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Sufficiently Analyzed Magic

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"The spiritual world is like a black box program whose API is completely undocumented."
High Sysadmin Ada Lovelace, Open Sorcery

In his tower, The Archmage casts his fortieth fireball today while his apprentice diligently notes the exact qualities of each. On his workbench are piles of fireball spells yet untested, but the Archmage plans to catalogue them all. Only then can he begin to study what makes one fireball stronger than another.

While gathering herbs, Granny Annick thinks to herself: everyone says horseshoes are lucky, but how lucky are they? Now if I got ten people from the village to roll dice a few times, and gave them a coin for every number facing once with and once without a horseshoe, I'd only have to count the coins.

Sufficiently Analyzed Magic is a philosophy, whenever you find wizards, witches, sorcerers, mages, or even regular people who decide that lore and intuition is not enough: They want to understand how magic works and will do so through empirical evidence and experimentation. You have the beginnings of Sufficiently Analyzed Magic.

For a verse where Magic A Is Magic A, this is an inherently Justified Trope just as long as it makes sense for the culture: Empirical evidence and experimentation are the cornerstone of The Scientific Method, and there is no reason that it should be any less effective at discovering the details of a self-consistent series of rules just because it's called "magic" rather than "physics". However, in a verse where Wild Magic reigns, magic is very unlikely to appreciate efforts at such domestication, with results usually ranging from mischievous to lethal.

The converse of Clarke's Third Law. One of the many sides arguing over Unequal Rites. Contrast with Magic Versus Science where this attitude belongs only to the scientists, and Arbitrary Skepticism, where fans of "science" will loudly deny magic exists rather than accept empirical evidence. Not quite related to Magitek or Post-Modern Magik but may show up alongside either or cause them. Compare to Doing In the Wizard, Doing in the Scientist, and Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.

A subtrope of Fantastic Science. Compare and contrast The Spark of Genius. Can be a direct result of Rational Fic. For the sake of general cohesion, anything that more or less works thanks to magic but isn't actually called "magic" by anyone in the work falls under this trope. Compare Magic from Technology and Post-Modern Magik. The research turning up the finding that magic follows the laws of physics is the subtrope Scientifically Understandable Sorcery. This typically overlaps with All-Accessible Magic, where magic is depicted as a skill accessible to anyone willing to study and practice it sufficiently.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor: In Episode 2, substitute teacher, Glenn Radars does this with the spell Shock Bolt, dissecting and analysing the spell in front of his students. It serves the purpose of showing them that he knows more about magic than they thought he did.
  • Attack on Titan: Although the actual origins of the Titans and the exact process of transforming into one are still unknown, it is revealed that the technologically advanced Kingdom of Marley has an entire research institute dedicated to study the Titans and their powers. They can produce industrial level quantities of the serum used to transform Eldians into mindless Titans, even knowing to adjust the dosage to produce a specific class of Titan. They also make use of blood tests to determine if someone has Eldian ancestry and thus susceptible of turning into a Titan..
  • Ayakashi Triangle: Exorcist ninja have Magitek based on reverse-engineering ayakashi's magical items. Reo specifies her Invisibility Cloak is a recreation of a tengu's. This is used to explain how Suzu's ayakashi-made costume has abilities nearly-identical to Matsuri's (most notably rendering her Invisible to Normals like ayakashi themselves).
  • Baccano!: Most of the alchemists were content to discover the secret of alchemy. Szilard and Huey, on the other hand, decided to test everything related to it, from "exactly how fast do I heal from each individual injury?"note  to "can I combine human and dolphin DNA to create a viable homunculus?"note 
  • Bleach: The afterlife has an entire research division devoted to studying spiritual powers and coming up with technological applications for them. It was founded a little over 100 years ago by none other than Kisuke Urahara, back when he was Captain of the 12th Division.
  • Code Geass: This is how Lelouch takes to his Geass power after a couple of awkward situations that made him realize it has limitations- namely, that it won't work on the same person more than once, and that it requires direct eye contact. Before making serious use of it again, he conducts several tests on random students and teachers to see what other limitations it has. C.C. is impressed.
  • Death Note: Much of the early part consists of Light conducting tests with the Death Note to see what it's capable of—he takes it to such rigors that he's able to determine restrictions and abilities that even the death god it formerly belonged to didn't realize it had. Light's knowledge of these specific attributes is his key advantage in the mind games he plays with genius detective L.
    • In fact, the author of the work goes to great lengths to sufficiently analyse his magical object; there are a huge set of rules for the workings of the Death Note covering almost every possible eventuality.
    • It plays very well to Light's character, because someone as focused and meticulous as Light would make sure he knew every possibility and restriction of the Death Note. After all, what if there was a step in a master plan that failed at a crucial time because, say, the Death Note can't make someone do the impossible?
  • Sebastian in Doki Doki! PreCure shown to be able to reverse engineer the Cure Communes device to create his own electronic one, thus giving him powers equal to a Precure. He loses them after one battle.
  • In Frieren: Beyond Journey's End, the demonic Evil Sorcerer Qual invented the first Projectile Spell and killed thousands of heroes with it. After Frieren turned him into a Sealed Evil in a Can, humanity reverse-engineered his spell and built their entire magic system around improvements and defenses. When he's unsealed eighty years later, he's shocked to learn that his once-feared power was now considered "basic".
  • In the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, alchemy is a science like any other. Alchemists do research like scientists, and those alchemists employed by the state must demonstrate the results of their research yearly in order to continue receiving funding. There is debate over the difference from alkahestry, with the two drawing on different power sources.
    • In Amestris it's commonly said that alchemy began in the kitchen. Which is fitting, since preparation of food is about the most common chemistry people actively do and historical alchemy is the predecessor to chemistry.
    • One of the themes is that "god" is not an entity separate from the world but rather is the entirety of the world considered a living organism, observing the universe and itself for billions of years.
  • Ghost Hunt is all over this trope. Featuring mystics, psychics, paranormal investigators, and exorcists from various religions all working together at once, the show utilizes them and their techniques in a consistently logical fashion and they investigate paranormal activity in a similarly consistent action.
    • In fact, one of the premier psychics of that universe is on record stating that the only way that they can get respected by the scientific community as equals is if they research and document what they do with the same degree of rigor as people in accepted sciences.
  • In Kotoura-san, the narrative for the setting intentionally averts this trope to be Played for Drama, but for Psychic Powers and not magic per se. Because these powers are so scarce in the setting, its science is literally unaware and unassuming that espers actually exist. This is why Haruka's Telepathy never could get an official diagnosis despite her mother's gradually aggressive means in trying to get it during the Downer Beginning. By contrast, Yuriko proudly invokes this trope as one of her founding principles for the ESP Society and Research Club.
  • Lyrical Nanoha has got to have set a new standard in that its not just taken and sufficiently analyzed magic, but it's pretty much evolved to the point of understandable science. If Girl Genius is sufficiently analyzed magic in the Victorian Era, then Nanoha is its equivalent in the space age. There's plenty of Magitek left over from Precursor civilizations lying around that isn't understood in the current era. It fits the trope since those civilizations simply had a better grasp of how the magic works. In space opera in general, precursor civilizations or alternate tech trees both can leave mind boggling advances in one aspect of technology while other aspects are actually lower or even unexplored. The artifacts of Ancient Belka and the like are the Magitek equivalent.
  • Magnostadt in Magi: Labyrinth of Magic has its Magic Academy conduct all kinds of research on magic
  • Though most people in Naruto don't bother with the details, there is clearly a pretty strong effort to understand the exact nature of chakra. Most of its basic workings can be found in textbooks. Orochimaru in particular searches for the Naruto equivalent of the Theory of Everything, and believes current knowledge of chakra is barely scratching the surface. The story eventually reveals that he's correct as chakra is actually the stolen power of a god.
    • In Boruto, the Hidden Leaf Village gains an R&D department, complete with researchers in white lab coats and hallways lined with glass with experiments being performed inside. Presumably, other major ninja villages have similar departments.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi treats magic in this manner as well. Spells, more often than not, work with the laws of physics rather than against them (those spells that do break physics are said to be the most advanced and difficult). Negi himself is described as conducting numerous tests and experiments when developing new spells and ways of stopping Magical Worlds from collapsing, and he even references scholarly articles in magical research at one point, in much the same way a modern-day physicist would reference another scientist's work.
  • The sequel series to Negima, UQ Holder!, takes things a step further; magical scholarship and mundane scholarship have been unified, to the extent of Magitek becoming so ubiquitous that there are smartphone apps to cast spells for those without the aptitude, complete with no-inherent-magic Muggles writing new and improved versions of said spellcasting apps via proper understanding of how the programming works for that sort of thing.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, this is how Kaiba ultimately chooses to approach the concept of magic in this world, after spending the majority of the manga either outright denying it or coming up with rational explanations for it. To him, magic isn't some ethereal force that does whatever because reasons, but rather simply another energy source that can be molded to do whatever the device harnessing it is programmed to do. Notably, his latest Duel Disk which is programmed to take advantage of the universes magic is able to outright counter the Big Bad's magic artifact when he tried to use it on him.

