Because Science


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


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So, I found myself wondering about science in the pathfinder universe. Specifically two parts of it:

What science that we have in the real world actually holds true for Golarion and the rest of the Material Plane.

And how much of this is actually known in the majority of Golarion.

For example, do scholars know what an atom is? How about bacteria? DO either of them even exist?

And changing any one of these things changes up much of how the world works, too. For example, as plate tectonics seems unlikely (given the presence of the Darklands), what causes earthquakes? Does evolution exist, on any scale, in a multiverse with numerous creator deities?
Do the laws of thermodynamics exist? Interestingly, magic may not even violate thermodynamics if any energy was drawn from another plane's substance. (i.e. a fireball actually siphoned a small amount of elemental flame from the plane of fire when cast, and didn't actually create it from nothing)

The next part of this is, how much do Golarion's brightest know? I mean, obviously Alkenstar's finest know quite a bit about combustion, materials science, engineering, and so on. Presumably, the Technic League would know at least the basics of how electricity works and the interaction between magnetism and electricity. And clearly gravity has been discovered, if only noted by the spell "reverse gravity," but does anybody know what a cell is? Have they figured out Newton's laws of motion? Have they recognized Mendelian inheritance patterns? Have they discovered and can classify an element? The list goes on.

Thoughts? How might natural phenomena happen if the underlying principle changes? What laws of reality exist in the Pathfinder multiverse? How many of them do they know?


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In the main... I would put Golarion's understanding of physical science to be 16th century... tops. That includes those Numerian techno-wizards who are generally are still around because they use their servants and flunkies to absorb the results of their guesses that don't work out.

So when it comes to atoms, they're still using the view of Democritus of Ancient Greece and the tops of astronomy would be comparable to Earth's Tycho Brahe.

As far as electricity goes... they still have yet to get to the level of Ben Franklin.... forget about modern physics.

Golarion's best and brightest essentialy know about 5 percent of what modern science knows... and that's a generous estimate.

The bulk of everything you're asking about are essentially 20th century discoveries... aided with the use of mass information and communication, and peer review, none of operates on Golarion

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

We know that at least one Ustalavic scientist created a flesh golem using a lightning rod. So... there was that. ^_^

As for genetics and inheritance, all the outsider/nonhumanoid DNA floating around probably throws off attempts to study the process, at least to some extent.


Kalindlara wrote:

We know that at least one Ustalavic scientist created a flesh golem using a lightning rod. So... there was that. ^_^

But given the circumstances, arguably that was not an act of science.


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Daedalus the Dungeon Builder wrote:


What science that we have in the real world actually holds true for Golarion and the rest of the Material Plane.

Not true. The instant science gets in the way of our fantasy.. such as giants that would collapse under their own weight, or pegasi and dragons that could not possibly fly, in the real world... it gets told to shut up and sit in a corner.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Kalindlara wrote:

We know that at least one Ustalavic scientist created a flesh golem using a lightning rod. So... there was that. ^_^

But given the circumstances, arguably that was not an act of science.

If you insist. I'm not much in the mood for arguing for the sake of contrariness.


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With respect to how much Earth science works on Golarion, in principle, all of it, since

Reign of Winter:
PCs from Golarion are able to go to Earth (in 1918/1919), which is apparently in the same universe.

Of course, if something like the Horizon in Old World of Darkness is in operation, this may not be entirely correct . . . .

With respect to how much people on Golarion know of science, the common knowledge probably isn't very much, given the combination of lower tech level with the widespread scientific illiteracy found on modern Earth. But a subset of the elites may know quite a bit more, and keep it to themselves for security and profit.


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All the laws of physics work because it's the same universe as Earth.


Milo v3 wrote:
All the laws of physics work because it's the same universe as Earth.

The same universe as a FICTIONAL EARTH where the laws of physics demonstrably DO NOT work the same way as our real world.. as one AP clearly demonstrates.

And as I've clearly pointed out if Golarion was shackled by our real world physics, a lot of what we take for granted simply could not exist. period.


all the laws of physics work, until magic gets involved. Then all bets are off.

Dragons are very magical.


andygal wrote:

all the laws of physics work, until magic gets involved. Then all bets are off.

