Headscratchers: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality
Where does the author get the idea that muggles are treated as something akin to pets or babies? I don't remember seeing anything like that in canon.
The whole business of "let's keep muggles in the dark about magic, even when evil wizards are running around killing muggles for fun." You may not agree that that amounts to treating them as pets or babies, but it's pretty clear that that's what Yudkowsky has in mind.
There's a couple examples, but the most obvious I can remember right now is the Weasley family, which includes Arthur (who pities non-magical people in the nicest way possible, isn't it fascinating the way they've figured out how to live without spells, etc), Molly (who doesn't approve of her husband's tech hobby, and the first words we heard out of her was talking about all those muggles running around in a muggle train station), and the kids (who just think their dad is weird and don't care about the whole subject much, plus Ron who is... Ron). The Weasleys are decent people who certainly don't buy into blood purism, but they still don't... really see non-wizards as equals. I don't think Arthur even takes muggle tech that seriously, it's just all funny little toys to him.
Beyond all the good points you made about the Weasleys' attitude toward Muggles, you also make a good point about Ron. Out of all the Weasleys, he is the one who marries a Muggle-born, after all.
Interpretation of this depends on ratio of muggleborn to purebloods.
What was the black thread in Chp 28 that nearly killed Harry?
They answered that in the story; they said they were transfiguring carbon nanotubes and they didn't even know whether or not it was dangerous. The point was that they were experimenting without expert supervision and they had no idea what, if any, risks were present.
Really the dangerous part was that tons of weight was hanging off that little rope of transfigured carbon nanotubes and when they changed back to thread it was definitely going to snap and lots of really heavy weights falling is always kind of dangerous, even if it's just a few feet of the ground.
Carbon nanotubes are nanoscience; the molecules could have separated and been inhaled by anyone in the area. This is dangerous due to real-life concerns about nanoscience and in-universe transfiguration sickness.
I don't really see why everyone thinks Quirrel is/is possessed by Voldemort. The entire time I just figured that the canon character was a sufficiently blank slate that, once the whole "Voldemort's servant" thing and the associated nervousness was taken away, could be repurposed to use as The Mentor and given enough character traits to add another dynamic to the story. And influence Harry, of course. Quirrel may be Dark, but he doesn't seem to have much relation to Voldemort if you ask this troper.
The author bragged about his Voldemort using the Pioneer Plaque as a Horcrux in the Author's Notes on Fan Fiction.net. Those notes have since be replaced by notes for the fifty-some-odd chapters since that time.
Perhaps those author's notes didn't mean Voldemort literally, but simply meant that Quirrel was the primary powerful dark character with antagonistic schemes. (though I had no opportunity to read those notes myself)
Here.The author explicitly states that Quirrel is Voldemort, and that we should know by this point.
Shouldn't it be Harry Potter-Evans-Verres and the Methods of Rationality?
He's still almost exclusively referred to as only Potter anyway, probably because the full name is a mouthful and he's still Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived to most of the wizarding world.
Why is Harry so death averse? He claims to be a preference utilitarian, but the sorting hat had no desire to live, yet Harry didn't want it to die.
It takes a hell of a lot of mental fortitude to hold to your philosophical beliefs enough to say it's ok for someone you have no grudge against and are talking to at that very moment (no writing it off as a statistic or just not thinking about it) to die at the end of a conversation. Especially when it's not like utilitarianism tells him that the hat should die either; at most it tells him that if the hat isn't interested in life, it's not as much of a tragedy. But he wouldn't happily sit by and let Dumbledore die just because he said it was his time and was ok with it, so I don't think there's even that.
Utilitarianism did tell him that the hat should die. The hat wasn't just neutral about living. It was against it.
He may claim to be a preference utilitarian, but he seems to be a classic utilitarian with a narcissistic bent.
Why does Harry reject the idea of Horcruxes? You can't save more than half the population, so it's hardly a permanent solution, but you could kill half of the people right before they die, and save the other half. This would work as a hold-over until Harry becomes God. Given my understanding of canon, this wouldn't actually work, but Harry wouldn't have no that yet.
You wouldn't be able to save half the population like that since only wizards can make Horcruxes.
