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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 18, chapter 87

4 Post author: Alsadius 22 December 2012 07:55AM

This is a new thread to discuss Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and anything related to it. This thread is intended for discussing chapter 87The previous thread has passed 500 comments. 

There is now a site dedicated to the story at hpmor.com, which is now the place to go to find the authors notes and all sorts of other goodies. AdeleneDawner has kept an archive of Author’s Notes. (This goes up to the notes for chapter 76, and is now not updating. The authors notes from chapter 77 onwards are on hpmor.com.) 

The first 5 discussion threads are on the main page under the harry_potter tag.  Threads 6 and on (including this one) are in the discussion section using its separate tag system.  Also: 12345678910111213141516, 17.

Spoiler Warning: this thread is full of spoilers. With few exceptions, spoilers for MOR and canon are fair game to post, without warning or rot13. More specifically:

You do not need to rot13 anything about HP:MoR or the original Harry Potter series unless you are posting insider information from Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).

If there is evidence for X in MOR and/or canon then it’s fine to post about X without rot13, even if you also have heard privately from Eliezer that X is true. But you should not post that “Eliezer said X is true” unless you use rot13.

Comments (591)

Comment author: undermind 22 December 2012 10:20:58PM *  15 points [-]

In any fic that comes out in installments, there's incentive for the author to have ever-more-gripping plot, for the sake of readers' short attention spans. I'm glad Eliezer has not fallen into this spiral, and still feels able to post a chapter in which no new plot developments happen (other than characters finding out about previous events).

So have a heart-shaped red-foil-wrapped candy.

Comment author: Izeinwinter 03 March 2013 02:39:48PM *  11 points [-]

Okay, time to amuse ourselves while waiting for the next chapter.

When last we saw Hermione Granger, she was considering mass producing immortality to clear Harry's debts. I say we should see if we can think of things she could do to make money that are even more disruptive of the status quo than that.

1: "Hi Harry! I created a workaround for Merlins interdict! How much do you think I should charge for teaching someone Al-Azhims Greater Gate"?

2: "I found Rowena's Library Annex. Also, Rowena. anno 987 english: Incomprehensible. But her latin is excellent, so I think we are good to go."

3: "I used a wit-sharpening potion to devise a better wit-sharpening potion... "

4: "The good news is, I now have 27 metric tonnes of gold on hand. The bad news is, about that international wizarding secrecy decree..."

Comment author: mjr 11 March 2013 09:33:00PM 4 points [-]

"I've had limited success in permanent transfiguration; no forms but I can power some nuclear reactions with my magic, the effects being ... as lasting as one might expect of the end product. Where would one sell weapons-grade plutonium in quantity?"

Comment author: PotKettle 17 May 2013 05:27:47AM 2 points [-]

"I managed to get a fully functioning perpetual motion machine via Maxwell's Demon, not much use on the Magical Marketplace, but I think a Muggle initiative might be received a little more positively."

Comment author: fubarobfusco 03 March 2013 05:08:59PM 3 points [-]

"My experiments in time-turned computational arithmancy were going perfectly fine until the ghost of Alan Turing showed up. Alan, do tell Harry here what you told me about Dho-Nha geometries ...."

Comment author: Alsadius 22 December 2012 08:04:51AM 11 points [-]

"owner of a transportation company that won the 19th-century shipping wars... monopoly on oh-tee-threes"

I literally facepalmed.

Also, wow, Harry must absolutely love the taste of foot.

Comment author: CronoDAS 22 December 2012 11:32:40AM 3 points [-]

I just got that right now.

Comment author: MartinB 22 December 2012 12:04:44PM 8 points [-]

I don't get it. How about a hint for non American Readers?

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 22 December 2012 12:26:31PM *  28 points [-]

It's not American slang; it's internet slang, I guess? (The following is an explanation for anyone who both reads MoR and these discussion threads but isn't familiar with fanfiction in general.)

"Ship" is a term of art in fan communities deriving from "relationship" that indicates you think two fictional characters in some fictional universe should be together, e.g. "I ship Harry and Hermione" means "I think Harry and Hermione should be together." A substantial amount of fanfiction is centered on shipping, e.g. you might write fanfiction where Harry and Hermione get together explicitly because you are dissatisfied with the fact that it didn't happen in canon.

"Shipping wars" are a kind of conflict that can occur in fan communities between people who ship different couples involving the same fictional characters, e.g. Harry/Hermione vs. Ron/Hermione.

"OT3" is short for "One True Threesome"; it derives from "OTP," which is short for "One True Pairing" and refers to a couple that you ship very strongly, and I guess it means a threesome that you ship very strongly, e.g. Harry/Hermione/Ron. I suppose an OT3 is one way to resolve a shipping war...

Comment author: LauralH 22 December 2012 12:14:15PM *  5 points [-]

It's just fanfic terms: "shipping wars" are people who argued over, say, Harry/Hermione vs. Ron/Hermione, and "OT3" in that case would have been Harry/Hermione/Ron. (The original acronym was OTP=One True Pairing.)

Comment author: MartinB 22 December 2012 12:20:50PM 2 points [-]

Ok thats rofl worthy. I got the OTP with google, but didnt make the connection to the fanfiction usage of shipping. My guess was a reference to Vanderbuilt and similar guys at see.

Comment author: gwern 22 December 2012 08:03:18PM 6 points [-]

I was guessing it was some sort of Scientology reference - oh-tee-three being OT3 or Operating Thetan level 3. Which made no sense to me, but I couldn't do any better.

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 December 2012 10:32:02PM 2 points [-]

I laughed so hard I sprained something in my neck. I wonder if I can sue Eliezer?

Comment author: Plasmon 22 December 2012 05:58:40PM *  10 points [-]

In chapter 62, Harry remains in control of his emotions when Dumbledore "imprisons" him

"You're saying," Harry said, his voice shaking as the emotions inside burned through the outer calm, "that I'm not going home to my parents for Easter."

Despite his emotional state, he admits to Dumbledore that he understands his motivations. Realising that he had no true reason to be angry with Dumbledore, he kept his anger in check.

In this chapter, we see a protagonist loose control over their emotions. (as far as I remember that's the first time this happens, but it's a long read and I might be wrong). I suppose the intent is to show that the protagonists are, for all their intellect , still fairly emotionally immature children.

The autor's notes say

Come on, you knew Harry was going to screw up that conversation.

There are two people in this conversation. True, Harry could have modelled Hermione better, he could have predicted she would be upset and steered the conversation differently. It is equally true that Hermione could have modelled Harry better and she could have realised that he did not mean to cause emotional turmoil, and that his conversation style is in fact a sign of respect : it means that he believes she can handle the truth, that he doesn't need to walk on eggshells around her.

To put the blame for this debacle exclusively on Harry seems insulting to Hermione : she's not an NPC, she too carries responsibility for what happens.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 12:44:16AM 8 points [-]

You're correct as a matter of rationalist etiquette, but...

Harry is the only student character who sometimes has that level of control over his emotions. Dumbledore can do that. Professor Quirrell can do that. Severus Snape can do that almost all of the time (see Ch. 27). Professor McGonagall tries to do that. Draco, Neville, Hermione, and any other first-year student you care to name except Harry can't.

Comment author: DanArmak 23 December 2012 04:45:44PM 4 points [-]

And that's the real reason Harry feels Hermione can't compete with him on an equal basis. He respects no-one except Quirrel as a rationalist. Or just as rational.

Comment author: DanPeverley 24 December 2012 11:51:11PM 9 points [-]

Plausible mechanism which would allow both immortality and lead to gold: The Philosopher's stone is a device which makes lasting transmutations. Thus, it would be necessary to re-use it every once in a while to stay young, but a single usage would suffice to turn materials into other materials.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 29 December 2012 12:10:20PM 6 points [-]

Making Petunia pretty is a lasting transmutation. I keep thinking that's a significant plot point.

In fact, Cat Girl was a lasting transmutation too. Didn't seem like it's so hard to make a lasting transmutation.

Comment author: Izeinwinter 27 January 2013 10:49:24PM 8 points [-]

It occurs to me that Harry is overlooking a pretty blatant piece of evidence that the minds of wizards are either not running on wetware at all, or that there is a trivial way to transcribe them. Animagi can turn into small animals - and back again. That would simply not work, unless their minds could be trivially separated from their substrate.

Eh.. Which brings up another point. Do wizards suffer brain damage? At all? I don't think Harry has actually checked..

Comment author: gwern 27 January 2013 11:23:54PM 3 points [-]

Do wizards suffer brain damage? At all? I don't think Harry has actually checked..

Bella, Voldemort, Obliviation backlash, half of St. Mungo's parents, Cruciatus... if they don't suffer brain damage, Eliezer has gone against quite a bit in canon.

Comment author: PECOS-9 27 January 2013 11:40:31PM *  5 points [-]

I think Izeinwinter was asking whether physical damage to the brain causes mental damage in wizards, not whether there's any way to cause mental damage (where "mental damage" is distinct from "brain damage" if wizard's minds aren't actually running in their brains).

Comment author: gwern 27 January 2013 11:46:36PM 3 points [-]

Oh. Hm... is anyone physically knocked unconscious at any point? That would seem to satisfy the criteria: a non-magical thing that affects only the physical brain but which causes negative effects on the mind.

Comment author: Tripitaka 28 January 2013 01:20:53AM *  2 points [-]

We can find in "Quidditch Through the Ages", which can be assumed to be canon, this lovely poem:

Oh, the thrill of the chase as I soar through the air
With the Snitch up ahead and the wind in my hair
As I draw ever closer, the crowd gives a shout
But then comes a Bludger and I am knocked out.

Comment author: marchdown 28 January 2013 10:30:18PM 2 points [-]

What if Bludgers, being modelled after naive physics, have inherent knocking-people-out property? Wouldn't that be in line with how canon is being dealt with in HPMOR?

Comment author: Tripitaka 29 January 2013 08:49:03PM 1 point [-]

Very improbable; in Canon, they break bones in extremities all the time.

Comment author: Xachariah 22 December 2012 01:12:23PM *  8 points [-]

The referenced work by Andrew Critch on hedonic awareness is not yet published science. It’s his private work that he developed at the University of Berkeley for a course on psychology for mathematicians; brought to the Center for Applied Rationality; and then developed into a CFAR workshop unit.

Dang it. I was trying looking him up until I saw the Author's Note.

For anyone who has taken the workshop or is otherwise familiar with his work (or similar work), could you provide a summary? I'm sure it's more complicated than portrayed here, but is keeping a bag of chocolates with you and rewarding yourself like you were training a pidgeon a decent start? I'd love to try it out.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 23 December 2012 02:55:19AM 12 points [-]

The other obvious question is if/when this work is going to get published in journals? This is exactly the sort of work that if can if presented well can give CFAR a reputation for real science (which among other things helps nicely with grants and the like). Moreover, this is precisely the sort of thing that should be well known if it is accurate, and if it isn't is the sort of thing that careful peer review will likely find holes in.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 23 December 2012 02:49:57AM *  6 points [-]

The website for the course in question (as well as Critch's contact information) can be found here.

Comment author: drethelin 23 December 2012 04:10:02AM 4 points [-]

The most immediately useful thing I learned from Critch is that the human mind is sophisticated enough that it can give itself chocolates without chocolate. If you get good at noticing your thoughts you can give yourself reinforcement entirely in the confines of your brains, eg by thinking "smiley face!" or something whenever you notice yourself thinking about getting some exercise.

Comment author: Bobertron 22 December 2012 03:33:35PM 5 points [-]

"Psychology for mathematicians" sound to me like the coolest thing ever to be thought at an university.

Comment author: tgb 23 December 2012 03:45:10AM 2 points [-]

I've wondered before whether Eliezer would use science from after 1992 that Harry couldn't have read. Now I need wonder no longer.

