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Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, part 24, chapter 95

6 Post author: palladias 18 July 2013 02:23AM

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 95The previous thread has passed 300 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: 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6,  7,  8,  9,  10,  11,  12,  13,  1415,  16,  17,  18,  19,  20,  21,  22, 23, 24.

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Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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 (304)

Comment author: Alejandro1 18 July 2013 01:40:22PM *  65 points [-]

I am amazed that Eliezer managed to take Rowling's most corny idea and made it non-corny: "The power that the Dark Lord knows not" is, after all, none other than the power of true love. And it is a mighty power not because of a hokey magical force attached to it, but because someone who feels it in addition to being rational is motivated to reshape the universe. "Power comes from having something to protect."

Comment author: bogdanb 18 July 2013 11:51:09PM *  12 points [-]

I am confused. You know how Dumbledore expresses several times to McGonagall his worry that he might be the Dark Lord Harry will need to face? I mostly thought this was simply guilt from having had to make lots of difficult decisions.

But I’ve been re-reading some older chapters today, and I noticed this (ch. 84):

“Indeed—indeed—that will be necessary and more than necessary, if the Dark Lord that Harry must defeat to come into his power is not Voldemort after all—”

“Not this again!” Minerva said. “Albus, it was You-Know-Who, not you, who marked Harry as his equal. There is no possible way that the prophecy could be talking about you!”

The old wizard nodded, but his eyes still seemed distant, fixed only on the road ahead.

What Minerva says sounds a lot like foreshadowing. More specifically, standard dramatic logic would suggest that it was actually Dumbledore who gave Harry the mark, thus justifying D’s fears and making Minerva’s reasoning exactly wrong on the point she is most sure about. There’s plenty suspicious about the “standard story” of what happened that night to allow it, and nothing else I know about Dumbledore sounds like something that would cause serious Dark-Dumbledore worries.

But that doesn’t seem to make sense at all with the rest of the story. Am I just reading too much because of theories I read here?

Comment author: William_Quixote 19 July 2013 04:24:44AM 10 points [-]

That the Death Eaters were bad guys was not in question. The question was whether they were the bad guys; whether there was one villain in the story, or two... - http://hpmor.com/chapter/47

For me it's low confidence and speculative, but t could be foreshadowing. Dumbledore could be bad. Dumbledore and QQ could even be on the same side. The "one villain in the story, or two" at the time and in context was Harry thinking there were 2 sides and both were bad. But as a meta-hint / foreshadowing it could be saying that there was 1 side with 2 villains.

One big piece of evidence for was that Voldemort and Dumbledore fought a war for several years and neither killed the other. Harry initially thought this was evidence for Voldemort being dumb, but by 94 Harry has updated to the enemy being smart. So Voldemort could have wiped out the Order but didn't.

Dumbledore is soft, but he could have killed all the death eaters. Just gone to their houses and killed them, none of them, nor all of them together (excluding Voldie) are going to be on par with Grindelwald + elderwand + blood sacrifice. Dumbledore could have wiped out the death eaters but didn't.

You can explain that with two factors each handicapping one of them, Dumbledore is soft and Voldemort has a cunning plan. But you can also explain it with coordination. Coordination certainly fits some of the facts better.

Weighing against this of course, is that it really doesn't seem like Dumbledore's style.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 19 July 2013 08:39:41AM 3 points [-]

More specifically, standard dramatic logic would suggest that it was actually Dumbledore who gave Harry the mark

By my inference, both Dumbledore and Voldemort purposely put Harry in the position that left him marked. Dumbledore conspired with Lily to set up a dark ritual which would defeat Voldemort, while Voldemort marked Harry to make it appear he had defeated Voldemort. With both being part of the causal chain, both could be said to have marked Harry.

Comment author: Velorien 19 July 2013 11:02:46AM *  4 points [-]

Dumbledore conspired with Lily to set up a dark ritual which would defeat Voldemort

Evidence, please? Lily's actions in Harry's memory of her encounter with Voldemort certainly don't seem pre-planned, and if you're suggesting that the "dark ritual" was her sacrificing herself for Harry, this is no reason for her to let James die as well. If Lily had known Voldemort was coming, she could have had James go visit a friend for the week or something, thus making sure her beloved husband survived and Harry at least had a father.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 July 2013 07:45:29AM *  1 point [-]

Obviously Voldemort wouldn't announce when he was coming, so they wouldn't know that James would take it first.

There are multiple pieces of evidence, that when combined, make a consistent case. Dumbledore talks about being responsible for all that has happened to Harry. Dumbledore includes Lily in a very short list of heroines in recent times. It seems clear that Dumbledore arranged for Snape, and thereby Voldemort, to learn of a "prophecy" that led Voldemort to try to kill Harry. What Lily says when Voldemort comes looks like a clear set up of a dark ritual.

Comment author: Kindly 20 July 2013 02:18:23PM 9 points [-]

What Lily says when Voldemort comes looks like a clear set up of a dark ritual.

What Lily says is:

"Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead!"

But we know that in any ritual, first is named that which is sacrificed, and then is said the use commanded of it. This does, incidentally, match the order that the Dark Lord speaks in ("Yourself to die, and the child to live.") but as Lily got it wrong it seems like she definitely wasn't doing a ritual, and if a ritual happened it was accidental on her part.

Comment author: jkaufman 21 July 2013 04:28:27AM 2 points [-]

Wouldn't both V and Lily be experienced enough not to perform a dark ritual by accident?

Comment author: Desrtopa 26 July 2013 12:27:38AM 2 points [-]

I think that dark rituals in general probably aren't something one is at great risk of performing by accident.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 July 2013 09:43:10PM 0 points [-]

Both of them described a dark ritual in terms of what the other gave up, then what the other got.

Per what Lily says, Voldemort gives up killing Harry, in exchange for Lily's life.

Per what Voldemort says, Lily gives up her life, in exchange for Harry's life.

Does this mean there were two different rituals proposed? The same one from two perspectives? I don't think we have enough of the theory of dark rituals to distinguish the two. Did Lily "get it wrong"? Under one possible interpretation, yes, and under another, no.

And then Lily may or may not have balked at the terms, and tried to kill Voldemort, and Voldemort may or may not have tried to kill Harry.

Harry really should have been investigating the details of Voldemort's death a lot more than he has, starting with an interrogation of Dumbledore.

Comment author: Emile 18 July 2013 11:06:04AM *  34 points [-]

For those wondering about this:

It has been three hundred and twenty-three years since the country of magical Italy was ruined by one man's folly.

323 years before 1992, this happened:

Etna's most destructive eruption since 122 BC started on 11 March 1669 and produced lava flows that destroyed at least 10 villages on its southern flank before reaching the city walls of the town of Catania five weeks later, on 15 April. The lava was largely diverted by these walls into the sea to the south of the city, filling the harbour of Catania. A small portion of lava eventually broke through a fragile section of the city walls on the western side of Catania and destroyed a few buildings before stopping in the rear of the Benedictine monastery, without reaching the centre of the town.

That's probably also what's referenced later on:

There is much literary wisdom in those stories. It is born of harsh experience and cities of ash.

(though it's pretty likely that in HPMOR-verse, all volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. are caused by Magic Gone Wrong)

Comment author: Desrtopa 18 July 2013 12:04:56PM 25 points [-]

(though it's pretty likely that in HPMOR-verse, all volcano eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. are caused by Magic Gone Wrong)

I doubt it, since first off, many of them long predate humans, and second, something would have to be seriously wrong with our model of geology for plate tectonics to not sometimes result in volcanoes or earthquakes.

Comment author: Benito 18 July 2013 01:50:47PM 7 points [-]

223 years before 1992, this happened:

No, 323 years.

Sorry, it confused me for about ten seconds.

Comment author: Emile 18 July 2013 02:03:37PM 3 points [-]

:D Whoops! Fixed, thanks.

For a moment I was afraid that I got my calculations wrong and the actual date referenced was 1769...

Comment author: solipsist 19 July 2013 01:38:36AM 10 points [-]

There's a good chance that EY didn't want to allude to any historical event. Maybe his writer's instincts to give concrete examples kicked into gear, and he made up a fictional event about a fictional society.

But suppose he did choose to allude to a specific historical event. Why would he choose this one?

He would not choose this event because it was a great disaster with many casualties. According to the Wikipedia article, there is no historical record of any deaths from this eruption, and the disaster is overshadowed historically by the 1693 Sicilian Earthquake. If EY were going for famous and lethal disasters, he would be very unlikely to choose this one when there are so many more famous ones.

