Rebel Physics

Peter J. Carroll

Latest Blog Post

  • The Way of the Wand

    I received an invitation to write a piece for publication in Japanese in a Japanese journal of Magic. I present it here in English.

    The Way of the Wand.

    Religion seeks knowledge and power through the understanding of the will of Supernatural Agencies.

    Science seeks knowledge and power through the understanding of Natural Mechanisms.

    Magic seeks knowledge and power through the understanding of Intents – personal intents, the intents of others, and the intents of natural phenomena.

    On a superficial level, all three disciplines loathe and despise each other. Scientists dismiss the existence of supernatural agencies and the existence of intents (including free-will). Religionists loathe and despise the reductionism of scientists and regard the hubris of magicians as evil and blasphemous. Magicians consider science incomplete and regard all religious ideas as rather arbitrary vehicles for Intent.

    Many people who express an interest in Magic only really want the consolations of religion and mysticism and something ‘spiritual’ - whatever that may mean.

    If spirituality means ‘the way you live your life’ then Magic certainly has its own ‘spirituality’ – ‘Living your life by Intent’ - making things happen by all available means.

    We should not confuse Intent with ‘willpower’ as in some early 20th century definitions of Magic. Both willpower and Intent arise from Imagination. The capacity to imagine what you want, consciously and subconsciously, and the imagination to build on that to the exclusion of other needs and wants and fears and distractions, leads to the knowledge and the power of Intent.

    One thing marks out Magicians from the Scientists and the Religiously inclined. Magicians constantly practice Enchantment; they cast spells all the time. They may also practise Divination, the attempt to divine the intentions of people and events, or Invocation, the attempt to draw inspiration from imaginary supernatural agencies or their own sub-consciousnesses, or Evocation, the attempt to control the intent of imaginary supernatural agencies or their own sub-consciousnesses, but Enchantment remains the defining activity of a Magician.

    For this reason, effective magical training programs always start with Enchantment and the use of wands and spells and sigils. Only those who truly ‘pick up the wand and run with it’ will ever master the life skill of Magical Intent. The rest will just end up toying with tarot cards and the like and creating their own idiosyncratic mysticisms and religions.

    A Magician can do Enchantment without a literal physical magic wand, in the same way that anyone can do simple carpentry with their bare hands by breaking and twisting small pieces of wood together, but precision instruments give better results.

    As the traditional instrument of Enchantment, the Wand serves several purposes; the magician can use it to focus more intently when drawing spells and sigils in the air, or in the mind’s eyes of imagination and visualisation. Wands also serve to constantly remind Magicians of their chosen vocation to Live their lives by Intent, whatever the distractions and blandishments and fears and conventions of contemporary life.

    A Magician should always make Wands that represent personal intents and meanings. Two Wands will often suffice, a large one in the form of a staff of the Magician’s own height for use in private or special places, and a smaller pocket wand for carrying always. Magicians should consider upgrading their wands continuously during their careers as their skills and knowledge and intents develop.

    A Wand does not even have to look like a conventional Wizard’s wand. Some Magicians have successfully defined special objects in the shape of rings or amulets or even weapons as their Wands.

    Magic does not always work, but on the other hand Religious appeals to supernatural agencies work even less well, and Science frequently fails to do what we want it to because we inhabit a universe with a lot of randomness in it. This randomness has two consequences for the Magician, it makes Enchantment possible, but it also renders Divination subject to probability.

    If only a fifth of your spells work or you find that you can only achieve a twenty percent distortion of probability, then you still have a real power that with persistent and subtle application will yield good results. If, however only a fifth of your Divinations give the correct answer then you will acquire a disability if you act upon them.

    Additionally, because of the existence of randomness and probability, Enchantments work best when aimed well into the future whilst Divination gives better results over shorter times, so as I always say, whenever possible - ‘Enchant Long and Divine Short’. Of course, Magicians would prefer to Enchant and get a result quickly and to have the ability to Divine the distant future, but the chaos and randomness in this universe which makes Enchantment possible makes these acts difficult.

    Taking the Way of The Wand means living in a universe of Intents and challenging yourself to succeed at difficult activities that require some sensitivity to the Intents of others and the Intents of human made systems and the Intents of physical reality, as well as a quiet self-confidence and a well disguised supreme arrogance.