Because Mercy Kills don't count- in canon, the word used is murder, as in, premeditated, evil, malicious murder. Much like the Cruciatus Curse (I'm just guessing here) you need to really mean it.
There are several canon reasons it wouldn't work. The issue here is that they were not explained to Harry before he dismissed them.
Plus you have to remember that this is the same 11 year old who decided that he needs to become God so he can make sure no one not even murderers have to suffer. It is very doubtful he would ever accept the death of a single person if he has an opportunity to prevent it and I have a hard time seeing him willing to kill a person; he was concerned about plants.
Unless he plans to become god within the next half a second, someone is going to die. If he implements a partial solution, he can save some of the people who would have died waiting for the full solution.
That one's easy. He doesn't want anyone to die, and he sure as hell isn't going to do it himself if he put up a fight with "killing" the hat. How on Earth would he live with himself even if he was somehow capable of killing one half of the population to save the other, let alone convincing people that it's the right thing to do. It's the classic "not in my yard" defense.
How did Harry not already know that he could talk to snakes? Canon!Harry found it out on his zoo outing, surely Rational!Harry's parents would have taken him to the zoo at least once?
He probably was too busy, you know, interacting with his family (or anyone else there with him) rather than running off to brood in a corner and discovering that his talking to himself is being responding to.
I also get the feeling that no matter how young rational!Harry wouldn't try talking to an animal with such a simple nervous system.
In what way can a crime that hinges on an eleven-year-old boy be considered "the perfect crime"?
"The perfect crime" is simply a label for any crime that is not discovered to be a crime. And it's not just any eleven-year-old boy we're talking about.
Why was Draco shocked to discover how wizardry is inherited? Why did he think it will drive a wedge between him and his dad? Mendelian inheritance actually proves Lucius' blood purity in both theory(magic is in the blood) and strategy(inbreeding preserves magical ability, outbreeding dilutes it). Wouldn't it be more divisive to learn it's really Magic Goes Away or Muggle Tech suppressing magic? Sure, he can no longer justify killing muggleborns like Hermionie, but they're actually just descendants of forgotten squibs. Am I missing something here?
At least in the Mo R-verse, power and wealth in the wizarding world used to be extremely concentrated in the noble houses. To a large degree it still is, to the point Draco thinks he could beat a rape charge no problem. Lucius may be somewhat concerned with preserving magical power, but acceptance of muggleborns would create an emerging middle class of wizards who are not indebted to the Noble Houses (remember that home or business loans are typically handled by asking the Noble you're friendliest with) and may soon develop and deploy financial techniques unheard of in Wizarding Britain to vastly upset the socio-economic balance, whose families cannot be easily leveraged against them because of muggle protection laws, and, as evidenced by Hermione, hold the potential to become some of the greatest wizards of their generations. Claiming the suppression of muggleborns is about blood purism and the preservation of magical strength is just a way to motivate the wizard underclasses who otherwise would likely be loathe to support the Noble houses.
That would makes sense if Draco were upset about socio-politics like house Malfoy losing power to Grangers of the world. But he was upset about having to "sacrifice" a false belief and either disagree or pretend around Lucius. Except the belief Was. Not. False. He doesn't have to pretend or argue. Their relationship is not in danger and he doesn't need to test the patronus. It makes no sense for him to feel he does.
Lucius' and Draco-pre-experiment's belief was predicated on wizardry being passed strictly through purebloods interbreeding with purebloods, and anyone else who had access to magic having acquired it through some illegitimate means that was making magic weaker over time. Aside from other less obvious differences, Draco having "sacrificed" his belief in strict blood purism means that if Draco were to, e.g. learn Lucius had been somehow misled into believing he had found the source of non-pureblood's magic and was preparing to spend a good chuck of resources eliminating it, would now have to either plead ignorance and watch his father blow resources on something he knows to be futile, or risk confronting his father about the nature of magic transmission which could lead to Lucius possibly cutting Draco out of the family or at least out of real power, or worse. Draco is anguished because at first he only sees that Harry has made it impossible for him to in good conscience support fully the positions of his father, and has to have it pointed out that he's also made it possible for Draco to avert a crisis he wouldn't have even noticed as his old self.
Draco's belief (and that of the other wizard supremists) was that magic was getting weaker due to interbreeding. The evidence suggested that people either have magic or don't have magic, and that breeding has nothing to do with the strength of that magic.