Comment author: Alsadius 23 December 2012 05:26:17AM 7 points [-]

Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "timeless physics".

(Yes, I'm aware that this joke would have been funnier if it was a physics paper)

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 07:03:26AM 5 points [-]

Actually timeless physics is being treated as Timeless Science in HPMOR - nobody in 1991 should've heard of Julian Barbour yet.

Comment author: Karl 23 December 2012 09:44:09PM 3 points [-]
Comment author: DanArmak 23 December 2012 04:47:08PM 2 points [-]

While the actual physics has Time-Turners.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 23 December 2012 09:58:39AM 2 points [-]

Twist, Harry's Dark side is actually an embedded copy of a modern day wikipedia?

Comment author: wedrifid 23 December 2012 01:26:28PM 6 points [-]

Twist, Harry's Dark side is actually an embedded copy of a modern day wikipedia?

Test: Watch Harry closely to see if he starts randomly deleting parts of himself!

Comment author: DanArmak 23 December 2012 04:53:13PM 5 points [-]

Inner Slytherin: Quirrel can't be David Monroe, because I asked him about the class of 1943 and he didn't know the teachers' names!

Inner Ravenclaw: [No original research]

Inner Hufflepuff: [Request for Speedy Deletion]

Comment author: Alsadius 23 December 2012 06:30:38PM 7 points [-]

Oh please, like a Ravenclaw would be offended by original research.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 22 December 2012 11:46:04AM 8 points [-]

The author's note is frustrating. Does anyone know what either the vrooping thingy or Chloe's theory are supposed to be about? I value knowing the answer more than I value struggling through the process of finding it, especially if either is a reference instead of something plot-relevant.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 22 December 2012 09:20:25PM *  11 points [-]

Wait, since Chloe's theory was a TVTropes reference (see pedanterrific's comment) could the vrooping thing be too?

Oh my Bayes, it's completely obvious:

Clearly visible from where Harry had perched himself on his chair's arm was a truncated-conical object, like a cone with its top snipped off, slowly spinning around a pulsating central light which it shaded but did not obscure.

It's a lampshade. But what was Eliezer lampshading?

ETA: Obvious in retrospect, I should say. Which doesn't actually mean obvious at all.

Comment author: Dre 22 December 2012 10:51:55PM 7 points [-]

This feels like reading too much into it, but is

and each time the inner light pulsated, the assembly made a vroop-vroop-vroop sound that sounded oddly distant, muffled like it was coming from behind four solid walls, even though the spinning-conical-section thingy was only a meter or two away.

supposed to be something about the fourth wall?

Comment author: ahartell 22 December 2012 10:57:05PM *  2 points [-]

Is your edit saying that (in retrospect) what is being lampshaded is obvious or that it's obvious that it is a lampshade? If the former, what is behing lampshaded?

Edit: You're obviously talking about latter. Oops.

Comment author: Desrtopa 23 December 2012 04:25:11AM 6 points [-]

I'm wondering whether Harry was simply completely off base about the Philosopher's Stone, or if he's actually right about the whole "turned up to eleven artifact" thing.

I mean, we have considerable evidence of the Philospher's Stone existing from the original canon, numerous references to it by characters in a position to know in MoR, and plot points that appear to hinge on it....

But what evidence do we have of it actually being able to turn things into gold?

That was an attributed ability in the original canon, but as far as I remember it got exactly no references to it ever having actually been used that way. Only Ron even seemed to care, the Elixir of Life was just so obviously more important. Similarly, none of the characters who've actually had contact with the Stone in MoR mention an ability to create gold. This doesn't mean it can't; compared to its ability to grant immortality, creating gold pretty much fades into irrelevance. But, supposing several hundred years ago Flamel created a stone with the ability to create an Elixir of Life, but it didn't transmute base metals into gold, would he say "well, looks like I've almost made the Philosopher's Stone, better keep trying?" I doubt it.

Given the evidence at hand it wouldn't be that weird if the attributed ability to turn base metals into gold was simply made up.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 23 December 2012 07:28:12AM *  13 points [-]

Or... the Stone can actually do a ton of other things and Flamel successfully hushed up what they were because some of them cause extinction events? "Make me immortal and wealthy" is the minimum Flamel needed public to explain his own continued existence and wealth. Everything else... there are gates you do not open, there are seals you do not breach.

Comment author: drethelin 23 December 2012 07:46:40AM *  18 points [-]

Maybe the stone is a terminal with root access.

Plenty of people have been able to copy his process to make the stone (the terminal) but no one else so far has guessed the password (PASSWORD)

Comment author: Alsadius 24 December 2012 12:59:17AM *  17 points [-]

Actually, the password was originally "12345". Flamel was just the first wizard to use Arabic numerals, and he changed it. Merlin kept typing in "MMMMMMMMMMMMCCCXLV", and never understood why it didn't work.

Comment author: DanArmak 23 December 2012 05:02:55PM 7 points [-]

Flamel didn't need to make anything public. He could have switched identities or countries every few decades - he pretty much did this anyway by going into hiding. If he could have kept the Stone's existence a secret, and given that as far as we know he never used it for anyone but himself and his wife, then he was a colossal fool to allow its existence to be known and linked with his name.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 23 December 2012 10:05:18AM *  3 points [-]

The stone is some sort of ultimate permanent transfiguration spell? Similar to a universal assembler in scifi.

Comment author: Desrtopa 23 December 2012 07:40:36AM *  3 points [-]

I figure anyone who's a great enough alchemist that they're the only person ever to successfully create the Philosopher's Stone, with other people having hundreds of years to try to duplicate the feat, probably doesn't need the Stone to make them wealthy. So really, only the "make me immortal" part is needed to explain his continued existence and wealth.

Comment author: PECOS-9 23 February 2013 05:06:00AM *  5 points [-]

From the harry potter wiki:

An adequately Imperiused being is placed under the caster's total control and may be directed to do anything the caster wishes, including crimes such as murder, political corruption, embezzlement, and so on. Also, whilst under the caster's control, the curse may also endow the victim with whatever skills that are required in order to complete the task at hand, such as increased strength or allowing them to cast spells far above their level. For example, an Imperiused Neville Longbottom was able to perform a series of "quite astonishing gymnastics" under the curse that he would not normally be capable of.[1]

I haven't read all of the original books, but is that bit about casting spells far above their level true? If so, it suggests a fairly easy way to gain control of an entire population: imperius a few wizards with the order to imperius as many other wizards as possible with this same command, and to await further instruction. If imperius curses have some sort of time limit after which they expire, include an additional order to seek out another imperius'd wizard to re-imperius you every x days.

This should spread exponentially like a particularly nasty virus.

Comment author: Manfred 10 February 2013 11:32:45PM 5 points [-]

Just wanted to note that Quidditch is in fact a perfectly workable game - if you just change up the player strategy a bit.

It's like a game of attack/defense where different plays can be worth different amounts - you go for the highest-payoff thing (the snitch) most of the time, but sometimes you also go for the less valuable things to get free wins or distraction.

If the snitch is the most valuable resource, then just have everyone on your team work towards catching the snitch. It's certainly not what Rowling intended, but it makes sense - catch snitch first, win game. If a seeker can find the snitch quickly, then 5 practiced teammates should be able to keep track of it almost all the time. Then it becomes something more like a race, or dogfighting - particularly if the snitch moves according to predictable patterns so that there's reasonable strategy to it. As the snitch takes longer to catch, it makes more and more sense to split someone off to take points with the quaffles. At this point quidditch actually becomes a high-skill game again, capable of containing brilliant plays that advance your team's position both in terms of catching the snitch and in the slow game.

Comment author: 75th 11 February 2013 03:58:14AM *  5 points [-]

I've often thought about how Quidditch could be made into a better game, without simply getting rid of Seekers and Snitches. My idea:

  • Each team has three Chasers; at any time, one of them is acting as Seeker.
  • There are five Snitches, each of which is worth 50 points when caught.
  • When a Seeker catches a Snitch, (s)he becomes a Chaser, and the next Chaser in line becomes the new Seeker.
  • A caught Snitch flies to the goals of the team who caught it; it places itself in the exact center of the leftmost or rightmost goal hoop (at the option of the team's Keeper) and renders itself immovable, so it can block the Quaffle when it's thrown too close to the center of the goal.
  • The game ends when one team has caught three Snitches.

By these rules, all the players must make active contributions to the goal-scoring game, and catching more Snitches earlier confers a significant advantage, but not an unovercomeable one.

BELATED EDIT: I must also add, so long as we're talking about Quidditch rules:

  • Goals are worth one point and Snitches are worth five points everywhere except for official Hogwarts games. It really bugs me when the possible point increments in a game aren't coprime.
Comment author: Vaniver 22 December 2012 06:14:29PM 4 points [-]

nobody's ever going to see me for myself anymore, ever.

Please confine yourself to the possible, Ms. Granger.

As for Harry, he is in dire need of the Virtue of Silence.

Comment author: David_Gerard 28 December 2012 05:09:24PM 10 points [-]
Comment author: Izeinwinter 22 December 2012 08:45:50PM *  10 points [-]

Harry is missing a point, tough. Flamel is 600 years old, and started out powerful. Presumably, "trying to blackmail / kidnap Flamel" has been the endpoint of the careers of enough dark lords that they do not attempt this anymore.

,,, Wait. alchemical diagrams need to be drawn "to the fineness of a child's hair"? ... ... Eh,, I think it entirely possible that Flamel is the only wizard to ever manage to make a stone because he is the only wizard to ever try it while young enough to use his own hair. In which case, Hermione is going to show up with a working stone shortly.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 23 December 2012 02:29:45AM *  28 points [-]

Harry's failing pretty badly to update sufficiently on available evidence. He already knows that there are a lot of aspects of magic that seemed nonsensical to him: McGonagall turning into a cat, the way broomsticks work, etc. Harry's dominant hypothesis about this is that magic was intelligently designed (by the Atlanteans?) and so he should expect magic to work the way neurotypical humans expect it to work, not the way he expects it to work.

In particular his estimate of the likelihood of a story like Flamel's is way off. Moreover, the value of additional relevant information seems extremely high to me, so he really should ask Dumbledore about it as soon as possible. Horcruxes too.

Edit: And then he learns that Dumbledore is keeping a Philosopher's Stone in Hogwarts without using it and promptly attempts a citizen's arrest on him for both child endangerment and genocide...

Comment author: Solvent 27 December 2012 12:10:56PM 2 points [-]

Harry's failing pretty badly to update sufficiently on available evidence. He already knows that there are a lot of aspects of magic that seemed nonsensical to him: McGonagall turning into a cat, the way broomsticks work, etc. Harry's dominant hypothesis about this is that magic was intelligently designed (by the Atlanteans?) and so he should expect magic to work the way neurotypical humans expect it to work, not the way he expects it to work.

I disagree. It seems to me that individual spells and magical items work in the way neurotypical humans expect them to work. However, I don't think that we have any evidence that the process of creating new magic or making magical discoveries works in an intuitive way.

Consider by analogy the Internet. It's not surprising that there exist sites such as Facebook which are really well designed and easy to use for humans, rendering in pretty colors instead of being plain HTML. However, these websites were created painstakingly by experts dealing with irritating low level stuff. It would be surprising that the same website had a surpassingly brilliant data storage system as well as an ingenius algorithm for something else.

Comment author: MixedNuts 23 December 2012 12:09:07PM 2 points [-]

It might be too surprising and horrible for him to let himself think that people might have access to the obvious stand-in for cryonics and just ignore it.