He would not choose this disaster because it is Italian. Italy was not well defined in the 17th century. If you had to choose some place to represent modern day Italy, you would be far more likely to choose a place in Northern Italy (like Florence, where modern Italian comes from) than a city in southern Italy (like Sicily, which was ruled by the Spanish in the 17th century).

The only circumstance under which I think EY would choose specifically to allude to Etna's eruption is if he needed to refer to a volcano. If EY needed to refer to a volcanic eruption, it's probably about Horcruxes.

"Plan B," said Harry. "Encase the Dementor in dense metal with a high melting point, probably tungsten, drop it into an active volcano, and hope it ends up inside Earth's mantle. Ah, the whole planet is filled with molten lava under its surface -"

"Yes," said Professor Quirrell. "I know." The Defense Professor was wearing a very odd smile. "I really should have thought of that myself, all things considered. Tell me, Mr. Potter, if you wanted to lose something where no one would ever find it again, where would you put it?"

Quirrell could be smiling because someone else put a Horcrux in Etna, but given his history with Pioneer I think it is more likely that Quirrell himself did the deed.

So (finally), after this long inference chance, I have slightly raise my belief that Quirrell is hundreds of years old.

Comment author: Velorien 19 July 2013 11:16:17AM 2 points [-]

But would Quirrell refer to someone placing a horcrux in Etna as "folly", given that it is apparently one of the best things you can do with a horcrux? And would he choose to allude to something like this in front of Harry when, unlike with the Pioneer Plaque, he doesn't stand to benefit from revealing the information?

Comment author: solipsist 19 July 2013 04:38:14PM *  4 points [-]

If Quirrell alluded to Etna's eruption in Chapter 95, then Quirrell likely was thinking about Etna's eruption when wearing a very odd smile in Chapter 46. I'm advancing only the implication, not the antecedent.

Comment author: palladias 18 July 2013 04:08:49AM 8 points [-]

Or maybe find a worthy Muggleborn in a country that didn't identify Muggleborn children, and tell them some extensive lies, fake up a surrounding story and corresponding evidence, so that, from the very beginning, they'd have a different idea of what magic could do.

Pretty sure this is Jean-Jacques Rousseau's strategy in Emile. Albeit for social-sexual development, instead of magic.

Comment author: jkaufman 18 July 2013 07:36:57AM 21 points [-]

A while ago Mitchell Porter wrote that Robin Hanson often makes arguments like:

People claim that they want to be smart and would like to be smarter. But if you stand on your head, blood pools in your brain, providing more oxygen, and thus improving your cognitive function. Yet people spend hardly any time standing on their heads. Does this mean that they don't really want to be smarter?

Quirrel is being even more Hansonion than usual in #95, arguing that other people not trying to raise their friends from the dead means they don't care about their friends.

Comment author: ygert 18 July 2013 11:58:50AM *  11 points [-]

Yup. Very true. That was my thought too when reading the chapter. But on Facebook EY claimed that Quirrell's arguments this chapter where also inspired by Michael Vassar, who, as he puts it, "is basically Professor Quirrell with a phoenix". (Although he admits in the comments that "Robin Hanson is Professor Quirrell as an economist instead of a wizard.")

Updating on my mental model of Michael Vassar to be a bit closer to Robin Hanson, I guess.

Comment author: Benito 18 July 2013 09:37:03PM 3 points [-]

As someone points out on the thread, that makes Vassar a wizard with a phoenix... Like Dumbledore? Huh, funny.

Comment author: ciphergoth 22 July 2013 09:55:34PM 5 points [-]

Any argument that says "people don't do Y, therefore they don't really want X" is invalid if you can make a similar argument where X is eg "eat food (when hungry)" or "have sex (when, say, a young man)". To say "Young men don't really want to have sex" is to give "really want" a completely alien meaning.

Comment author: Carinthium 18 July 2013 11:55:44AM *  3 points [-]

Since I had no idea about the stand-on-head thing, could somebody give me some sources please? I'm curious. Most importantly, are the benefits long term or short term?

Comment author: benelliott 18 July 2013 12:11:13PM *  18 points [-]

I didn't interpret the quote as implying that it would actually work, but rather as implying that (the Author thinks) Hanson's 'people don't actually care' arguments are often quite superficial.

Comment author: Desrtopa 18 July 2013 12:13:41PM 9 points [-]

It is, not to put too fine a point on it, false. An excess of oxygen doesn't really help out your brain under ordinary conditions. Try hyperventilating (breathing significantly more quickly and deeply than you need to satisfy your energy requirements) and you're just liable to become dizzy and see spots.

I googled to see if there are any known benefits to doing headstands, and the answer is "maybe, but the only people claiming so are new-agey yoga sources."

Comment author: khafra 18 July 2013 01:36:33PM 8 points [-]

An excess of oxygen doesn't really help out your brain under ordinary conditions. Try hyperventilating

Hyperventilation's primary effect is to reduce CO2 levels in your blood, although it also increases oxygen. Decreasing CO2 beyond normal levels makes blood bicarbonate combine with hydrogen ions to form more CO2, which increases blood alkalinity, which makes blood vessels constrict and reduce blood supply to the brain, which makes you lightheaded. So hyperventilation is low-quality evidence about the effects of extra oxygen on your brain.

...Now I kinda want to put Gwern into a hyperbaric chamber and have him record his dual-n-back and math performance for comparison.

Comment author: gwern 18 July 2013 04:24:43PM 8 points [-]

...Now I kinda want to put Gwern into a hyperbaric chamber and have him record his dual-n-back and math performance for comparison.

I don't think that's necessary. Besides oxygen being poisonous and dangerous, it's been studied before, and it seems to be less oxygen that matters after a point than carbon dioxide. This was discussed somewhere on Greg Cochrane's blog.

Comment author: XFrequentist 18 July 2013 02:23:08PM 6 points [-]

Yup. Was about to make a similar comment. Hyperventillation will not hyper-oxygenate the brain.

That said, the "hyper-oxygenated brain -> brain function" hypothesis has been raised to the level of our attention for a very bad reason. We should let it die.

Comment author: Benito 18 July 2013 09:33:08PM 18 points [-]

Piece of meta info:

V'ir vagebqhprq n grrantr sevraq gb UCZBE. Ure cevbe ernqvat sbphf fheebhaqf Qvpxraf naq Nhfgra naq gur yvxr. Fur unfa'g ernq YJ lrg. Fur'f whfg ernq gur arj puncgre. Univat abg ernq gur bayvar qvfphffvbaf be Nhgube'f Abgrf jungfbrire, fur qbrf abg xabj nobhg Ibyqrzbeg.

Vg vf bayl ng gur raq bs guvf, Puncgre 95, gung fur unf gubhtug hc gur cbffvovyvgl frevbhfyl.

Znal crbcyr unir orra jbaqrevat jul Uneel unfa'g znqr gur pbaarpgvba, naq V jnagrq gb funer guvf qngn cbvag bs fbzrbar ryfr jub qvqa'g unir gur Jbeq bs Tbq. Bs pbhefr, fur vfa'g Engvbanyvfg!Uneel, ohg gur qngn vf vagrerfgvat.

Comment author: Benquo 18 July 2013 09:41:26PM 5 points [-]

Has she read the original books?

Comment author: Benito 18 July 2013 09:43:52PM 4 points [-]


Comment author: TobyBartels 25 July 2013 05:44:52PM 6 points [-]

Ch 96 initial thoughts (no big spoilers):

I wonder if EY is aware of a couple of things: There are Muggles living in Godric's Hollow (canonically, Hogsmeade is the only all-Wizarding village in Britain, and at least one Muggle resident appears briefly in the books). The Potter family motto was first written by Paul of Tarsus (unless he was quoting somebody else, presumably long lost), the famous early Christian.

It is pretty sad how that quotation is interpreted canonically. Paul's original meaning is much closer to MoR!Harry's; although Paul's interpretation is softened by his faith in a deus ex machina, it was a faith that Paul may have sincerely believed (where most modern Christians, after 2000 years of disappointment, only believe that they believe).

Comment author: BT_Uytya 22 July 2013 09:45:37AM *  5 points [-]

A little piece of evidence pointing to hypothesis "Harry had stolen Hermione's body".

