Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Feb 17, 2016 10:07 pm UTC

Some people in the Reddit thread have speculated that it has to do with that passage from The Transmygracion where Merlin compares the power of souls to that of stars, suggesting that the idea is that the heat death of the universe could possibly be averted by means of mass human sacrifice.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Sun Feb 21, 2016 5:26 am UTC

Heh, Voldemort is such a great character in the latest chapter. I love his reasons for what he says, and how stating those reasons out loud should just make the effect even stronger.

Spoiler:
It seems he's expecting Meldh to - somehow - eventually lose and get captured, with Harry breaking free, and with that in mind is setting the seeds for self-recrimination. "I should have listened, I knew he was a genius, why didn't I listen!?" :lol:

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Feb 22, 2016 9:53 pm UTC

Mixed feelings. I mean, it is rational on the part of Voldie. But it also borders on "there is waaaay too much talking about how awesome harry is in this book".

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Feb 22, 2016 11:02 pm UTC

i like the structure the story is taking here as we approach the end. the big bad finally gets to the protagonist but it's cool he has lots of backups. who will be the one to save him!? draco? guess not. surely moody can? oh no! perhaps it take a villain to defeat a villain? no luck there either!

turn in next week to see if a thrice-immortal magical troll unicorn princess can do the job!

ADDENDUM: I wanted to then forgot to mention that Meldh's comment about magic being "inviting other worlds into ours" or the like sounds suspiciously similar to my theory about the Mirror being the Source of Magic.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Mon Feb 29, 2016 7:48 am UTC

If I'm reading the implications right, the thing Harry realized and discarded was the foundations of a ritual for sacrificing a star to give one person immortality.

New wild guess: that knowledge is Harry's trap. The knowledge is fake, Harry implanted it in himself and then erased the memory of doing so, and the ritual built with that knowledge will actually do something else to either free Harry or stop the (at the time unknown) intruder. The fake was devised using a lot of muggle science knowledge, with Harry guessing that a typical Ancient Wizard was unlikely to have kept up with muggle scientific advancements and would thus lack the knowledge to spot errors rooted in science. Hermione will get caught, Meldh will do the ritual, and at his moment of ultimate triumph everything will go horribly wrong.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Feb 29, 2016 7:59 am UTC

I don't think the ritual is a fake or trap. Harry is fated to tear apart the stars -- this is one way that could happen. The other way is a distant future civilization under his direction could use them in some scientifically progressive way.

Lawrence is fated to steer the course of history when the possibilities narrow to two.

I predict that every real significant protagonist and contingency plan that any of the big players thinks of as a real threat will come up against Meldh and fail and when all hope seems lost Lawrence, a nobody child of no significance, will do something out of left field that blindsides everyone and saves the day.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby raudorn » Sun Mar 06, 2016 1:50 pm UTC

Apparently we'll get the resolution to this mess next chapter. Good, because said mess is rapidly increasing and not many rabbits in hats can pull this off. We'll see.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Mon Mar 14, 2016 7:14 am UTC

Well, that was interesting.
Spoiler:
Voldemort must have been quite amused when he heard Harry describe the supposed current status of the Goblet of Fire, particularly the bit about it being too dangerous to use or research. That explains his confidence about Meldh's downfall better. Too bad he couldn't explain without ruining Harry's trap.

This raises the question of whether the contract was worded in such a way that Meldh's selective erasure of Harry's memories would be included in the alterations to be reversed. Harry might now know exactly where and how to access Voldemort again.

About the "can't make a contract with yourself" restriction of the Goblet... Contracts often have different terms and requirements for each party involved. What's to stop Harry et al from making contracts of the form "I won't be mind controlled, and Random Other Guy Signing This won't mind control me"?

I did at least call the part about Harry's countermeasure being concealed from himself by memory erasure. Not that that part was hard to guess.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:16 pm UTC

Is it just me, or are "mobs of muggles" not really all that imposing of an obstacle?

Even if you postulate doors to arbitrary numbers of them appearing at arbitrary locations, so...what's the issue? Light up the doorway. Everyone exiting ends up on fire, and has a finite time until they cease moving. Fairly short, at that. So, you have a pretty limited radius around each doorway where anything can be affected, and so far as attrition is concerned, you win.

Quirrel would have trivially solved an entirely incursion with one use of fiendfire, while looking bored, solving the issue of where they came from, and defeating them utterly. Granted, he's on the higher end of combat wizards, but I have difficulty believing that utilizing chokepoints is a severe issue for pretty much any combat capable person.

This fic seems to be heading downhill. I like the premise of horde vs wizard, but we've spent entirely too much time building up a ridiculous powerset for team wizard for this to be meaningful.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Fri Apr 08, 2016 7:43 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Is it just me, or are "mobs of muggles" not really all that imposing of an obstacle?

Even if you postulate doors to arbitrary numbers of them appearing at arbitrary locations, so...what's the issue? Light up the doorway. Everyone exiting ends up on fire, and has a finite time until they cease moving. Fairly short, at that. So, you have a pretty limited radius around each doorway where anything can be affected, and so far as attrition is concerned, you win.