Comment author: ahartell 23 December 2012 02:54:45PM *  4 points [-]

You can't use the fineness thing as a reason for the Philosopher's Stone to be unique to Flamel as it says explicitly in the chapter that all alchemical magic has the same requirements, and it doesn't sound at all like Flamel is the only one who can do alchemy.

Comment author: Desrtopa 23 December 2012 03:32:47AM 3 points [-]

,,, Wait. alchemical diagrams need to be drawn "to the fineness of a child's hair"? ... ... Eh,, I think it entirely possible that Flamel is the only wizard to ever manage to make a stone because he is the only wizard to ever try it while young enough to use his own hair.

I don't see why this would be an advantage over an experienced alchemist who's old enough to use their own children's.

Comment author: Izeinwinter 26 December 2012 12:09:35AM *  14 points [-]

I just had quite a dismal thought. Harry is in disbelief the entire wizarding world is not pursuing the stone as priority one, which is a reasonable enough reaction.. Except.. How many wizards actually manage to die in their beds? Given the stated lifespan, and the cultural tendency to marry young, families ought to have a lot of generations alive at the same time.. but the older generations are thin on the ground. Harry was not raised by his grandparents! none of whom ought to have passed away from natural causes. Those elders we hear about are in the main fairly high up on the "competency/scary/power" scales. The logical implication being that wizards are not overly concerned about old age, because very few of them ever die from it. Something else - A dark lord, screwing up a spell, the magical wildlife, a succession dispute.. will get you first.. This logic could well deter a lot of people from attempting alchemy ; Succeeding in making a stone without being as good a survivor as Flamel carries a significant risk of dying now to violence instead of in 90 years to natural causes.

Of course, this also means that Flamel might not be very unique at all. If the stone is widely regarded as a nuisance magnet, successful crafters may be keeping a low profile.

Comment author: Desrtopa 04 January 2013 07:26:34AM *  4 points [-]

The logical implication being that wizards are not overly concerned about old age, because very few of them ever die from it. Something else - A dark lord, screwing up a spell, the magical wildlife, a succession dispute.. will get you first... This logic could well deter a lot of people from attempting alchemy ; Succeeding in making a stone without being as good a survivor as Flamel carries a significant risk of dying now to violence instead of in 90 years to natural causes.

For that matter, screwing up an attempt to make the Philosopher's Stone might very well be one way to invite a premature death. Alchemy isn't necessarily safe.

Comment author: David_Gerard 28 December 2012 05:10:28PM 10 points [-]

Given the stated lifespan, and the cultural tendency to marry young, families ought to have a lot of generations alive at the same time.. but the older generations are thin on the ground.

They just had a magical war in which pretty much everyone lost a lot of their family, as noted in the earlier chapters.

Comment author: AnthonyC 03 May 2013 02:14:44PM 3 points [-]

And another one 40 years earlier.

And these are wizards whose power comes from knowledge, so this is often a world where Old Is Strong. We might expect older people (in good health, because of healers arts, as Harry notes when talking to Dumbledor eabout immortality) to be closer to the front lines.

Comment author: grautry 22 December 2012 03:00:37PM *  8 points [-]

Re: Flamel and his open-secret-recipe for the Philosopher's Stone.

Here's a quote from chapter 61:

His strongest road to life is the Philosopher’s Stone, which Flamel assures me that not even Voldemort could create on his own

And yet, the recipe is openly available for everyone to see. If anyone could reproduce the stone from the recipe, it would be the very intelligent, rational(and very interested in immortality) Voldemort.

So, how do we reconcile these two facts?

One option is, of course, the published, known recipe is a fake. The stone is real but Flamel lied to everyone about the recipe. That's certainly a plausible - if boring - explanation of the facts. The other plausible explanation is as Harry says - maybe the stone is a fake. Maybe Flamel is immortal because of Horcruxes and he invented the stone as a way to keep people off the trail of his phylacteries. Maybe Flamel isn't immortal at all, maybe he pulls of a Batman Begins Ra's Al Ghul style of immortality. Any of a dozen options is possible.

However, if we take things at face value, I think we can end up with a more interesting conclusion - I think this might be our first piece of evidence(it's not very good evidence, but evidence nonetheless) that the Interdict of Merlin is an actual, real magical effect, rather than just a cultural thing or a legend. The reason people can't reproduce the stone is because the Interdict obscures some part of the recipe.

I guess this is testable - do we know if Flamel had any apprentices to whom he tried to personally explain how to make the Stone?

Comment author: DanArmak 22 December 2012 03:26:41PM *  10 points [-]

I think this might be our first piece of evidence(it's not very good evidence, but evidence nonetheless) that the Interdict of Merlin is an actual, real magical effect, rather than just a cultural thing or a legend.

Why would we doubt it? It's a fact that high level spells cannot be passed down in writing. Surely many wizards tried to, if only to discover which spells are "high level". Presumably there's a sharp distinction between spells that can be written down and those that cannot. If wizards occasionally invented new ways to write down spells previously thought to be "high level", then they wouldn't assume that any other high-level spells couldn't also be written down by unknown techniques.

The simplest explanation for wizards believing in the Interdict is that it matches their personal experience. The Interdict behaves like a law of nature; every powerful wizard would rediscover it, even without existing tradition.

do we know if Flamel had any apprentices to whom he tried to personally explain how to make the Stone?

I don't think Flamel wants to explain to anyone how to make it. Instead he hoards it to himself.

My primary reason for thinking this is due to narrative causality. Harry wants immortality for everyone. If Flamel was like Harry, he would not be in hiding, instead he would be a famous immortal wizard who spent centuries trying to teach the best wizards of each generation (like Dumbledore) to duplicate his feat - or making more Stones for others. The actual Flamel seems set up to be a deathist and eventual foe of Harry's.

The other possible explanation is that making the Stone requires harming others so much that it becomes immoral to make it. This is true of a certain other famous way of making the Philosopher's Stone, and it also matches the Fundamental Law of Potion-Making.

Comment author: kilobug 22 December 2012 08:52:42PM 2 points [-]

I don't think making the Stone requires an evil act, or Dumbledore wouldn't be an ally of Flamel, and he wouldn't harbour the Stone in Hogwarts. But it may require some exceptionally rare components, circumstances (like some conjunction of planets that happens only every few centuries) or skills making mass production of it impossible (at least until someone understands the deep laws of magic).

Comment author: ikrase 24 December 2012 12:39:16AM 3 points [-]

Possibly making the stone requires A POWER THAT THE DARK LORD KNOWS NOT.

The Stone could be somehow Patronus-based?

Comment author: Desrtopa 23 December 2012 04:28:50AM 2 points [-]

I don't think making the Stone requires an evil act, or Dumbledore wouldn't be an ally of Flamel, and he wouldn't harbour the Stone in Hogwarts.

Or he may not know how it's made. He says that Flamel assures him that Voldemort couldn't possibly make the stone on his own, so clearly Dumbledore doesn't consider himself fit to judge that.

Comment author: Pluvialis 22 December 2012 06:04:43PM 7 points [-]

Or making the stone has some mental prerequisite, like casting Avada Kedavra or the True Patronus. One, in this case, which Voldemort cannot meet.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 23 December 2012 10:03:09AM 3 points [-]

Possibly like the Mirror of Erised in the original the prerequisite is not wanting immortality? That would explain why Voldemort can't make it, and why Flamel was so casual about death in Canon.

Epileptic trees (Given the reference to 'hoarded lore' maybe flamel's desire is for knowledge preservation not self peservation?)

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 22 December 2012 03:35:10PM 5 points [-]

I just took this at face value, that no one alive but Flamel is powerful enough to make the Philosopher's Stone.

This could be because the magic is going away, so no wizard of any generation much later than Flamel's can possibly make the Philosopher's Stone.

I like the Interdict of Merlin theory too, though.

Comment author: Yuu 09 March 2013 09:06:54AM 3 points [-]

Chapter 62:

Wasn't test to check Harry's Time turner too simple? Harry cheated very easy, he just used another person with Time turner. But this is grave matter, escape from Azkaban, and professors had chosen this kind of test...

Comment author: gwern 04 January 2013 06:59:05PM 3 points [-]

So, in MoR, we see that not only do Pensieves work well, it's apparently easy to transport the memories to boot, since Voldemort sends Dumbledore a torturous memory. This means Pensieves are even more broken than canon, and you'd think Harry, who said he was specifically looking for intelligence-related magics, would've noticed this...

New theory: Pensieves are rare and expensive as part of a conspiracy of elite schools and their elite graduate-alumni to keep education rare and expensive - their business & prestige respectively would be destroyed if anyone could go into an assembly line school, dunk their heads in pensieves for a few months, and walk out the equivalent of the best Hogwarts graduates.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 04 January 2013 07:27:40PM 4 points [-]

For education purposes, Pensieves seem entirely analogous to video recording. Is there a relevant distinction?

Comment author: Izeinwinter 05 January 2013 01:39:37PM 4 points [-]

Pensieves appear to function equivalently to a video lifelog - they give you an accurate view of things that have happened to you, and allow you to share it with others. As a teaching tool, it is a VCR. It would be very useful for DADA, if you can talk some aurors into sharing memories of real fights, but I'd not expect exposure to that prior to NEWT level classes, and having that record be restricted to auror trainees would be easily justifiable.

As an investigative and intellectual tool, it is highly valuable, of course. But for basic education? Nah.

Comment author: Alicorn 22 December 2012 05:19:27PM *  23 points [-]

An edited paste of a conversation I had with a friend

Alicorn: I'm increasingly disappointed with Hermione's character. Eliezer has never been great with female characters, and he's trying so hard with her, but he's made her so silly, so pathetically, appallingly silly. She's not stupid, she's not evil, but she's more a child than anyone else who gets character development and she is such a silly girl. I don't mean, like, she has a sense of humor, which is the other meaning of the word "silly". She is not Pinkie Pie, she's just a ninny.

Alphabeta: To be fair, all the other people her age with that much development are fucking crazy.

Alicorn: All the girls in their year are silly, though, I don't think this is just Hermione's personal character flaw that she has to have because she got developed a certain amount. It's more irritating in her, because we see more of her and it's contrasting against higher intelligence, but all the girls are silly.

Alphabeta: That sounds like something Eliezer needs to hear

Alicorn: yeah, I'm considering pasting this conversation in the LW discussion thread

Alphabeta: Also, in fairness, most of the boys are silly, and McGonagall is very good at not being silly. Okay, most of the NPC boys are silly.

Alicorn: McGonagall is not silly, it's true. McGonagall may be the best female character Eliezer has done. But I'd feel better about it if she'd been revised for hypercompetence while Moody was a minor side character serving as a cautionary tale about wasting time on low-probability risks, or something.

Alphabeta: Well, Director Bones is competent, even if she did drop the ball on Quirrelmort's identity pretty hard

Alicorn: Bones hasn't been invited to a place of significance in the protagonist's story. As far as Harry is concerned, she is set dressing. Moody just got promoted.

Alphabeta: Also, why is Harry using Snape as his example of guys he might end up attracted to instead of Quirrelmort?

Alicorn: Good question. I'll paste that too :P

Comment author: Alsadius 22 December 2012 06:40:25PM 25 points [-]

Honestly, Hermione seems the least unbelievable of the major child characters. Harry is just a freak of nature - I was a gigantic multi-sigma outlier nerd at that age, and I couldn't have held a candle to Harry. There is no way any 11 year old has read and understood the entire corpus of quantum mechanics, cognitive science, science fiction, and rationalism writings, no matter how much of a bibliophile they are. Draco is less unreasonable, but he still carries himself like someone much older than 11. Hermione, on the other hand, is basically just a smart girl with a good memory, who's struggling to keep up with a force of nature and fighting with the evil chancellor's kid.