Dragons are very magical.

Kaiju and giants generally are not magical... they still would be impossible creatures.

Virtually every winged creature in the bestiary would not function in the real world.


andygal wrote:

all the laws of physics work, until magic gets involved. Then all bets are off.

Dragons are very magical.

Dragons can fly in antimagic zones.

Giant insects are not normally considered very magical.

There are whole bunches of basic physics and biology that just don't follow the same rules we understand.

What that means about the nature of the greater universe doesn't really interest me much. It means things in Golarion can work like they do in legend and myth and that's cool.


Dot for SCIENCE~!1one1!


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Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
andygal wrote:

all the laws of physics work, until magic gets involved. Then all bets are off.

Dragons are very magical.

Kaiju and giants generally are not magical... they still would be impossible creatures.

Virtually every winged creature in the bestiary would not function in the real world.

Actually, it would be cool if somebody would create artwork of fantastic creatures built so that they could live and function well on our world, or at least with a world set with parameters compatible with Human life (like maybe somewhat lower gravity and thicker atmosphere), without magical assistance.

For instance, Dragons would need to be built somewhat like Quetzalcoatlus, whereas Giants would need to be built like the Fire Giant in this image from the D&D 3.5 SRD, basically a giant Dwarf that is hefty enough to compensate for the Square-Cube Law (the other 2 Giants in the image are definitely going to have problems in a 1 g environment; the Frost Giant in this image would probably be okay on Mars if you dumped a fair fraction of Earth's atmosphere there, but the Storm Giant would need to be on the Moon, and the Moon just isn't going to hold at atmosphere for very long).


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UnArcaneElection wrote:


For instance, Dragons would need to be built somewhat like Quetzalcoatlus, whereas Giants would need to be built like the Fire Giant in this image from the D&D 3.5 SRD, basically a giant Dwarf that is hefty enough to compensate for the Square-Cube Law (the other 2 Giants in the image are definitely going to have problems in a 1 g environment; the Frost Giant in this image would probably be okay on Mars if you dumped a fair fraction of Earth's atmosphere there, but the Storm Giant would need to be on the Moon, and the Moon just isn't going to hold at atmosphere for very long).

Many creatures that lived in the Age of Dinosaurs could do so only because Earth had a significantly higher percentage of oxygen in it's atmosphere, about 30 percent as opposed to today's 21.


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They could probably disprove a geocentric solar system quite easily with magic.

I have to say, magic would make a lot of scientific discoveries in our world easier. If someone had the drive to learn science and it did work like our world, then they probably could know most of it.


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Goddity wrote:

They could probably disprove a geocentric solar system quite easily with magic.

I have to say, magic would make a lot of scientific discoveries in our world easier.

I'd say it be the opposite. Magic presents so many answers that it disincentives non-magical means to gain others.


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Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Goddity wrote:

They could probably disprove a geocentric solar system quite easily with magic.

I have to say, magic would make a lot of scientific discoveries in our world easier.

I'd say it be the opposite. Magic presents so many answers that it disincentives non-magical means to gain others.

You're very right, I meant in the sense that you could cheaply duplicate complicated expensive scientific equipment with magic.


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Goddity wrote:
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Goddity wrote:

They could probably disprove a geocentric solar system quite easily with magic.

I have to say, magic would make a lot of scientific discoveries in our world easier.

I'd say it be the opposite. Magic presents so many answers that it disincentives non-magical means to gain others.
You're very right, I meant in the sense that you could cheaply duplicate complicated expensive scientific equipment with magic.

Also, you can teleport to another planet or moon and see that your planet is moving. :P


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Scythia wrote:
Goddity wrote:
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Goddity wrote:

They could probably disprove a geocentric solar system quite easily with magic.

I have to say, magic would make a lot of scientific discoveries in our world easier.

I'd say it be the opposite. Magic presents so many answers that it disincentives non-magical means to gain others.
You're very right, I meant in the sense that you could cheaply duplicate complicated expensive scientific equipment with magic.
Also, you can teleport to another planet or moon and see that your planet is moving. :P

Which completely removes the need for telescopes and years of data. So an equally important question is: what does the scientific method look like on Golarion?