Quirrel would have trivially solved an entirely incursion with one use of fiendfire, while looking bored, solving the issue of where they came from, and defeating them utterly. Granted, he's on the higher end of combat wizards, but I have difficulty believing that utilizing chokepoints is a severe issue for pretty much any combat capable person.

Light up the doorway with what? If you use mundane fire, enough bodies will smother it and the remainder of the horde will pass unhindered. If you use magical fire, every muggle burned takes energy from the wizard, and enough bodies will clear the way and also deplete the wizard. Plus, the attackers can move the doorway.

Fiendfire might be more effective than more common fire attacks, but I'd expect it to ultimately still suffer the same problems. Fiendfire's power is in how hard it is to stop or resist, not in how large an area it can burn.

The core idea at work here is that it's surprisingly difficult to set up a death trap that truly doesn't have limited capacity, especially on short notice, and the attackers have the sheer numbers to overwhelm nearly any such limited capacity and keep coming.

Tyndmyr wrote:This fic seems to be heading downhill. I like the premise of horde vs wizard, but we've spent entirely too much time building up a ridiculous powerset for team wizard for this to be meaningful.

It's not a meaningful threat in the sense of actually endangering the lead wizards, no, but it's not supposed to be. The entire point of the horde of muggles, as I understand it, was to deplete resources and distract their enemies. It's an opening gambit, throwing away absolutely expendable assets in order to clear some of Harry's lower minions out of the way before the real battle starts.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Apr 08, 2016 7:57 pm UTC

Fiendfyre pretty much effortlessly decimates quite a lot in the first fic. The main danger appears to be controlling it, not in getting it to burn. Granted, maybe not every wizard has access/willingness to use that particular option, but even just "light everything that burns on fire" is pretty effective. Fire spreads, and in a mass of people, clothes will catch in an entirely mundane fashion.

Other obstacles, such as transfigured blades, are not portrayed as taking additional energy for each person they touch. There are any number of ways to inflict constant damage on an essentially infinite number of attackers. Plus, almost any fixed location(hogwarts, ministry, etc) as depicted benefits from natural chokepoints and strong walls that are pretty much immune to being shoved in. Slam a grid of blades in front of a door, and it matters not how many people try to shove through. All is you need is a handy rock.

Worst case scenario, any competent wizard can simply retreat. Anyone who can apparate away, portkey, flue, etc is not trapped, save for a fairly grand plan to net a single wizard. So, you dump your load and bail. Barring a few casualties initially from surprise bullets, this gambit shouldn't actually do much of anything.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Gwydion » Fri Apr 08, 2016 8:20 pm UTC

Tyndmyr, your argument is remarkably similar to the old question, how many six-year-olds could you take on in a fight all at once? Realistically, it seems like the answer should be hundreds or even thousands, but eventually the combined weight of them will overwhelm you. Even if you have guns, you have limited ammunition. No amount of other weapons would necessarily help.

In this case, it's thousands against a couple dozen, and in some cases even worse odds. Fiendfyre is highly destructive, but takes a little bit of the caster's essence to create and a lot of attention to control. I doubt many have the ability to use it at all, and probably very few could use it effectively. And trying to murder thousands with it would probably sap a caster of all their energy very quickly. In the last section, two aurors, 8 Hogwarts professors, and several Returned were completely overwhelmed until someone dropped a house on everyone.

Douglasm has it right, it seems like the entire point of these attacks was to pull Harry's resources in multiple directions, weaken or take down as many as possible, and then come together to assault Hogwarts and/or the Tower directly. The idea of retreat is not an option there, since apparition is off limits, portkeys require you to have one on hand already, and the safety sticks... just land you right back in the Tower. More importantly, retreating from the Ministry leaves the enemy in control of the Dept of Mysteries, retreating from Godric's Hollow leaves them in command of all the ancient history and artifacts there... basically all the places they attacked were places you wouldn't want to just give up if at all possible.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Sat Apr 09, 2016 3:28 am UTC

On another note, I was pleasantly surprised by the development with the goblins. All the setup had pointed to them joining the bad guys in exchange for some rather major bribes, but it seems they intelligently figured out the true better deal - Harry Potter has given them what he has because he believes it is right; The Three offered what they did because they expected service in exchange. The latter is rather a lot more fickle than the former.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Apr 11, 2016 3:06 pm UTC

Gwydion wrote:Tyndmyr, your argument is remarkably similar to the old question, how many six-year-olds could you take on in a fight all at once? Realistically, it seems like the answer should be hundreds or even thousands, but eventually the combined weight of them will overwhelm you. Even if you have guns, you have limited ammunition. No amount of other weapons would necessarily help.


Most adults can, if need be, retreat from 6 yr olds.

The same is true of wizards, only more so. Teleportation is something explicitly called out as something any wizard can do, for instance. If you are becoming overwelmed, and need additional distance, you can just...do that. I get that retreat doesn't answer *everything*, but it's implausible that no evacuation plan was ever set up. That's a default muggle response to emergencies, it seems very strange for Harry to *not* consider such a normal option when he's apparently anticipated much more obscure attacks.