Ultimately, 11-year-old girls are supposed to be silly sometimes. Hermione still manages to be more serious than most of the actual people that age I know. I think our expectations are just skewed by the university-aged kids in middle school.

Comment author: Alicorn 22 December 2012 06:56:29PM 8 points [-]

I agree with you. Hermione is a more believable child than the others. However, the way in which she achieves that is not because she is better written (she's not), but because she has different flaws, which Eliezer assigns to characters of her age and gender with overwhelming regularity, in a context of generally handling female characters clumsily.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 December 2012 11:38:03PM 4 points [-]

Harry isn't being a silly boy in Ch. 87?

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 December 2012 11:50:37PM 14 points [-]

Only if 27-year-old Luke was being a silly boy when he broke up with someone by 20-page essay with ev-psych primer. (BTW, did you intend the reference?) Stupid, but not childish.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 12:24:31AM 19 points [-]

I said to Luke when I read that, "You know, Luke, it hasn't happened yet in the story, but I'd already planned out, before I read your post, that when I want to have Harry screw up a conversation with Hermione as badly as possible, I'm going to have him start talking about evolutionary psychology. You literally did that in the way I'd imagined as the worst way possible." (Though the actual chapter didn't come out quite that way when I wrote it - there isn't anything about evolutionary psychology until the very end.)

So I thought of this as a stereotypically male-stupid thing to do, and independently Luke, who happens to be male, went and did it. Can you name a woman who's done the same?

Comment author: tenshiko 23 December 2012 05:24:55AM *  11 points [-]

I didn't read Harry's statements as stereotypically male-child-stupid or even stereotypically male-stupid, but stereotypically hyperintellectualist-male-stupid - as in specifically similar to behavior like Luke's, not that of any non-Internet non-rationalist man I've actually met. A male child of ordinary intellectual background, no matter how stupid, could not have made the specific mistakes Harry made here, because he drew his deemed-inappropriate ideas from "enlightened" papers.

A good example of stereotypically male-child-stupid is Ron's lines you quote here (and many of Ron's actions in general). These are stupid comments Ron was able to make in spite of not having read any papers.

Hermione's reactions are stereotypically female-child-stupid. She reacted the way she did precisely because of not reading these particular enlightened papers. This is the exact opposite of Harry's stupidity! I think I understand why you wrote the scene with these results - Harry has read lots of rationalist papers you think more people should read, while Hermione in spite of her intelligence does not have the exact same background. However, because Hermione's actions fit with "stupid female child" - not alleviated by her intelligence - and Harry's with "stupid-though-very-intelligent male adult" (Harry's reading on these specific psychological ideas is very incongruent with that of even most well-educated 11-year-old boys), we get subtext like Alicorn points out about female infantilism and so on.

As for some anecdata, last month when I was explaining to a progressing-to-ex-boyfriend that he did not meet my paramour standards, he said I should consider lowering my standards, and I said he was proof that strategy could not possibly work for me.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 05:44:56AM 7 points [-]

...do note that Hermione at one point reacts in a genre-savvy fashion by saying that it's fine for Harry to have a dark side.

Please keep in mind that a lot of this apparent problem is generated by the unalterable fact that Harry, who has Stuff Going On and has been through hell as the title character and has to grow fast enough to be competitive with people like Dumbledore and Professor Quirrell (all genders chosen by Rowling) happens to be male, whereas Hermione, who like many other characters is going to have difficulty competing with Harry at this point in the story, happens to be female. I mean, suppose Rowling had made her professionally paranoid Auror a woman. It's not unthinkable that someone might complain about how Harry, a male, managed to land a stun on Madam Moody. Symmetrically, if Draco had discovered Harry doing science with Hermione some chapters earlier, he wouldn't have had the same reaction but he would've had an equally difficult reaction for Harry to deal with, and yes I would've figured out some way to make the adultery joke there too.

The main lesson I'm learning is that there are potential Problems when you arrange the plot so that you have the main character interacting with two different tiers of powered characters (Harry-Draco-Hermione and Harry-Dumbledore-Quirrell) and you haven't arranged the plot to have the main character's companions go through everything the main character does... but that problem is far too late to correct now.

P.S: In retrospect there's exactly one important canon character in this story whose gender I could freely choose, and I did happen to make her female, but that's not going to be apparent until later.

Comment author: pedanterrific 23 December 2012 07:13:35AM 5 points [-]

Ooh, a guessing game. I'll go with... the Giant Squid.

Comment author: Alsadius 24 December 2012 06:09:20PM 3 points [-]

No, it's clearly Mrs. Barbara Dementor.

Comment author: daenerys 23 December 2012 11:16:20AM 2 points [-]

Fawkes

Comment author: MugaSofer 23 December 2012 01:58:43PM 6 points [-]

P.S: In retrospect there's exactly one important canon character in this story whose gender I could freely choose, and I did happen to make her female, but that's not going to be apparent until later.

Clearly, this line is the only important part of this comment. Let the games begin!

(Tonks would be the obvious guess, since there's long been speculation about gender-bending metamorphamagi. But she's presented as female in canon, and Eliezer would probably object to the notion that the mere ability to change body shape would count as changing sex.)

Comment author: NihilCredo 23 December 2012 08:53:16PM 3 points [-]

Hmm, he didn't say "she's not going to appear until later", he said "that's not going to be apparent until later". This suggests that the character has already appeared, doesn't it?

(I might have guessed that the androgynous Voldemort could have been a female character in this fic, but I believe Eliezer has already flat-out stated that he's sticking to Quirrell = Voldemort.)

Comment author: Eneasz 27 December 2012 10:59:30PM 2 points [-]

I'm going with Penelope Clearwater. The competent, sober, older-Ravenclaw-prefect role could have been just about anyone (thus fulfilling the "important character who's gender I could choose" requirement), but Penelope was chosen (thus the "make her female" requirement). She hasn't done anything outstanding yet, thus the "apparent until later".

I've had strong suspicions for a while that both Penelope and Goyle will have awesome roles to play in the future.

Comment author: army1987 23 December 2012 10:27:09PM *  2 points [-]

I didn't read Harry's statements as stereotypically male-child-stupid or even stereotypically male-stupid, but stereotypically hyperintellectualist-male-stupid - as in specifically similar to behavior like Luke's, not that of any non-Internet non-rationalist man I've actually met.

If I had to imagine a male doing that with a straight face in Real Life, it would likely be a right-wing dick talking through his ass who likes evolutionary psychology because it supports his position rather than because he actually has a good understanding of it (Exhibit A). OTOH, I can imagine hyperintellectualist males doing that tongue-in-cheek, and occasionally the joke would fall flat unless his interlocutor was hyperintellectualist herself.

Comment author: army1987 23 December 2012 10:18:04PM 3 points [-]

Can you name a woman who's done the same?

Real or fictional? If the latter, Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory does similar stuff.

Comment author: Alicorn 23 December 2012 12:08:34AM 9 points [-]

Harry was fumbling. He was not silly. He expressed reasonable propositions in clumsy ways. Hermione was silly throughout.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 December 2012 01:56:12AM 8 points [-]

Maybe it matters that the girls in MOR are silly even when they aren't under pressure.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 09:13:50PM 5 points [-]

Most students in HPMOR are silly when not under pressure (witch counterexample: Penelope Clearwater). They're also named after fan artists with upcoming cameos. Who tend to be female.

And yes, there's a Gossipy Hens trope in HPMOR, the converse of which is the horrible dating advice dispensed by males with their parody PUA community, both of whom are there because someone has to horribly misinterpret the situation, and which are gender-correlated because... well, because that part is realistic and there are things in HPMOR that happen because that's what the prior causal forces output, not necessarily because that's how I freely decided the outcome should be.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 12:32:42AM 7 points [-]

By the standards of our community, yes, you're never supposed to flee in tears, and Harry has right-of-way to express any ideas he wants. Hermione has not been raised with this ideal, and Harry has not yet pressed it on her.

And canon!Hermione in her fifth-year, who delivered Umbridge unto the centaurs, wouldn't have fled in tears; and Harry could have told her about Draco much earlier, confident that 5th-year!Hermione could put on a mask around Draco and keep it up.

This is first-year!canon!Hermione:

Ron was in a very bad temper by the end of the class.

"It's no wonder no one can stand her," he said to Harry as they pushed their way into the crowded corridor. "She's a nightmare, honestly."

Someone knocked into Harry as they hurried past him. It was Hermione. Harry caught a glimpse of her face—and was startled to see that she was in tears.

"I think she heard you."

"So?" said Ron, but he looked a bit uncomfortable. "She must've noticed she's got no friends."

Hermione didn't turn up for the next class and wasn't seen all afternoon. On their way down to the Great Hall for the Hallowe'en feast, Harry and Ron overheard Parvati Patil telling her friend Lavender that Hermione was crying in the girls' toilets and wanted to be left alone. Ron looked still more awkward at this, but a moment later they had entered the Great Hall, where the Hallowe'en decorations put Hermione out of their minds.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 23 December 2012 05:46:42AM 6 points [-]

By the standards of our community, yes, you're never supposed to flee in tears, and Harry has right-of-way to express any ideas he wants.

In a public debate, yes, that is bad form.

But getting emotional, crying and running off does not necessarily merit penalty points in a human interaction, and certainly not for 12 year old girls who have recently been threatened with a lengthy term of prison/torture, and finds that her best friend and savior had a hidden and close relationship with someone who wanted to do horrible things to her. Violation of basic trust and in group solidarity.

Comment author: Alicorn 23 December 2012 12:39:32AM *  10 points [-]

Yes, and? The canon scene is Hermione "crying and wanting to be left alone". That is not particularly silly - it's emotional, but not even all that childish; depressed or particularly put-upon adults cry and want to be left alone. You, by contrast, have Hermione hysterically, italicizedly telling Harry that he cannot do science with two people at once, and doubling down on it even after she has a chance to realize that this is preposterous.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 01:23:32AM 8 points [-]

Erm... a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through. This creates a power balance problem where Harry, as main character, has been to Azkaban and Hermione hasn't, and fighting bullies isn't quite enough to make up for that. However, I would indeed maintain as a literary matter that this Hermione has been through more hell than the quoted canon!Hermione and is visibly more powerful and competent. Methods!Hermione doesn't flee in tears if Ron calls her a nightmare, though she would've at the start of the year. She probably wouldn't even notice.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 23 December 2012 02:29:19AM *  10 points [-]

Erm... a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through.

For an otherwise rational fanfic this seems oddly like a rule out of Dungeons and Dragons.

Edit:Also, it seems like at this point Hermione has gone through some pretty awful stuff also so by this logic her competence level should have gone up a lot.

Comment author: Alsadius 23 December 2012 05:37:07AM 4 points [-]

"Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger" is D+D-esque now? Experience makes people better, as a rule, as long as you can avoid being broken by it.

Also, Hermione's competence level has gone up a lot. You don't think she's a lot stronger than she was at the beginning of the story?

Comment author: DanArmak 23 December 2012 05:28:59PM 4 points [-]

a basic law of MoR is that people gain maturity/competence in proportion to how much hell they've been through.

Inverse Utility Monster: deliberately goes through hell, returns superpowered.

Wise Villain: doesn't make heroes' lives difficult, keeps them underpowered.

Comment author: army1987 04 January 2013 04:30:16PM *  2 points [-]

Inverse Utility Monster: deliberately goes through hell, returns superpowered.

Vegeta from Dragon Ball once deliberately had himself beat to near-death for that very reason.

Comment author: dspeyer 03 January 2013 08:01:13PM 2 points [-]

Inverse Utility Monster: deliberately goes through hell, returns superpowered.

Specifically:

Sign up for the Auror preparation program in your sixth year. It's the next best thing. Oh, and if a famous Auror offers to oversee your summer internship, just ignore anyone who warns you that he's a terrible influence or that you're almost certainly going to die.