"I care enough to make an actual effort" can be interpreted as "I already made an actual effort", and that was the interpretation that came to my mind on the first reading.

Also, this is very interesting:

The most likely prospect for disaster is a powerful wizard who, for whatever reason, cannot bring himself to halt as warning signs appear. Though he may speak much and loudly of caution, he will not be able to bring himself actually to halt.

And earlier:

Harry didn't venture anywhere near the border of the Forbidden Forest, since there was no reason to take the risk. He walked invisibly among the more ordinary life-forms of the permitted woods, wand in hand, a broomstick strapped to his back for easier access, just in case. He was not actually afraid; Harry thought it odd that he didn't feel afraid. The state of constant vigilance, readiness for fight or flight, failed to feel burdensome or even abnormal.

...told Professor McGonagall that he was currently talking to the Defense Professor in the woods outside Hogwarts (just in case anything happened to him)

It looks like Harry will be able to actually be very cautious as opposed to speak about being very cautious.

Maybe this story will not end in a complete disaster.

Comment author: BT_Uytya 22 July 2013 09:28:45AM 5 points [-]

For those interested: Chapter 64 has a new omake, "Jasmine's Lamp".

Now I'm dying to see rational treatment of Mozenrath.

You know, the fellow who had a lot of raw magical power, and hence every problem looked to him like a nail in a desperate need to be blasted away with his gauntlet? The fellow whose ego was very inflated and sore, and the concept of "pretending to lose" was so alien to him that he had his ass kicked by a book? The fellow who was unable to think clearly while his place in dominance hierarchy was challenged by Aladdin because he cared about proving his worth more than about getting actual work done? The fellow who believed that other people had no use for him, and only way to make them helpful was to turn them into obedient zombies? The fellow who apparently knew many ancient places of power and pieces of forgotten magical lore yet fails to use them successfully?

Yeah, I want to see a rational treatment of this one. And don't think that we ought to give Aladdin a Death Star to make story balanced. He already has an unlimited supply of wish spells.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 22 July 2013 10:19:08AM 2 points [-]

Was the Genie's post-liberation power ever explained in the animated series? I only watched a few episodes, and am more familiar with Disney's movie trilogy; I got the impression that, in the movies, the Genie retained the power to solve pretty much all the problems (hence why Jafar had to out-Genie him to keep the second movie afloat, and why the Genie was left at the palace in the third while Aladdin was out at the actual plot). I think I'll have to read the TV Tropes page again, now that I'm curious as to how well they kept each episode from being "Villain casts a spell on Genie, Aladdin breaks spell, Genie saves the day".

Tangential: I think this is the first time I've looked at Chapter 64 since the most recent arc started up, and this

If that's not enough to motivate you, then let me add that if you don't help spread rationality, Hermione will be sad. You don't want her to be sad, right?

Was kinda saddening in light of certain events.

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 July 2013 07:16:21PM 1 point [-]

Jasmine, as a woman, is unable to command the Djinni? Obviously that wouldn't fly in a Disney production, but I can't recall any women commanding djinn in the Arabian Nights (not that I'm familiar with all of the stories); more generally, the women are pretty passive. (The exception, of course, is the framing story, but Scheherazade would find it unwise to put powerful, active, clever women in her stories.) The original story's Jasmine character (Badroulbadour) is actually pretty stupid.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 29 July 2013 03:03:10AM 2 points [-]

In the original stories only powerful wizards can command djinn. The way non-wizards get access is by freeing a djinni whom a powerful wizard has trapped and the djinni granting wishes out of gratitude if he's in a good mood (and after being trapped for centuries the djinni isn't necessarily in a good mood). Also in neither story a djinn all-powerful.

Comment author: gwern 22 July 2013 03:58:31PM 1 point [-]

The Naruto one is also new - at least, it wasn't there the last time I read MoR a year or two ago.

Comment author: bogdanb 20 July 2013 11:11:14PM 5 points [-]

This is so contrived as to be almost silly, but I just realized that if you squint hard enough Sybill’s original prophecy might have referred to Harry as the Dark Lord and Quirrell as the one who “approaches”.

The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies ... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies ...

The “Defense Professor” is a persona, and in chatting with Harry Quirrell basically claims that he becomes whoever he’s playing the role of. The prophecy could interpret the creation of that persona as “birth”. “Mark” is ambiguous enough (in English it could just mean “notice”), and besides, the prophecy doesn’t say when he will be marked. And he certainly has powers Harry knows not; his weird doomy link with Harry (which we just learned gives him partial access to Harry’s mind) being only the most obvious example, and remarkable from the fact that Harry doesn’t seem to ever think about it.

Again, it’s quite contrived, but it could be a nice twist to pull on your readers, though I assign a very low probability that Eliezer would do that given his statements.

Comment author: gjm 20 July 2013 02:01:39AM *  5 points [-]

(This pertains to an earlier chapter, but discussion in its thread seems to have died down. Anyone got strong opinions on the proper etiquette in that situation?)

In chapter 91, we are told

  • that Harry tried to cast the Patronus charm (to ask his Patronus to go to Hermione) but "[t]he spell hadn't worked though";
  • that when McGonagall needed to send a message to Dumbledore "[h]er first try at casting the Patronus failed".

Now, given the circumstances, it's not that surprising that either of them had trouble with that particular charm. But isn't it odd that Harry didn't just try again? And we're told that for McGonagall "[i]t wasn't the first time she'd done it so, but she seemed to have lost some of the knack".

Are we to infer that there's some special Patronus-related weirdness going on? Or is it just ordinary grief and upset?

[EDITED to fix a trivial and tangential mistake.]

Comment author: Kindly 20 July 2013 03:47:26PM 8 points [-]

Harry's Patronus can't possibly work here. His "happy thought" is about facing death and destroying it rather than hiding from it; recall that he couldn't cast Patronus v1.0 because it required thinking happy thoughts about something else rather than facing death, and Harry couldn't do this. But the reason he's casting the spell is to convince himself that maybe there's a chance Hermione isn't dead after all, which is pretty much exactly the not-think-about-the-bad-thing mindset that didn't work for him then.

On the other hand, McGonagall is probably suffering from the typical problem of normal-Patronus casters: if your spell involves thinking about happy thoughts about something else other than death, then having evidence of death right in front of you is going to be a problem.

It's possible that the "lost some of the knack" thing implies that prolonged exposure to Harry Potter is wearing away at McGonagall's ability to think about something else. Of all the adult characters, McGonagall is probably the one most seriously thinking about Harry's ideas.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 July 2013 08:01:05AM 2 points [-]

Are we to infer that there's some special Patronus-related weirdness going on?

She's getting more Harry and Godric like, but lacks Harry's vision of a possible future defeating death to allow for an improved Patronus?

Comment author: gjm 20 July 2013 01:41:15AM *  13 points [-]

Some conjectures on the nature of magic, the invention of new spells, etc.:

  1. Whatever makes magic work is basically mechanical but smart enough to be sensitive to human intentions.

  2. It has to do something broadly comparable to simulating the universe.

  3. It is equipped with defensive measures of one or more of the following kinds. (a) Some things -- e.g., certain kinds of escapades involving Time-Turners -- would require excessive, possibly infinite, amounts of computation, and it won't allow that. (b) Some things -- again, including Time-Turner abuse -- actually lead to contradictions. Maybe those are caught in advance and prevented, or maybe those simulations just end when the contradiction is reached. (c) There are deliberate countermeasures against anything that looks like it's trying to marshal too much power, in case it's an attempt at hacking the underlying computational substrate (or whatever it is that makes magic work).

  4. That is one reason why inventing new spells is dangerous. You might accidentally produce a contradiction or an excessively expensive simulation, or you might do something that looks like an attempt at becoming a god, in which case you -- or your laboratory -- or your country -- or your universe -- is terminated with extreme prejudice.

  5. It is also why the most powerful magics -- the rituals -- require permanent sacrifices: something that involves a permanent sacrifice is harder to apply recursively in some weird way that turns it into a Become God spell. (It's like the way that the class of functions you can compute using only loops whose number of iterations is bounded in advance is smaller and easier to prove things about than the class of all functions you can compute.)

  6. Whatever-makes-magic-work wasn't programmed in advance with any particular spells, potions, etc.; it's a general-purpose magic substrate. All the specific things have been brought into being by human beings -- it's a gigantic game of Nomic. That is why, e.g., all the spells have names that were obviously thought up by humans.