The idea that the Tower doesn't have portkeys to elsewhere is already contradicted in universe.

Even short range teleportation has great potential. Bounce back, collapse a doorway/hall, and get a breather while the opposition has to slowly slog through the barricade. You don't *need* doors as a wizard. Your opposition does.

Agreed that the goblin reaction is nice. Much more rational than the usual trope one would expect here, where they end up taking the bribe(and inevitibly being treated like crap in the end).

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Gwydion » Mon Apr 11, 2016 10:10 pm UTC

The Tower does have portkeys, but it also has extraordinarily powerful artifacts that probably shouldn't be handed over without a fight. Similarly, surrendering Hogwarts and leaving the students inside to the enemy seems like a poor choice by most standards. Perhaps Harry didn't create a standing retreat protocol to deter himself from considering it lightly? Or perhaps retreating from the Tower without handling all the things inside it carefully would violate the Vow? Then again, maybe Harry does have a plan, he just didn't share it because it requires giving out passwords to certain storage areas.

As to your retreat, barricade, repeat strategy - the wizards at the Ministry did precisely that.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Apr 12, 2016 7:00 pm UTC

Gwydion wrote:As to your retreat, barricade, repeat strategy - the wizards at the Ministry did precisely that.


No, not really. They fought non lethally for ten minutes, then relied on magical shielding, and THEN, finally resorted to a barricade.

This does not seem like a particularly well planned defense. It seems like an impromptu thing. Even when Harry isn't at the helm, we've seen competence from Auror's before. There should be a plan, and it should involve more than just slowly reacting.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby douglasm » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:25 am UTC

They're facing a tactic that hasn't been used in centuries and is a blatant violation of one of the most important and universally respected international wizarding laws. Harry might conceivably have planned for it, but probably no one else, and any plan Harry might have distributed for this contingency would not have been taken seriously at the time and so probably wouldn't be remembered now.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Apr 13, 2016 4:38 pm UTC

A. Wizards live longer lives.
B. It's referenced as a normal thing, if a bit old.
C. Harry has managed to get people to prepare for much odder, less plausible contingencies than this.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue May 03, 2016 4:59 am UTC

So now that the story is over, and the nature and history of magic has not yet been explained, I'd like to hypothesize/invent something that fits with the hints that SD and HPMOR have given us thus far:

The universe is inherently magical in nature, which is to say, reality is idealistic, in a philosophical sense: what fundamentally exist are minds, or souls, and their ideas, which are forms capable of being impressed onto the boundless, undifferentiated substance of reality. In the beginning, all that existed were these naked, bodiless souls impressing the forms of their ideas into the substance of reality by force of will, willy-nilly as they pleased all over the place.

As you can imagine, that was chaos. So at some point, some powerful soul, or consortium thereof, something or somethings that humans would likely call a god or gods, decided to put things in order, and imposed an overarching form of law onto reality, the laws of nature as we know them. Those laws ultimately boil down to "entropy increases" -- everything that happens does so because the change from its previous state to its subsequent state increases entropy -- and perhaps this was for similar reasons to Merlin's later Interdict. Perhaps effects like this are an inevitable cost of such powerful and far-reaching magic; the sacrifice that needed to be made to impose order on the cosmos.

One consequence of the imposition of these laws was that the many souls that had once been the shapers of the chaotic reality of before were bound into bodies -- not human bodies, but rather, into stars. "The fires of the soul are great and burn as bright as the stars" because the stars are souls, bound by the powerful ancient magics that shaped the seething chaos that once was into reality as we now know it. That is also the reason that, as Meldh's conversation with Harry implied, there is some ritual by which stars could be sacrificed to grant immortality to wizards: trading one soul for another.

But the imposition of the laws of nature was not complete and air-tight, and those bound souls of the stars still have some subtle but powerful and far-reaching influence over the shape of reality within the confines laid down by the gods who imposed natural law onto the chaos. That is why astrology works: the stars actually are influencing everything, because they were the original magic-users, long before humans ever existed, and they continue to influence what little they still can. Perhaps this small bit of remaining power was intentionally left to them, just as Merlin did not strip all mankind of their magics immediately but rather left it to wither with his Interdict. The stars cannot defy the laws of physics, but they can still steer probability.

At some point, in accordance with the imposed laws of nature but also under the lingering influence of the stars shaping the course of events, intelligent human life evolved on Earth, and began to grasp at the lingering magical threads on the fringes of the fabric of reality. Perhaps the imposition of natural law onto the universe was not quite so straightforward as that: perhaps it was instead merely a binding of the magical abilities of those souls that came to be stars, and the laws nature as we know them are merely emergent from the continued magical acts of the stars being bound to increase entropy: everything that happens, happens because a star magically willed it to happen, and the things they are still able to will to happen are magically bound to those things that increase entropy. But they found a loophole to this law by guiding the evolution of the universe to produce new intelligences not so bound as them: human wizards.