The reason for that is pretty simple - Harry and Draco are both kids, so even if they are supposed to be smart for their age in this story, it doesn't change the fact that some things elude them. Draco understood that muggleborns aren't making magic weaker, but he couldn't see that they were descendants of squibs since Harry didn't convey this one to him. And honestly, they didn't need to be descendants of squibs - if wizard had a child with a completely non-magical muggle, the resulting child would be a carrier of the wizarding gene, but couldn't use magic. If the gene was still there after a few generations, everyone would forget that there was a wizard in the family, but that doesn't stop the possibility of two carriers getting lucky (or not) and having a child that is capable of using magic.
One thing that bugs me is Harry's 26 hour sleep schedule. No explanation is given for it whatsoever. Everything else makes sense to me; I'm willing to accept that canon!Harry was mentally oppressed by the Dursleys that he flinched away from the sort of studying that would have let his genius flourish, but the sleep schedule just seems like a reason to give him a Time Turner. Okay, that's obviously what it is, but usually there's an explanation regardless.
With the Dursleys: Harry gets worked to the bone and is forced to wake up early to do things like prepare breakfast or suffer the consequences of the Dursleys' wrath. If he had natural Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (or rather, a strong predisposition towards developing it), he would have had it tormented out of him and wouldn't even have noticed the difference with no comparison group beyond Dudley and some normal people. With the Verreses: Harry gets treated fairly, but Mr. Verres and Petunia might not have been willing to cause Harry the sort of stress and immune suppression that forcing him to stay awake during the day for several months would have taken, which can be necessary by the time Acquired Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome is noticeable enough to cause social and health problems. Since state schools are notoriously horrible when it comes to getting an excellent education, and cheap, desperate-for-payment tutors were available, the typical reason for going through sleep retraining (school, or jobs for older people) no longer applies.
If the capacity for magic is based on a single recessive allele, how do 2 wizarding parents have a Squib? The theory Harry comes up with is that Squibs have a dominant allele that prevents them from using magic but can still pass on the magic recessive allele. Since a wizard has to have 2 copies of the recessive allele, a wizard parent doesn't have a dominant allele to pass on. If Harry's theory is correct, there are three possible ways to produce a Squib:
A) The Squib have a Muggle parent. Even in this world, you'd think someone would have noticed the pattern. It would be Purebloods' favorite argument.
B) Mutation. Even factoring in that some genes are more prone to mutation, Squibs seem too common for this to be the only explanation.
Unless magic has similar effects to ionizing radiation.
C) Mom was schtupping a Muggle on the sly. This one seems the most plausible. Its not hard to imagine a wizarding family arranging a quick marriage to avoid a scandal. That's a lot of bastards, though.
It could be the result of an Epistatic Gene. The squib is missing the gene so even if they have the two recessive alleles they are unable to express it.
Author Tract on pet physics theories aside, how the hell does partial transmutation work? Assuming it's a local reaction is impossible since it would be contagious to the rest of the object or revoked. And if he is playing around with what things could have been, that doesn't make any sense unless it's some sort of bug in the magic system that someone had to have figured out earlier. Even if it deal with physics at an otherwise incomprehensible level, isn't that messing with something that could turn Hogwarts into a radioactive crater on a good day, and the worst case scenario involves the Time Fractures?
This is freaking magic. Ahem: "the Universe doesn't care how you think magic should work any more than it cares how you feel about gravity.''
You know what, there's a bigger issue at hand. How come no one else has tried to pick apart the magic system before now? There should be some sort or archive of mad rambling from some wizard tinkerer that should have caught Harry's eye at some point.
Because very few wizards have any ounce of logic or scientific background. Scientific method just isn't something that's taught to wizards, so that just leaves muggle-borns, and most people still aren't very scientific. The wizards are told the rules, and they follow them without seeing why. Also, Harry was only able to do partial transfiguration based on an in-depth knowledge of quantum physics, something wizards just don't know anything about. Also, that's kind of the entire point of the fanfic, isn't it? That in the actual canon of Harry Potter, no one actually does try to scientifically approach science; if they did, they'd notice that a lot of things don't quite make sense. So the author is running with that and showing one person who actually does try to apply science to magic, and is baffled when no one else has even tried what seems obvious to him.
