In fantasy stories with magic, there's often some kind of resource that gets used up doing magic. Magic energy, mana, etc.

Physics as we know it is fundamentally reversible. In ordinary technology, this means (for example) an electric motor can be run backwards to act as a generator. Heat engines can be run backwards (modulo details) to act as heat pumps.

Let's imagine magic is also similarly reversible. This would mean that a magic effect that connects magical energy to physical effects (for example, causing an object to move) could be reversed. Ordinary physical energy could be converted into magical energy by running the magic motor backwards, a "magic generator".

In some energy conversion devices, there's an exponential feedback that amplifies a very small initial effect into a large scale effect. The most familiar of these is the self-excited dynamo, a DC generator in which the field coils are energized by the output of the dynamo itself.

Magic clearly isn't hugely abundant in our world, assuming it exists at all. But if it did exist, one could imagine bootstrapping a magic generator using just this kind of self-excitation.

So, as a story idea (let's go with that), I'm going to suggest Silicon Valley venture capitalists decides to fund startups to look for this sort of thing. It's not really much more ridiculous than some of the things they're already funding.

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Paul Dietz

April 2017

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