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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.

Scientifically Understandable Sorcery is when magic is a way of manipulating the world, no different from technology. Its laws and mechanincs are the same physical laws that the rest of the universe abides by. 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.

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

See also Magitek and (because fantasy writers will often take liberties with physical laws) Artistic License.


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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 ammonium nitrate inside is released as noxious ammonia fumes that knock 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.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Mighty Avengers where Hank Pym as the Wasp lead the team, he consistently managed to defeat magical beings by using science to analyze and counter them. This run also included Amadeus Cho, whose previous run with Hercules gave magical power a SI measurement.
  • Professor Frink's solo series had him and Bart get transported into a comic in-universe where they met a Doctor Strange expy. The running theme is that magic and science are just two sides of the same coin, a notion run home by the reveal that the cloaked sorcerer hero was Frink's alternate counterpart.
  • Shadowpact: In Issue #18, the Enchantress makes her student Warlock's Daughter read books on various scientific disciplines including cryptozoology, physics, chemistry and geology. When Warlock's Daughter questions the point of this, Enchantress presents a hypothetical scenario in which she would be attacked by a type of werewolf that is immune to most magic.
    Enchantress: First, you'd be aware that you're standing on one of the largest silver deposits ever discovered. Second, you'd know how to separate the pure silver from argentine ore in the ground. Third, your basic understanding of ballistics would allow you to form a properly shaped bullet. It would also allow you to provide the proper velocity to embed the bullet in the werewolf's heart before it killed you. You can't manipulate what you don't understand, Laura.

     Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm: Played With and Discussed, with Asgardian society and the other Higher Realms running on Sufficiently Analyzed Magic — as, apparently, did Atlantis (which got a leg-up from Asgard). The essential idea is that Magic is the Fifth Fundamental Force of the universe, and the more of it you have available, the more you can affect the other four. Additionally, learning about science is a great way to use magic more creatively, with Harry replicating a railgun on the spot thanks to his knowledge of electromagnetism. However, a warning note is that magic is ever so slightly alive, and there are certain things that it does not like being used for: Black Magic, for starters, which, as in The Dresden Files, is inherently corrupting.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • 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, the 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.
    • 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. It’s also described as the ability to manipulation reality similar to programming a computer using "Spells".

  • A Certain Magical Index: Zig-Zagged. In contrast to the mages of the "Magic Side" (who operate on more narrative logic), the espers of the "Science Side" project an AIM Dispersion Field within which they control a specific parameter of the laws of physics. High-level espers have generally figured out a range of different applications for their power, and their brains adapt to be Good with Numbers in order to handle the precise calculations required. However, this is a partially Enforced Trope, as the rare espers who develop strange, abstract powers often can't figure out how they work and are unable to train them up to a usable level. The most prominent of these, Sogiita Gunha, is a Hot-Blooded Idiot Hero who awakened esper potential without going through the Power Development Curriculum at all, and seems to come up with new powers on the spot; as he has barely has any understanding of physics, his "process" for doing these things is more often than not just random sciency words stuck together.
  • 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.
  • The Broken Earth Trilogy: Orogenes' powers follow the laws of energy transfer - in order to use their power, they must find a source of heat in the environment and if they can't, they suck heat from the ambient and freeze everything around them. This allowed Shemshena to defeat Misalem by removing any possible source of energy that he could use.
  • The Dresden Files: Knowing certain scientific facts can make spells, and spell-based attacks more effective. For example, let's say a magically resistant enemy is running towards you- it's harder to run if you make the floor under his feet slick. Or you expect to be shot at- enchant something you're going to wear to distribute the force of impact across you whole body. One of the more impressive ones involved Harry deciding he wanted to freeze a section of lake. Instead of using an "ice spell" to act directly, with the necessary energy cost, he instead cast a fire spell... that pulled energy from the lake to help fuel a 10 story pillar of fire. And since cold (and freezing) is (relatively) an absence of energy in the item so affected....
  • 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.
  • InCryptid: Mark (who is a member of a telepathic species from Another Dimension), claims that "magic" is just science we don't understand yet. This is when he's in the company of An Ice Person and someone Playing with Fire.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mushoku Tensei: Rudeus notes that his knowledge from Earth sometimes makes spells easier to control; e.g. when his Mentor tasked him with a casting a difficult storm-calling spell, he was able to visualise things like satellite imagery and warm/cold fronts to help the clouds take shape.
  • 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).
  • Runaways (2017): This trait is so common that 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.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls: Magic is effectively a science, not much different from chemistry or physics, and is studied and practiced very much like one. Institutions such as the College of Winterhold study it very much as several fields of science.
  • Open Sorcery: The entire premise of the game is how making magic is like writing code.
  • ''Shadow Hearts': 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.
  • Shadows Over Loathing: Magic is said to be a kind of energy, and therefore a curse can never be created or destroyed, only changed to become an enchantment. To this end, you need to address the respective incidents that lead several Artifacts of Doom to become cursed objects in a VR simulation of these events, changing the curse into a beneficial enchantment.

  • Unsounded: Every spell is a set of precise instructions for the Background Magic Field to manipulate specific Aspects of reality in its targets. You fly (sort of) by redirecting your momentum, throw an energy blast by concentrating a nearby source of heat or pressure, walk through walls by suspending their solidity, and so on. Science Wizards are especially formidable because they have the greatest understanding of the forces they're working with.

    Western Animation