  7. The words, gestures, etc., are likewise basically under the control of the inventors. That is why they can be stupid things like "Wingardium Leviosa", or require you to say "Oogely boogely" with just the right timing. (Perhaps the precision required is up to the inventor, or perhaps whatever-makes-magic-work decides how much precision to require on the basis of how powerful the magic is.)

  8. Bringing a new magic into being isn't fundamentally difficult [EDITED to add: that would explain why there is such a thing as "the usual evasions" when someone asks precocious questions about spell creation]; perhaps it just requires forming a certain sort of intention and then demonstrating what actions (etc.) are required to bring about the desired effect. The difficulty and danger come (a) from the protective measures already mentioned, (b) from the risk that when you tell whatever-makes-magic-happen what you want you might fail to be specific enough and get something that meets your stated spec but is disastrous, and (c) from restrictions like one I mention below.

  9. Maybe the heritability of access to magic is itself a thing that was decided by (a much earlier generation of) humans, perhaps as a deliberate measure to limit the number and increase the cohesion of those designing new magics.

  10. How would this sort of general-purpose Everything Machine likely be set up, so as not to produce a universe of total chaos as everyone starts inventing their own new spells? (Even assuming no one is able to do anything too destructive or internally inconsistent, on account of the sort of restrictions I already mentioned.) Probably by having a requirement that new spells be consistent with existing ones, in some rather broad sense of "consistent". That would be another reason why inventing new magic is difficult. It might also give another reason for things like the Interdict of Merlin: an opportunity for old magic to be "garbage-collected", freeing up regions of possible-magic-space for new generations to explore.

I don't assign a super-high probability to any of these, but I find each more plausible than any other similarly-specific alternative I've thought of.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 18 July 2013 04:41:21AM 11 points [-]

I just realized that Harry does not worry about Hermione's body disappearing anywhere I can remember in this chapter, which tells me he either knows exactly what's going on, or he plans to ignore the direct route and just become god, and thus it doesn't matter.

Comment author: ygert 18 July 2013 12:03:38PM *  14 points [-]

I don't think he would just give up on Hermione's body like that. There are many intermediate levels of power he could achieve quicker and easier then straight out becoming a god, and he would hardly want to make it harder on himself to resurrect Hermione.

Here is a predictionbook link.

Comment author: AndrewConway 20 July 2013 01:01:32PM 6 points [-]

I think Harry transformed her body into the gold ring. Then if Dumbledore were to search Harry for transmuted things (as he did), he would find the stone. Harry carefully set the ring and gem far apart, so when Dumbledore undid the transmutation on the stone it did not affect the ring. The brown color was to make the stone more attention seeking. The rest of Harry was carefully checked for magical things, but the ring itself was never checked for magic other than in combination with the stone.

Standard stage magician trick - make people look at something else.

Comment author: DanielH 24 July 2013 11:44:34PM *  4 points [-]

I had this theory before the current arc, but updated towards it once it became more important to Harry in chapter 89.

In Humanism, Harry thinks about vanquishing future death, but that would not help the majority of the world's population (which has already died). What with the only known method of backwards time travel creating stable time loops, and with people already having died, this makes sense to a degree. But if he were to find a way to upload just prior to death, then technically everybody would have died, but in most ways that count they would not. As people have died more than six hours ago, this also seems impossible with known methods of time travel. However, Harry was (understandably) too distracted when learning about Time-Turners to notice that the six-hour limit could not possibly be fundamental. I believe I have a way around this limit, using only Time-Turners and Muggle understanding of physics. It does rely on the following assumptions:

  1. Magic works very far away (many light-hours at least) from Earth
  2. Time-Turners deposit you stationary w.r.t. Earth's rotating frame of reference.
  3. Magic can reinforce Time-Turners and wizards to be able to withstand incredible accelerations (at least 2000 g)
  4. Magic and science combined can maintain a space-worthy vessel at these accelerations
  5. Time-Turners take you back the appropriate number of hours in whatever frame you happen to be in when you engage the Time-Turner.
  6. Magic and science combined can create space suits that allow survival several light-years from Earth for extended periods of time OR devices that can maintain themselves in such conditions for extended periods of time and can operate Time-Turners.
  7. Magic would allow the below scenario to play out (no DO NOT MESS WITH TIME notes). For safety, this should only be attempted after adding explicit protocols for those notes should they prove necessary; that's better than conjuring arbitrary obstacles with Time-Turners.
  8. The below calculations are approximations based on my incomplete understanding of special relativity, but could almost certainly be improved by somebody with a better physical understanding than mine.

Not all of these conditions are strictly necessary, but the details of the situation would need to be modified to suit them better. I will now illustrate how to prove to somebody that you can go back in time more than six hours (specifically, six hours and five minutes); extending this to allow for remote unobservable uploading is left as an exercise to the reader.

  1. Create a space ship traveling at 88.5% of the speed of light in uniform circular orbit of the Earth, matching the Earth's natural rotation direction and speed. This will require it to be 3.38 light-hours from Earth and accelerating at almost 2000 g, but we're already assuming we can do that.
  2. On that ship, have somebody/something capable of receiving messages, using a Time-Turner, and sending messages after using said Time-Turner.
  3. Find somebody to agree to this experiment, and to agree on a protocol. Verification can include hashing ("I believe one cannot reverse an MD4 hash, even with magic, in less than 6 hours"), trusted third party ("I doubt that Chief Warlock Dumbledore would lie about what time you gave him a message"), or any other scheme that everybody agrees on.
  4. On Earth, get a means to listen to a light-speed message sent by the person/thing in step 2. When it receives a message, tell the person from step 3 and prepare verification, but do not tell the person from step 3 what the message is.
  5. Have the person from step 3 wait six hours and one minute before deciding on a message to send, and have them give you this message.
  6. Complete verification that the message was received when claimed. The person from step 3 now believes you sent a message back more than 6 hours.
  7. Send the person/thing from step 2 the message at light speed.
  8. Over three hours later, the person/thing from step 2 receives the message, goes back in time six hours (local reference frame)/13 hours (Earth reference frame), and sends it. Over three hours later, step 4 completes.

EDIT: Fixed the link for acceleration calculation by escaping parentheses

Comment author: linkhyrule5 18 July 2013 03:18:17AM 4 points [-]

... Hm.

It seems to me that Quirrell hasn't updated.

Quirrell had no teacher of rationality. Rationality is hard to learn even with a teacher. Therefore Quirrell likely did not need a teacher: he was lucky enough to be born thinking rationally.

Then Quirrell would have been born with the notion that you put effort into things you care about: that extraordinary goals requires extraordinary effort. And when he saw other people not putting in that level of planning, intelligence, and effort, he assumed they simply didn't care as much as they said they did.

He's since gained evidence that people simply aren't as intelligent, or as rational, as he is, which makes it significantly more likely that people do, in fact, care. But he hasn't updated on that yet.

I wonder what happens if Harry manages to make him update...

Comment author: JTHM 18 July 2013 03:54:34AM *  10 points [-]

I'm pretty sure that Quirrell DID just update. This chapter seems to be a pivotal moment in his character arc: a cynic learns that there really is such a thing as love and friendship in the world.

Comment author: linkhyrule5 18 July 2013 03:56:19AM 12 points [-]

Did he update on humanity in general, or Harry in particular?

Comment author: Fermatastheorem 18 July 2013 06:23:12AM 12 points [-]

I think probably the latter. His conclusion is "So you really do care" not "So other people aren't rational enough to try to ressurect their loved ones."

Comment author: hirvinen 18 July 2013 12:47:58PM 2 points [-]

From "So you do really care" and his well-established view that most people are painfully stupid, he should deduce also the latter, as it is more unlikely that Harry is both exceptionally rational and exceptionally caring unless he has a reason to believe that the former causes or at least strongly correlates with the latter.

Then again, someone who has a low opinion of others' intelligence should already believe that others are not rational enough to seek resurrection, even if they cared to want it.

Comment author: gjm 18 July 2013 06:39:26AM 6 points [-]

Or else he found it expedient to give Harry the impression that he now believes there are such things as love and friendship in the world.

(Let us suppose for the sake of argument that Q was and still is Voldemort. For H to bring him into all his plans for research might be a very, very, very bad idea.)

Comment author: buybuydandavis 19 July 2013 09:06:51AM 2 points [-]

That would be my interpretation.

If he thought Harry was a threat to destroy the world, why not just crush him? Sentimentality?