Comment author: Alicorn 23 December 2012 01:26:52AM 7 points [-]

You keep starting comments with "Erm..." and then talking past me; I'm really not sure what to make of it. You don't actually have to respond to criticism of your fic if you don't want to...

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 02:56:58AM 8 points [-]

I usually don't respond, but I care unusually much about what the author of Luminosity thinks.

Comment author: Exetera 23 December 2012 02:12:33AM *  2 points [-]

So, by this law, Harry and the Weasley twins disturbing Neville outside the Hogwarts Express on the first day was the objectively right thing to do?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 02:54:33AM 2 points [-]

If they'd known the true consequences with certainty in advance... sure.

Comment author: Daniel_Starr 23 December 2012 01:20:06AM *  15 points [-]

I think the female sex in HPMOR comes off poorly for three reasons:

  • The major adults are mostly men. "Female" ends up also signifying "childlike."

  • The author doesn't want to write sports stories. The girls get comic stories about relationships, but the boys don't get comic stories about Quidditch.

  • Hermione and McGonagall are not tragic or ambitious. Draco and Dumbledore can "level up" in HPMOR to agendas worthy of Harry's, but Hermione and McGonagall, being largely tame cooperators, are overshadowed by their even-grander-than-before comrades.

If we wanted to imagine alternate versions of the fic with less of this difficulty, some conceivable changes would be:

  • Give Hermione and McGonagall risk-defying agendas of their own. (Make them Aragorns or Boromirs, not Gimlis and Pippins.)

  • Make the boy students gossip improbably about the teachers' and students' Evil Overlord Plans just as much as the girl students gossip improbably about the teachers' and students' Romantic Entanglements. ("No way, dude! Snape's going to take out Quirrell with his Godelian Braid Potion!")

  • Make Harry need the help of other students more, so that we can understand the girls' gossip as how they let off steam and not as what unimportant people do.

But I think this fic is too nearly done, and too big, to contemplate such changes at this point.

Comment author: Solvent 23 December 2012 04:57:35AM 7 points [-]

The author doesn't want to write sports stories. The girls get comic stories about relationships, but the boys don't get comic stories about Quidditch.

This is a very good point. As a reader, I think those 'silly young boy' conversations would probably get old for me faster than the girl ones.

Comment author: Bakkot 24 December 2012 03:47:24AM 3 points [-]

They'd get old really fast for me, considering that there isn't a good way for sports stories to even be about main characters.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 December 2012 01:59:38AM 5 points [-]

Hermione is ambitious-- she wants to be a hero. Unfortunately, it seemed to me as though it was mostly because it sounded cool more than because there was much she wanted to accomplish or protect. Since then, she's taken it on more seriously, though.

Comment author: army1987 23 December 2012 03:12:54AM 5 points [-]

The author doesn't want to write sports stories. The girls get comic stories about relationships, but the boys don't get comic stories about Quidditch.

This is much of the reason why in the real world I'm usually way more comfortable with being in all-female (except for me) groups than in all-male groups (unless they are particularly high-Openness). Sports bore the crap out of me.

Comment author: taelor 23 December 2012 05:14:38AM *  9 points [-]

This is kinda tangential, but this just now occured to me: I am male, and my too biggest hobbies are watching pro- sports and playing tabletop RPGs; while various folk ontymologies define these two activities as being on opposite ends of the jock-nerd spectrum, I have always maintained that they are actually quite similar (I am not the first person to comment on this similarity) Both fandoms have a reputation for being male dominated; my question is: is this a co-incidence, or is there something about emotionally investing in naratives that have been basically woven whole cloth from what is essentially a random number generator that is off-putting to girls?

(Possible confounding factor: I'm admittedly not your standard sports fan, though we're apparently a sizable enough minority to get our own negative stereotypes and labels as sportsnerds/statheads.)

Comment author: army1987 23 December 2012 11:36:24AM 4 points [-]

emotionally investing in naratives that have been basically woven whole cloth from what is essentially a random number generator

Video games and gambling also are more stereotypically masculine, and I can't think of any stereotypically feminine thing in that reference class, so you might be on to something.

Comment author: Alsadius 24 December 2012 12:49:16AM 2 points [-]

Also, the more stereotypically-female forms of gambling are things like slots, which have no narrative, while men stereotypically go for the more narrative games like poker.

Comment author: Bobertron 22 December 2012 08:04:12PM 5 points [-]

I think being jealous of Draco was the first really silly thing. But before, in Taboo Tradeoffs, she was only a damsel in distress. And before that she was the protagonist in Self Actualization, and that whole story-arc was pretty silly.

I don't think that she is very silly. Things like thinking that, going to McGonagall is the responsible thing to do, seem silly, but only in comparison to Harry. But if she doesn't start doing things that are relevant, soon, she will seem pretty pathetic. (Her actions in SA weren't relevant, and in Taboo Tradeoffs it wasn't really her actions).

Comment author: buybuydandavis 23 December 2012 05:03:06AM *  16 points [-]

I've read through the back and forth with EY on Hermione here.

I think the criticisms of EY's treatment of Hermione's silliness share Hermione's silliness.

Hermione is all wound up with feeling not as good as Harry, with a Greater Prodigy crisis, and twists that up in gender ideology. Notice that Draco, the boy born to rule, has no problem accepting Harry's greater competence, and certainly doesn't get in a gender based tizzy over it. Who cries for Draco's unflattering portrayal?

Look at Harry, Draco, and Hermione. Who is more emotionally balanced? Who has a healthier interpersonal outlook? Who isn't going to be a Dark Lord, no matter what? Who is actually the best student? Who treats people the best?

You want to talk about silly? How about Harry's moral tizzy over sentient food. Cannibal!

Keep in mind that Hermione won the first army battle. While the other generals were busy being brilliant and ordering others about, Hermione was busy organizing her team to get the best out of them.

Yes, Hermione doesn't have the sheer power Harry does. Why does she, and apparently others, think she has to have that power or she will be less than?

As for the Mars vs. Venus discussions between Harry and Hermione, whatever Hermione's silliness, Harry's always comes off looking worse in my eyes. And on the literary side, before 87 I was starting to feel that the tone had gotten rather grim and analytical, and worried that the light human touch in the book had been cast aside for grim heroic daring do. 87 was a relief.

Quirrell remarked on how Harry was exceedingly good at killing things. I don't think that's the right measure of overall competence, whether Harry or Moody. Hermione has basic good sense and decency that all the competent killers lack.

When I project out the story arc, Harry may win the battle, but the future belongs to Hermione. Better than Dumbledore, better than Moody, better than McGonagal, better than Harry. Though having said it, I wonder if Hermione will get a phoenix visit, take down Azkaban herself, and possibly not survive. There's been some foreshadowing on that.

Comment author: Daniel_Starr 23 December 2012 06:05:25AM *  2 points [-]

Ooh, Hermione versus Azkaban. I want that.

If Hermione takes down Azkaban and survives, and does so without Harry seeming to take control, that would be more amazing to read than I can possibly express.

Also it would be a nice touch of realism: no one good person solves all the problems.

But there are three hard literary problems here:

  • the author has probably got another Azkaban answer in mind, based on Harry,

  • the author would have to prepare the ground for Hermione grokking the "Death ain't inevitable" approach to Dementors,

  • it would be tricky to write a realistic Harry who, even from Harry and the reader's POV, was "protecting Hermione's back while she saves the day" as opposed to "rescuing Hermione". The rearguard samurai who buys the hero time is a fiction staple, but it's not a default role for Harry.

  • [Edit: ] as wedrifid wisely points out below, Hermione has to have a good reason to believe she has to take the lead, since Harry is demonstrably better at the average Confrontational Solution than she is.

But if it happens I will be ever so happy.

Comment author: wedrifid 23 December 2012 06:28:53AM *  9 points [-]

If Hermione takes down Azkaban and survives, and does so without Harry seeming to take control, that would be more amazing to read than I can possibly express.

It would also reflect terribly on Hermione. She'd be an utter fool to attempt that kind of thing without using Harry's brilliance and resourcefulness. Her influence over Harry is one of her most useful powers and killing stuff ingeniously (and surviving) is pretty much Harry's specialty. It isn't hers.

It's one thing to insist on having your own team in a school battle-games. It's quite another to waste the opportunity to accept aid (and in this case even leadership) from an ally in a situation that means the life and death of yourself and others. It'd be disgustingly immature, take 'silliness' to a whole new level and be completely irrational. Unless Hermione's goal in attacking Azkaban really is more about her ego and signalling and not about the need for Azkaban to be attacked for some direct reason... and she had some reason to be completely confident that it wouldn't kill her.

No respect points for ego when it is at the expense of shut up and multiply.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 24 December 2012 03:15:31AM 2 points [-]

I go into more detail in the post below, but I only picture Hermione attacking the dementors under some kind of time pressure with Harry unavailable.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/g1q/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/8441

But I'd disagree that it would reflect terribly on Hermione. It wouldn't be optimal, but few people behave optimally. Lily's futile attempt to save Harry was suboptimal, but I don't think it reflected terribly on her.

Unfortunately, Hermoine's particularly suboptimality is exactly this - trying to prove that she is as effective and powerful as Harry, and so not wanting Harry's help. She should know better. And she does, in a sense, and better than Harry or Draco. She was the general who got her army to help do the planning for the battle. She could accept their help, and sought it out. But her Prodigy Superiority Complex is threatened by help from Harry.

This whole scenario is taking a grim turn in my mind. Hermione may sacrifice herself to destroy the dementors, only to have Harry see that the sacrifice was unnecessary, and could have been avoided if he updated the note he gave to her on dementors.

Comment author: Daniel_Starr 23 December 2012 06:38:33AM *  2 points [-]

Yes, to make it plausible you do have to put Hermione in an impatient or infuriated state of mind, and Harry has to be out of contact. So, for example, suppose:

  • Harry is elsewhere, preparing his next move against Voldemort; and

  • Hermione gets dragged to Azkaban on a visit by someone intending to intimidate her, and she concludes it is just as monstrous as Harry thinks. (Actually, she'd probably be even less tolerant: Hermione is not a lesser-evil-excusing sort of person, once you jolt her out of her status-quo bias.)

You could argue that would be enough -- Hermione is good at hard work and righteous indignation, and she and Harry could be arranged by the author to have discussed hypothetical Azkaban strategies beforehand. If you wanted added pressure on Hermione,

  • someone threatens her with death or, indeed, imprisonment within Azkaban.

In which case Hermione might rationally decide to "go out with a bang."

The hardest part of this (in a literary sense) would be keeping Harry away from Hermione for the critical period.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 23 December 2012 06:43:57AM *  4 points [-]

For the literary problems:

We've already gotten the scene where Harry decides he has something else to do besides killing dementors.

Harry has expressed that he's sure Hermione could learn the True Patronus and wouldn't be able to stop herself from destroying Azkaban. She already has the secret in a note from Harry. She's been introduced to Fawkes. And she was led to her first bullies by flashes of gold and red.

He could have Harry taken to Azkaban, and Hermione break him out. That would be a bit too femi-cliched for my taste, but you never know.

Harry might be off somewhere, and Hermione will need to face the choice of going to Azkaban alone. She might face the choice believing that Harry is dead. EY has referred to Stephen Donaldson before. A "Lord Mhoram's Victory" scenario could fit nicely. (Very moving scene from Donaldson, and perfectly in line with EY's sense of life.) Along that line, maybe all the Dementors besiege Hogwarts (Harry and Dumbledore being elsewhere), slowly wearing down the defenses, and General Sunshine remembers the note from Harry, runs off to get it, and as she overcomes her fear of Dementors and resolves to fight them, she hears a great CAW! and is faced by a phoenix that transports her into the midst of the Dementors and she destroys them all.

