exploration de ces thèmes : bref, j'aurais besoin de me renouveler. D'un autre côté, c'est amusant à écrire, et je n'exclus pas de reprendre ces idées sous la forme d'un texte un peu plus long et plus construit. Sinon, les noms des personnages sont une référence à un de mes premiers fragments.

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