Those early human wizards gradually built up an advanced magical society, Atlantis, but the unbridled advance in magic once again threatened to plunge the whole cosmos into chaos again; it is terribly difficult for that kind of power to exist without it destroying the world. Seeing the cataclysm about to befall them, some Atlanteans sought to escape it via the creation of the Mirror, which could "grant wishes" (do magic) but only in a controlled, safe, morally-guided fashion. Their solution worked, and those Atlanteans who created the Mirror wished for, and entered into, a world in which Atlantis did not exist, and thus the universe was not facing imminent destruction. In that new world, Atlantis had never existed, and so from the perspective of the Atlanteans who fled to that world, Atlantis itself had been erased from history.

Those surviving Atlanteans established a magical tradition in their new world, but packaged the magic into safer, user-friendly "apps" (spells) instead of teaching their new pupils how to "code" (partial-transfigure) the world directly (if I may be terribly anachronistic). Those first teachers of magic became known to history as the Eleusinian Mysteries, operating in the classical Greco-Roman region of history as we know it, and they are the reason why most spells are Latinate in nature.

But even that level of magic seemed dangerously powerful to some, such as a Breton named Merlin who witnessed an invasion of those Hellenic wizards into his homeland and helped turn them away after somehow learning their craft. Somehow he learned some of this history, and perhaps on imitation of whatever ancient god first bound the magics of the stars and in doing so imposed the laws of nature onto reality, he used magic to ensure the gradual atrophy of magic itself with his Interdict.

And then Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres comes along and, even bound by the Interdict, begins to make magic dangerously powerful again. I suppose only time will tell whether he will finally be the one to get it right, to harness the boundless power inherent in the soul, mind, and will, toward good ends that don't lead straight back to the chaos that there was in the beginning.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue May 03, 2016 1:18 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:So now that the story is over, and the nature and history of magic has not yet been explained, I'd like to hypothesize/invent something that fits with the hints that SD and HPMOR have given us thus far:


Yeah. There's unexplained stuff that still bugs me. Stars going out, cmon, show us.

I think this is a decent supposition, but I do wish they'd addressed these things within the context of the story.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue May 03, 2016 8:32 pm UTC

Well there is still that epilogue coming, but somehow I don't expect it's going to go into all of this detail like this.

I'm slightly tempted to write my own sequel where Harry seeks out Merlin after the conclusion of SD and from there follows the trail of history all the way back to the source of magic and in the process fulfills the prophecy about him tearing apart the stars (which would be related if the stars are the primordial magic-users as I've supposed), except that I have so little time and so many other unfinished projects I'm never going to get around to doing it.

I had another thought on the subject though. We know that Ollivander's is the oldest wizarding settlement in Britain, well predating Merlin's time. I'll bet that Ollivander was an early immigrant to Britain from the Hellenic wizarding world who started the British wizarding tradition what culminated in Merlin, and that Magical Greece and Rome were one sociopolitical entity despite their muggle differences, and the "Greek" invasion of Magical Britain was the Roman invasion of Brittania.

A further thought I had is that, without the second law of thermodynamics giving an arrow of time, the changing of the universe done by the primordial magic-users (who later became stars) would be pretty much equivalent to shifting the universe from one possible world to another, fitting the language about "worlds" that Meldh uses to describe magic.

I kind of want to rewrite my narrative here more clearly now that I've thought it out, in lieu of ever making this a proper fanfic:

In the beginning there was the timeless formless amorphous undifferentiated raw substance of reality, and countless bodiless souls, in whose minds were ideas, the forms of which they could impose by their will upon reality, shifting reality as they did so from one possible world to another. From the conflicting acts of will of those countless souls, reality was changed and reshaped seemingly at random in an endless, timeless chaos.

Until one of those souls, or some consortium of them, imposed an order onto that chaos by an act of their will: all will-acts of those souls, all changes from one possible world to another, were limited to changes from less entropic worlds to more entropic ones. Thus Time began, and from the continuing chaos of the myriad souls' will-acts, bound by that one law of entropy, emerged the laws of nature as we know them.

As the form of the universe evolved under those laws, the primordial souls became bound up into stars, where the most change to reality could still happen within the confines of those laws of nature. Their influence over the form of the universe was by then greatly limited, essentially to the role of collectively steering fate within the confines of the probabilistic laws of nature that now governed the universe, selecting by their joint will which of the more-entropic (i.e. future) possible worlds would come to be.

Pressing against those bounds, they steered the course of history to one in which new souls not bound as they were, intelligent organic life, were born: humanity. And they steered humanity to discover the true, magical nature of reality, so that through their influence on the fate of humans, the stars-souls could once again wield their true, unbridled power; perhaps, someday, even freeing themselves from their own confines, tearing apart the stars that were now the prisons of their primordial souls.

But as humanity came into their power, building the great magical civilization of Atlantis, some of them realized the chaos and destruction that it was soon to bring, and to escape that fate, they created a magical artifact that would wield the highest power of magic, the power to bridge any possible world, but bound in a way that it could only be used for good: the Mirror of Noitilov. To escape the doom about to befall their world, they used the Mirror to travel to a world where the kind of permanent free transfiguration that had been the magic of their civilization had never been possible, and so the Atlantis that was about to plunge reality into chaos could never have existed; thus, from their perspective, Atlantis was erased from history.