    Magicians rarely succeed in working together for long. Rivalry tends to become enmity. Magic tends to become a solitary pursuit shared only through books and manuscripts and letters. Humans tend to revile or ridicule or fear those who advertise themselves as Magicians in Science based cultures, and in monotheist Religious cultures, and not all Pagan cultures have regarded it favourably. Magic thus tends toward discretion if not outright secrecy.

    Nevertheless, many magicians smile quietly when they notice ordinary people inadvertently using magical thinking quite successfully. Belief in the power of Intent and belief that all phenomena have Intents does often give good results, even if Science believes otherwise and denies even human free will. Believing in Intent seems an indispensable element in the human toolkit but use it with care and with a carefully crafted Wand for best effect.

    Ordinary people seem to recognise the power of Intent but so often see to shy away from it out of fear about where it might lead them. It does have its dangers, but the Magician decides To Know, To Imagine, To Dare, and To Keep Silent.


    A correction to all versions of Hypersphere Cosmology.

    Since I started collaborating with a gamma-ray astronomer on the Hypersphere Cosmology hypothesis we have started checking the math in fine detail. The precise formula for redshift appears below, previous versions gave only its square root.




    Written on Saturday, 16 February 2019 17:17 in Blog Read 226 times

Latest Games Post

  • Square Rigger Chess

    Square Rigger Chess models the manoeuvre and combat of square rigged naval ships of the Napoleonic period. No element of chance enters into this system, the results depend entirely on player skill and the chosen starting conditions, to this extent it functions as a chess-like game. This modelling system depends on several simplifications for game play: -

    The division of sea areas into squares. The orientation of all ships and firepower and wind direction, in just 8 possible directions. The characterisation of ships by just 3 factors, Firepower, Speed, and Turning ability. F, S, and T.

    Firepower. – (the combined effects of cannon + carronades + mortars + musketry), ships begin with a firepower factor of 2, 3, 4, or 5. In attack a ship may allocate its firepower factor in any directions preferred up to the maximum of its firepower as shown in the Fire chart following: For example, a 2Nd Rater with a firepower of 4 could direct all its firepower of 4 in a starboard (right) or port (left) broadside, but not both. It can only use a maximum of 2 units of its firepower (4 – 2 = 2) fore or aft and only a maximum of 3 units (4 – 1 = 3) off the port or starboard bows or off the port or starboard stern, thus it could for example simultaneously fire 2 units of its firepower fore and the other two off the starboard bow, (or any other direction chosen). In combat the attacker assigns firepower factors to chosen directions first.

    The effect of attacking firepower falls off with distance, by 1 per every square after the immediately adjacent square effect shown below. (See the Distance Fire Chart later.)

    Ships defending against Fire use their Firepower factor in the same way, assigning part or all of it to various directions to try to cancel the effects of incoming fire, however it does not decrease with distance. This curious seeming rule reflects the fact that the vulnerability of ships rose in precisely those directions where they could use the least of their firepower.

    Any ship which receives from any direction more firepower than it assigns to that direction takes one ‘Hit’ for every unit of firepower that it loses by. Merchant ships have defensive ‘firepower’ only.

    Speed and Turn. In a player turn ships may move one square forward for every Speed factor they have and may turn 45 degrees (one eighth of a full circle) for every Turn factor they have.

    The chart below shows what manoeuvres a 3rd Rater with a Speed of 2 and a Turn of 2 can do in a move with mainly starboard turns.

    The nimble 3rd Rater starts on square 1, its initial position shown in black. It can end its move in any of the positions shown by red ships by using some or all of its 2 Speed and 2 Turn capabilities. Note that it could also use turns to port instead of starboard to end up in the positions and orientations shown by the white ships and that it could also make other orientations on squares 4 or 7 using turns to port. (Not shown).

    The heavier ships have less manoeuvrability than a 3rd Rater, and manoeuvrability declines as ships take Hits (see damage chart).

    Wind direction and intensity also affect manoeuvrability (see wind rules and chart).                                                                                   

    Ship Classes.

    First Raters. F5, S1, T1. These rare lumbering behemoths with 100+ guns have huge firepower but poor speed and manoeuvrability.

    Second Raters. F4, S1, T2. As above but these monsters with 84 guns do manoeuvre slightly better.