    Comic Books 
  • The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw: In the comic, the animal characters treat magic as a science. It is studied and taught. There are even symposiums on current trends in magic.
  • Doomsday Clock: When confronted by the entire Justice League (save Superman, Batman, & Wonder Woman) on Mars Dr. Manhattan is ganged up on by all of their mages at once, including Zatanna, John Constantine, Etrigan, and Swamp Thing among others. After No Selling their attacks, he identifies magic as "the scraps of creation" and compares it to random errors in computer code before using it to send the founding League members flying. Moments prior he had attempted to do the same thing with Guy Gardner's Lantern ring but since their power is fueled by emotion (which Manhattan has very little of) he couldn't make it work for him.
    Manhattan: "Magic"... It feels good to still learn.
  • Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom is a pro at this trope. Unlike his contemporary and rival Reed Richards, Doom has a thorough understanding of not just earthly sciences, but magic as well. He's actually used this advantage on a number of occasions to one-up Reed (and most of the Marvel Universe at various points), although the inherent weaknesses of magic (usually, bartering/stealing the energy from a higher power) typically come to bite Doom in the backside. Doom also blends magic and technology, using the sensors in his armor and self-guiding gloves to copy the exact hand movements of spells, thus allowing him to copy other wizards' spells far more quickly than it would normally take to master them. However, there are limits, as copying the movements without an understanding behind the magic or sufficient level of skill to handle the spell can easily fail. In one story the infra-red vision provided by his mask allowed him to see some advance warning of when magic was about to be cast; the other wizards and sorcerers present seemed to be unaware that their moves were being telegraphed as such.
  • The Flash: The Speed Force is, by its nature, a completely mystical interdimensional entity that bestows random people Super-Speed, but is also a Valhalla for these speedsters. But since this franchise is about a Science Hero Legacy Character, the Speed Force has often been treated as if it was a scientific phenomenon. This has led to some stories involving it being studied for scientific purposes. Wally West gradually became more receptive to the spiritualistic aspect of the Speed Force, and so he's learnt to invoke its power to a much greater effect than the others.
  • Green Lantern: Hal Jordan in the early Silver Age run of his book did quite a bit of this to discover the exact limits and potential drawbacks of his Green Lantern Ring. And the tests themselves often kicked off the events of a story.

    Fan Works 
  • In Debt of Blood the Illefarn song portals are sophisticated enough that they can tap into the Stargate network and probably work on the same principles.
  • In Dungeon Keeper Ami Ami's main advantage, other than her taking knowledge from her own world, is her scientific approach to magic and all the innovations she can make, especially with teams of research warlocks.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is all about this. Unlike other works which employ this trope, the protagonist runs into trouble when it turns out that, unlike physics, magic doesn't run on numbers and has its own equivalent to the Laws of Thermodynamics that's based entirely on what's fair.
  • The Heroes of the Storm fanfic Heroes of the Desk gives us the Strategic Prevention, Extraction, and Ablation Regiment who is a strong believer in this combined with Clark's Third Law. If A Wizard Did It, they will only admit such after exhaustive analysis of their 0-10-4s.
  • In the mega-crossover Event Horizon: Storm of Magic, "thaumic radiation" (the Company's term for magic), is a new phenomenon discovered in the Epsilon Eridani system (containing the planets on which Westeros, Middle Earth, and the Warhammer world are located ,alongside the Avatar world as well). Units of magic have been standardized, a magic detector (the Thaumometer) has been invented, and they're experimenting with new Magitek. These experiments culminate in using electrically powered runes to generate a "thaumic field" of magic, bending and focusing the field through the One Ring, and shooting the concentrated beam of magical energy at Dany's dragon eggs with the intent of hatching them. It was a 100% success, sort of.
  • Bringer of Death has this approach to the use of ki, culminating in a special chapter in which Gohan explains exactly how mastering ki allows you to fire energy beams and fly.
  • The Optimised Wish Project sees Bulma set out to measure and quantify the use of ki, starting with Goku and expanding to larger sample sizes including the entire Tenkaichi Tournament. Her research leads to devices that allow anyone to greatly expand their capabilities with ki, although it's dangerous without the proper training.
  • In Magicae Est Potestas, a crossover between Artemis Fowl and Undertale, this is how the monsters are able to make their Magitek. Also, the fairies have started recreating color magic as well, or "reverse spellcasting" as No. 1 calls it.
  • Mostly performed by the Inertia Society in Visiontale, whose members study magic with scientific rigor. Inspired by human Techno Babble, monsters even created Magi Babble to describe magic, and use magic to create magitronic devices, like their versions of smartphones, televisions, and computers.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Assassin Johanna Smith-Rhodes agrees that she, personally, has all the magical ability of a concussed chicken and all the psychic awareness of a housebrick. But a combination of a good academic mind and practical experience gained from being married to Ponder Stibbons means she knows the theory and can make good intuitive guesses. Like telling him what sort of spell would work best—before he's figured it out for himself. Or knowing how to use a magical being's innate abilities to its terminal disadvantage.
  • Defied in Weres Harry?. It is explicitly stated that magic does not make sense and cannot be logically understood or rationally explained. Things like wanded spells or potions are mostly predictable, but the further you get into the deep and powerful magics, the less logical sense anything makes. This is apparently one of the major problems Muggle-borns have to deal with: they are born and raised into a society in which it's assumed that you can explain and understand the world in which you live, and have trouble adjusting to a world that is fundamentally illogical.
  • Defied in Oversaturation. The magic of the human world was not intended to be especially flashy or widespread, and so it actively resists any attempts to study or analyze it beyond the handful of permitted rituals.
  • Fractured Sunlight: The entire reason Twilight is in town. She detected a strange energy and decided to investigate. She gets the Rainbooms to agree to be studied, and she makes a surprising amount of progress, quickly identifying differences in their biology likely caused by the magic.
  • In The Awakening of a Magus, Harry attempts to solve the problem of magical backlashes and overloads (a regular human body cannot withstand nuclear level amounts of energy) through study of energy currents in physics.
  • A Is A: Well, not yet, but Maj. Carter, Sunset Shimmer, and Twilight Sparkle are on the job.

    Films — Animation 
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games:
    • Sunset Shimmer used to be a unicorn mage before being turned into a human, and "The Science of Magic" short shows her to have used those skills to become a competent scientist (though she fails to sufficiently analyze the magic, eventually concluding after many explosions that its properties makes no sense in the human world).
    • Human Twilight Sparkle is able to create a device that siphons off magic without realizing that it's actually magic.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The premise of Ghostbusters is how the team has done enough research into the paranormal, and are able to develop the technology and means to properly detect, combat, and capture them.
  • The entire Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be headed in this direction.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger introduces us to the Tesseract Cube, the "Jewel of Odin's treasure room". Though most people who encounter it think of it as divine or mystical, the Red Skull merely thinks of it as highly advanced science which only his genius can fully unlock. When some other Nazi officers derisively refer to his inventions as magic, he even quotes a kind of proto-version of Clarke's Third Law (albeit a much more condescending version than Clarke would have used): "Great power has always baffled primitive men."
    • This is a plot point in Thor. Jane Foster is here reimagined as an astrophysicist while the Asgardians are depicted as Sufficiently Advanced Aliens for whom magic and science are one and the same. The Destroyer is indistinguishable from any old super-science giant robot with a death ray, and if you took the operational end of the Rainbow Bridge and dropped it in a science-fiction movie, people wouldn't blink twice and would simply consider it a teleporter or stargate. Selvig describes it as an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, which Jane helpfully translates as "wormhole" for Darcy (and the audience).
    • In The Avengers said Destroyer is reverse-engineered into energy weapons and a Bifrost-like portal is built using real physics principles.
    • In Thor: The Dark World, a brief scene has Jane being scanned by a device called a "Soul Forge" and proceeding to stun the Asgardian healer present with a brief explanation about how it works and the scientific principles behind it. She then snarks at overly-grandiose names that Asgardians bestow upon their technology, whereas humans would call the device a "Quantum Field Generator", since that's what it does.
    • In Doctor Strange (2016), sorcery is the ability to manipulate reality similar to how codes can program the software of a computer using "Spells". The Ancient One describes it this way to the highly skeptical Stephen Strange to initiate him into the world of mysticism.
  • Lampshaded in the witch scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Arthur walks the villagers through a careful farcical analysis to determine whether the suspect is a witch, reaching a logically-unsound though hilarious conclusion.
  • The Star Wars prequels did this with control over the Force. While the original trilogy implies that power in the magical Force is an abstract talent, only hinting that Force abilities can be inherited, the prequels reveal that control of the Force is determined by the presence of cellular organelles called Midichlorians. Thus, a Jedi's strength in the Force is a result of measurable, physical properties of his body. However, the Force itself still remains a mystical energy field rather than something that could be readily explained by science.

