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Scientifically Understandable Sorcery

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Even Supernatural Martial Arts is part of this magic system.

Tina: An electrical current just traveled from your neural pathways into the staff and made that happen.
Nico: Explain it however you want, but it needed my blood and it read my mind. It's just like Wicca.
Tina: It's science, Nico.
Nico: If by "science", you mean high-tech magic, then sure.
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Scientifically Understandable Sorcery is when magic is a way of manipulating the world, no different from technology. Its Laws are the Laws of physics, nature, and reality. The only mystical or supernatural thing about the change is the force causing it and the method in which it is enacted.

When a mage wishes to freeze something, he is extracting the heat, or slowing down the molecules. When he wishes to burn something, he is speeding them up, or gathering heat. When he wishes to electrify something, he is merely directing and conducting the electricity of the area - or generating it. When he wants to control water, he is manipulating the H2O particles. When he wants to be invisible, he's reflecting light carefully.

One could do the self-same things with technology, in the same way. The only part of it that's supernatural is the technique that the energy is directed with. It often leads to Magitek.

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This is a subtrope of Sufficiently Analyzed Magic, which is magic studied using the scientific method.

See also: Sufficiently Analyzed Magic, Doing In the Wizard, Magitek, and (because fantasy writers will often take liberties with physical laws) Artistic License.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Alchemy in the FMA-verse is based on the chemical elements rather than the classical elements. One scene that demonstrates this trope is when Edward Elric takes a stick of dynamite and transmutes it so that the nitrogen that is composed of is released as a noxious gas that knocks his enemies out via their extra-sensitive sense of smell in their chimera forms.
  • The Irregular at Magic High School: While the actual force responsible for magic seems to be genuinely supernatural, modern magic (but not Ancient Magic) has been shown to work by scientific principles, such as freezing things by slowing down atoms, which happens more than you might think. It's also shown that pretty much all modern magic looks similar to holograms while ancient magic looks much more solid.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe has attracted some flak for this, as their use of this trope borders on Doing In the Wizard.
    • In Thor, it's established that Asgardians are not "gods" but actually Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who possess enormous physical strength, heightened longevity, and an ancient mastery of something that is both magic and science. This is taken to the point that, in Thor: The Dark World, Earth-educated scientist Jane Foster recognizes an Asgardian healing device called a "Soul Forge" is actually a (theoretical on Earth) scientific device called a Quantum Field Generator. Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War seemed to have backpedaled on this though, taking the fantastic in stride.
    • In Doctor Strange (2016), sorcery is described as the ability to manipulate the fundamental forces of reality itself by tapping into alternate dimensions outside of the ones currently known for science, both for energy and for direct effects.
    • This trait is so common that, in Runaways (2017), it's actually mocked where the character Alex insists his magical staff is merely using some unknown form of science, and the other kids just respond by stating it's obviously magic.
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    Literature 
  • Artemis Fowl: Magic is just an energy that can direct other energies.
  • The Beyonders: Wizards somehow command energy and matter through the use of an ancient language. However, their powers work by the same principles science does, and besides the way the change is enacted, it is the same as advanced technology.
  • In Gate, Lelei is able to improve her magic by studying physics theories from Earth. Even spells based on extremely crude models of reality can produce results, but using more accurate theories is more efficient. That is, a spell which attempts to create fire by releasing phlogiston will function just fine, but one which attempts to create fire by bonding fuel to oxygen molecules in the air is much stronger for the same amount of effort. Lelei also uses this knowledge as inspiration for entirely new spells, including a propulsion spell which operates on the principles of a railgun.
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, not even the energy that fuels magic is supernatural, only the way spell-casters control that energy. Magic can be used through sheer force of thought, or through use of a Language of Magic known to the readers simply as the Ancient Language. Long ago, a race known now only as the Gray Race decided that the current magic was far too unreliable and chaotic, as it was directed only by thought and will. So they somehow altered it so that it responded to anything they said in their native tongue. In it, no lie can be spoken, and the speaker is mystically bound to whatever they say. Only one who knows the language's name can undo these bonds. This person can also alter the language, restricting spell-casting worldwide, adding new creatures to it, and undoing aforementioned bonds, making them capable of bringing about the End Of The World.
  • The Kane Chronicles: Carter Kane (one of the protagonists of the series) mentions that magic and science are like "two dialects of the same language". However, he may have just been saying that magic and science are just two different ways people make their lives easier and better, not that they were related.
  • In The Lost Gate, the main character says his mother, a light mage, makes things nearly invisible by reflecting light, and his father has the power to remove friction almost completely, by using his powers over metal.
  • The Obsidian Trilogy: Possibly. There is diffidently too much mysticism to be explained scientifically, but it has been mentioned that "only mages use the parts of the brain used in magic", implying this.
  • The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel hints at this, but does not outright state it until the second last book. Magic comes from manipulating one's aura, the electrical field around their body. Ancient immortal (the kind that can die) beings can "awaken" humans to their inherent powers. That said, many don't survive the process. They can also stop humans from aging. And they created them, and posed as gods. Needless to say, a lot of gods die.
  • Young Wizards: Wizards use a language known as "The Speech", to "convince" matter and energy to behave or change in a certain way. Explicitly mentioned to follow the laws of science, though it does have a bit of mystical logic here and there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Willow, one of the most powerful, if not the most, witches in the world claims that magic works by physics. However, the destruction of the living rock that created the world known as the "Seed of Wonder", brings about the event known as the End of Magic, as the Seed was the original source of all Earthly magic (though all living beings — including humans — now possess some mystical energy). Eventually, through a large amount of dimensional travel, Willow is able to create a new Seed of Wonder, restoring magic to the world. However, the new magic does not work by the same rules as the old magic, meaning this trope no longer applies. In fact, Dracula discovers that the new Laws of Magic were being written in the book labeled "Vampyr", seen in the very first episode, as they are established... because of reasons. Dracula reasons that, if the laws appear in the book as they are established, might something written in the book become the new laws of magic? He's right.
  • Grimm: The Wesen are, essentially, magical creatures and the origin of most/all real-life myths and legends, and many are capable of explicitly magical feats (the Hexenbiest, for example, are capable of witchcraft and regularly create magical potions). This doesn't stop the show from occasionally showing scientific handwaves for certain things or showing science interact with the wesen (while supernatural, the wesen do have genetic material that can be analysed just like regular biological matter), and various elements of the Wesen's abilities are routed in scientifically explainable means (IE, Dämonfeuer's fire-breathing is explained as converting body fat into fuel they ignite, while the Ziegevolk's ability to control people is based on pheromones they produce, among others, many of which are based on similar abilities possessed by various real-life animals).

    Video Games 
  • Open Sorcery: The entire premise of the game is how making magic is like writing code.
  • In Shadow Hearts we have Roger Bacon, who read the words of God, understands the basic concepts of the cosmos now and can alter reality on a fundamental level. Not that he does so often, since God is apparently the temperamental type. He dresses in a monks robes, references God often and has all manner of occult paraphernalia, yet he is quite insistent that what he does is science, not magic.

    Western Animation 

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