More likely Q concludes that Harry may do something he hadn't planned on, and wants in on the planning. He also likely sees Harry's resolve as a lever that could move the newly determined Harry in ways a less determined Harry could not be moved.

Comment author: OnTheOtherHandle 20 July 2013 03:39:11AM *  15 points [-]

I didn't cry in "Humanism." I didn't cry in "Stanford Prison Experiment." I didn't even cry when Hermione died. But this chapter finally did it for me. "If I were the first person in the universe who ever really cared about someone, then I'd be honored to be that person." That's the kind of moral stand missing in any number of lectures and parables by supposed moral absolutists. It takes quite a bit of deviation from normal thinking to even really comprehend that emotion, let alone spontaneously describe it.

What I love best about HPMOR is that it could so easily have been a Kid Hero parody fic, and even though it skirts pretty close, especially in the earlier chapters, it is never quite a straight up parody. In fact, for all that Harry snarks about his life being one big fantasy cliche, HPMOR takes the Kid Hero genre deadly seriously and plays almost every trope completely straight. Sure, Harry doesn't rush headlong into every danger like most kid heroes, but that's a difference in method, not in spirit. He feels the weight of responsibility just like anyone else who was ever chosen, or chose themselves.

Far more than the science and even the rationality, I love HPMOR because it believes in heroes. Conversations like this one are why I'm not reading a textbook. One day, I'm going to catalog every single discussion about morality, duty, heroism, or wisdom. I genuinely think reading them often will make me a better person, or at least better at being good. So thank you, Eliezer. You really make fiction shine as a teaching medium

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 18 July 2013 07:41:19AM 13 points [-]

On Quirrell's theory of human nature:

It seems to me that in general, his theory yields pretty accurate predictions, and to see what's wrong with it you probably need to know some evolutionary psychology; Eliezer's Adaptation-Executers, not Fitness-Maximizers. Evolution is going to favor genes for convincingly acting like you care about your friends without incurring too many costs for their sake. Yeah, it's also going to favor genes for seeing through easily faked signals, but to the extent that people can get away with it, it's going to favor genes for seeming to care about your friends without incurring the costs that would go along with that. The twist is that evolution while evolution produces behaviors that tend in that direction, it doesn't produce creatures who follow the strategies exactly, or consciously. The result is people who actually care about their friends... even if they very often don't act like it.

Comment author: Rukifellth 18 July 2013 01:48:34PM *  26 points [-]

I've been working with the idea that Quirrell is a high functioning psychopath, who often believe that other people are also "faking it".

Comment author: Alsadius 20 July 2013 06:52:20PM 2 points [-]

That seems like a really obvious descriptor of Voldemort.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 18 July 2013 05:12:09PM *  14 points [-]

I don't disagree, but I would note that the extent to which people exhibit role-like behavior is probably also somewhat due to cognitive limitations as well as humans not being strategic. You cannot consider every possible scenario or plan, so if you want to be a good friend, a good cook, or a good philosopher, looking at the way that other friends, cooks, or philosophers behave and copying that is generally a pretty good heuristic. It's often better to follow the accumulated wisdom and only make small improvements on that, rather than to try something drastically different that nobody has tried before but which should work in theory, or which at least should if the bullet-swallowers are correct.

Note that this is compatible with Quirrell maintaining that McGonagall wouldn't be enthused with the idea of resurrecting Hermione even if it was pointed out to her: indiscriminately believing in arguments is dangerous, so it would still make sense for her to reject an outlandish argument that she couldn't properly evaluate, like "let's go resurrect Hermione", even if she did genuinely care about Hermione.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 July 2013 07:17:35PM 2 points [-]

(I find it ironic that, as I check this page, this comment was right below a thread claiming that Quirrells arguments are superficial.)

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 24 July 2013 07:46:07AM 7 points [-]

After sitting down and going over everything I know about this fic, I believe I've gotten a substantial way towards solving its puzzles. The long version is at my blog here, but here I'll just state without justification the prediction I've come up with:

Voldemort believes fate won't let him defeat Harry until Harry attains the power to vanquish him, which in this case means becoming powerful enough to destroy all of Voldemort's well-hidden horcruxes. And in fact, Harry will become that powerful, by using the differing conservation laws for magic and science to conduct conservation-law arbitrage. Voldemort's plan is to possess Harry once Harry has attained ultimate power, but Harry will prevent Voldemort from winning through complicated means involving multiple currently yet-to-be-fired Checkov's guns.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 31 July 2013 02:50:43PM 2 points [-]

That sounds like a variant of a pattern from Frank Herbert. A wants B to be strong enough to be useful, so A makes B's life worse to toughen B up. B becomes stronger, but is unwilling to cooperate with A.

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 July 2013 07:22:38PM 2 points [-]

I haven't read your blog post yet, but I'm already upvoting for the concept of conservation-law arbitrage.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 19 July 2013 05:24:08AM 7 points [-]

Quirrell's dialog in this chapter has me thinking again about what exactly he did wrong, as David Munroe. I wonder if Eliezer thought that through as well as he should have, being a little too eager to show off the character's flawed understanding of human nature. From chapter 34:

Professor Quirrell leaned forward at the podium, his voice now filled with a grim intensity. His right hand stretched out, fingers open and spread. "Division is weakness," said the Defense Professor. His hand closed into a tight fist. "Unity is strength. The Dark Lord understood that well, whatever his other follies; and he used that understanding to create the one simple invention that made him the most terrible Dark Lord in history. Your parents faced one Dark Lord. And fifty Death Eaters who were perfectly unified, knowing that any breach of their loyalty would be punished by death, that any slack or incompetence would be punished by pain. None could escape the Dark Lord's grasp once they took his Mark. And the Death Eaters agreed to take that terrible Mark because they knew that once they took it, they would be united, facing a divided land. One Dark Lord and fifty Death Eaters would have defeated an entire country, by the power of the Dark Mark."

Professor Quirrell's voice was bleak and hard. "Your parents could have fought back in kind. They did not. There was a man named Yermy Wibble who called upon the nation to institute a draft, though he did not quite have vision enough to propose a Mark of Britain. Yermy Wibble knew what would happen to him; he hoped his death would inspire others. So the Dark Lord took his family for good measure. Their empty skins inspired nothing but fear, and no one dared to speak again. And your parents would have faced the consequences of their despicable cowardice, if not for being saved by a one-year-old boy." Professor Quirrell's face showed full contempt. "A dramatist would have called that a dei ex machina, for they did nothing to earn their salvation. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named may not have deserved to win, but make no doubt of it, your parents deserved to lose."

Amelia Bones' later dialog suggests he was giving similar speeches as David Munroe.

Now the thing to notice here is that Voldemort's policies for troop discipline were really not all that exceptional. Lots of armies have had a policy of executing traitors and deserters. A policy of using torture to punish any slack may be hard to find, at least in the modern world, but I think if you go back a couple centuries you'd find militaries using flogging to punish minor infractions. The way the Dark Mark is described here suggests it works slightly different than canon, in that it acts as a magical tracking device whether the bearer deliberately signals Voldemort or not. Obviously no real world military does that, but if it were possible to cheaply put magical tracking spells on soldiers in the real world, it wouldn't be surprising to see militaries using them to discourage desertion. (In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there were already a proposal floating around DARPA to put tracking implants in soldiers. For their own good, ya know, so they can be rescued if they go missing.)

Insofar as we can give a sensible account of what "Munroe" did wrong, we might attribute it to bad marketing: pitching it as, "hey let's do what the Death Eaters are doing!" rather than, "we need to do what any country would do in wartime." Even a cynic should be able to understand people's aversion to the appearance of imitating like Death Eaters, and respond by providing would-be followers with rationalizations for why they're totally different than the Death Earters. Also, from later chapters it sounds like "Munroe" may have been angling to be made magical dictator for life right away. A more sensible approach would have been to first ask to be made temporary dictator, like the original Roman dictators, and then find a way to make the crisis permanent, justifying a permanent dictatorship.

Comment author: Kindly 19 July 2013 03:13:39PM 5 points [-]

We don't know anything about what Monroe's sales pitch was like (or even if he had one). However, given that "People began to speak of him as the next Dumbledore, it was thought that he might become Minister of Magic after the Dark Lord fell" it probably wasn't as terrible as you're suggesting.