  • In the Alcatraz Series there exist many different types of glass that can do things that we would call "magic", such as freeze rays, air currents to push something away, or stand upside down on an airship going 200 miles per hour. However, a point made in the series is that the locals do not consider it magic, since anyone could use the glass and is no different from say, a handgun—the laws of physics simply aren't as immutable to them. More specifically, things like Oculator powers or Smedry Talents are classed as "magic" because only specific people can use them and it's not something that can be taught, while most silimatic glass is classed as "technology" because anyone can use it with the proper training.
  • The Arts of Dark and Light and its world of Selenoth knows a magic that is more or less consistent and rule-bound, and so can be investigated scientifically. This is done by all the major magic-using factions, who can also use magical instruments to aid their research into more ordinary science. For example, atomic theory is quite advanced thanks to magical equivalents of cyclotrons and the like.
  • There's an Asimov short story about a physicist who one day wakes up levitating above the bed. He spends the entire story trying to get funding and a research team to study the phenomenon, but despite being able to easily and repeatedly demonstrate his ability to levitate, everyone still refuses to believe him. (Turning the story into an instance of "Everyone but me is a Flat-Earth Atheist".)
  • In Katherine Kurtz's Camber the Heretic, A Healer who is treating a Deryni with a head injury inadvertently turns off his patient's powers. Further testing shows that the technique also conceals the existence of those powers from other people (even down to physical reactions to a Deryni-specific drug), and turns up only one other Healer able to perform it. The protagonists devise a baptismal cult to turn off the powers of Deryni and send them into hiding in advance of a wave of persecution.
  • Taken to Magitek levels in The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, in which the narrator's fiancée is a proofreader for a grimoire publishing house, and sorcerous breakthroughs such as ectopasmic cloning and jinnetic engineering are rapidly modernizing an Alternate Universe Earth.
  • Uncle Andrew of The Chronicles of Narnia takes this approach to magic, doing experiments with guinea pigs to figure out how to reach Another Dimension. His experiments are finally successful in reaching the alternate worlds, but a really powerful sorceress like Jadis has nothing but disdain for people who use his approach. In an earlier book in the series Eustace, too, is against such a concept, when he decides that even repeating a bunch of magical formulas is going about it more analytically than what would be proper, and he should just ask Aslan to take him to Narnia.
  • In Circle of Magic, magic, especially academic magic, works like this. You can earn credentials, go to university. In one book there's a microbiology lab with sterile protocols where they investigate a Mystical Plague, another where Niklaren spends most of his time at a conference on the various seeing magics of the world, and in yet another one mage describes the scientific principle of reproducibility. The reason it's not brought up as much is that the main characters have ambient magic, which is largely unexplored.
  • In Codex Alera by Jim Butcher, the fury-based magic is so much a part of society that it has been meticulously analysed over the course of centuries, and as such the capabilities of different types are known very precisely. However, it becomes increasingly clear as Tavi's adventures continue that Alera's mindset has become extremely stagnant and complacent, and as such it has overlooked many possibilities for expanding its use of furycraft. Tavi, in Cursor's Fury comes when he realises that the well-established use of aircrafting to bend light in a similar way to a telescope can be used on a much larger scale to focus sunlight into a death-ray.
  • Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife explores this trope, as a college professor discovers that witchcraft is an open secret among women (including his wife) and ends up analyzing magic himself.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere is all over the place:
    • A large part of the plot of Elantris is analyzing a magic system after everyone who previously understood it died to understand why it suddenly stopped working ten years ago.
    • In Mistborn, Allomancy—a magic system triggered by ingesting and "burning" various metals—was thoroughly explored by the Lord Ruler, who only allowed knowledge of ten basic metals to reach the general populace. As the series progresses, Vin uses her knowledge of Allomancy's logical setup of powers to discover a handful of new metals with additional abilities. From the same series, it's revealed in the final book that the torture chambers of the Steel Inquisitors were actually laboratories for researching Hemalurgy.
    • By contrast, in Warbreaker, Awakening was only discovered about 300 years ago, and while the basics are now thoroughly understood by its practitioners there are a lot of intricacies that are still being muddled through. Not helping matters is that people tend to keep big discoveries to themselves, limiting their potential to spread.
    • The Stormlight Archive has legends about the Knights Radiant, which is all the new Radiants that are starting to emerge have to go on aside from their own experimentation into the art of Surgebinding.
      • Rhythm of War has a subplot effectively devoted to Sufficient Magic Analysis.
  • In the Dante Valentine series there is an entire category of Psions, called Magi, who devote their lives to using the scientific method to study the paranormal, which is among other things why Necromances such as Danny can act as accredited professionals whose evidence is admissible in court. However, it's noted that there are still things science cannot explain: for example, the conversion of normal humans to Nichtvren (vampires) is noted to include Bio-Augmentation by retroviral infection, but there's also an "etheric transfer" that cannot be rationalized with current science.
  • Derk's forte in Dark Lord of Derkholm. He magically engineers plants and animals in his spare time, winding up with things like winged pigs, invisible cats, extraordinarily stupid cows and highly intelligent geese, and griffin children, who share the DNA of both him and his wife, along with whatever else he made them out of. (One is part house cat, while another is part actual lion, another has goose DNA, another uses actual eagle, etc.)
  • A Zig-Zagging Trope in Discworld: Magic is thoroughly studied by the wizards of Unseen University even if it shift about in response to scientific study, and the younger Wizards in the High Energy Magic building have managed to start working out the laws governing how it changes. Still, anything incomprehensible in the way we would describe as "like magic" is "probably quantum."
    • Goodie Whemper ("maysherestinpeace") was a "research witch" who lived in Mad Stoat, Lancre. She investigated such things as exactly what species are eligible for the "Eye of Newt". One of her triumphs was discovering the exact breed of apple and type of knife to use in the old "predict your future husband's name with a thrown apple peel" if you wanted it to actually work; otherwise it would inevitably spell "SCSSSC". Magrat inherited her cottage after her premature death during an experiment to find out how many bristles you could pull out of a broomstick midflight (not quite that many as it turns out).
    • Magrat followed in her footsteps, as did many of the witches who had lived in the cottage. In Lords and Ladies the advantage of this approach in other areas of witching is noted:
      It's all very well a potion calling for Love-in-idleness, but which of the thirty-seven common plants called by that name in various parts of the continent was actually meant?
      The reason that Granny Weatherwax was a better witch than Magrat was that she knew that in witchcraft it didn't matter a damn which one it was, or even if it was a piece of grass.
      The reason that Magrat was a better doctor than Granny was that she thought it did.
    • The ritual that summons Death traditionally required a human sacrifice and lots of eldritch fires, but by the time the books start this has been refined to three bits of wood and four cubic centimetres of mouse blood. A later book introduces an even more refined version that just needs two bits of wood and an egg. "It has to be a fresh egg, though." It's even suggested that most magic can be pared down like this in a pinch, but is deliberately wrapped up in hard work, ceremony and mumbo-jumbo to keep people from trying it, for the same reason that we don't want hobbyists building nuclear bombs in their basements.
    • Of course, none of this is helped by the fact that a lot of it works the way it does because they believe it works that way.
  • The same "make spells using assembly language" idea is used in Gordon R. Dickson's novel The Dragon Knight, although in the opposite direction. Here this is initially presented as a mnemonic approach to looking up and casting spells from an initially provided (and extremely comprehensive) reference book: rather than building up from simple effects, complex and polished spells are broken down into what's needed. And the series also develops this in the opposite direction from Wiz Biz: rather than introducing successively more complex applications of programming, the main character's development in magic lies in slowly abandoning most of this, replacing symbolic formulae with colloquial description, that with visualization, and ultimately that for a wordless and intuitive form of "make whatever is most appropriate for this moment so" kind of thinking. While he never gives up formulating and testing hypotheses, what is being tested, how and what the results mean become progressively less clear over the series' course.
  • In The Dreamside Road, The IHSA once hoped to quantify, explain and weaponize all of the ‘anomalies’ they’d cataloged. This backfired, when their stolen technology allowed Thunderworks to throw the world into chaos.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry Dresden would spend his time on this, if he had a steady income and the world wasn't always in danger. Early in the series he repeatedly mentions a desire to just "research". The upgrades to his shield bracelet, force rings and summoning circle over the series read like Technology Porn, and he managed to add an anti-tamper mechanism to a magic shield that impressed even his mentor.
    • In general, Harry explores the mechanism of magic a lot, and lays out a fairly consistent system, even extrapolating new ways to do magic based on the rules. Can you use x to power your magic? If it has energy or inspires emotion. Things like fear, anger, love, wall sockets, thunderstorms, a kiss from Lara, etc.
    • Thomas, in his short story, describes his interaction with magic as much more mechanical, more akin to engineering. Make some calculations, perform a spell, get a result. He contrasts it to Harry's use of magic, which he describes as some absurdist science/art hybrid, where cheesy philosophy and Peter Parker actually matter to what Harry can do, where his belief that he can reshape the world actually lets him.
    • Waldo Butters is a medical examiner with absolutely zero magical talent. However, his analytical mindset and ability to remember random half-heard bits of information make him one of the best magical theorists on the planet, outstripping many wizards who have been researching the topic for centuries in mere months. In a world where magic makes any technology go kablooie, he figures out a way to connect a spirit of intellect to the Internet.
    • In Summer Knight, a Faerie Queen cites the Law of Conservation of Energy as proof of why the Summer knight's mantle of power couldn't be destroyed.
    • Lampshaded in Day Off when Harry is roleplaying with the Alphas and rails against the unrealistic spread of the magical fireball cast by Billy's wizard character.
    • In Cold Days, the magic used by Merlin to create the prison on Demonreach is so advanced that it seems like magic to a wizard.
  • The main branch of magic in Earthsea works through invocation of "true names," and its mastery requires long years of intensive study and memorization.
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Telemain is a magician, which apparently amounts to "magical theoretician," magicians being the ones who analyze magic, while other magic users don't concern themselves with theory. He has a tendency to explode into enthusiastic Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness whenever he encounters a new spell.
  • Harry Potter: The Potterverse, in general, has an interesting perspective on this trope.
    • Whilst magic is never described as being anything explicable by ordinary means, it is a force that seems to obey numerous immutable rules (the most thematically relevant of which is that truly reversing the effects of death is just beyond the powers of anyone). There are official research departments in the Ministry of Magic, the Half-Blood Prince's potions textbook is a prime example of a student improving and perfecting potions-making through trial-and-error study and observation, and Lord Voldemort delved further into the depths of dark magic than any wizard who came before him. Dumbledore's development of the uses of dragons' blood might also fall under this trope. The fact that so many magical disciplines can be taught in a school at all is proof that they have been studied and recorded diligently over the centuries, and nearly all of what witches and wizards learn is simply how to duplicate the spells and potions that their forebears discovered.