I think the groundwork has been laid, and the plot turns aren't so difficult. Hermione as taking McGonagal's in mounting the defense of Hogwarts works for me.

Comment author: Alicorn 23 December 2012 05:13:28AM 2 points [-]

I'm... I'm not saying that Hermione is written without virtues, or without net rather a lot of virtues. Hermione's lovely and I would want to be friends with her. I'm saying she has this flaw (it is fine that she has a flaw, characters need those) and that so do all the other girls her age (it is not fine that they all share it, characters need variety) and that it's representative of a larger pattern of mishandling female characters (also not fine).

Comment author: buybuydandavis 23 December 2012 05:32:14AM 8 points [-]

Could you precisely state the flaw you see? You say "silly" a lot, but what specific behavior do you find objectionable, and why?

I don't see the same behavior in the silly girls and Hermione. The girls play gossiping romantic fantasy, which Hermione herself has contempt for. The closest behavior is Hermione getting emotional about her relationships with Harry and other people, and what people think of her. Is having emotions about what others think a character flaw?

Comment author: Alicorn 23 December 2012 05:54:31AM 6 points [-]

I go into more detail a bit elsewhere in the thread. She becomes hysterical about Draco, indulging some bewildering sort of friend-jealousy or romantic precociousness, moralizing to an unforgiving degree that she cannot possibly endorse if she thought about it for thirty seconds, making sweeping unsupported assertions about human psychology, determining of a sudden for no reason that Harry was supposed to be Science Monogamous with her, throwing a tantrum that is not necessarily age inappropriate but is not in keeping with her typical level of personal maturity, making their genders way more salient than they needed to be (she does throughout the fic, it's weird), identifying herself for some reason as a "poor innocent little girl" victimized by a question that she just made relevant enough for Harry to ask...

Comment author: drethelin 23 December 2012 07:33:07AM 11 points [-]

I think it would take more than 30 seconds to get over the fact that someone you rely on to be your only equal friend does not have a symmetrical relationship where you're similarly important, not to mention his OTHER close friend is the guy who has said he wants you dead.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 23 December 2012 06:55:45AM *  10 points [-]

I said it elsewhere, but I'll reiterate and expand here.

Getting emotional, crying and running off does not necessarily merit penalty points in a human interaction, and certainly not for 12 year old girls who have recently been threatened with a lengthy term of prison/torture for attempted murder of someone who she recently discovered wanted to do horrible things to her, and then finds that her best friend and savior had a hidden and close relationship with that someone. Threats to security, violation of basic trust and in group solidarity, where the stakes are a torture death for her and the allegiance of her best friend and savior, who she had recently resolved to stick by in the face of a persistent threat to her own life.

Maybe the inside view of that would be hugely emotional, and might impair dispassionate thought a tad?

Me, I think it was a narratively appropriate scene for him to reintroduce a little cliched comedy. It was a little overdone on both sides for comic effect, but that's how you make comedy. I thought it worked. I thought it was fun. I think he tends a little toward slapstick with his comedy, and it's not intended to be taken as entirely realistic character development.

Comment author: RomeoStevens 23 December 2012 12:25:36PM 2 points [-]

Strongly agree, also like to point out:

she cannot possibly endorse if she thought about it for thirty seconds

What makes you assume she will endorse it after she has had time to calm down and think about it for 30 seconds? I endorse incoherent positions all the time that I then am forced to retract on reflection. Doesn't everyone? If our knee jerk reactions to things were correct we wouldn't all be here arguing on LW.

Comment author: MixedNuts 23 December 2012 01:09:10PM 9 points [-]

Eliezer obviously agrees with you, but... Hermione doesn't sound silly at all to me. Okay, explicitly believing that sufficient lack of sympathy makes one an inherently bad person is silly, but no sillier than Dumbledore's deathism. And the jealousy is completely justified. Harry encouraged the rivalry, then promised they would study magic together - that they'd be the team to crack it, the only researchers in the wizarding world, not that she could lend a hand as human library. Of course they're supposed to be Science Monogamous. And it's not like he's met another great scientist; he's going out of his way to teach science to someone who hated her.

Comment author: army1987 23 December 2012 10:59:18PM 4 points [-]

making their genders way more salient than they needed to be

IME people very often do that in real life.

Comment author: Pluvialis 23 December 2012 06:20:50AM *  11 points [-]

No offense (and I'm a boy so quite probably biased about this, fair warning) but are you sure you know what girls are like in real life? I know in a utopian world there would be no gender stereotyping, but in my honest experience, even as someone who strongly wishes stereotypes would all burn and die, girls in schools do gossip, and stress about relationships, and quite possibly are prone to sensitivity and preoccupation about love, even if it is culturally rooted.

Just wondering I guess if you've been so successful in emancipating yourself from that stereotype (congratulations on that) that you've ended up with unrealistic expectations of what is actually normal for girls.

That said I don't know you and don't want to come across as though I'm certain of what I'm saying either, just reporting on my brain's response to your comment.

EDIT: Typo fix

Comment author: Alicorn 23 December 2012 02:21:38PM 15 points [-]

Up until I was about Hermione's age, my friends were nearly all girls, and they were an even mix beyond that. I am not claiming anything so preposterous as that girls do not gossip or fixate on interpersonal matters. Of course they do; it's not even limited to children. I am saying that girls are not uniformly silly creatures, differentiated only by name, approximate g factor, and school House.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 23 December 2012 11:30:27AM *  6 points [-]

I tried to get one of my friends to read MoR and he quit after about Chapter 20 because he was getting annoyed at how the children weren't acting like children. I think from his point of view, the disparity you're identifying between Hermione and Harry, say, doesn't count as mishandling Hermione so much as mishandling Harry... as far as my friend's point of view is concerned, Hermione acting silly is a completely appropriate response to what she's been through, and there is something deeply wrong with Harry Potter.

And... this is hard to talk about because I feel like I constantly have to make sure what I'm saying doesn't count as Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy. I have some small understanding of male privilege. It would be nice if I could be given the benefit of the doubt on this. (Now I'm trying to figure out if that counts as Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy...)

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 24 December 2012 03:31:09AM 4 points [-]

And... this is hard to talk about because I feel like I constantly have to make sure what I'm saying doesn't count as Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy.

Don't worry about it. Complaints about "Clueless Male Cluelessly Defending The Patriarchy" are mostly an excuse to enforce norms about things you can't say.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 24 December 2012 10:13:19AM 1 point [-]

Complaints about "things you can't say" are mostly defenses of extortionate strategies in social relations.

Comment author: MugaSofer 23 December 2012 03:26:48PM *  6 points [-]

Alicorn: McGonagall is not silly, it's true. McGonagall may be the best female character Eliezer has done. But I'd feel better about it if she'd been revised for hypercompetence while Moody was a minor side character serving as a cautionary tale about wasting time on low-probability risks, or something.

Trouble is, McGonagall was the first representative of Magical Britain we met, so she gets to represent the Average Wizard (average witch?)

EDIT: I meant that she's kind of a representative of the magical world generally. Wizards aren't generally hypercompetent.

Alphabeta: Also, why is Harry using Snape as his example of guys he might end up attracted to instead of Quirrelmort?

(It's a fandom in-joke.)

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2013 10:48:22PM 2 points [-]

Trouble is, McGonagall was the first representative of Magical Britain we met, so she gets to represent the Average Wizard (average witch?)

Exactly! Just like Hagrid was in canon.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 December 2012 04:58:21PM 2 points [-]

Trouble is, McGonagall was the first representative of Magical Britain we met, so she gets to represent the Average Wizard (average witch?)

It didn't seem that way to me-- McGonagall is shown enough respect by other wizards and witches that she's clearly above average.

Comment author: MugaSofer 23 December 2012 10:21:15PM 1 point [-]

I meant that more in terms of she's kind of a representative of the magical world generally. Wizards aren't generally hypercompetent.

Hmm, that didn't come across very well.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 December 2012 06:10:41PM 7 points [-]

This relates to something I think I've been seeing-- most of the boys are silly but it's because people are silly.The girls are silly because they're girls.

On the other hand, I've only read HPMOR once. Does this seem like a fair reading?

Comment author: Alsadius 22 December 2012 06:42:11PM 6 points [-]

Can you point out any concrete examples of what you mean?

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 22 December 2012 07:57:01PM 4 points [-]

Not right now-- I'd have to do a serious reread, I think. I can do some generalities though, if that might help.

First, I realize that analyzing stereotypes in fiction is difficult because it's about background assumptions (aleifs?) of the author and the readers interacting with each other. And I keep wondering why so much thought goes into GRRMartin possibly stereotyping his female characters when King Robert is a more simple negative gender stereotype than I think any of the female characters are.

Part of the problem is that the girls in HPMOR seem like an undiferrentiated gossiping mass. I admit that I haven't noticed differences among the minor boy characters, either, but at least they don't all seem like they're all the same.

Alicorn, what have you noticed?

Comment author: AdeleneDawner 22 December 2012 09:09:15PM 12 points [-]

I'm not sure I'm quite on the same wavelength here, but what I'm seeing is that the boys are mostly proto-somethings - not just the obvious ones, like Harry being on the road to being a Light Lord or Draco gearing up to be the first reasonably-enlightened Lord Malfoy, but even relatively minor characters like Neville and Ron, you can get a pretty good idea of what kinds of people they're going to be when they grow up by looking at what they're like now and extrapolating - and the question of what kinds of people they'll be is taken seriously, too, in how things are framed and how the other characters react to things. (Harry's very first interaction with Neville, for example.) The girls don't really seem to have that same quality of being adults in training; even Hermione's heroism arc was more about her reputation and ego in the here-and-now than anything I can imagine her continuing past age 16 or so, and it takes a lot more work to imagine any of them having interesting roles as adults - it feels like it really doesn't matter whether any of them do anything more interesting than being housewives.

Comment author: Daniel_Starr 23 December 2012 01:29:15AM *  9 points [-]

Yes, that's it: the girls don't aim for distinctive future selves, the boys do.

Blaise and Neville are each trying to become something, and it's something different in each case. The girls? Not nearly so much.

Comment author: ArisKatsaris 23 December 2012 11:10:39AM 8 points [-]

This seems a strange comment to me. After the SPHEW arc I think I have a much better understanding of the thoughts and ambitions of e.g. Padma (doesn't want to fall back into harmony with her sister and is now seeking a non-evil way to do this), Susan (voice of caution through the influence of her Aunt, non-arrogant enough to seek out Tonks help) or Tracey (Darke Lady who'll have everyone as her husband), than e.g. the characters of Dean Thomas or Seamus Finnigan or even Blaise Zabini. Possibly even Neville Longbottom.

Comment author: Alicorn 22 December 2012 08:52:41PM 4 points [-]

I agree with the "undifferentiated gossiping mass" bit.

Any specific example has a corresponding counterexample. Padma Patil, for example, gets nonzero development and, IIRC, perspective time, which could go a ways to counter "undifferentiated gossiping mass" - but a male character on about her tier of importance, like Blaise Zabini, gets to enact plot and is more distinct as a single person than she is. Even Ron, who is of negligible relevance, has a named skill that differentiates him from the background. Does Padma? As far as I can recall Padma is just sort of generically informedly bright. Hermione's intelligence, gratuitous perfect recall, and magical prowess can go a ways to counter "female characters are less competent" - but the most competent characters, even if you don't count the protagonist, are all male.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 December 2012 11:48:25PM 7 points [-]

Padma feels to me like a much more important character than Blaise Zabini, and a more developed character too. I could go into detail but I'm not sure I should, since that sort of thing an author is supposed to communicate through story. I wonder how that perspective difference developed?