In their new world, in lieu of those more powerful magics that had been used by Atlantis, they created a new wizarding tradition whereby magic was packaged (by the power of the Mirror) into relatively safe, self-contained spells with specific, predetermined effects, usually requiring a magical focus like a wand and a spoken incantation, rather than the wanton imposition of will upon the world.

They and their descendants became the wizards of the new world, and the seat of that classical-era wizarding civilization was in the lands nearest where Atlantis would have been, had the magics to create it existed: what we know as the Hellenistic and Roman world, of the northeastern Mediterranean. The rulers of that magical civilization became known to history as the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Atlantean descendents spread from that region around the new world, and interbred with the local populations wherever they settled, giving rise to a world of disparate magical traditions. One of them migrated to Britain where he was known as the "olive-man", or Ollivander, who created the first magical settlement hidden in Britain, later known as Diagon Alley. From Ollivander and his descendants, the magical tradition of Britain was born, on down to the time of Merlin and beyond.

In Merlin's time, Rome invaded Brittania, and in time, as the muggle Britons fought and eventually repelled the Roman conquerers, so too British wizards, led by Merlin, repelled the forces of Magical Rome, the Eleusinian Mysteries and their armies. In that conflict, the power of the Eleusinian Mysteries was greatly diminished, and Magical Britain began to rise to prominence over the magical world.

It was that conflict that convinced Merlin that, despite the efforts of the Atlanteans to limit the safe use of magic, it was still far too powerful, and something more like the original binding of the primordial souls was necessary for human wizards, something that would diminish the effects of magic entirely over time. Thus he bound the entire wizarding world with his Interdict, and magic since then has been in decline.

But despite that decline, Merlin still saw a prophecy of the one the stars had been bending fate to create all along, one who would tear apart those stars and -- implicitly -- unleash the chaos of unbound magic on the universe again. Thus began his long plot leading up to the events of HPMOR and SD that we have seen.


If I were to make a proper fanfic out of this, I would have Harry seek out Merlin to find out what exactly it is that Merlin thinks Harry is going to do that would warrant such a gross human sacrifice as occurred in the climax of SD. Merlin tells him that he was aware not only of the prophecy that Harry would tear apart the stars, but a much older one foretelling that the one who would do so "to vanquish Death" would in doing so "bring an end to Time", and that though he knows how dearly Harry values life and how he would not willingly destroy the universe, that in attempting to vanquish Death, he would unwittingly bring that end of Time about. Merlin says that though he knew already that prophecies cannot in general be averted, this one is in a sense the final prophecy, the endpoint of history toward which all else has been bending, and that it is worth any sacrifice to attempt any chance to avert it and the catastrophe it foretells; he left that battle not because he was convinced that he was wrong, but that with Nell's death and Harry wielding "the very source of magic" against him, he realized he had underestimated Harry and made a tactical retreat only.

Perhaps from Merlin, Harry would be sent to Merlin's own source of information, Ollivander; or perhaps, rather, Ollivander, who otherwise remains neutral in all affairs, would be brought to bear against Harry by Merlin. Maybe combine the two. Merlin doesn't say much more than the above to Harry, and then abruptly cuts off conversation, because Merlin still sees himself as Harry's enemy but doesn't know what move to make next. That next move turns out to be calling on his own teacher, Ollivander; the original Ollivander, who is the same person as the Ollivander presently selling wands in Diagon Alley. That Ollivander appear to Harry in private in a place no one should be able to enter via a long-forgotten projection spell, which is enough to tip Harry off to suspicion that the Ollivander he knows is more than he appears. Ollivander is very straightforward and honest with Harry. He confesses, as Harry has just surmised, that he is the original Ollivander, says that he is absolutely immortal, and that his immortality is not of a kind he can share with the world, for it was attained by a terrible forbidden ritual -- the star-sacrifice ritual. He was a villain not unlike Voldemort in the days of Magical Rome's height, seeking immortality at any cost and finally attaining it at a terrible cost -- a historically-observed supernova was his doing -- and he hid in Brittania fleeing punishment for his crimes, only teaching the likes of Merlin and beginning the British magical tradition to repel the army of the Eleusinian Mysteries when they finally came looking for him. With his immortality and thousands of years of learning he has since become very blasé about everything, seeing the fate of the world as something shaped by the stars and beyond anyone's control, and his own personal safety is implacably secure, so little interests him anymore besides academic lore, especially that of wands. He has come to speak to Harry because his student, Merlin, asked for his help against Harry in a matter of terrible importance, one perhaps enough to warrant Ollivander's attempted intervention in history. Ollivander is not certain if he is going to act against Harry though, and just wanted to talk to him to get a better feel for whether or not he should. So they talk for a while, and at the end of the conversation Ollivander is still not sure if he will attempt to act against Harry or not, and says that he will of course not tell him it is coming if he does eventually decide to do so. Then he leaves.