The amount of knowledge necessary to do partial transfiguration is insane. You can do complete transfiguration believing in Aristotelian physics, but currently known and generally accepted physics is not sufficient for partial transfiguration. It won't work if you believe that time exists as an explicit dimension. It is well within the realm of possibility that no wizard or muggle in on the [[Masquerade]] even heard of timeless physics.
But if it's only a theory to begin with and the only thing in it's favor is that it hasn't been proven wrong, then how can Harry be so sure that Timeless Physics would allow partial transmutation in the first place? Isn't that the equivalent of taking a controversial theory as pure truthiness and not accepting an answer otherwise, even if it does cause the meltdown of reality as we know it? That seems like a big ass case of Harry Bias right there, especially right after Harry learned his lesson about playing around with Transfiguration and "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" even earlier.
Harry didn't have to know that timeless physics was right, he was experimenting. He was testing the hypothesis that partial transfiguration is a conceptual limit and he tried several views/approaches - several were disproved, one of them happened to be right. That's how science works, you check your ideas with experiments. As for safety issues? Did you miss the part where, after he goes to Minerva&Dumbledore, he apologizes to Hermione and later admits that what he was doing was crazy/very dangerous?
How did Hermione and the Sunshine Regiment win their first battle? It's said Quirrel helped her by using some trick of wording in the papers detailing the armies' supplies, but how, and if he did why didn't they win more battles? I had the feeling at first that maybe Quirrel wrote out the list of soldiers in both armies in columns and signed his name underneath SR's column so he could help them, but it's implied Hermione somehow got more soldiers, or had her soldiers awoken from the Sleep Hexes without breaking the rules.
The soldiers in the Sunshine Regiment were only pretending to have been hexed; after Dragon Army and the Chaos Legion were weakened from fighting each other, the never-defeated-in-the-first-place Sunshine Regiment soldiers simply stood up, returned to the fight, and overwhelmed the survivors from the other two armies. (And Quirrel's "help" consisted of assigning soldiers to Hermione who could help her come up with the kinds of devious plans that wouldn't come naturally to her.)
Quirrel's help was writing in the rules that you could ask other people in you army to help strategize and both Draco and Harry had too big of egos to even consider doing this.
There was nothing in the rules explicit about that, as far as we know. The help was that he had assigned to Hermione's army all those people that Draco Malfoy himself had considered possibilities for the place of General (Zabini, Goldstein, Macmillan). So in short, the help was she had been given the best lieutenants there were.
Why is the founding of Hogwarts constantly referred to as being "eight hundred years ago"? The canon only identified it as "a thousand years ago" about a zillion times. Did Eliezer seriously miss this? Am I really the first person to notice this?
In Chapter 77, Eliezer places a saying of Godric Gryffindor at 1202 C.E. So it may simply be that he has deliberately chosen that century, for reasons of his own.
Roger Bacon lived in the thirteenth century (just under 800 years before 1992). Professor Quirrell, when giving Harry "Roger Bacon's" diary, he said that Bacon had declined his invitation and opted not to go to Hogwarts.
Harry is supposed to be an English science fiction fan in 1991-1992. Admittedly it was cancelled in 1989, but...where are the Doctor Who references?
I suspect that the (American) author probably doesn't know Doctor Who very well.
In chapter 28, "phasers" are one of the things Hermione tried to transfigure and Harry lists Captain Picard as one of his heroes in chapter 52. (I wonder if Harry hated missing TNG's fifth season while being without televisions at Hogwarts. Maybe he had his parents tape it for him.)
Harry is more into science fiction literature rather than television. There are exceptions, but generally most of his references are to literary work.
According to [[Wikipedia]], timeless physics was discovered in 1999. If this takes place in 1991-1992, how does Harry know about it? Did he work it out himself?
When was the theory submitted to peer review? These things are often sent to be studied by the scientific community before it is submitted to the general public.
Eliezer said that he's ignoring dates and times when it comes to science&scientific theories - he's presenting the most modern available view, even if it's incompatible with the 1991 timeline. If you want an in-universe explanation, just assume that those theories/discoveries have been made earlier in Mo Rverse.