Comment author: LucasSloan 23 December 2012 12:00:59AM 6 points [-]

It seems clear to me that Padma has a future, whereas Blaise has none. This isn't quite the same as saying that she has been more important than he. Also, Padma has been developed as a character insofar as she has actually been changing over the course of the story, but her personality is only slightly more explored than Blaise's.

Comment author: drethelin 23 December 2012 03:45:50AM 3 points [-]

I can't off the top of my head think of anything Padma has done apart from trade places with her sister, whereas Blaise was helpful to Hermione's start as a general, pulled off the ridiculous underwater plot, and had the badass moment of sitting exactly in the middle of the room. I even know something about his mother.

Comment author: ahartell 23 December 2012 04:44:08AM *  14 points [-]

Padma had the subplot where she was mean to Hermione and Harry "reformed" her or whatever. She is put as second in command in Dragon Army and is respected enough by Draco to make him realize why his father said that Ravenclaw was an acceptable House from which to choose one's wife. She is shown to be powerful and loyal in both the armies and in SPEW (her prismatic sphere or whatever is mentioned to be particularly strong; she doesn't hesitate when Hermione tells her to go find help). Finally, she sort of kind of notices that something is wrong when interacting with Tonks!Susan while the others all think that Susan is a double witch. I'm not going to argue about whether she's more important than Blaise but she definitely does more than just switch places with her sister.

On the topic of Blaise, we can be fairly confident that almost none of what happened in the underwater battle was the result of his competence; he was just the headmaster's tool. Also, we are shown that he isn't that skillful a leader as without the advantage of the green glasses he loses his battle against (I think) Dean Thomas. On the other hand, Padma successfully leads Dragon army to victory after Draco looses his duel with Hermione.

Comment author: Manfred 23 December 2012 03:42:16PM *  6 points [-]

Hm. This suggests that an important factor might be reader bias as well. Though really, all anyone remembers Blaise Zabini for is his moment-of-badassery. Anyone without an in-writing moment of badassery is going to seem less memorable no matter what.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 December 2012 06:59:34AM 3 points [-]

...yep.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 23 December 2012 04:09:34AM 3 points [-]

In terms of memorable badassery, sure, Blaise seems to have more. But Padma feels more relevant, and more developed. It's just that she's so incredibly not in the spotlight that people seem to gravitate toward Blaise as the most ascended of the first years because of how showy his displays were. Outside of the plotting in the battles, Blaise doesn't seem to do anything, whereas Padma is around and interacting with people and even got Harry to do something politically dangerous to protect Hermione's reputation.

I was actually a little surprised that the tvtropes article made Blaise out to be the most notable ascended extra, when he had effectively one moment in the spotlight and the plotting surrounding that, whereas Padma seems like a more consistent secondary (or maybe tertiary) character.

Comment author: Exetera 23 December 2012 03:22:17PM *  6 points [-]

It's possible that this perception of undifferentiated gossiping masses may be affected by bias in what the named characters listen to. The male population of Hogwarts might well seem like an undifferentiated Quidditch-loving mass if it weren't for Harry's tendency to fling Quieting Charms around when he wants to get out of conversation. (And, as a more literary reason, the girls' gossip is often plot-relevant whereas Quidditch jabberings wouldn't be.)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 December 2012 01:49:19AM 7 points [-]

I admit I don't remember Padma, but that may be more a matter of me than the book. I'm not the most focused reader on the planet.

If the boys were as stereotyped as the girls, I think they'd be constantly boasting and talking about which wizard could defeat which other wizard and making fart jokes.

Comment author: MugaSofer 23 December 2012 03:23:06PM *  3 points [-]

This relates to something I think I've been seeing-- most of the boys are silly but it's because people are silly.The girls are silly because they're girls.

So, you're saying that showing boys as silly is realistic, but showing girls as silly is sexist?

Comment author: ahartell 23 December 2012 03:44:59PM 6 points [-]

The argument she's making is that the silliness of the girls is all uniform and dependent on them being girls, namely that they all gossip about Harry, Hermione, and Draco in a romantic context. Now this isn't true if you take the SPEW members into account, but I can sort of see it if you only consider unnamed or cameo female characters in their dining hall conversations. She's also saying that the silliness shown by the male characters isn't so obviously determined by their gender (see: lack of silly conversations about Quidditch and other suggestions mentioned in the comments of this post).

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 December 2012 04:03:14PM 2 points [-]

All of that, plus the girls' gossip being so heavily underlined for humor-- and to be fair, I thought a good bit of the humor was funny. This is bigger deal than it sounds like since I think almost all humorous fantasy and science fiction is more like a sequence of humor-shaped objects than anything that makes me want to laugh.

Comment author: Sly 22 December 2012 05:37:42PM 4 points [-]

When my girlfriend and I sat down last night to read the latest chapter she actually said to me after starting: "Ehh, this is a Hermione chapter, let's do something else and read this later."

I think I agree with you.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2013 10:32:51PM 2 points [-]

McGonagall isn't silly, but she is the weakest Order-of-the-Phoenix character we've seen by far. She's always too stupid to understand what the wizards are talking about. She, much more than Hermoine, is a female character that is not strong enough.

It would be interesting to see more of Bones. She has certainly shown herself pretty bright and likable, and we haven't seen her priorities and tastes be as questionable as the other competent characters (Dumbledore, Snape, Quirrell, Moody).

Comment author: Locke 22 December 2012 06:07:47PM 3 points [-]

I think a lot of this should be blamed on Rowling, not Eliezer. Hermione is pretty much the same as she is in canon, and I don't think we can fault him for not upgrading her.

Comment author: Alicorn 22 December 2012 06:10:21PM 2 points [-]

I disagree on all counts. Hermione does have a silliness flaw in canon, but it's much weaker. And Eliezer upgraded everyone else important.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 December 2012 11:37:37PM 7 points [-]

Erm... a basic theory of MoR is that all the characters get automatic intelligence upgrades, except for Hermione who doesn't need it and starts out as exactly similar to her canon self as I could manage, thus putting everyone on an equal footing for the first time. I presume you're familiar with the literary theory which holds that Hermione is the main character of the canon Harry Potter novels?

Comment author: Alicorn 23 December 2012 12:11:58AM 8 points [-]

Is that seriously what you were trying to do? I don't think canon Hermione actually has an eidetic memory, for one thing. And canon Hermione is not as silly. Even early on she has the ability to sort of... roll her eyes and move forward, when that's called for. Canon Hermione lectures but does not moralize; canon Hermione is not this romantically precocious.

Comment author: MugaSofer 23 December 2012 02:24:58PM 1 point [-]

Is this seriously as close to canon!Hermione as you could get it? I assumed she got edietic memory to replace her canon intelligence, since everyone was getting the intelligence upgrade anyway. And the whole Bad/Good thing seems almost completely original to HPMOR, although it's possible it's a fanon thing I just haven't come across.

Comment author: Locke 22 December 2012 06:23:36PM *  4 points [-]

All the adults certainly were, but what about the students? Draco was the same before Harry started corrupting him, Ron's still an idiot, Neville is still a Hufflepuff, etc. Maybe Fred and George are a bit more awesome, and Zabini is an entirely different person, but aside from that Harry's peers seem to have been kept to the same level. If Hermione were a sensible person, she'd probably outclass Harry just as much as she does in canon, and then the story would be Hermione Granger and How She Learned the Methods of Rationality and Became Omnipotent.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 December 2012 11:42:47PM 14 points [-]

and then the story would be Hermione Granger and How She Learned the Methods of Rationality and Became Omnipotent

Yeah, exactly. Also Equally-Upgraded!Hermione plausibly ought to be smarter than the author.

Comment author: pedanterrific 22 December 2012 08:03:11PM 12 points [-]

If you think Draco is the same, you need to reread canon.

Comment author: Vaniver 22 December 2012 05:57:26PM 3 points [-]

Alphabeta: Also, why is Harry using Snape as his example of guys he might end up attracted to instead of Quirrelmort?

I think this is because Harry doesn't deeply understand / have preferences between the various attractive male archetypes, and so when he sees Snape he thinks "male" instead of, say, "brooding, vulnerable, dark, assertive, high standards male."

Comment author: MixedNuts 22 December 2012 10:39:19PM 5 points [-]

Looks like it's just because he very recently had a conversation with McGonagall where "Hey, I might turn out attracted to Snape" was relevant (to judging girls who are attracted to him), so he's primed to think of him as an example.

Comment author: Alicorn 22 December 2012 06:04:43PM *  0 points [-]

Silliness. He's already entertained the thought of marrying Professor Quirrell.

Comment author: Alsadius 22 December 2012 06:41:40PM 10 points [-]

But only in an obviously joking way. Snape seems to be the one all the girls go for, so he assumes that he'd do the same if he were gay.

Comment author: army1987 22 December 2012 09:14:12PM 2 points [-]

I thought it's supposed (by the author, not necessarily by the character) to be silly.

Comment author: Vaniver 22 December 2012 06:41:05PM 3 points [-]

Sure. But in that particular conversation, they were discussing the class of females that finds Professor Snape attractive. Harry, inexperienced in differentiating between the flavors of male attractiveness, has no idea what information McGonagall is conveying when she refers to a "certain sort of girl" that is drawn to Snape. As far as he can tell, she means "heterosexual plus unknown," and he rounds "unknown" down to zero when forecasting for himself. (Great use of probabilistic reasoning there, Harry.)

If he did understand, he would have been able to identify that Snape probably wouldn't be his type, even if he were interested in men.

Comment author: ygert 22 December 2012 08:21:17PM *  3 points [-]

Alphabeta: Also, why is Harry using Snape as his example of guys he might end up attracted to instead of Quirrelmort?

Given the Quibbler article and everything, I'd actually expect it to be Draco that he uses as his example.

Comment author: Nominull 23 December 2012 02:19:47AM 10 points [-]

Given how anxious he is about the idea of romance I would think he would tend to shy away from anything that realistic. Snape is safe since a teacher/student relationship would be excluded on ethical grounds. Draco could actually happen, and so better not to think about.

Comment author: wuncidunci 23 December 2012 12:07:51AM 9 points [-]

Considering how Hermione reacted to the Science-with-Draco bit we can guess her reaction to might-marry-Draco-instead. Would totally look to her like Harry tried to keep his options open depending on how his orientation turned out after puberty.

Comment author: DanArmak 23 December 2012 06:22:01PM 2 points [-]

Would totally look to her like Harry tried to keep his options open depending on how his orientation turned out after puberty.

I would have to support Harry here. Asking someone to declare love before they even know their sexual orientation is completely irrational.

Comment author: wuncidunci 23 December 2012 08:12:52PM 3 points [-]

I did not say this view of it would be accurate or rational. Hermione was however very upset in this scene and already saw Draco as a rival for Harry's friendship.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 09 June 2013 09:14:44AM 2 points [-]

Regarding the Rita Skeeter prank. The leading hypothesis now seems to be that she was memory charmed, though this didn't seem obvious to me when reading.

Something else that didn't seem obvious to me until recently is that there is a character who is both skilled enough to pull off such a convincing memory modification, and secretive enough to require that the twins be obliviated. It isn't entirely clear that he remains so skilled and in character in HPMoR, but Madeye's description points toward those remaining similar enough to canon that I'm seriously considering the possibility that Fred/George/Floom hired Gilderoy Lockheart to modify Rita's memory.