Ollivander in turn would bring the diminished descendants of the Eleusinian Mysteries, hidden since their defeat or perhaps captured by Ollivander at that time, to bear against Harry. Perhaps they were captured outside of Time via the Mirror, like Dumbledore, and Ollivander returns to Harry offering to help him free Dumbledore (and retrieve Voldemort too, perhaps), and in the process brings forth the Eleusinian Mysteries from the place that they were trapped inside it. Perhaps, with their combined magics and the Mirror, Harry could witness the end of Atlantis; maybe that is why Ollivander brought the Eleusinians back, so that they could do that and in doing so maybe deter Harry; but when Harry remains undeterred, they turn against him, and probably against Ollivander as well, and now both Dumbledore and Voldemort are back, and Merlin is still around (and presumably Meldh and Nell in some contained form too) and now there's a shitstorm of multiple conflicting superpowers at each other's throats, and unlikely temporarily alliances.

Perhaps the Centaurs could shed some kind of light on the history of the stars, and offer some kind of philosophical guidance about free will and determinism and the like.

Perhaps the "time when worlds narrow to two" has not quite come yet, and the real lynchpin of history has to do with the manner in which Harry will end up tearing apart the stars; we already know he won't do it in an intentional "destroy the universe" way, but maybe even his more progressive, scientifically-minded way would unintentionally release those primordial magical beings of incomprehensible power to unmake Time itself. A consideration Harry wouldn't even know he had to account for had it not been for the actions of the Three leading him to this path of discovering the true origins of magic.

And as the path of Time is guided by those very same stars he is foretold to "tear apart", and it is by their power over probability that prophecies are essentially unavoidable, can Harry possibly choose, by sheer force of Will, to do other than what the literal history of the entire cosmos has conspired to create him to do?

And should he even want to defy that fate, if it means siding with the forces who literally created the inevitable increase of entropy and all the death that comes with it? It seems that Harry's entire life has shaped him to be the kind of person who would side against death at any cost... and maybe that's not coincidence. "The last enemy to be defeated shall be Death" after all, and what greater defeat of death than to unmake the law of entropy that brought death into the world in the first place? In a sense, just as the creation of Time was the primordial equivalent of the Interdict, so too the primordial equivalent of Merlin, the creator of Time, could be called the personification of Death. Harry's final enemy.

But maybe there are things worse than death? Is undying, timeless, roiling chaos better or worse than a slow, orderly, inevitable march toward death?

Or maybe Harry can take a third option, leave the primordial souls bound in stars, and the laws of nature mostly in place, but use magic to augment natural science and escape the death that entropy brings; and when necessary, perhaps sacrifice those stars to grant their immortality to those who deserve it more. But if the stars are souls, is that not just trading one life for another? Maybe the stars, though they are souls, are not persons, the way that salamanders, though alive, are not persons; and stars are no more the object of moral consideration than such lesser life forms, so it is fine to sacrifice them to grant immortality to persons. Or maybe some way is found, through the mirror perhaps, to limit the use of magic to moral, life-preserving ways.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Wed May 04, 2016 10:41 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:So now that the story is over
Wait, you mean SD is over? It's not going to drag on for another couple of years dripping out tantalizing updates with agonizing slowness? I can actually read it now? (I assume I should.)

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 04, 2016 11:18 pm UTC

Jorpho wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:So now that the story is over
Wait, you mean SD is over? It's not going to drag on for another couple of years dripping out tantalizing updates with agonizing slowness? I can actually read it now? (I assume I should.)

Yep. There is an epilogue coming out this weekend, but the story per se is over.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby patzer » Tue May 10, 2016 8:28 pm UTC

Looks like the epilogue to SD is still going to happen, but no date yet due to the author having technical issues :( https://www.reddit.com/r/AIH/comments/4 ... an_update/
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed May 11, 2016 1:08 am UTC

I noticed that someone over on that subreddit was maligning the lack of any kind of story investigating the origin of magic. I kind of wanted to reply inviting someone to pick up the story idea I laid out above and run with it, but I really don't want to get sucked into Reddit by registering for an account there. Don't suppose you could somehow appropriately link to this thread from over there or something?
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby patzer » Wed May 11, 2016 7:20 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I noticed that someone over on that subreddit was maligning the lack of any kind of story investigating the origin of magic. I kind of wanted to reply inviting someone to pick up the story idea I laid out above and run with it, but I really don't want to get sucked into Reddit by registering for an account there. Don't suppose you could somehow appropriately link to this thread from over there or something?


Good idea. Maybe I should wait until after the epilogue is published to post it? (in case the epilogue clashes with your story idea) never mind, I'll post your story idea anyway. We don't know how long we'll be waiting for the epilogue.

A month ago mrphaeton posted a thread asking about all the dangling plot points which need to be wrapped up (https://www.reddit.com/r/AIH/comments/4 ... g_threads/), so it looks like he's aware of the issues, and will probably try to clear some stuff up in the epilogue. Difficult to resolve all the issues in just an epilogue chapter, though, since things like the origin of magic would require quite a long explanation.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 12, 2016 3:14 am UTC

Thanks for that.