Quirrell's conversation with Hermione seems to imply that for the most part, Monroe focused on action rather than speeches, though it may well have been action calculated to look as heroic as possible in order to win public support.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 19 July 2013 06:03:32PM 3 points [-]

Amelia Bones:

"It also seems this Defense Professor gave a most stirring speech to his students, just before last Yule, castigating the previous generation for their disunity against the Death Eaters." The old witch looked up from the leather folder. "Madam Longbottom was rather taken with it, and insisted that I read the entire thing. The argument struck me as familiar, though I could not place it at the time. But then, of course, I had thought you dead."

So it's not totally clear from that if "Munroe" specifically proposed a Light Mark, or just made similar speeches advocating unity or what. But whatever the case, it seems that, while yes people were talking about him as the next Dumbledore, saying he could become the next Minster of Magic, etc., they were not uniting behind him to his satisfaction.

Comment author: gthorneiii 19 July 2013 05:37:46PM 3 points [-]

I'm repeatedly seeing 'Monroe' spelled as 'Munroe'. Is this due to a disagreement about how the name should be spelled, a common spelling error that has perpetuated in these forums, or is it a shorthand reference to some prior discussions or concepts which I'm thus missing in my reading on these discussions?

Comment author: Vaniver 20 July 2013 03:52:31PM 8 points [-]

a common spelling error that has perpetuated in these forums

I suspect this. The author of xkcd is named Randall Munroe, which may explain its larger availability in the minds of typers.

Comment author: Mithrilian 18 July 2013 08:15:22PM 3 points [-]

Dumbledore gets the map from the twins, doesn't give it back and the twins don't remember about it anymore. So, we know who'd obliviated the twins. However, we don't know the results of D's "find Tom Riddle" order... Also, the twins must've known about Harry's time travels by way of the map?

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 19 July 2013 12:56:19AM 2 points [-]

I brought this up in a previous discussion thread, but the majority opinion seemed to be that it was more likely to be Quirrell who obliviated the twins.

Comment author: HonoreDB 18 July 2013 12:57:06PM 12 points [-]

Quirrell seems to have been counterfactually mugged by hearing the prophecy of the end of the world...which would mean his decision theory, and psychological commitment to it, are very advanced.

Assume Quirrell believes that the only possible explanation of the prophecy he heard is that the apocalypse is nigh. This makes sense: prophecies don't occur for trivial events like a visitor to Hogwarts destroying books in the library named "Stars in Heaven" and "The World," and the idea of "the end of the world" being a eucatastrophe hasn't occurred to him. Assume Quirrell believes that prophecies are inevitable once spoken. Then why is Quirrell bothering to try to save the world?

Given that he hears the prophecy, Quirrell can either try T or not try ~T to avert it. Given that he tries, Quirrell is either capable C or incapable ~C of averting it. If T and C, by inevitability Quirrell will never hear the prophecy, which means that it is less likely the end of the world will occur (massive events always produce a prophecy that is heard by a wizard, so either Time finds some way to stop the end of the world or someone else hears it but fails to avert it). Say the end of the world causes -100 utility to Quirrell, and trying to stop it causes -1 utility. Then if C, a Quirrell that would try never hears the prophecy, so he never loses any utility, while a Quirrell that would not try hears the prophecy, goes out in a blaze of hedonism rather than fighting the inevitable, and loses 100 utility from the end of the world. Unfortunately, the actual world is the ~C world, where T brings -101 utility and ~T brings -100. So T looks like an irrational choice, but actually maximizes Quirrell's utility across counterfactuals.

This isn't the only explanation for Quirrell's actions; he could just prefer to go out fighting, or be betting on the slim chance that prophecies actually can be averted, or just trying to delay the end of the world as long as possible, or acting on other, weirder motives. But it's an interesting illustration of how alien a being that has truly internalized a really sophisticated decision theory might be.

Comment author: drnickbone 18 July 2013 05:16:24PM 18 points [-]

Upvoted because it is an interesting parallel, but this is unlikely to be an explanation of Quirrell's actions. See Chapter 86:

More than the question of whom the prophecy spoke - who was meant to hear it? It is said that fates are spoken to those with the power to cause them or avert them.

Quirrell believes that he can cause or prevent the "end of the world" prophecy, and is gambling that helping Harry increases the chance of "prevent" rather than "cause". A better chance was to dissuade Harry - that would increase the chance of "prevent" even more - but Quirrell's just realized that he can't do that.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 19 July 2013 08:50:25AM 3 points [-]

If his goal was really to prevent Harry from destroying the world, he would just crush Harry like a bug and be done with it. He's killed people for much less.

Comment author: drnickbone 19 July 2013 01:55:51PM *  3 points [-]

Best guess is that Harry is a horcrux. He can't be killed, except with very powerful magic (Avada Kedavra or equivalent), and Quirrell can't use magic against him. Further, his last attempt at killing Harry was a total disaster. Chapter 65:

"Casst Killing Cursse? " Harry hissed in incredulity. "At me? Again? Ssecond time? Nobody will believe Dark Lord could posssibly be that sstupid -"

"You and I are only two people in country who would notice that," hissed the snake. "Trusst me on thiss, boy."

This does cast some light on how Voldemort got blown up in the first place. The fatal interaction of magic stems from Harry being a horcrux; but Harry's only a horcrux because Voldemort made him one. Further, the horcruxing most likely happened because of the weird interaction of magic which caused Voldie to blow up (and his soul-explosion, or whatever, then anchored itself to the infant Harry). It looks like there was some sort of trick with a Time Turner involved in Godric's Hollow to set this up. I suspect Dumbledore...

P.S. If Quirrell gets really desperate, he could of course try to persuade someone else to do the AK on Harry. Will be amazing if he can persuade Dumbledore to do it...

Comment author: jkaufman 21 July 2013 04:42:01AM 3 points [-]

Your quote could be just making fun of canon though.

Comment author: Lambda 21 July 2013 08:50:36PM 2 points [-]

I'm not sure that's possible. If Harry is defeated, it must be in such a way that "only a remnant of him remains," by prophesy. Crushing Harry now would not leave a remnant (even if "remnant" means "legacy," I would argue); therefore, it is not worth trying.

Comment author: Velorien 19 July 2013 11:12:59AM 2 points [-]

Only if Harry has no other value to him that would make him worth preserving, in which case the entire story would be completely different. We know that Quirrell values Harry, instrumentally and possibly emotionally, and has great plans for him. He will not sacrifice all of that unless he has no other choice.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 July 2013 07:36:35AM 3 points [-]

That's my point. Quirrell has plans for Harry. Any worry about what Harry will do is better explained by worry that Quirrell's plans will be thwarted by what Harry does, not by some supposed worry of Quirrell's that Harry will destroy the world. And more likely than any worry is just the opportunity presented by Harry's resolve to bring back Hermione by any means necessary.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 18 July 2013 07:19:18PM 7 points [-]

Upvoted for the word 'eucatastrophe'.

Comment author: Kawoomba 18 July 2013 10:12:24AM *  11 points [-]

Professor Quirrell took a small step to the left, a step forward, another to the right. He tilted his head with a look of calculation, and then he walked almost directly towards where Harry stood, halted a few paces off with the sense of doom enflamed to the height of bearability.

Nice, Quirrell is tracking Harry by checking in which direction the sense of doom becomes stronger.

I hereby rechristen "the sense of doom" to "the sensor of doom".

Edit: "But what do Muggles know of true power? It is not them who frightens me now. It is you." Typo, should be 'frighten'.

Edit 2: "I could name a dozen examples in Muggle novels of people driven to resurrect their dead friends. The authors of those stories clearly understood exactly how I feel about Hermione. Though you wouldn't have read them, I guess... maybe Orpheus and Eurydice?" -- Aah, what a lost chance to break the fourth wall and cite HPMOR as an example!

Comment author: gjm 18 July 2013 10:43:01AM 24 points [-]

Typo, should be 'frighten'.

And arguably should be 'they' rather than 'them'; Q strikes me as the sort of person who might well choose 'they' rather than 'them'.

what a lost chance

Thank goodness it was lost; let us hope it is never found again.

Comment author: Kawoomba 18 July 2013 02:06:44PM *  33 points [-]

What an ending that would be: Harry uses the Self-Indication Assumption to conclude that he is most probably a character in a Muggle story about magic, then manages to 'blackmail' the author into granting him godhood in order to stop Harry from committing suicide in a literarily unsatisfying fashion, since the author would prefer the former as an ending over the latter. Someone would object that Harry doesn't have agency? But he does, if the author takes the character seriously and continues with a high-fidelity in-character continuation. If Harry found out he's likely a character in a novel, he'd be right, and there's no reason he shouldn't use that to his advantage.