Where did the author even get the idea that partial transfiguration is impossible or even difficult? Canon is constantly describing the effects of students making mistakes when trying to tranfigure an object - mistakes that leave parts of the object in its transfigured state and parts in the original. Surely this wouldn't be hard to replicate on purpose.
One should note that Transifguration in HPATHM is stated to work differently than the main one, having No Ontological Inertia and even a first year can transfigure anything into anything else if given enough time and is allow to concentrate. Also, "failed" ones in the books results in, say, a badly cup transfigured from a rat will have brown fur or something that effects the entire cup rather than just part of the cup.
In chapter 33, Harry suspects, and confirms, that Wingardium Leviosa becomes a whole new sort of weapon once everyone is swimming underwater. So, how does it change?
You can use it to move people in lots of different directions, or simply that people stay in a given orientation when the Charm is lifted?
Because water is more dense than air, it makes things go upward much faster than normal. So you cast it on someone and they're no longer anywhere near you. Or you cast it on an object and let it go flying into someone above it.
Squib is someone who has magical parent but no magical abilities. muggle is someone who has no magical parents and no magical abilities. So how can a child of a magical and a muggle parent be "either magical, or squbi, or muggle?" If one parent is magical, the child can't be muggle anymore.
There is a difference between squibs and muggles besides parents. A squib can use some magical items like potions which would not work for a muggle. One issue is that a squib living in the muggle world is indistinguishable from a muggle as they would not interact with magic.
"A Squib is someone who was born into a wizarding family but hasnít got any magic powers. Kind of the opposite of Muggle-born wizards, but Squibs are quite unusual."
Since a Squib is simply someone nonmagical who has magical parents, it could really be a whole host of different genetic combinations. Harry theorizes that the Muggle parents of Muggleborns may in fact be Squibs, as such having one copy of the recessive magical gene each, creating a one in four chance that any of their children would become magical. As for "fullblood Squibs", it could be something as simple as a genetic error suppressing one or both copies of the magical gene; it could be a random mutation; it could be same sort of thing that happens when two homozygotic parents of a recessive gene still end up passing on a dominant gene (for instance blond parents having a dark-haired baby). It could even be that the magical gene (or set of genes) is not recessive, but simply rare.
Was the whole "Slytherins don't/can't cast the Patronus Charm" something that showed up in canon, or was it made up whole cloth? I don't really remember any Slytherins using it, but I can't recall it being stated outright. Likewise, what about Merlin's Interdiction?
The Interdict of Merlin does not exist in canon, as far as I know.
I don't think the Slytherin Patronus thing is canon either. It's never mentioned, plus you have Snape cast a Patronus in the 7th book (the doe).
Well, Snape really doesn't count, all things considered.
In general, MOST of the mentioned Slytherins couldn't cast the Patronus Charm in canon, simply because so many of those mentioned were related to Death Eaters, who either couldn't or didn't need to cast it.
Specifically, Death Eaters (minus Snape) can't cast a Patronus according to Rowling, "because a Patronus is used against things that the Death Eaters generally generate, or fight alongside. They would not need Patronuses"; in at least fanon if not canon, it's because they've committed murder or other heinous crimes, which is required to take the Dark Mark (How that works out with Snape is its own issue).
Why did Harry give up on the tactic for achieving godhood by manipulating his sense of humor and drinking comed-tea? "Drawing the causality arrows backwards" does not explain why this wouldn't work: it was not thirst that lead Harry to buy comed-tea, and if the effects of comed-tea are significant enough to cause all the changes in events necessary to make him buy a lot of comed-tea at that moment, it is at least still extremely powerful. In the same vein, it seems at least implausible that Harry and Draco would come across so many things to cough up their drinks for, relative to normal days, which also provides evidence for the fact that comed-tea increases the probability of funny things happening. This means that at worst, you could work the stock market of the entertainment industry by watching the comed-tea sales, and at best comed-tea constrains all possible universes retroactively to ones where something subjectively funny is about to happen, still making godhood through comed-tea possible. Even if you can make arguments for how it might not work, the point is that Harry never scientifically/rationally determined it couldn't work.