    • The fact that astronomy is a basic, non-optional class — and arithmancy is an optional elective — indicates there's a lot more to magic than knowing the incantation and making the right gesture, but none of these details are shared with the audience. The most we know is that students at Hogwarts have to deal with a lot of difficult homework.
  • The Heralds of Valdemar series has a newly created school of magical theoreticians, who use geometry to work out what the effects of various bits of magic will be. Oddly enough, they mix this trope with Achievements in Ignorance — the theoreticians get started because, after hundreds of years where their nation had no mages, one of the things they don't know is that there are supposedly things they can never know. There's thus an understandable degree of conflict between them and the actual mages, who take a much more intuitive approach. As the Mage Storms series reaches its climax, it's conceded by even the most diehard "intuitionists" that the theoreticians have a point, and that their research works.
  • Wizards in the backstory of the Her Majesty's Wizard series used to be like this, until they were all wiped out by sorcerers who just memorized pre-made spells from books written by Satan.
  • In The Iron Teeth web serial the mage guilds treat magic like a science. They use chemistry and the scientific method to create spell crystals and other devices.
  • In Fonda Lee’s novel Jade City, the jade mined in the island of Kekon grants people enhanced abilities that are for all intends and purposes magical superpowers, and which the Kekonese consider and treat as such. This trope kicks in because normally the safe use of jade requires a combination of genetic predisposition and intense training in Supernatural Martial Arts, but the people of Espenia (a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of the United States) researched the phenomenon to such a degree that they were able to come up with a drug called SN1 which allows anyone to safely use jade.
  • Journey to Chaos: Dengel Tymh is a name known all over the world. This is because the world runs on magitek and he is the one who who codified magic as a practical science instead of a mystical art. His Introduction to Magecraft has been a best seller for over a thousand years.
  • The Land of Oz series uses magic this way, especially in the later Baum novels. One character in The Patchwork Girl of Oz goes so far as to describe Oz as a place "where magic is a science."
  • In Charles Stross' The Laundry Files, magic is a science. Specifically, a branch of applied mathematics wherein performing certain computations has certain effects. Thus, it really took off with the invention of the computer. Alan Turing was the first to discover how to use computer technology to contact other dimensions, most of which are full of not-very-nice creatures. The eponymous Laundry organization keeps a careful eye on talented mathematicians to ensure they don't accidentally invite an Eldritch Abomination to Earth, and forcibly recruit the people who get close. It's very much a science, which has progressed from drawing sigils to cast a spell to loading up an app on your smartphone that does the same thing.
  • Max Barry's Lexicon is about the application of neuroscience to improve what was once bardic magic resulting in More than Mind Control
  • In The Machineries of Empire, the reality-warping properties of the calendar are so well-understood, the scientists are capable of creating theoretical models and predicting what kind of exotics would result from what calendars, and the entire calendric science is simply a branch of mathematics.
  • Lev Grossman's The Magicians and subsequent sequel play into this a lot. Magic is only doable by the most intelligent and obsessed people, as it requires memorizing enormous charts of data (moon position, weather), dozens of languages (ancient and current), and the most elaborate hand gestures. Analysis is the main method of learning magic; only rare examples do magic spontaneously.
  • Lyndon Hardy's Magic by the Numbers series starts out with five kinds of magic whose rules have been studied and formalised to such a degree that each kind of magic uses different terms to indicate its ultimate law(s)—the Principles of thaumaturgy, the Doctrine of alchemy, the Maxim of magic, the Rule of sorcery, and the Laws of wizardry. The antagonist in the second book is attempting to conquer the world by mastering the meta-laws that govern which rules are dominant at any given time, then disconnecting them and bringing in new ways to perform these various arts that his troops have figured out but the established orders are unable to use—essentially trying to win by having analysed magic more than the other guys. The third book takes this to the next level of meta, exploring the feedback effects of specific types of analysis on metamagic—and by extension, local physics—and introduces an antagonist who has meta-meta-analyzed magic sufficiently to have learned how to effectively Logic Bomb parts of the multiverse out of coherence.
  • In The Mortal Instruments, the Spiral Labyrinth is a hidden library and research facility where warlocks with a scholarly bent study and experiment with existing spells as well as developing new ones. They also accept commissions (such as from the Clave) to develop specific magic as needed. The Silent Brothers do similar work in the City of Bones, but are more narrowly focused since they must work within the bounds of the runic knowledge granted to the Nephilim by the Angel Raziel.
  • In New Arcana, the Order of Neomages has research facilities and an entire research council. Since the world also has relatively developed science, it makes sense that people would apply scientific method to magic.
  • Prof. A.Donda by Stanisław Lem. The professor got an offer from an African university to teach svarnetics. He took it for the computer time for his actual studies, figuring that he can work out what svarnetics is when he gets there, as the typo seemed obvious. But whoever sent the message died in the meantime and nobody knew what Donda was supposed to be teaching, so he made up a backronym Stochastic Verification of Automatized Rules of Negative Enchantment and pretended it's the mathematical theory of black magic.
  • In Retribution Falls demonologists are basically scientists who build Magitek (more magic than tech) powered by demons. They're not particularly evil, either.
  • Rivers of London:
    • This was started by the first Magician of London, Sir Isaac Newton, who codified virtually all the spells used. In Real Life of course, Newton did try to codify magic and alchemy, but ultimately concluded they didn't exist (as far as we know).
    • DC Grant takes this approach to magic, learning exactly why magic causes electrical devices to short out and explode. He even works out how to use them to disable cars as a sort of magical stinger. Peter continues to believe that magic must be subservient to the laws of quantum physics somehow, much to the dismay of his superior, DCI Nightingale.
    • In The fifth book, Foxglove Summer, it is revealed that part of Nightingale's dismay comes from it being that line of thinking taken up by Those Wacky Nazis and the Ghostapo during WW2, which led to all sorts of atrocities and the virtual extinguishment of magic in the world at Ettersberg.
  • The protagonist of L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s The Magic Engineer takes this approach to magic—he takes notes on the logic and mathematical principles by which magic works, and eventually understands the basis of the entire magical system and how the two forms of magic interact with the material world. He then uses this scientific understanding of magic to build Magitek steam-powered warships.
  • The Second Apocalypse plays with it, using the Dunyain, a race of absurdly intelligent Straw Vulcans, as a vehicle.
    • Subversion: Moenghus attempts to exploit this but ends up subverting it when he blinds himself as a necessary first step in learning the Psukhe, the magic of the Cishaurim, only to discover that the Psukhe relies almost entirely on intuition, emotion and passion—things the hyper-analytical Dunyain are practically incapable of, which means not only is he still powerless, he's also blind. Of course, since he is Dunyain, even losing his eyesight really just Brought Him Down To Badass.
    • Played straight: Kellhus learns the Gnosis, a school of magic more dependent on language and possibly mathematics, and promptly becomes even more godlike than he already was. Granted, the Gnosis is already regarded as being very powerful In-Universe, but Kellhus takes it up a notch.
  • In Smoke and Shadows, Arra comes from an Alternate Universe where humans have developed magic to a greater extent than technology, but still combine it with the physical sciences and employ it in a rationalist, scientific manner. Arra had little difficulty integrating magic with technology after she came to Tony's Earth. In particular she uses computers to assist with divination and performing the necessary mathematical calculations to create interdimensional gates. This is in stark contrast to magical practitioners from Tony's Earth, who tend towards a more traditional superstition-driven approach to magic.
  • Spellhacker: The study of maz (magic) is considered just another science. There are universities dedicated to maz research, and even a periodic table of maz.
  • While the magic of the titular Spellsinger is unpredictable, as befits a style enacted through art, the more powerful wizardry wielded by Clothahump and Zancresta is like a sort of improvisational physics. Clothahump, specifically, makes (accurate) use of scientific terminology in his incantations.
  • This is a major plot thread in A Star Shall Fall, the third Onyx Court book. It turns out that, while the mortal world operates according to the laws of physics and chemistry, the faerie world operates according to the laws of alchemy.
  • While the Strugatsky Brothers primarily wrote science fiction (hard at first, then progressively soft social SF) and are known for their Noon Universe cycle, they also wrote two seminal Soviet fantasy novels purely running on this trope, Monday Begins on Saturday and Tale of the Troika. Both are set in the same universe (which is a setting separate from the Noon Universe, unlike nearly all their other output except the last few novels), with the former being something like an comedic, fairly light-hearted Science Fantasy / Urban Fantasy hybrid, which parodies, and at the same time pays homage to, the academic spirit in general and the Soviet research institute system in particular; and the latter being a much more cynical, satirical tale with acerbic swipes at Soviet bureaucracy (it was heavily censored and only released in the original form in the late 80s). Interestingly enough, while this trope is prominent, Magic A Is Magic A is averted very much on purpose: the magic in this setting is not particularly consistent or rigorously scientific (what with quite a few things from the Fantasy Kitchen Sink thrown in), but the research into it is—which obviously doesn't fit together all that well in-universe, and thus causes some hilarious situations.
  • Jax makes this argument comparing the magic of her world and the technology of ours in Terry Goodkind's Law of Nines.
  • In Technomagia i smoki magic is physics, full stop. Magical field is a household concept, magitech computers (dragon-powered) are used by research wizards to process their experimental data and at one point Mr. Exposition explains the theory of multiverse originating from a Cosmic Egg (laid by the primordial dragon).
  • David Weber's The War Gods series does this in the background. Basically it's a parallel universe, and there are different ways for humans to access energy fields resulting in the powers. The old Empire used the order of Wizards for things like construction as well as steel making.
  • While the The Wheel of Time's Aes Sedai can be fairly hidebound and set in what channeling can and can't do, individual research in the organization abounds. Systematic research is given a kickstart by the events of the story, and several main characters have their own areas of expertise; Egwene frequently spends nights testing the limits of Dreaming, Nynaeve's experiments with Healing lead to better healing methods and the ability to cure severing and even sai'din taint-madness, Elayne's work leads to her actually copying and creating new ter'angreal...
  • In Rick Cook's Wiz Biz fantasy series, the trope standard Summon Everyman Hero spell finds a computer programmer, who proceeds to analyse magic and create a programming language for writing new magic spells. He doesn't understand magic himself, he just finds a few spells equivalent to basic assembler commands and combines them to make entire programming languages. The world he lives in is explicitly one where most spells are nearly impossible to analyze because the more complex the spell is, the more it's changed by multiple random factors. He elegantly gets round this because his assembler spells are very very simple and therefore predictable.
  • In The Young Ancients magic consists of creating fields where the laws of physics behave differently, in highly predictable ways as ordered by the field's creator. A solid knowledge of physics and chemistry can only aid a Builder. Later descriptions make this sound even more like computer programming; the Builder enters a trance wherein they can control their own brain's electricity so precisely so as to program reality on a quantum level.
  • Magic spells in Diane Duane's Young Wizards series are written or spoken equations for a higher order of physics, including the requirement that they balance.
  • Roger Zelazny:
    • In Jack of Shadows, we very literally see that Sufficiently Analyzing Magic can give you Story Breaker Powers.
    • The Chronicles of Amber, considering how the Pattern is treated, also draws on this trope (although only a few family members seem to be in on how the magic works).