Talk about writing yourself into a corner! :)


"It's not going to work!" Harry was shouting at the top of his lungs, his wand pointed at his own temple. He gripped it so tightly his knuckles were white. "You wrote me this way, you know there's no going back from this point, you knew I'd find out eventually."

Ominous clouds were forming, a harsh wind picking up, making Harry shiver from where he stood in the Hogwarts central yard. Students stood aghast, staring at the screaming boy pointing the wand at himself.

"And you can stop with the weather charade, if I do this -- and I will, your book will be ruined, those little touches of drama aren't going to fool anyone!"

"Harry." The cold voice of the Defense Professor carried over the noise of the wind effortlessly, yet seemed spoken with little effort. "I have new ... " Quirrell pointedly glanced at the students present. "... information regarding your quest. I don't know what you are trying to achieve with this, but it may be best we go inside and ..."

Harry scoffed -- actually scoffed at his mysterious ancient wizard. "Silence, Mr. Intriguing-Plot-Point! I shouldn't even be talking to you, not any more! I won't be distracted, this ends now, one way or another. Which ending will you be writing, Mr. Not-Quite-Omniscient Author? None of your characters will make me back out of doing what's right! If you write this novel, I will make sure it's an utopia, or I'll ruin it!"

"Harry!" A wide-eyed Dumbledore appeared as if out of nowhere next to Quirrell. "Harry, my dear boy! Stop this madness! This is not what the hero is supposed to -" "You know, Headmaster, I don't blame you for your failures, for not seeing the obvious. That, too was part of the plot. You see," Harry's voice was dripping with condescension. "You weren't supposed to be endowed with enough agency, or to be taken seriously enough, to actually come to the right conclusion, and to cut your own strings. You remain the puppet ... with all due respect."

"Harry Potter. You and I have unfinished business!" Draco Malfoy, his father's spitting image, strut upon the courtyard. Harry didn't even look at him. Draco stared incredulously as Harry looked up at the sky, and continued to shout against the wind. "That must be some sort of movie allusion. Getting desperate, Mr. Author, aren't we? You won't salvage this ending, no matter how hard you contrive to. This show is over, no more diversions. It's time to end this!"

The wind stopped abruptly. Harry turned around, to find the courtyard empty. Only a certain twitch of his eyes betrayed that he had come to a decision, that he was preparing to act. The wand pressed ever harder against his temple, he opened his mouth to speak the final words. Had he overreached with his precommitment? I can only go forward, if I stop, I'm lost.

"Harry, oh Harry." A soft female voice said from behind him.

He knew that voice.

Comment author: bekkerd 19 July 2013 10:29:09AM 7 points [-]
Comment author: Bill_McGrath 20 July 2013 09:25:33AM 11 points [-]

What an ending that would be: Harry uses the Self-Indication Assumption to conclude that he is most probably a character in a Muggle story about magic, then manages to 'blackmail' the author into granting him godhood in order to stop Harry from committing suicide in a literarily unsatisfying fashion, since the author would prefer the former as an ending over the latter.

Am I the only one who thinks that would be a horrible ending?

Comment author: BlindIdiotPoster 21 July 2013 10:03:16AM 5 points [-]


Comment author: JayDee 20 July 2013 10:31:06AM 2 points [-]

Brings to mind the Hunger Games, personally.

Could make a fun Omake?

Comment author: Bill_McGrath 22 July 2013 03:58:05PM 1 point [-]

I've not read the books - don't tell me that Katniss figures out it's a story at the end of the last one?

Comment author: JayDee 23 July 2013 03:08:27AM 3 points [-]

I've only read the first one, where Katniss jvaf gur tnzrf ol guerngravat gb pbzzvg fhvpvqr va n yvgrenevyl hafngvfslvat jnl.

Comment author: Bill_McGrath 23 July 2013 11:01:46AM 1 point [-]

Ah yes; that's roughly what happens in the film. I see what you mean.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 23 July 2013 03:26:02AM 3 points [-]

There's a problem also: if one thinks one is in a story which should get a higher estimate, that one is in a story or that one has had a psychotic break? This seems relevant.

Comment author: Alsadius 20 July 2013 06:58:06PM 3 points [-]

I discussed this on a previous thread. I wasn't a fan

Comment author: David_Gerard 19 July 2013 04:44:09PM 6 points [-]

See, this would work if the fic was trying to steelman Number Of The Beast.

Comment author: CellBioGuy 19 July 2013 02:21:50AM *  6 points [-]

In my version he blows his brains out but not before the narration notes him realizing that the pattern of behavior he represents is reproduced with pretty good fidelity in everyone who has read the story. This includes second degree fanfiction authors in whom he can boot up a whole new universe in reaction to the unsatisfying end of this story...

'Quantum' immortality for literary characters, because anyone can always pop up a fanfiction sequel where they somehow didn't die?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 19 July 2013 08:55:04AM 3 points [-]

Ugh. I hope EY doesn't go "many worlds" with this.

Comment author: Alsadius 20 July 2013 06:58:26PM 4 points [-]

It's a fanfic - I think it's a bit late for that.

Comment author: TobyBartels 19 July 2013 06:56:36AM 7 points [-]

cite HPMOR as an example

Can't, it won't be written for another 20 years

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 19 July 2013 08:40:49AM 5 points [-]

That didn't stop Harry from citing Critch!

Comment author: Gurkenglas 25 July 2013 02:33:53AM 3 points [-]

Eliezer said that citing modern science, like timeless physics, is allowed. Is HPMOR Science?

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 23 July 2013 09:16:05PM 5 points [-]

Oh, I just figured something out:

Voldemort wants to see Harry's science textbooks because based on the prophecy he believes (or at least suspects) that Harry will have the power to destroy even the Pioneer Plaque horcrux, and he needs to figure out how that could possibly be.

Can't believe I didn't get that sooner.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 30 August 2013 03:13:17PM 1 point [-]

He did specify only the textbooks that Harry deemed safe for Draco, presumably keeping with the wizarding model of "the lesser perils."

...but yes, likely so. Couple "if you know what you're going to think in the future and just think it now" with "any technique which is good enough to defeat me once is good enough to learn myself" and he has every reason to want to figure this out pronto. On top of wanting to be Harry's sole source of information, of course.

Comment author: buural 19 July 2013 12:39:44AM 5 points [-]

It is still unclear how horcruxes would fit into the HPMOR universe given the premise that souls do not exist. Here are some thoughts and conjectures revolving around the postulate that horcruxes are complete memory/personality backups:

  1. To recreate one's identity, there has to be more than just replication of memories. There also has to be a way to replicate the 'software' that governs our thought processes. Removing the limitations and shortcuts that our physical brain has in place would undoubtedly remove lots of mental biases (making us hyper-rational) but also raise the question of whether the resulting entity will really be 'us' or just well approximated copies of us (a well explored topic in the transcendent pony fic).

  2. The very possibility of possession (as evidenced in the zombie Quirrell) gives evidence in favor of the possibility to project one's mind outside one's original body and still be able to retain the capacity to not only have semblance of life (a la magical portraits and ghosts), but to also be able to learn new information and retain it (i.e. grow) and interact meaningfully with the environment.

  3. Assuming away the whole issue of whether one's identity can be virtually encapsulated independent of our biological hardware, this would require careful copy control (lest there be multiple versions of you running around, raising the question of which one is the 'real' you, explored comedically in one of robst's fanfics). Is Harry an incomplete horcrux, retaining Voldemort's post-transcendent software (hyper-rationality), but not his memories, i.e. a failure of copy control? (He clearly didn't inherit his rationality from biological parents?)

  4. Magic in potterverse directly interacts with mind. So magic is capable of storing information, including memories, software, etc?

Since Voldemort has already gone through the process, he already knows what's involved.

Comment author: Velorien 19 July 2013 12:54:05AM 8 points [-]

given the premise that souls do not exist

Do you mean that this is the premise of your analysis, or a premise of the HPMOR universe? Because if I understand correctly, all we have to show for the non-existence of souls is Harry's (entirely rational) belief, which may yet be challenged by future observations.

Comment author: buural 19 July 2013 03:45:04AM 4 points [-]

For this post, I meant premise of my analysis. More generally, my priors tell me that is the author's viewpoint of the world, though I wouldn't presume to guess.