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Goddity wrote:
Scythia wrote:
Goddity wrote:
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Goddity wrote:

They could probably disprove a geocentric solar system quite easily with magic.

I have to say, magic would make a lot of scientific discoveries in our world easier.

I'd say it be the opposite. Magic presents so many answers that it disincentives non-magical means to gain others.
You're very right, I meant in the sense that you could cheaply duplicate complicated expensive scientific equipment with magic.
Also, you can teleport to another planet or moon and see that your planet is moving. :P
Which completely removes the need for telescopes and years of data. So an equally important question is: what does the scientific method look like on Golarion?

Step 1: Hypothesis

Step 2: Spell
Step 3: Results


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Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Many creatures that lived in the Age of Dinosaurs could do so only because Earth had a significantly higher percentage of oxygen in it's atmosphere, about 30 percent as opposed to today's 21.

This may have been true of part of the Mesozoic, but not all of it. A cursory Google Search for oxygen in Earth's atmosphere in the Mesozoic era (the time of the dinosaurs) shows that oxygen levels fluctuated as low as 15% (maybe even 10%), being above modern levels for only a small part of the time (in contrast to the considerably longer time of up to 30% -- maybe even 35% -- in the Carboniferous and Permian (before the time of dinosaurs, but sporting some giant dragonflies).

Of course, it's not just the oxygen concentration that matters, but the total amount of air, or in other words, oxygen partial pressure (how much pressure it would exert if you removed all other gases). This is why diving gas mixtures for greater depths need to have less oxygen (more than 60% oxygen at sea level pressure is toxic to us, and this percentage goes down proportionately to the increase in pressure), while the low pressure atmosphere in Apollo spacecraft was up to 100% oxygen just to keep about the same amount of oxygen per unit volume as in normal atmosphere at sea level pressure.

Still, higher oxygen partial pressures would help large creatures, especially large flying creatures, by allowing them to get by with smaller lungs. Higher total pressures would also help large flying creatures by allowing them to get by with smaller wings. In the extreme case, with thousands of atmospheres of pressure, things with the proportions of a penguin could fly, although that wouldn't be hospitable to actual penguins or us (that much pressure is incompatible with most life that can be found on the surface, although certain life forms have adapted to such huge pressures and can be found in ocean trenches and very deep underground). In a less extreme case, 4 to 6 atmospheres of total pressure would still be a big help to things with more conventional flying wings, and would be right on the edge of causing nitrogen narcosis in Humans, but a Human population would probably adapt to it as long as time was available for adaptation without having to deal with too much else in the way of hostile conditions at the same time, while oxygen concentration of 15% to 10% would correspond to 60% oxygen at sea level on Earth -- this would be on the edge of toxicity, and would likely shorten life for present-day Humans, but over several generations, Humans would probably evolve to be able to deal with it, particularly if initially dropped on a mountain in the tropics (so as not to be too cold/glaciated) to let them get an easy start on it.

Of course, if somebody (hint hint) who knows what they're doing (not us) is transplanting life from Earth (and maybe other worlds) and practicing genetic engineering to give their sponsored life forms a head start on such a world (while conveniently muddling genetic/evolutionary relationships), all bets are off.


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Goddity wrote:
Scythia wrote:
Goddity wrote:
Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Goddity wrote:

They could probably disprove a geocentric solar system quite easily with magic.

I have to say, magic would make a lot of scientific discoveries in our world easier.

I'd say it be the opposite. Magic presents so many answers that it disincentives non-magical means to gain others.
You're very right, I meant in the sense that you could cheaply duplicate complicated expensive scientific equipment with magic.
Also, you can teleport to another planet or moon and see that your planet is moving. :P
Which completely removes the need for telescopes and years of data. So an equally important question is: what does the scientific method look like on Golarion?

Being the prison of Rovagug everyone knows GOlarion is the unmoving center of the Multiverse, duh.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Science definitely takes a backseat to fun and plot. However, basic physics are generally assumed for the most part: water is wet, gravity makes things fall, fire burns flesh, etc.

If we didn't have that underlying foundation, the game would be wholly unrelatable and essentially unplayable.