    Live-Action TV 

    Myths & Religion 
  • Thomas Aquinas essentially did this to Catholicism—he dismissed The Bible as a source of data, and approached the subject of God from the perspective of an Aristotelian empiricist. This "natural theology" has been popular among Catholic theologians ever since, and his version of the cosmological argument is considered by many people (both believers and atheists) to be the strongest argument for the existence of some sort of Creator. However, he did admit that some things (such as specifically Christian doctrines like the Resurrection) could only be known by revelation, thus "revealed theology" (though he didn't focus on that).

    Tabletop Games 
  • Ars Magica is largely about this trope. One of the main reasons why each player controls a troupe of several characters is so that they can still go out and have adventures while their Magus is locked in the lab for months at a time, researching new rites or secrets of Forms and Techniques.
  • Demon: The Fallen: The Cryptics seek nothing less than to reverse-engineer Creation. Yes, the World of Darkness was made by God, and these demons try to analyze how they did it.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: This is what separates Wizards from other spellcasters. To a greater extent, this is separates Archmages and practicers of metamagic from other spellcasters. To a much, much greater extent, this is what separates Artificers from all other practitioners of magic.
    • Net Wizard's Handbook categorizes fantasy settings by "Controllability of magic". The highest state is "Magic is a Science", i.e. no fundamental differences between teaching engineers how to work with electrical forces and teaching wizards how to work with magical forces.
    • Eberron is pretty much based on this. Magic has literally been commercialized and Magitek is widespread. Traveling on a magic-powered passenger train or sending a message to someone via a magical equivalent of a telegraph is seen as perfectly normal by most people.
  • Exalted: The way magic works fits in perfectly with this philosophy, and the most powerful users of magic in the First Age (who, incidentally, are called sorcerer-engineers) had a decidedly empirical approach to their craft... to the extent that they harnessed the power of faith, magic, and technology to create the factory-cathedrals, the greatest workshops ever created in any universe. That's right, they actually analyzed the relationship between gods and their worshippers and used it to power Magitek assembly lines.
  • In GURPS Technomancer, it's in the title. Roughly two seconds after The Magic Came Back, America started studying it to figure out how it worked and what it could do. Fast-forward several decades, and you have a world where people argue the merits of "old tradition" spellcasting methods versus modern scientific formulae, and go into space to find out whether the mana is denser there or not.
  • Mage: The Ascension: The Void Engineers live in a world shaped by belief. So they went ahead and invented machines and organisms that can believe things for them.
  • Nephilim refers to magical techniques (e.g. Sorcery, Summoning, Alchemy, Necromancy) as "occult sciences" and states that the human understanding of "magic" is simply a silly superstition.
  • Magic: The Gathering: This is the color Blue's take on magic when it isn't dishing out elemental attacks of wind or water. Being the color of logic, reason, and raw brainpower, Blue is full of scholars and wizards attempting to understand the very underpinnings of magic itself. This is represented mechanically with Blue excelling at card draw (research/learning), returning cards on the battlefield to the players' hands (by tampering with the magical connection between summoner and summoning), the almost exclusive ability to counter spells as they're being played (by short-circuiting the magic of the casting itself), and the most interaction of all the colors with artifact cards that doesn't involve smashing them to pieces or blowing them up (the second most being Red, which is ironic because it is also tied with Green in destroying artifacts).
  • New World of Darkness: There's usually one splat per gameline whose mission is to analyze their particular brand of magic. Due to balance issues, this never really gives them much of an advantage.
    • Vampire: The Requiem: The Ordo Dracul. Their ethos is, "Okay, we're cursed to avoid sunlight, given an inhuman hunger for blood, have a ravaging beast in the back of our heads, and are capable of superhuman feats. The question is, why? And just what else can we accomplish?"
    • Mage: The Awakening:
      • This is a favored ethos of the Free Council; as postmodernists, revolutionaries and inventors, they take an interest in applying scientific properties to magic and making an exquisite blend.
      • This is the general approach of the prime sphere, finding the regular patterns in the energies that allow magic to be treated like mundane energy or materials.
      • Rote spells are also described as the end result of this process, where a single effect is refined to the point where use of the spell relies on a mundane ability and sphere knowledge instead of mystical intuition.
    • Changeling: The Lost: This is the official hat of the Autumn Court—however, because most "magic" is simple contract law, it's fairly easy.
    • Promethean: The Created: The titular golems naturally turn their attention to understanding how their own particular magical nature works in order to understand what they need to do in order to Become a Real Boy. In fact, of the ten Refinementsnote , no fewer than seven effectively fall under this trope. Five of these are particular flavors of the inherent magical nature of Prometheans, with Plumbum (the Refinement of Lead) being most focused on "what is a Promethean?", one (Argentum, Refinement of Silver) applies this philosophy to studying the other creatures of the World of Darkness, and then there's Centimanus. The Refinement of Flux tries to understand the darker side of Pyros, such that the most common stereotype for Centimanus besides "monster who has given up on humanity" is "scholar trying to better define what humans are not".
    • Hunter: The Vigil: The Null Mysteriis are an organization of scientists who want to study the supernatural, and firmly believe that there's no distinction between it and the natural—all the universe, they think, is governed by rational, understandable laws and processes; modern science only understands some of these as yet, yes, but everything can be properly studied and categorized with time and effort. They haven't had much success so far due to that pesky Masquerade, but their attitude fits this trope perfectly. Their actual competence varies hugely Depending on the Writer; sometimes they're skilled scientists who're actually making progress and other times Flat Earth Atheists who ignore obvious supernatural phenomena.
    • Demon: The Descent is made of this—the demons of the title are supernatural artificial intelligences that got disconnected from an entity known as the God-Machine, which operates the world through methods both strange and occult. But what really makes it this trope is those machinations get results—what looks like strange, formless ritual to outsiders is actually a means-tested way of generating supernatural resources, as perceived through the eyes of a fractured(?) god-like intelligence.
    • Genius: The Transgression, a fan game, breaks the mould here: all the splats, especially the Scholastics, follow this ethos. Ironically, mad science consists almost entirely of non-repeatable phenomena making it much harder to study than most of the magic and powers from other gamelines.
  • Shadowrun: Hermetic mages take this approach as opposed to the more intuitive "magic as art/religion" approach of shamans.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: Dr. Netchurch is analysing the effects of all sorts of supernatural effects for science. However, while he can explain in detail the interactions between human faith and the forces maintaining the integrity of undead flesh, he dismisses thaumaturgy out of hand as unscientific.

