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somervta comments on Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 19, chapter 88-89 - Less Wrong

12 Post author: Vaniver 30 June 2013 01:22AM

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Comment author: somervta 01 July 2013 05:00:04AM 16 points [-]

Although I'm not at all sure it was deliberate (is there a way to submit potential typos?), we may have just gotten some new evidence about the true nature of magic. In Ch 89 Fred/George cast a spell solely from the memory of seeing Dumbledore cast it ("Deligitor prodi"), got the incantation wrong ("Deligitor prodeas"), and yet still achieved an (apparently) identical effect (The summoning of the Sorting Hat). It appears that if this is legitimate evidence rather than a typo, magic has an error bound for the correct pronunciation of spells.

Comment author: pedanterrific 01 July 2013 10:53:45PM 10 points [-]

"Prodi" is the imperative ("come forth"), "prodeas" is the subjunctive (here used in supplication, for which there is no precise English translation; perhaps "wouldst thou come forth").

Which itself suggests something quite interesting about the nature of incantations... unless it's not actually an incantation, just talking to Hogwarts in Latin.

Comment author: somervta 02 July 2013 01:55:51AM 3 points [-]

Well, in the first usage, Dumbledore did seem to be addressing Hogwarts ("Hogwarts! Deligitor prodi"), so it's possible, but Fred/George didn't do that. I suppose it is possible that Eliezer just used the subjunctive form rather than the imperative accidentally, but I'm not sure if I want to count on that :D

Comment author: tim 01 July 2013 10:21:11PM 5 points [-]

Note that this seems to contradict the glowing bat experiments performed in chapter 22.

"Seriously? You seriously have to say Oogely boogely with the duration of the oo, eh, and ee sounds having a ratio of 3 to 1 to 2, or the bat won't glow? Why? Why? For the love of all that is sacred, why?"

Comment author: JoshuaZ 02 July 2013 02:02:07AM 4 points [-]

If doing magic for more time makes one stronger (which seems to be a hypothesis taken seriously in HPMR), then it is possible that as one gets more powerful, the increased power can compensate for the incorrect pronunciation. In fact, this also may explain to some extent how less powerful witches and wizards can't cast some spells. In some cases it may be that the orally transmitted version of the spell is not quite right, but that doesn't matter as much for the more powerful spellcasters. A problem with this hypothesis is that one would then expect there to be weak spells which could only be cast by powerful mages and we haven't seen any indication of that.

Comment author: Eugene 07 September 2013 08:23:45PM 2 points [-]

Point against: Professor Whatsisname, the presumably quite-powerful dueling legend, learned/developed "Stuporfy", which is intentionally meant to sound almost exactly like "Stupify". If powerful wizards get a pass on their pronunciation, how is it that a powerful wizard can effectively differentiate those two similar spells when casting?

Comment author: JoshuaZ 07 September 2013 08:25:33PM 1 point [-]

Yes, that undermines the suggestion considerably.

Comment author: somervta 02 July 2013 02:15:44AM 3 points [-]

It may be that this is only true for some spells? Although, to be honest, I'm leaning towards it either being a typo or not an incantation, just communication with Hogwarts.

Comment author: drethelin 02 July 2013 07:40:22PM 2 points [-]

This might be different when you're manipulating unthinking magic system rather than addressing a sentient entity such as the sorting hat.