Of course, I was so unobservant that I only caught Dumbledore's slight of hand in his first meeting with Harry on my latest rereading (whish is, like, the fourth or fifth). I'm also considering an insane conspiracy theory in which Dumbledore gave Harry his father's rock and his mother's potions book specifically so he could set fire to a chicken, probably for some rituals/soul magic/horcrux/really evil chicken-related reasons. But I'm less confident in that one. :)

Comment author: CAE_Jones 03 May 2013 03:42:47PM 2 points [-]

I don't think I'm thinking clearly at the moment, but it occurred to me that splitting the soul is based around the act of murder from the murderer's perspective. This makes me wonder if it would actually require a death to split the soul, rather than the would-be murderer believing that they're deliberately killing someone.

If it's the mental process, rather than the actual killing, that strikes me as a potential avenue for slightly more ethical horcrux creation. The details of the horcrux creation ritual might contradict this, or it really does have to be an actual murder. Even if it's an option, I imagine it'd still be a pretty serious turnoff, though maybe there are enough useful mental magics to pull it off and still end with someone who values human life.

Comment author: jpaulson 17 January 2013 05:41:54AM *  2 points [-]

(Long-time lurker; first post)

Some points from earlier chapters that remain unclear to me: any insights would be appreciated?

1) Why did Neville's remembrall go off so vividly in Harry's hands? Also, how are there now two remembralls?

2) Do we have any more information/guesses about Trelawney's prophecy that Dumbledore cut off? What starts with 'S'?

3) Who told Harry to look for Hermione on the train? The writing is ambiguous, and it's not really clear why McGonagall would've wanted them to meet. I guess other theories are worse, though.

4) What's up with Harry's father's rock? Just a way for Dumbledore to encourage Harry to practice transfiguration?

5) Why are we so sure Dumbledore burned a chicken (or transfigured something)? His explanation makes total sense, and Harry's confusion at the time is well-explained by his lack of familiarity with phoenixes. It seems more reasonable to assume almost-burned-out phoenixes look like chickens than...whatever the alternative is.

6) Who is saying "I'm not serious" in Azkaban?

7) Is the "terrible secret" of Lily's potion book really that Snape and Lily fought about it? That just seems like a bizarre reason for a friendship to end. Were Dumbledore's suggestions incorporated into the potion Petunia took?

8) Why did Quirrell leave a polyjuice potion in Bellatrix's cell? (especially since the crime was meant to go unnoticed)

Comment author: 75th 24 January 2013 10:25:15PM *  3 points [-]

(8) is because he knew that the moment Dumbledore learned of the potion, he would conclude that Harry Potter was not the mastermind of the escape. "to fathom a strange plot, one technique was to look at what ended up happening, assume it was the intended result, and ask who benefited."

Comment author: anotherblackhat 20 January 2013 04:19:53PM 1 point [-]

on 3; From chapter 6

As his hand touched the back door's handle, he heard a last whisper from behind him.

"Hermione Granger."

"What?" Harry said, his hand still on the door.

"Look for a first-year girl named Hermione Granger on the train to Hogwarts."

"Who is she?"

There was no answer, and when Harry turned around, Professor McGonagall was gone.

Seems clear to me that the whisper came from McGonagall - Harry was talking to her, Harry turned his back and heard a whisper from "her" that sounded like her. Harry thinks so to - in chapter 8 we have;

The boy's mouth was hanging open. "Were you told to wait for Harry Potter on the train to Hogwarts, or something like that?"

"No," Hermione said. "Who told you about me? "

"Professor McGonagall and I believe I see why.

Comment author: moridinamael 17 January 2013 05:58:53PM 1 point [-]

1) Harry is a horcrux who forgot his entire previous life.

2) Not sure.

3) I like the theory that it was Quirrell but I would only put it at about 20% likely.

6) Peter Pettigrew.

7) The terrible secret is that Dumbledore intentionally sabotaged Snape and Lily's relationship by writing bad advice into her textbooks in Snape's handwriting. It would indeed be bad if Snape discovered this.

8) I'm pretty curious about this one. I think that if it were discovered, say, a year later that Bellatrix was gone, and the potion was found, the authorities would assume that Bellatrix had used the potion to become an animagus and escape.

Comment author: AnthonyC 03 May 2013 02:07:07PM 2 points [-]

I thought the terrible secret was that Dumbledore was sneaking into the girls' dorms turned invisible.

Comment author: moridinamael 03 May 2013 07:14:31PM 2 points [-]

If memory serves, Dumbledore was pretty specific that really grave things would happen if the secret got out. If people found out that Dumbledore was sneaking into the girls' dorm ... it probably wouldn't matter; everybody thinks he's insane anyway, and some scribblings in a notebook are not evidence of anything in particular anyway.

However, if Snape in particular found out that Dumbledore had turned Lily against him on purpose because Dumbledore, based on his bizarre worldview, did not think the prim Gryffindor should be with the greasy Slytherin, then it could undermine Snape's secret allegiance to Dumbledore and his secret desire to protect Harry Potter on behalf of his beloved. This would be relatively disastrous.

This is probably already happening, now that Snape has started to see Lily as a human being.

Comment author: Blackened 31 December 2012 06:11:35PM *  2 points [-]

There was something that has always been bugging me. It's actually several things I don't understand.

When Snape says "You almost died today, Potter", what does he mean? Maybe it's because I'm not a native speaker, but I can't understand that part. My best guess is that Snape got so upset with what Harry said that he almost killed him in his rage. But that seems very counterintuitive to me.

Second, Snape had possibly changed after his conversation with Harry? Does this mean that Snape took Harry's words and thought that Lily is actually not worth his love, after all these years? That's my best hypothesis, but I find it very weird.

Third, did I actually properly understood that he still loves her, after more than 11 years have passed? This is very unrealistic, people get over things, and I suspect that either EY is being unrealistic here, or Snape is simply lying.

Edit: I retract the last part. Still, this does not mean that now I believe this to be realistic, but rather that it might possibly be realistic. Also that EY could indeed have decided to just go with the canon, and I see good reasons for that.

Comment author: 75th 24 January 2013 10:21:53PM 6 points [-]

This is very unrealistic, people get over things

Yes, but sometimes very slowly. I can tell you from first-hand experience that fixations on people with whom the fixator has zero contact for eight years do exist, and from second-hand knowledge that upwards of 13-year-long ones almost certainly exist as well. It's quite unhealthy and quite irrational, but it happens.

Comment author: gwern 31 December 2012 06:19:12PM 4 points [-]

When Snape says "You almost died today, Potter", what does he mean? Maybe it's because I'm not a native speaker, but I can't understand that part. My best guess is that Snape got so upset with what Harry said that he almost killed him in his rage. But that seems very counterintuitive to me.

That was always my interpretation, unless I'm thinking of some other chapter. What's counterintuitive about it?

Comment author: Alicorn 31 December 2012 06:12:53PM 2 points [-]

Third, did I actually properly understood that he still loves her, after more than 11 years have passed? This is very unrealistic, people get over things, and I suspect that either EY is being unrealistic here, or Snape is simply lying.

Second thing is possible, but if it's not a lie, it's not Eliezer's absurdity but J.K. Rowling's.

Comment author: Manfred 22 December 2012 09:19:18AM 4 points [-]

He should win her back with a serenade.

Comment author: SpatulasRcool 09 January 2013 04:15:17AM *  3 points [-]

When I was reading the latest update to HPMOR, I was upset to feel that the Hermione character was veering into disappointing territory. From the beginning of the story, I thought that Hermione was an awesome character, and I've been waiting for her to have a more active role. For one, I think this would make the story more interesting (I dislike that Harry and Quirrell do nearly everything of importance). Additionally, however, society as a whole has an idea of men as active and women as passive that is very problematic and doesn't need to be reinforced.

Of course, EY has not finished his story yet, so I hesitant to pass judgment on an incomplete work. Nevertheless, he has indicated that this story is swiftly drawing to a close, yet we have not seen a single female character burst from her cocoon into the butterfly of rationality.

The male characters in this story have more leeway for flaws because, for one thing, there is an automatic real-world assumption that men are more capable (of nearly everything!) than women. If you disagree with this, merely turn to much of the discussion surrounding Hilary Clinton's presidential bid. Within this story itself, the best examples of rationality are Harry and Quirrell (and now Moody, it seems). Neither Hermione nor McGonagall operates anywhere near the same level as them on the spectrum of rationality. EY drives home this fact by having McGonagall constantly remarking on her confusion.

In a cultural vacuum, this situation wouldn't be a problem - if there are only two "successfully" rational characters, then it doesn't seem unlikely that they both be male. I am not accusing EY of any malice or purpose. In fact, that is just the problem. Male is the default I'm our society - I go to an Ivy League college, and even there (a bastion of liberalism!) the school store has a "clothing" section and a "women's" section. Not a "men" and a "women's" section. This kind of default to the male experience and the male gaze is persistent, insidious, and harmful. If EY and Less Wrong are truly interested in making the world a better place, optimizing, increasing awesomeness, etc., then it seems like this is a relevant area of concern. Just as seeing positive portrayals of gay people in mass media make individuals more accepting of homosexuality, seeing active intelligent portrayals of women decreases sexism.

That's why, for as much as I love HPMOR, reading it makes me sadder and sadder as the story progresses. Some of the comments in response to Alicorn's criticism make me sad, too. I think what my Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department calls "male privilege" is really just an example of irrational thinking.

I have no idea what EY's plans are or what his intent is, but I know how this story seems right now. It seems like HPMOR is defaulting to male, when it would have taken only a little bit mor effort to include more positive female representations and make the world a little bit better place.

Edit: Please excuse any grammatical errors #Damn You Autocorrect

Comment author: JTHM 22 December 2012 07:15:36PM *  2 points [-]

I think this chapter just proved that someone, most likely Quirrell, has modified Harry's memory. Remember how Harry easily figured out how to quickly make large sums of money by trading gold and silver between the wizard and muggle markets? And now, he doesn't seem to recall that brilliant insight when Hermione mentions that they need a way to make lots of money fast. Moreover, the occlumency teacher with whom Quirrell set up a lesson (possibly Quirrell himself in disguise) mentioned that he would like to be able to remember that same trick after he read it in Harry's thoughts. Clearly, whatever the villian is planning, it requires Harry not having large sums of money.

The creation of a philosopher's stone would, therefore, pose a direct threat to this plan. Hermione is in even more danger than before.

Comment author: pedanterrific 22 December 2012 07:44:13PM 10 points [-]

First: Harry and Quirrell can't interact magically. Quirrell didn't Obliviate or Legilimize Harry, and he is not Mr Bester in disguise. (Theoretically he could have Imperiused Sprout to do it, though.)

Second: why would Harry mention that idea here? What purpose would that serve other than to make Hermione feel even more useless and stupid?

Comment author: sketerpot 22 December 2012 08:02:20PM *  8 points [-]

It can be useful to have more than one brilliant-but-speculative idea for making huge amounts of money, in case one of them fails. Harry sounds like the kind of person who would hold off on proposing uncertain but alluring solutions when the problem is difficult, important, and not urgent.

Hell, they might even come across something a lot better than currency arbitrage -- mass-producing immortality, for instance.

Comment author: DanielLC 22 December 2012 11:41:44PM 3 points [-]

Didn't he already talk about it? He has several plans, but they're all risky. For example, if he tries to make money on gold arbitrage, he runs the risk of the goblins noticing and realizing what he's doing before he can get far.

Comment author: Axel 22 December 2012 08:42:54PM *  5 points [-]

When Harry wants to withdraw money for Christmas presents Dumbledore outright says he doesn't want Harry to have "access to large amounts of gold with which to upset the game board" I'd say he's as likely to memory charm Harry's gold/silver scheme as Quirrell.

In fact (on a more tangential note) who says that isn't exactly what Flamel is doing? Exchanging silver for gold in such quantities as to make himself rich but not terribly upset Muggle economics. Maybe Flamel is the occlumency teacher, memory charming anyone who comes up with the same plan.