I realized rereading my idea that there is a flaw in it. If the net effect of the will-acts of the primordial star-souls was constant random change to the universe, imposing the requirement that all changes be ones that increase entropy would not create an orderly progression of time at all. Any soul could, for instance, change the universe from the state it was in our history in the year 1287, to the state it was in 1935, instantly and discontinuously. The next one could change it from the state of our timeline in 1935, to the state of a timeline where humans never evolved in what would have been reckoned the year 1980 if they had; and the next change could be to the state of some future time where our star is already dead, in a timeline where the Earth as we know it never formed to begin with. And the next change -- any change along the way -- could be to some state in the timeless heat death of the universe, and then no changes after that really matter at all, time has ended already.

In fact, the imposition of an entropy-increase law isn't even necessary, as the effective randomness of the cumulative will-acts of the primordial star-souls would already tend toward greater entropy just statistically. Imposing the requirement that all changes increase in entropy would just accelerate the heat death of the universe; instead of a random walk through the phase-space of the universe, one that trends toward regions of greater entropy just statistically, it would require a bee line straight "downhill" to maximal entropy. Or not even that, because the steps of the "random walk" never had to be continuous; it would be a bunch of random jumps quickly confined to only the most-entropic areas of the phase-space.

Instead, the law that needs to be imposed to create some kind of orderly universe is one that limits the magnitude of the changes that can be made, so that on scales sufficiently above that magnitude, the series of comparatively small changes give the appearance of continuous, orderly change. The star-souls would still be able to collectively steer the direction of that change, but it would have to be relatively continuous change. So whatever primordial soul first imposed this limit would be relegating the power of all the primordial souls to governors of fate, the joint steersmen of probability forced to work together if they want to effect any specific change, rather than a cacophony of endlessly warring equi-omniponent gods.

This would have the effect on the proposed story of making Harry's opposition to death not something he has to weigh against "something worse than death"; that primordial "Merlin" who limited the magnitude of the stars' magic did not create entropy, he merely harnessed and controlled it; and undoing his primordial "Interdict" by freeing the star-souls would not be some kind of defeat of death and entropy, rather it would unleash maximal entropy and bring about the heat death of the universe.

So Harry's dilemma is then how to subvert the prophecy that he will tear apart the stars (a prophecy being enforced by the magic of the stars themselves), in a way that does not (even unintentionally by freeing the star-souls while trying to make good, scientific use of stellar matter) bring about such chaos; and still the quandary of whether it's even possible for him to choose to do otherwise than the star-souls want him to, given that the very physical laws by which the apparatus he is choosing with, his brain, operate fundamentally by the magic of those stars, their acts of will upon the universe.

This unfortunately loses the angle of Harry's obsession with defeating death being the result of a cosmic plot to plunge the universe into a fate worse than death, but it keeps the interesting free-will quandary at least. I think it would be nice if, given that Harry does eventually figure some way out of his dilemma, a way to fulfill the prophecy of tearing apart the stars without in the process bringing about the heat death of the universe, there is a lingering question of whether the star-souls' plot was not actually defeated, but rather they themselves (at least the dominant plurality of them) steered this fate into being. Maybe enough of those star-souls realized that the status quo ante before their magic was limited was not something they really wanted to return to, but neither did they want to be so limited as they were, so they engineered fate to bring about a person, Harry, able to work out a solution to that dilemma.

Perhaps, as a consequence of tearing apart the stars, Harry "ends Time" in the sense of ending the arrow of time, its incessant march toward entropy, bringing about the ability to revert to earlier states of the universe (and in doing so, recover the already-dead), reversing entropy, allowing free passage to "other worlds" (alternate timelines and other times, etc); rather than in the sense of bringing the universe to the end-state of time, the heat death of the universe.

A little unrelated to all of this, but I remembered a story I wrote a while back wherein magic was, initially and naturally, a much more subtle thing than casting spells and the like; rather, it was an imminent, natural (in the sense of not artificial, but still also supernatural) effect that just caused everything to work out always, kept bad things from happening to good people, like an omnipresent, morally-aligned, minimally-intervening good luck for everyone. (Until, in my old story, its powers were gradually concentrated in increasingly fewer and fewer hands, and used for war and conquest, until one of the final super-powerful magic-users used magic to remove magic from the world entirely, leaving the crapsack mundane world we actually have in real life, where bad things happen to good people all the time but at least no one can destroy whole continents on a whim). It would be kind of neat if the endgame of magic in the HPMOR/SD/etc-verse was the reduction of magic to something like that: the universe mostly obeys natural laws, but those natural laws are probabilistic (like ours actually are), and anything that can possibly go right, does.

It occurs to me that that could be effected just by the will of the star-souls with their fate-steering power in the backstory I've constructed here, if only they all chose to direct their powers benevolently. Perhaps the resolution to the dilemma of how to tear apart the stars and end time without plunging the universe to its heat death could involve granting those star-souls some kind of greater freedom back, in a way that doesn't just give them free reign to enact chaos all over again, in exchange for them exercising their fate-steering power in this way for all eternity, in some kind of binding way. Perhaps, using the Mirror, he gives every star-soul its own other world free from the influence of the others, in which to enact its will without limitations; and those star-souls must, in exchange, undergo something the equivalent of an Unbreakable Vow, to steer the fate of this world in such a benevolent, minimally-intervening way.