    Third Raters. F3, S2, T2. These faster and more manoeuvrable 64-gun warships serve as the main workhorses of the line of battle.

    Frigates. F2, S2, T3. These fast and highly manoeuvrable 44-gun warships can bring vital extra fire support when heavier ships engage.

    Distance Fire Chart.

    Firepower has its greatest effect into adjacent squares, but ships may also use their firepower at greater distances. Basically, subtract one from the effect of assigned firepower for each additional square. Thus, if the vessel below has a firepower of 4 and assigns it all to a starboard broadside that broadside can only have an effect of 3 on any one square marked X, or 2 on any one square marked Y.

    The Non-Adjacency Rule. Ships on the same side must leave at least one empty square (orthogonally or diagonally) between themselves when ending their player moves.

    This rule may seem slightly unrealistic, although friendly ships did try to keep at least a ships length between themselves.

    This rule allows for the use of the classic manoeuvre of ‘cutting the line’ without the complications of modelling collisions. Ships on opposite sides can occupy adjacent squares, and they will often do so to disrupt enemy formations and to direct the fire of several ships to a single target.

    The above chart shows a flotilla of red ships engaging a flotilla of blue ships. Note that whilst several ships from either side have moved to squares adjacent to enemy ships, no two ships on the same side lie orthogonally or diagonally adjacent to each other.

    The non-adjacency rule does not apply inside of harbours, friendly ships may moor and manoeuvre alongside each othear, ships may also lay adjacent to friendly ships that have struck their colours.

    Damage Chart. As ships take Hits, their Firepower, Speed, and Turning abilities decline as shown on the following chart. Players should place damage markers on their ship markers as appropriate to show their status.

    Any ship reduced to 0 0 0 ‘Strikes its Colours’ and remains immobile and inactive for the rest of the battle and subject to towing away for repairs or as a prize afterwards, if the victor has a mobile ship spare to do this, otherwise the victor may elect to scuttle it.

    Wind Chart. Players set the wind direction and intensity before play, the wind can come from any one of 8 directions. Players may also make some provision for a change of wind during the game if desired.

    Moderate Wind simply prevents movement directly into the wind (square riggers could not do this), however they can turn into the wind and then turn to 45 degrees to the wind and effectively tack in a zig zag in a generally windward direction.

    Stronger winds also deny movement directly into the wind and additionally allow for greater movement with the wind as shown in the chart below. The numbers on the squares represent the number of squares a ship can move in that direction for the expenditure of a single speed point. Ships can move twice as far with a following stronger wind.

    General notes on scenarios and tactics. Players should practice with small numbers of ships at first. Larger flotillas and fleets may require the command of several Commodores or Admirals each in charge of a squadron, as coordinating the movement and fire of many ships becomes a challenging task.

    Scenarios can include convoy interception (see note on transports and merchant ships), chasing down and capture of slow enemy heavy ships by more numerous lighter ships, harbour blockades and attempted breakouts, and fleet battles for naval supremacy.

    Transports and Merchant Ships usually effectively consist of unarmed versions of naval ships, with the heavier ones having less speed and manoeuvrability. They take damage and strike colours in the same fashion.

    Play takes place by alternate moves. In each player move players may move all their ships in any order so long as the final positions of their ships does not break the non-adjacency rule. Attacker and defender then both assign firepower in exchanges of fire, calculate Hits and place damage markers.


    The following 2 charts show for extra clarity, firstly the effects of fire from diagonally orientated ships, and secondly the effects of stronger wind from diagonal directions.

    Shore Batteries. These defend harbours and effectively act like static ships with high firepower. They should have precisely designated fields of fire. They take firepower damage in the same way as ships.

    Commanders should learn to recognise the lines of squares which stretch out from the port and starboard bows and the port and starboard sterns of any ship, for these represent the ‘true diagonals’ of the ship itself, (whether the ship lies orthogonally or diagonally on a square), for these define its fields of fire and defence.

    Note that Frigates begin with no ability to fire directly forward from their bows, or directly backwards from their sterns, and no defence against fire from these directions either. Theoretically negative values for defensive firepower do not invite extra damage hits, negative values simply count as zero. 


    Written on Wednesday, 12 September 2018 11:39 in Games Read 659 times

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