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^ . . . In other words, it isn't exact realism we're after, but cinematic awesomeness.


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The Rule of Cool is the only relevant scientific principle in Golarion.


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Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
UnArcaneElection wrote:

^ . . . In other words, it isn't exact realism we're after, but cinematic awesomeness.

Essentially.


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Delightful wrote:
The Rule of Cool is the only relevant scientific principle in Golarion.

I choose to accept this as an actual effect on Golarion.


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That's pretty much it.

Golarion doesn't run on science. It runs on various combinations of pulp fiction, ancient myths and modern fantasy. Dragons can fly because that's what we expect of dragons. Giants look roughly like giant humans and can still walk around because that's what our stories about giants feature. We have giant bugs because giant bugs are horrifying and cool enemies. Our heroes can physically trade blows with colossal monsters without being instantly crushed or just sent flying because we want them to be able to fight the giant monsters.

There's no coherent scientific theory behind all this. I doubt there can be. There isn't even any coherent magical explanation, unless you postulate some other "magic" that isn't in-world magic and isn't detectable or affected by other magic.

I doubt the scientific method would ever be invented in Golarion. Both magic and "magic" make the world too unpredictable. Early people in the real world believed weather (and pretty much everything else) was the work of gods or spirits. In Golarion that is sometimes literally and provably true. Mortal casters can manipulate it too and not always in obvious ways. How do you distinguish which cases are natural weather and which are the result of some creature? And do it consistently enough to develop a science of meteorology. The same for everything else.
That said, science, like everything else is governed by the Rule of Cool. If you want science to be more advanced, at least theoretically it is.

It's also quite possible for many of the things we've learned through science to be learned simply by asking the appropriate deity. If disease works anything like it does in the real world, it seems likely one of gods of medicine would have spread the word about the basics of sanitation. You might not have germ theory and vaccines and such, but you know about washing your hands and not contaminating your water supply.


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Wizards are scientists in a way.
Magic is just an aspect of the observable universe.


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Great feedback, everyone! Thanks a bunch.
Interestingly, all of the discoveries I listed (except plate tectonics) were discovered during or before the 1800s.

In any case, a few things to consider:
The French Revolution (i.e. Galt) happened in the late 1700s (1789-1799).
the United States (Andoran) was founded shortly before then (1776).
Conversely, gunpowder was introduced to Europe as early as the 1200s.

These just go to show that Earth history doesn't correlate to Golarion history all too well. It's quite possible that any of the discoveries I mentioned could have been discovered by 4716 AR. as for nobody having any incentive to do so, Wizards are notorious for hoarding knowledge, and at least a few are bound to figured out that non-magical secrets have some value.

Regardless, why constrain ourselves to the "they didn't think of physics while making Pathfinder, so it must not exist" mentality? If dragons and giants couldn't exist on Earth, what is it about Golarion and its physics that makes them possible? How is physics, chemistry, and biology different, that allows impossible creatures to exist?


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Daedalus the Dungeon Builder wrote:

Great feedback, everyone! Thanks a bunch.

Interestingly, all of the discoveries I listed (except plate tectonics) were discovered during or before the 1800s.

In any case, a few things to consider:
The French Revolution (i.e. Galt) happened in the late 1700s (1789-1799).
the United States (Andoran) was founded shortly before then (1776).
Conversely, gunpowder was introduced to Europe as early as the 1200s.

These just go to show that Earth history doesn't correlate to Golarion history all too well. It's quite possible that any of the discoveries I mentioned could have been discovered by 4716 AR. as for nobody having any incentive to do so, Wizards are notorious for hoarding knowledge, and at least a few are bound to figured out that non-magical secrets have some value.

Regardless, why constrain ourselves to the "they didn't think of physics while making Pathfinder, so it must not exist" mentality? If dragons and giants couldn't exist on Earth, what is it about Golarion and its physics that makes them possible? How is physics, chemistry, and biology different, that allows impossible creatures to exist?

Because that leads us down a whole bunch of nasty rabbit holes. Most likely, there is no consistent physics, chemistry and biology that lets all the impossible things in Golarion exist. Especially since it would have to do so without changing all the other things that do seem to work the same.