    Video Games 
  • There is a fair bit of this in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura. Magic Versus Science is a major theme of the setting, to the point that "magick" and "technology" are opposite ends of a single aptitude scale on your character sheet. It's a fundamental truth that the two cannot coexist in any great power, and the rational proponents of the new technology are hard at work on researching why.
    Begin the experiment with your Inclined Plane at its most acute angle, nearly flat upon the table. Take Block A, and place it on Inclined Plane C: note that the Block does not slide. [...] Introduce a Magickal Artifacte into the system. Slowly bring it into the vicinity of Inclined Plane C. Notice that Block A begins to slide haltingly downward!
    Principia Technologica, being the collected lectures of Sir Harris Guffingford, A Helpful Illustration of the Principles of Science, Chapter the Fourth: On the Eternal Conflict Between Natural and Supernatural Forces
  • The Ars Magus of BlazBlue is this, a type of magic which relies on ambient seithr and scientific principles, is fairly simple to learn, and can be used to create Magitek. It was developed so that more people would be capable of fighting the Black Beast, which was impervious to mundane attacks. "Real" magic remains mysterious and extremely powerful. Similar to Guilty Gear where the science behind the technology that produced the Gears was so fantastic it was called magic. But in the OVA and some dialog in the game it is stated as a form of man-made science and not magic but still different from "old school" science as we know it (but it's the old science that keep Zepp the flying nation in the air).
  • In the Castlevania series:
    • Charlotte, one of the two player characters in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, is a powerful sorceress that owes her skill to constant study. She describes magic, either Dracula's, her own, or otherwise, with the kind of detail and technical lingo you'd expect from a scientist explaining her craft (early in the game, she explains the villain is controlling the castle's magic with "multilayer quantum-space barriers", based on the "Theory of Curse Amplification"). However, she doesn't elaborate too much on the terms she uses, so her explanations sometimes come across as a bit vague and hollow. This is somewhat justified because most of the time, she's explaining this to Jonathan, a warrior by trade who's not nearly as well versed in magic as she is. However, this trope is also zig-zagged, as there's magic in the story (specially Wind's) that even she can't justify or comprehend, because, well, it's magic, after all, but also because she's still young and, despite being a prodigy, is still lacking experience.
    • The eponymous Order of Ecclesia is the last of several groups of dedicated scholars founded in the 19th century to find new ways of defeating Dracula in the absence of the Belmont family line through diligent study. They finally succeeded in creating such a way, Dominus, right before one of the members, named Albus, goes rogue and steals it, kicking off the plot. The "analyzed" part kicks into full gear when its revealed that all that research with Dracula's magic drove Barlowe, the Order's founder, mad, resulting in him designing Dominus to consume the user and free Dracula instead of destroying him for good. As it turns out, Albus found out part of his lie and stole Dominus so he could do his own research. His search leads him to track down the descendants of the Belmont family and draw samples of their blood in an attempt to reconfigure Dominus. He is even found in a laboratory at one point.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Dwemer excelled in this, reaching the point of becoming the fantasy equivalent of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. The tools and technologies they left behind are still used by the more clever denizens of Tamriel to accomplish feats that conventional technologies and magics cannot match. Some examples include creating the tools necessary to tap into the divine powers of the heart of a dead god, machinery capable of safely reading an Elder Scroll without the nasty side effects, a reality-warping Humongous Mecha in working order, and a fully-functional Weather-Control Machine.
    • The Psijic Order is a powerful Magical Society and the oldest monastic order in Tamriel. Through thousands of years of intensive study in the nature of magic, they have become able to utilize it in ways (and on a scale) that the rest of Tamriel is unable to match. Their many magical feats include making their home island disappear without a trace (twice), summoning a storm to swallow the Maomer fleet whole, using various forms of teleportation and Astral Projection, telepathy, and there are even reports that they possess a limited form of clairvoyance and sight into future events. No group (save for perhaps the extinct Dwemer) can match these abilities.
    • There are a number of other academic institutions dedicated to the study of magic, such as the Arcane University in the Imperial City, or the College of Winterhold in Skyrim, both of which cross over with being Wizarding Schools. Each is dedicated to the study and application of the nature of magic in a rather scientific fashion, including classifying magic into various "schools".
  • The Endless Space and Endless Legend games have Dust, nano-machines that can, among other things, grant sentience to other machines, give god-like powers to living beings and bend the laws of reality itself.
  • Much of Final Fantasy's Magitek functions on this trope:
    • By studying Espers and their magical powers, Final Fantasy VI's Cid can grant magic to machines and individuals. This is called Magitek.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, the Shinra Company seemed to be using Aeris and her mother before her to study the magic of the ancients, although the story didn't go into much detail on this point. Shinra also produces materia, so it's probably safe to assume they know a fair amount about regular magic as well.
    • The "magic" used by the characters in Final Fantasy VIII is more of a pseudo-magic created after analyzing the sorceress' magic. Of note: after a semi-sorceress' Mental Time Travel powers are analyzed, scientists are able to replicate them with the "Ellone Junction Machine."
    • In Final Fantasy XII, Dr. Cid spends years studying the God-made Nethicite in order to create artificial duplicates. Not only does he succeed, he improves upon his man-made Nethicite (which is just as magical as the other kind) and makes it more efficient.
    • In Final Fantasy XIII, the forces of Cocoon have created Manadrives capable of emulating the magic of the l'Cie.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV, baring conjury and white magic, all magical practices in the realm are understood academically. For example, arcanists and scholars know Magic Is Mental and they weave magic through geometric formula. Sharlayan in particular is famous for its center of higher learning, the Studium, and people are able to get the equivalent of a PHD in fields like the study of aether or prophecy.
  • Shaping in Geneforge plays this trope to a T. New creations are traditionally made through experimentation, making one new creature after another with one slight modification each time and recording the results. The first game is about you being stranded on an island where you discover an abandoned research facility that had discovered DNA, and subsequently magical genetic engineering. The series as a whole delivers the message that the process of gaining knowledge gives you the wisdom to use that knowledge, and that simply being given power will lead to abuse.
  • In Grim Dawn the Arcanist mastery utilizes scientific understanding of magical forces. The flavor text for each spell usually treats them like the end result of whole research projects, complete with major breakthroughs that are now basic and students improving on the original formulas. Like a whole field of science, except instead of theorems you get self-replicating Magic Missiles.
  • This is basically how the Asura from Guild Wars 2 operate; they look at magic as just another field of science, and apply it accordingly. They have concepts such as Golemancy (robots/Mini-Mecha that basically use magic for the battery/OS), the Greater Magical Field Theory (conservation of mass/energy as applied to magic), and so forth.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic: On the continent of Antagarich on the world of Enroth in New World Computing's setting, magic as a concept came to be because of this trope—in one phase of religious development, the dominant religion was focused on rituals far more than faith, and some of those rituals provided magical effects. This led some adherents to experimenting with rituals to try to figure out why some worked and others didn't, enhance the ones that did, and make ones that didn't work work, and gradually the experimentation and research became more and important until the religion faded away (and was replaced by other religions) but the art—or science—of magic remained.
  • King's Quest V cites Niven's riff verbatim at one point, using this to justify a scientific device repowering a magic wand.
  • The D'ni of the Myst Verse took this approach to their Writing and associated crafts.
  • In Open Sorcery, you play BEL/S, an elemental firewall, which is a fire spirit bound to C++, with a HTMLnote  GUI, that acts like a firewall. Except instead of viruses, it deals with malicious spirits. And you might become an AI. It actually opens by quoting both Clarke's Third Law, and Clarke's Third Law Reversed, i.e. the quote at the top of this page.
  • In Perihelion, the supernatural is a science to the Perihelion Imperium, meaning even the gods, despite being far beyond mortals, are empirically-explainable...unless you're talking about the Unborn God.
  • In Pillars of Eternity, this is more or less the point of the relatively new and highly controversial field of animancy. Highly controversial because magic runs on the manipulation of soul energy; while many animancers are happy to restrict themselves to ethical studies, there have been enough cases of extreme experiments involving souls Gone Horribly Wrong, or Horribly Right, to instill widespread suspicion of the fledgling science. Plus, the Leaden Key and several of the gods actively seeks to suppress the study of animancy, to protect certain secrets that they believe, rightly or wrongly, are best kept unknown.
  • Shadow Warrior 2: The Zilla Corporation has analyzed The Corruption and turned it into a viable energy source / intelligence booster, greatly advancing scientific progress while integrating implant circuitry with chi-bending to develop artificial combat magic. Unfortunately for Zilla, the corruption is also analyzing them.
  • Shin Megami Tensei revolves around this; the Devil Summoning Program works by replicating & automating the various rituals used to summon demons. Although, when analyzed in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the technicians are baffled by the dozens of Black Boxes in its code, and its use is only authorized in the eve of extreme duress. Across the series, a handful of people have been seen to develop some variation upon Akemi Nakajima's original program, but it bears mentioning that aside from Nakajima himself and Stephen, most of these are inhuman entities using and distributing it for their own purposes.
  • In Stellaris, this is presumably what a Psionically Ascended Materialist Empire thinks of the Shroud.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, there are hints of this going on in Tethe'alla, particularly if you listen to the NPC discussions in Sybak University. The Elemental Research Laboratory is also tasked with studying Summon Spirits. The end result of this process can be seen in the Desian bases and later on the highly-advanced city of Welgaia, where the Magitek looks better suited to Space Opera.
    • Raine Sage also comments in some Z-skits that she feels dissatisfied using magic without fully comprehending how it works on a scientific level and wishes to study it further.
  • Apparently this is how magic works in Touhou Project, according to All There in the Manual. Perfect Memento in Strict Sense's article of Marisa details her research on magic. It involves gathering magic mushrooms, doing various stuff on them, and recording whether they result in magical reactions or not. Those mushrooms also act as fuels to Marisa's magic attacks. Additionally, according to Patchouli, there is no fundamental difference between magic and science.
  • In World of Warcraft, magic is often treated as a science, to the point where the magic school in the capital city of Stormwind is out-and-out called "The Academy of Arcane Arts and Sciences". In fact, from that very academy, there are three mage girls in Stormwind who wander about the Mage District, talking about "the Surian theory" and "frequency shifts." Turns out they're apparently making a Love Potion.
    • Theorycrafting: players will spend hours debating, testing, experimenting, number crunching and quantifying every bit of information about their character stats. There are websites and tools devotes to running millions of simulations to squeeze that bit more damage out of a fight. Mages who do this especially run full force into this trope.
    • In Tides of War, Kalecgos uses an arcane ball with a distinct recurring pattern to show Jaina Proudmoore what magic is made of. The realization stuns her.
    Jaina: Its...math!