It occurs to me now that that solution he could give the star-souls could be interpreted as both "tearing apart the stars" and "ending time": he is separating the stars, tearing them apart from each other, by allowing them each to go off into its own alternate timeline; and in allowing such a branching of timelines, he is in effect ending the oppressive unity of Time's single timeline. Because this is only made possible by the Mirror, perhaps the entire history of wizards attempting to subvert the supposed doom of the stars was in fact part of their plan: evolution was steered to create humans who have the magical power of the primordial souls but cannot survive in the kind of chaos that they once created; Atlantis was led to nearly destroy the universe so that the Mirror would be made in response, by those humans with their unlimited power toward the preservation of their fragile lives; and then everything in the timeline since then, the diminishing of magic in all its stages, lead to Harry being who is he and doing what he does to eventually enact the above solution.

Yes sir, I think I like it.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue May 17, 2016 7:18 pm UTC

The epilogue is finally posted.

And either Harry is mistaken in his speculation about the source of magic, or I am.

But honestly, given what we've seen magic capable of, I don't see how he can find his theory the least bit plausible.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue May 17, 2016 10:39 pm UTC

Eh. I *like* the computer theory of magic in general, but for this world, it doesn't fit. At all. Why THIS filter, and not another? It seems a really stupid filter, and really tailor made for plot convenience.

Why do some people have magic, and not others? There's that whole ball of wax that ends up being...just irrelevant. Magical creatures don't seem to adhere to the same exact system, either.

It's just...obnoxious.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue May 17, 2016 10:59 pm UTC

I like scientifications of magic that rely either on the setting taking place inside a simulated world (which isn't what Harry's hypothesizing here), or on hidden Sufficiently Advanced Technology, which does seem to be what Harry is hypothesizing here; except in this case, that Sufficiently Advanced Technology would have to be coupled with the true laws of physics being vastly different from the laws of physics as we know them, which then begs for an explanation for why the laws of physics appear to be as we know them to us and not how they truly are, which (if such an explanation is provided) boils down to more or less the explanation I gave: the universe is inherently "magical" (far less limited than the laws of physics we know would allow), and the "natural" world that we know of is a sort of artificial construct within that broader magical world. And that doesn't seem to be what Harry is thinking, but rather that magic is being done by something build in accordance with the laws of the natural world as we know it, not something transcending it.
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed May 18, 2016 3:38 pm UTC

It's not entirely impossible that something within the world is constructed that sort of alters reality in specific ways, but...it immediately brings up all manner of questions regarding the mechanism.

Something, something, aliens isn't terribly satisfactory.

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri May 27, 2016 8:37 pm UTC

It occurs to me that the epilogue putting Harry on a cosmic bus (sort of) works well with the setup for my fanfic seed idea (which I really wish someone would take up and run with). If Harry, sitting in his spaceship, suddenly has Olivander appear there speaking to him, except apparently not really there, that's something that's going to grab his attention quickly.

(I was also thinking that the method of communication Olivander uses could be the same one that star-souls use to talk to each other, some kind of direct, fundamental mind-to-mind communication. The appearance of Olivander is just Harry's mind making sense of the communication; he's not actually there, he's not projecting some kind of image, he's not manipulating Harry's mind, he's just sending a message, and seeing Olivander is the way Harry's mind formats that message. Because Harry presumable has wards on his ship to prevent people suddenly appearing there, or projecting images into there, and his perfect occlumency means his mind can't be manipulated like that, this new kind of magic tips Harry off that something really weird is going on).
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue May 31, 2016 8:05 pm UTC

Worth a shot, write it up!

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue May 31, 2016 10:15 pm UTC

i wish i could but my entire life is a graveyard of unfinished and ever-smaller projects that i never get a chance to work on for more than a moment before some other train wreck derails me for years and by then its too late to come back to it
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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Wed Jun 22, 2016 12:52 pm UTC

Well, I'm coming up on the end of Arc 1 at the moment. Can't say I'm enjoying this nearly as much as HPMOR, and if you folks hadn't be going on about it for pages and pages, I might have given up on it by now. But I've come too far now. (It doesn't help that the epub formatting is kind of wonky.)

Some questions that have probably been answered, if I may: Is there a translation somewhere of the Turkish (?) in Bonus: War? What is the solution to the riddles on the pedestals? (Oh, he's nice enough to provide that much, at least.) And wasn't Astrid a canon character?

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Re: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Postby Jorpho » Mon Aug 08, 2016 4:20 am UTC

Hat dug I'm glad I stuck with this. That last arc is frakkin' metal. I could hardly put it down. It's hard to believe a single person wrote this whole thing. I feel a little sad that I could probably never achieve something of this quality, and even if I did, it would probably at best languish in relative obscurity much like this work tragically will. In some ways I daresay it even surpasses HPMOR. (I'm certainly glad I waited until the whole thing was finished, as I would not have wanted to wait in agony for the last few chapters to come out.)

I will go back and read the rest of this thread now. Has anyone started Orders of Magnitude, on that note?

Also, is there any word on what's taking the official HPMOR epilog so long?


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