The world wasn't created with such a coherent science in mind, but patched together from different sources, most of which didn't pay much attention to modern science either.
The attempts I've seen to justify the more obvious impossibilities have looked like pseudoscience and generally introduced as many problems as they "fixed".


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The cantrip Prestidigitation alone violates conservation of matter and energy, the laws of thermodynamics, and Newton's laws of motion. If somebody could reliably cast it under laboratory conditions, science would have to add an asterisk to some large chunks of physics with a note saying, "Unless somebody casts Prestidigitation."

Is atomic theory still applicable? An Alchemist capstone can convert base metals into gold, and an enchanted sword never rusts.

There's also a lot of old discredited pseudoscience that works just fine. Phrenology is a valid way to learn an awful lot about a person, for instance.

Ultimately, it's a fictional fantasy setting. Physics is generally ignored, and we make rationalizations for why folks haven't invented the telegraph or the battery in the setting. (Maybe it offends Nethys and he gets his kicks giving scientists irreproducible results.) If you want to run your game such that non-casters spend a lot of time poking around how the world works in the absence of magic mucking about with things, then go for it.


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Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
UnArcaneElection wrote:


For instance, Dragons would need to be built somewhat like Quetzalcoatlus, whereas Giants would need to be built like the Fire Giant in this image from the D&D 3.5 SRD, basically a giant Dwarf that is hefty enough to compensate for the Square-Cube Law (the other 2 Giants in the image are definitely going to have problems in a 1 g environment; the Frost Giant in this image would probably be okay on Mars if you dumped a fair fraction of Earth's atmosphere there, but the Storm Giant would need to be on the Moon, and the Moon just isn't going to hold at atmosphere for very long).

Many creatures that lived in the Age of Dinosaurs could do so only because Earth had a significantly higher percentage of oxygen in it's atmosphere, about 30 percent as opposed to today's 21.

"Age of Dinosaurs"...if you mean Mesozoic, this is absolutely wrong. Dinosaurs could grow as large as they did because their bones were largely hollow and filled with air. They also laid eggs, so they didn't have to deal with the constraint of live birth and prolonged gestation/child-rearing, that helps to limit mammal maximum body size.

Carboniferous...sure. The greater O2 did allow insects to get bigger. However that was well before the time of the dinosaurs, and even then insects only got so large.


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Golarion runs on rule of cool. You should assume it follows real world science, except in cases where it would be cooler if it didn't (Giants, flying dragons, giant bugs).


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Drahliana Moonrunner wrote:
Goddity wrote:

They could probably disprove a geocentric solar system quite easily with magic.

I have to say, magic would make a lot of scientific discoveries in our world easier.

I'd say it be the opposite. Magic presents so many answers that it disincentives non-magical means to gain others.

Plus there's a decent chance most of those with the raw genius to make these discoveries have been being trained in magic since they were like 9


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Given the number of similarities to planet earth, I think that Star Trek provides several excellent explanations for what's going on: alien copycats with a tiny exposure to earth culture, ascended beings with wish-like powers, Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planetary Development, seeding of similar genetic material, rule of cool on a budget, continuity errors dealing with forehead ridges, etc.

So, the science is similar until magic-babble is needed to deal with this week's inconsistency.

Silver Crusade

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Yeah, in general it's a bad idea to try and apply real-world physics to Pathfinder (or any rules heavy games; you can get away with it more with more narrative systems), as the rules were constructed less to be an accurate representation of how the world works than to make a system that functions unto itself.


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Envall wrote:

Wizards are scientists in a way.

Magic is just an aspect of the observable universe.

But the laws of Magick have pretty little to do with Science as it is known in our universe.


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Daedalus the Dungeon Builder wrote:

So, I found myself wondering about science in the pathfinder universe. Specifically two parts of it:

What science that we have in the real world actually holds true for Golarion and the rest of the Material Plane.

And how much of this is actually known in the majority of Golarion.

For example, do scholars know what an atom is? How about bacteria? DO either of them even exist?