    Visual Novels 
  • Nasuverse is known for its incredibly complex rules of magecraft. Let's start with the fact that magecraft is very different from Magic, though easily confused with it. Magecraft is more or less a science. A science with a number of metaphysical flaws and a dependence on mana to work, but a pseudo-science none the less. That said, Magic note  is a rare and incredible power that defies the laws of science and magecraft, and is ultimately closer to reality-warping than anything else.
    • It's noted in The Garden of Sinners that mages believe that even explaining how their magic works to someone who doesn't know makes it less effective. This mentality is also present in the Fate/stay night timeline, particularly in Lord El-Melloi II Case Files where Waver's specialty in analyzing and predicting magic horrifies his fellow magi.
    • In Melty Blood, Sion was originally cast out of her academy for daring to share research on her attempts to cure vampirism with other wizards outside of her academy. The events that occur within both series have apparently brought about a 180 turn, when it has become apparent to the wizards that they really need to know what the hell they're doing. In the manga, Sion is bemused how they completely ignore how she was ever banished in the first place.

  • Blood is Mine: The author of the bone armor spell points out that magic rituals can become outdated: they invoke higher beings, but the cosmic balance of power between these beings can change drastically. The author wants to update and improve old rituals to better reflect the new cosmic order. An older draft of the bone armor spell also shows that the author tested many different versions of this spell during its development, before arriving to the final result.
  • In Castoff, Sage, the reclusive mage the group meets in Knotwoods, begins interviewing Vector on the nature and extent of his powers as soon as he can. Using magic to take notes in several books at once. He would also love to try some experiments, if he weren't so afraid of Arianna.
  • Dark Legacy Comics: Mad scientist Narya tries to analyze how magic works scientifically, To which he is told isn't the point of magic is that it has no basis in science.
  • Mori of The Dragon Doctors is a "magical scientist," someone whose basic job description is analyzing forms of magic and using appropriate forms of treatment for magical ailments.
  • Tedd of El Goonish Shive is attempting to treat magic just like any other area of the (mad) sciences — physics, chemistry, robotics, etc. So far, we've seen him trying empirical testing of transformation spells, running numbers instead of hoping that things "just work", and so forth. It's heavily, heavily implied that "Lord Tedd" resulted in one timeline when he forgot the value of friendship in lieu of obsessing over magic-turned-science—and thus, power—to the exclusion of all else. Complicating matters is that magic itself in this universe is a semi-sentient entity, meaning that studying it is more akin to xeno-psychology than physics. Further complicating matters is that magic only wants to be used and understood by a minority of people: if knowledge of magic became widespread, it rewrites all of its own rules on how it works to make sure only a select few could use it, unless given a good reason not to by an even smaller minority of "seers". Tedd provides it with one; there are just too many people these days for that to be practical.
    • Later both Pandora and Arthur both comment on Tedd's ability to "program" spells in great detail with accurate results are a new (and invaluable) ability never seen before.
  • Erfworld: Sizemore notes that Parson Gotti takes this approach to learning how Erfworld and its gamelike mechanics work. Notable because those who wield magic in the world are typically content to solve their quandaries about how stuff works with heated philosophy and self-serving hearsay. It's likely that there are very few Erfworlders who really know the rules of their world.
    • It seems as if most Erfworlders are born (or "popped") with an innate understanding of the most basic rules of the world and the skills they need to practice their specialties, and this inherent knowledge tends to discourage further questioning ("Why ask questions when you already know most of the answers that matter?"). But Parson is ignorant of even the most basic aspects of Erfworld—and in asking those questions, he's also asking the sort of questions that lead to discoveries and tactics no one else in the world ever dreamed of.
      • This is what makes him The Dreaded or an Eldritch Abomination in the eyes of his enemies. For example he managed to change the type of a hex by linking a Croakamander and a Dirtamancer (Necromancer and Geomancer) to revive a dormant volcano. Something only the Titans could do.
  • Named during the "Cinderella" non-canon arc of Girl Genius. After using her Steampunk tech-knowledge to repair the Good Fairy's magic wand with the casual prodding at the errors causing it to bug out akin to telling someone that the batteries were put in backwards, Agatha shouts "'Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science!'"
    Zeetha the Fairy Godmother: What's with the quotation marks? Who said that?
    Agatha as Cinderella: ME!
    • In a later side story featuring one of her ancestors who has come under attack from a electrical weapon:
      Ghengis Ht'rok-din: "GRAH! Vat kind uf sufficiently advanced technology iz dis!?!"
    • Encounters with older characters have made it clear that earlier generations of Sparks were known as wizards, and the frequency with which modern Sparks violate the known laws of physics make one wonder if they're actually working magic through a scientific lens.
      • Tarvek is explicitly warned by an imprint of Klaus that Queen Albia of England does not use magic, that she simply uses incredibly advanced science far beyond what even normal Sparks can comprehend, and that she hates it when people call it magic.
  • In The Gods of Arr-Kelaan Claremont, god of knowledge and a former Scientist in life, spends much of the early comics studying magic. His religion naturally follows suit.
  • The eponymous court in Gunnerkrigg Court dedicates much of its time to the "etheric sciences". Subverted in that they still don't truly understand it. They can understand enough for individuals to devise Magitek but ultimately cannot actually explain how any of it works, only that "It just does, okay?" They only call it etheric sciences to make themselves feel better about it.
  • Housepets!: By the end of Heckraiser, scientifically analyzing and understanding magic(k) becomes mandatory to undo the Mass Transformation that turned a massive chunk of the population into animals. Once it's understood, transformation between forms without hang-ups becomes possible as well, and it becomes its own branch of science.
  • Juathuur: Although we never see him actually researching, Sevvil spends most of his time mechanically replicating the Juathurr's powers, in combat he can punch well above his weight by combining his rather average electrical powers with a good understanding of the physics behind electricity. Beisaru is probably another example given the page quote, it's certainly not an empty boast: he easily defeats Shadow Magic users.
  • One SFW page of the often NSFW Oglaf, "Double Blind". A man is traveling from oracle to oracle, asking them what picture is contained within a sealed envelope, so he can record and rate the answers for future travelers.
    • Lampshaded in (SFW) "Abracademia": a teacher at a magic school is unable to actually explain what magic is or how it works to an inquisitive pupil. Rather than reflect on this, she decides to have the student killed.
  • Vaarsuvius of The Order of the Stick points out "any sufficiently advanced—and repeatable—magic is indistinguishable from technology."
  • Erik's attitude towards magic in Roommates is: "Magic is not incomprehensible. There are patterns; catalysts and reactions." He might have a point because, despite not having any actual magical abilities, he even succeeds in playing magical advisor in one of the arcs.
  • In The Story of Anima, the titular force has been analyzed to an extent. It's known that everyone can emit it, and its ability to interact with certain minerals known as Catalysts, as well as the fact that some, known as Animus, can harness their Anima directly. However, what Anima is is the subject of many theories, with Soul Power being popular enough to be the reason for the name. And as for the Animus, all that's really known is that some develop the ability after suffering severe trauma.
  • It's not prominent, but in Tales of the Questor, this is clearly the Racconan attitude to magic Lux Physics. Word of God says that their willingness to collaborate and share knowledge is why Racconan wizards are so advanced.
  • In Unsounded, pymary is essentially a programming language executed on the machinery of the universe, with precise instructions for re-allocating Aspects of reality, constant research and scholarly publication on new and improved spell commands, and pre-assembled spells that any dabbler can borrow with minimal training. "Magic" in the setting refers exclusively to the fantastic and inexplicable, whereas pymary is a hard science.