Comed-Tea works like the Time-Turner, in that the Universe can compute itself with information from the future. So the Comed-Tea "knows" when to send the impulse to drink it at the exact moment that'll mean you are swallowing it when you see something funny. Real-life spit-takes are rarer because it's quite hard to be swallowing something at exactly the right moment. Perhaps it's also easier to choke on Comed-Tea.
If I recall correctly, the project was explicitly put on the back burner because he was out of tea, and intended (still intends, if he still considers it significant) to use it to his advantage if at all possible without compromising his sense of reasoning once he was able to purchase more. Considering he is sixty thousand Galleons in debt to House Malfoy in the name of Lucius Malfoy, in a way that Draco probably can't rescind as an unavailable Heir of House Malfoy, he's probably not going to be buying many cans of soft drink any time soon.
I always thought that the Comed-Tea was really just a big series of coincidences, and Harry was making a mistake. Using the Comed-tea to explain phenomenon, when they were, in actuality, separate events. Every time he busted the tea out, it was in anticipation, and then he backwards-explained the cause. Busting the tea out seems like a good test for an anticipated experience, but I think it just took the form of a sort of... unnecessary yet compelling device that didn't really affect anything. Like Dumbo's feather.
Did Dumbledore check Quirrel's documents when Quirinus applied to school staff? Quirrel claims to be Slytherin, but the real Quirinus Quirrel was a Ravenclaw, that already must have made Albus cautious. It's just... not Dumbledore's style to merely circle Q as the new DADA professor without making an investigation on his true identity. And yet Quirrel says that Dumbledore is oblivious to his not actually true identity and agreed to not inquire.
Hogwarts has had some really, really bad Defence Professors, then the hyper-competent Quirrell comes along and agrees to teach a near-suicidal position, on the caveat that nobody asks about his identity. Dumbledore, of course, accepted in an instant.
So do Hermione's parents just happen to live in Oxford or did the story skip over some huge drive? And why do they have such a gigantic house? Does being a dentist really pay so astronomically better than being an Oxford professor?
The story probably did skip the drive - what would be the point of writing about Harry and his parents driving - and dentists do earn a lot.
Given the reason that the Defense professor's job is cursed in canon, aka because Voldemort cursed it upon being denied the job when he applied, and given that Quirrel is actually Voldemort, wouldn't the job no longer be cursed in this reality?
It would look incredibly suspicious if Quirrell managed to survive the jinx laid on the position by Voldemort that has got all of his predecessors fired.
I think you're forgetting that Quirrell has a rule about no suspicious enquiries about him. Besides, the author has stated that this fic will only last first year and, letting Quirrell continue to teach is hardly "destroying all but a remnant" of him.
Source? I (random other person) was under the impression that the only thing he'd said about year 1 was that MoR Year 1 would cover the events of Canon Years 1-7, not that it would end there.
It was cursed in canon, too. My own suspicion is that he averted/subverted the curse by changing the name of the post (to Battle Magic).
How do half-bloods exist? Unless the Muggle is actually a Squib, and in most cases I assume that they would not be, surely any child would have one magic gene and one non-magic gene and be a squib. And surely someone would've noticed by now if half-blood children were only wizards if their non-magical parent was a squib.
I always thought that differences between purebloods/hal-bloods and muggleborn are purely social and cultural.
If you understand the thing about magical alleles, it is not that surprising that quite a lot of the Muggle population are in fact Squibs.
Really early, say chapter 6 or so, Professor Minerva mentions that it was Sirius Black who betrayed Harry's parents. But later on we find out that it was Bellatrix who apparently betrayed them. What gives?
Where does it say that?
Moreover, how could she betray them? They never trusted her.
what conversation put Severus Snape in mind of LSD, that he references in chapter 63?
During Harry's frantic attempts to figure out how Hermione had been manipulated, Snape put forth the theory that muggle drugs had been used to influence her actions. From there, it's simple enough to see how he could imagine them to have interesting effects if put in the resurrection ritual.
Except that the conversation about Hermione happened after the poisoning of the bones. The conversation in question is the discussion of rockets and other muggle technology and their involvement in the Rescuing Bellatrix from Azkaban incident.
Why did Harry pay two Sickles to rent a fifth-year Potions textbook, when he already had his mother's fifth-year Potions textbook?
He didn't; he rented a seventh-year textbook.
If Merlin was from Atlantis, why isn't the Wizengamot in Greece?