And changing any one of these things changes up much of how the world works, too. For example, as plate tectonics seems unlikely (given the presence of the Darklands), what causes earthquakes? Does evolution exist, on any scale, in a multiverse with numerous creator deities?
Do the laws of thermodynamics exist? Interestingly, magic may not even violate thermodynamics if any energy was drawn from another plane's substance. (i.e. a fireball actually siphoned a small amount of elemental flame from the plane of fire when cast, and didn't actually create it from nothing)

The next part of this is, how much do Golarion's brightest know? I mean, obviously Alkenstar's finest know quite a bit about combustion, materials science, engineering, and so on. Presumably, the Technic League would know at least the basics of how electricity works and the interaction between magnetism and electricity. And clearly gravity has been discovered, if only noted by the spell "reverse gravity," but does anybody know what a cell is? Have they figured out Newton's laws of motion? Have they recognized Mendelian inheritance patterns? Have they discovered and can classify an element? The list goes on.

Thoughts? How might natural phenomena happen if the underlying principle changes? What laws of reality exist in the Pathfinder multiverse? How many of them do they know?

You know, every time someone tries to bring up real science in a scifi/fantasy context, somewhere in the world, a catgirl dies.


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Scott Wilhelm wrote:
Daedalus the Dungeon Builder wrote:

So, I found myself wondering about science in the pathfinder universe. Specifically two parts of it:

What science that we have in the real world actually holds true for Golarion and the rest of the Material Plane.

And how much of this is actually known in the majority of Golarion.

For example, do scholars know what an atom is? How about bacteria? DO either of them even exist?

And changing any one of these things changes up much of how the world works, too. For example, as plate tectonics seems unlikely (given the presence of the Darklands), what causes earthquakes? Does evolution exist, on any scale, in a multiverse with numerous creator deities?
Do the laws of thermodynamics exist? Interestingly, magic may not even violate thermodynamics if any energy was drawn from another plane's substance. (i.e. a fireball actually siphoned a small amount of elemental flame from the plane of fire when cast, and didn't actually create it from nothing)

The next part of this is, how much do Golarion's brightest know? I mean, obviously Alkenstar's finest know quite a bit about combustion, materials science, engineering, and so on. Presumably, the Technic League would know at least the basics of how electricity works and the interaction between magnetism and electricity. And clearly gravity has been discovered, if only noted by the spell "reverse gravity," but does anybody know what a cell is? Have they figured out Newton's laws of motion? Have they recognized Mendelian inheritance patterns? Have they discovered and can classify an element? The list goes on.

Thoughts? How might natural phenomena happen if the underlying principle changes? What laws of reality exist in the Pathfinder multiverse? How many of them do they know?

You know, every time someone tries to bring up real science in a scifi/fantasy context, somewhere in the world, a catgirl dies.

That could be a coincidence. As a similar example, fey in Peter Pan have a birth rate very close to that of humans (being born of a baby's first laugh) but reduced lifespan. Hence, globally, their death rate is very high, regardless of how many people say they don't believe in them. What are the birthrates and lifespans of catgirls?

Tangent, if stating disbelief does kill fey, do they still reform if they died in the First World?


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Klorox wrote:
Envall wrote:

Wizards are scientists in a way.

Magic is just an aspect of the observable universe.
But the laws of Magick have pretty little to do with Science as it is known in our universe.

But what we know is completely irrelevant to what they know.

What is science, at this very core?
Studying the universe, observing its phenomena and figuring out how it works.
Whether or not it works the same way is absolutely irrelevant.

Silver Crusade

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Klorox wrote:
Envall wrote:

Wizards are scientists in a way.

Magic is just an aspect of the observable universe.
But the laws of Magick have pretty little to do with Science as it is known in our universe.

Cross-posted from a previous magic/science thread

Isonaroc wrote:

The way I see it magic is a natural force. That force can be manipulated via SCIENCE! such as how wizards use it (and anyone can learn to use it if they undergo the training, so I don't know how "special" you have to be). However there are some creatures that can just do it naturally (sorcerers, outsiders, etc.), they are not using it scientifically.

In short, magic isn't a science any more than light is a science. Wizardry, however, is.


Forget Science, Golarian runs on the Laws of Wargame and Make-Believe. We play at science to enable an acceptable level of suspension of disbelief for whatever level of roleplay we shoot for.

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