    Web Original 
  • Deucalion Chronicles is practically built on this trope; almost all technology present in the CU is magic-based.
  • A central point in Threetoe's Dwarf Fortress based short story "Cado's Magical Journey"
  • The story node "How mages discovered the scientific method" on Everything2 uses this as its central premise.
  • In the world of RWBY, both Dust and the soul are considered entirely scientific and not remotely magical at all. Aura, the practical manifestation of dust, is considered a scientific field of study, and Semblances (unique superpowers) are just a subset of Aura. "Magic" doesn't exist. Only it does, but is only wielded by Ozpin, Salem, and those they have empowered. "The Lost Fable" reveals that Semblances are seemingly derived from true magic, but far less powerful.
  • Saga of Soul's protagonist is a Magical Girl who, once she obtains her powers, immediately sets out to analyze and experiment with them. She even uses her magic to explore other scientific branches, such as creating unbihexium for physicists to study.
  • The SCP Foundation recovers and studies anomalous objects in the world, many of them being the origin of folktales and urban legends around the world, and some of which have been directly responsible for some of our more recent innovations.
    • Both the Foundation and its rival, the Global Occult Coalition, employ magic users whom they refer to as "Type Blues". The GOC, who are much more strict about the Masquerade, refer to magic as "Applied Thaumatology" and assert that it's nothing more than a new form of physics.
    • The Foundation also has the "Explained" object class, which is any phenomena that may have been supernatural or futuristic when it was discovered, but the outside world has since then caught up and managed to explain it through conventional science. One particularily infamous example of an explained SCP is SCP-1851-EX "Drapetomania", an anomalous mental illness that causes enslaved black people to "resist their natural place". The Foundation considers this an immense Old Shame, and only keeps it in the archives to avoid Orwellian Retcon.
  • Tales of MU has a variation of this. While some magic "just works", such as divine healing, much of the mechanics of magic are explained, in excruciating detail. In fact, studying magic this way is the main character's college major. For example: enchantment works somewhat differently for each caster, but the methods of figuring out those variations is highly formalized. Though if you poke too hard at how the universe works, it will poke back.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Princess Bubblegum vehemently denies the existence of magic, and attributes all its properties to specifically applied scientific principles she thinks are at work. This gets her in hot water with the very large wizard community.
  • While nobody has been shown seriously studying and testing things in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the arts of bending the elements have been shown to work like this and several characters have been shown figuring out how to take bending principles to their logical conclusion: Iroh learned how to redirect lightning by applying waterbending's energy-flow principles to a firebender's ability to manipulate electricity. Toph recognized that while earthbending can't apply to metal, metal still carries earthen impurities that allow it to be bent. And Katara realized that her own sweat could be waterbent, shortly before meeting someone who figured out how, in rare circumstances, that could also apply to bodily fluids that are still inside the body.
    • This also carries into The Legend of Korra, where Amon can rob a person of their bending ability by combining bloodbending (the aforementioned waterbending of bodily fluids) with known techniques to block bending by hitting pressure points to disrupt a person's energy flow.
      • Further examples from Korra include: developing metallurgy allowing for ultra-refined metals sufficiently free of impurities that they cannot be manipulated by earthbenders.
      • And the scientific—if somewhat haphazard—study of Spirit Vines and Spirit Energy, leading to an energy source that is a functional analogy for nuclear power in our own world.
  • One episode of The Fairly OddParents! has a literal example. To try and bond with his grandfather, Timmy uses his fairies' magic to transport them both into the world of an old-timey cartoon. His grandfather never once suspects that magic is involved and is instead convinced that this is some sort of new-fangled entertainment system, allowing Timmy to make further wishes without fear of breaking the Masquerade.
  • Doctor Doom in Iron Man: Armored Adventures is similar to the comics incarnation; he appears to possess both advanced science and magical powers from his armor. Tony Stark is bewildered as this version of him has only previously encountered technological threats. However, after further examining the armor Tony concludes that Doom is using extremely next-generation tech to manipulate quantum fields or some such Techno Babble, similar to the series Macguffins he and the Mandarin are searching for. Doom even summons an entity (or at least its arm) from another dimension to attack Iron Man and says that primitive people would have called it a demon, meaning that the "magic is advanced science and vice-versa" line in the Thor film may apply to Armored Adventures.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, magic (though requiring innate ability) can be learnt from books, and this is certainly how Twilight Sparkle approaches it. She's insistent that there are rational rules to how magic works, although we aren't actually told that many of them.
  • In the Rick and Morty episode "Something Ricked This Way Comes", Rick devises a method in which he can scan cursed items from a spooky antiques store, figure out what each curse is, and starts a business removing them for people.
    Rick: Hey, Morty, quick question: does evil exist, and if so, can one detect and measure it? Trick question, Morty, the answer is yes, you just have to be a genius.
  • In Steven Universe, at least some of the technology of the Homeworld Gems seems to have been derived from researching and reverse-engineering the abilities of the Gems themselves. Most notable are the Gem Destabilizers, which seem to be directly based off of Yellow Diamond's own ability to poof Gems with her Shock and Awe powers.
  • In Tangled: The Series, Varian is a scientist, inventor, and alchemist, and on multiple occasions he has attempted to apply science to try to understand the magical mysteries of Corona.

    Real Life 
  • Many of the earliest scientists in Real Life started out trying to find God/gods/magic.
    • John Dee, a highly competent Elizabethan mathematician, geographer, and astrologer, was clearly as dedicated to discovering the nature of reality by systematic, methodical means as any modern physicist. It’s just that, by what he understood of reality, this meant trying to learn the names of angels and hiring a medium (and con artist) to gaze into a scrying crystal.
    • Sir Isaac Newton, co-inventor of calculus, describer of universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, among other accomplishments, tried to make gold with alchemy and determine the exact date of the Judgement Day. It's often said he was the last alchemist rather than the first scientist.
    • Imhotep, the first known doctor (as well as the inventor of columns to hold up buildings and numerous other things), was also a high priest.
  • Much of the modern science we take for granted nowadays grew out of the semi-mystical field of alchemy. Astronomy grew from a sub-field of Astrology. Geology in the early 19th century started off as a branch of Natural Theology. The first paleontologists in Oxford came from the ranks of Anglican clergy.
    • Here's an extended example: you have some Oil of Vitriol. You also have a crystal with properties of Saccharum Saturni. You need, for an alchemical process, a crystal with the properties of both Brimstone and Lead, which are components in these. You make use of a specially-prepared solvent to separate the crystals into their component properties, and then because of the strong affinities of Lead and Brimstone, compared to between Oil of Vitriol and Saccharum Saturni, a new crystal, Anglesite, forms that cannot be separated by this solvent, so you pour off useless byproduct, and use the Anglesite crystal in your experiments.

      Explanation: The "oil" is hydrogen sulphate (or sulfuric acid); the second one is lead acetate. The solvent is distilled water. Combined, these substances react to form hydrogen acetate (acetic acid) and lead sulfate. The lead sulfate precipitates out of the solution, while the acetic acid stays dissolved and gets poured off with the water.
  • The iconic outfit of the Plague Doctor was an attempt to mate the mysticism of the day with budding medical science, the specifics of which can be read on the linked page.
  • Taking the name literally, Harry Houdini was an immensely famous Stage Magician and Escape Artist and was so well versed with the magical trades that he spent a lot of time debunking the tricks Con Artists used to convince people they were actually supernatural.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sufficiently Advanced Magic, Sufficiently Analysed Magic


Humanity Learned Zoltraak

Frieren explains Qual's signature spell which took him hundreds of years to make was analyzed and learned by humans during the years Qual was sealed because humans can learn magic far quicker than demons. This makes Qual's trump card spell far less effective than before.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / HumansAdvanceSwiftly

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