What's Happening

This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

<<This was subverted in the video game Jak 3. Through the whole series, the "Precursors" appeared through their robots and technology as disembodied extra-deep voices or holographic energy beings. As it turned out, they were pulling a "Wizard of Oz". I can't say any more, it'd spoil it.

-Bluetooth The Pirate


It's not entirely clear how one could have a being of any sort that is solely composed of "energy"

I gotta disagree here. Even if materialism is correct, you could have intelligence expressed as a pattern of energy, held in a matrix.

Seven Seals: The matrix would have to be made out of matter. The trope is about the idea of beings who don't have a physical body. If I were, say, a bunch of electrical discharges in a gas cloud somewhere (which is conceivable) I'd still have a body, just not a very well-defined one (and possibly one I couldn't control). Currently, at least part of what I call "I" is a bunch of electrical discharges in a neural matrix, but I wouldn't call myself an energy being on that account.

In fiction, "energy beings" are really just supernatural beings that choose not to manifest physically -- that is, they either create energy from nothing or transform it supernaturally. Obviously, this has nothing to do with physics, but it seems to mesh with how we humans approach energy psychologically.

Any deeper than that, though, and you end up with a discussion about the relation between energy and matter that would probably involve some heavy quantum mechanics. Sufficive to say that most fiction doesn't even attempt to make it plausible.

Robert: Seven Seals is technically correct, but for practical purposes, if the matter matrix is insignificant, at least to human perceptions, energy being is a reasonable description.

Seven Seals: No argument there. If I ever encountered a colony of sentient gas clouds or an artificial intelligence program, I'd have no trouble calling them energy beings. The point is that in fiction, there's never even an insignificant matrix. The idea of beings made mostly out of energy is perfectly reasonable, but fiction usually goes for the "100% grade A energy" idea, complete with magical abilities, which is just that -- fiction. Ununnilium's objection doesn't apply.

Ununnilium: Well, really, in the end, matter is energy, and once you get into exotic enough states of matter (like high-level plasmas, say) the distinction breaks down.

Seven Seals: Hail, fellow energy being. :-)

Ununnilium: Hail~

Prfnoff: Removed, as the Lovecraft story doesn't clearly imply that the Colour is sentient:
  • Speaking of sentient colors, there's also the titular Colour in H.P. Lovecraft's short story "The Colour Out of Space".

Micah: Removed:
  • The aliens in the short story They're Made Out of Meat are boggled by the existence of humans and prefer to ignore their existence rather than talk to "meat."
The aliens are presumably not made of "meat", but that doesn't mean they're nonphysical--in fact, they give specific body types of other sorts of aliens (who presumably they were willing to contact).