Comment author: Qiaochu_Yuan 19 July 2013 08:39:15AM 5 points [-]

Why should the author's viewpoint of the world determine the author's viewpoint of the HPMoR world? Presumably the author also believes that magic does not exist.

Comment author: calef 19 July 2013 07:25:38PM 2 points [-]

Because it seems likely that someone like Eliezer would write a magic system of the sufficiently-advanced-technology-is-indistinguishable-from-magic sense rather than the waves hands-because-magic!-waves hands sense.

Further, if souls existed, Harry would have no reason to want people to not die, which kind of breaks the story (unless I suppose there's some mechanism to kill souls, which I admit would be interesting)

Comment author: Xachariah 19 July 2013 11:44:44PM 7 points [-]

It's not Harry's observations; it's everybody's observations of the world. People don't act like souls exist. If Dumbledore really thought that people just go on to another great adventure when they die, he wouldn't have a bunch of pedestals of broken wands.

Nobody in HPMOR believes in souls or acts like they exist. That's why Harry can decisively conclude that they don't exist.

Comment author: BlindIdiotPoster 21 July 2013 09:44:45AM 4 points [-]

Even if souls exist and everyone knows this, evolution would probably still select for humans who feel grief after their loved ones die.

Comment author: Xachariah 21 July 2013 11:27:09PM 2 points [-]

Your intuitions about evolution and my intuitions must be drastically different.

I can imagine no possible world where human bodies were attached to an immortal decision-making engine, on an evolutionary timescale, where human brain biology still looks practically indistinguishable from all other mammal brain biology and where human grief behavior still corresponds to other mammal grief behavior.

Comment author: BlindIdiotPoster 22 July 2013 11:20:46PM 3 points [-]

My intuition was that since a hypothetical immortal soul doesn't pass on the owner's genes and therefore doesn't contribute to genetic fitness, it should have little if any direct influence on evolutionary incentives.

It's true that an animal that somehow evolved a soul would look drastically different neurologically from a human, but we know empirically that wizards are mostly the same as muggles psychologically/neurologically, so it seems this doesn't happen to be the case. By the way, I agree with Draco's hypothesis that if souls do exist, muggles probably don't have them, since they don't seem to have gotten any other benefits from the magic patch.

I don't consider myself a particularly competent practitioner of counterfactual evopsych, so if you do, and still disagree, I suppose I'll have to update my beliefs.

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 July 2013 12:10:53AM 7 points [-]

Brain size would almost instantly collapse (from consuming 20% of ATP) once cognitive processing was offloaded to the immortal decision-making engine.

Comment author: BlindIdiotPoster 23 July 2013 12:20:29AM 3 points [-]

What I mean by "immortal soul" in this case is just the Source of Magic backing up the brain state of wizards when they die. If the soul were capable of cognitive function independently of the brain then of course you' and Xachariah would be right.

Comment author: Velorien 21 July 2013 02:49:34PM 3 points [-]

it's everybody's observations of the world.

Correction: it is Harry's observations of the general public of the wizarding world, which is far from the same thing.

There are many possible worlds in which a number of powerful wizards know for a fact that souls exist, and live their lives accordingly, but which look exactly the same to Harry.

In fact, it's rather probable that a world in which a minority of wizards are aware that souls really exist would look just like this one. Imagine what it's like to be a member of such a minority trying to spread the truth.

"By the way, souls really exist."

"I know - everyone believes in souls."

"No, I mean it - souls actually, literally, exist. So you shouldn't be too sad when people die, because they're just going somewhere else. And you shouldn't be too sad about your baby being stillborn, because it'll have another chance at happiness in the afterlife. And depending on their circumstances, severely disabled people might be better off comitting suicide so they can move on to a healthy existence faster. And- hey, where are you going?"

I'm not saying any of those are necessarily reasonable conclusions to draw from the existence of souls, but it makes the point. Trying to live like this will automatically put you at odds with the rest of society, who will at best treat you like a crazy minority religious sect. So most soul-aware wizards will probably keep it to themselves, resulting in a world where Harry will be unaware of them.

Comment author: Lambda 21 July 2013 08:22:44PM 4 points [-]

But what about Dumbledore? If there were anyone in such a Soul Sect, I'm pretty sure Dumbledore would be one of them. Wouldn't you agree?

But as "Pretending to be Wise" suggests, and as Dumbledore's room of broken wands makes clear, Dumbledore does not, in fact, behave as if souls are real. Now "perhaps" this is all an elaborate ruse on the part of Dumbledore, and he is just pretending to behave-as-if souls are not real. Regardless of how twisty and deceptive Dumbledore is, this particular deception seems wildly out of character for him.

(Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Dumbledore does not behave as if the afterlife is real. It's quite possible to have souls without an afterlife; perhaps they just get garbage-collected if not attached to the world in some matter (whether it's a person's body, or a horcrux, etc.). In fact, I regard this as a likely enough scenario to be worth thinking about (p = 0.6, say?).)

Comment author: Velorien 21 July 2013 09:39:00PM 2 points [-]

I agree that, if knowing about the afterlife is made likelier by being an experienced and powerful wizard, Dumbledore should be expected to know about the afterlife. However, we have now gone from "it's everybody's observations of the world" to "it's Harry's observations of the general public" to "it's Harry's observations of Dumbledore". In other words, Harry's (and our) evidence base for the lack of an afterlife keeps getting narrower the more we think about it.

In addition, it's worth noting that Dumbledore, for all his virtues, is also great at self-deception and confused thinking (plotting and strategy excepted). There are all manner of circumstances under which Dumbledore would be unaware of the existence of the afterlife - for example, if it led to a conclusion he was unable to accept, all his power and experience might not stop him flinching away.

Comment author: Xachariah 21 July 2013 11:28:28PM 1 point [-]

The people who point this out would be asked "Where's the proof?"

And if they could produce some, everyone would believe. And if they couldn't produce any... well why should they believe it in the first place?

Comment author: BlindIdiotPoster 23 July 2013 12:09:59AM 3 points [-]

That's how the conversation goes if the Soul Evangelist is trying to convert non believer into a believer. All she has to do is point out the existence of ghosts, the veil in the departments of mysteries, or maybe the legends of the resurrection stone. Most people would take this as sufficient evidence.

In the proposed scenario, she is faced with the much more difficult task of converting a believer-in-belief.

Comment author: RolfAndreassen 22 July 2013 10:36:10PM 2 points [-]

Nobody in HPMOR believes in souls or acts like they exist.

Well, ok, but it's also been shown many times that most of the HPMOR cast needs to take several ranks in Knowledge(What The Heck They're Talking About) just to approach the effectiveness of the average level-1 fighter. Harry should not be weighting either their beliefs or their aliefs very strongly as evidence in any direction.

Comment author: atorm 19 July 2013 12:29:41PM 5 points [-]

It seems to me that that belief has already been challenged twice, and Harry is being obtuse in still dismissing them so easily. I am sort of expecting Eliezer to use this as a lesson in updating on evidence. It seems to me Harry is acting like Twilight Sparkle in 'Feeling Pinkie Keen' by refusing to explore the existence of souls more closely.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 19 July 2013 08:47:05AM 4 points [-]

It is still unclear how horcruxes would fit into the HPMOR universe given the premise that souls do not exist.

Given the general transhumanist affinity for "uploading", it seems a lot easier to me.

Also, given all the references to "being in a story", "things working like they would in a story", etc, being in a virtual environment where code can be copied from a to b in a flash seems an obvious idea. McGongall's mind still works in a cat's brain.

Comment author: MugaSofer 29 July 2013 04:24:14PM 2 points [-]

It's been repeatedly stated - by Harry, anyway -that magic works based on how the creator expected it to. Therefore, Horcruxes work as if souls exist.

This may or may not be true, but it does mean HPJV is being a tad foolish in his assumption that they are impossible.

Comment author: Vaniver 20 July 2013 03:55:06PM 2 points [-]

given the premise that souls do not exist.

My suspicion is that this premise is flawed. Harry has already been shown to have one of his premises invalidated by experiment, and from my view the reader has seen enough experimental results to seriously question the premise that souls don't exist (in the HPMORverse).

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 18 July 2013 07:26:02PM 4 points [-]

Another question: can we try to nail down Voldemort's body-management strategy (for lack of a better term)?

I've been assuming that Voldemort possessed Quirrell shortly before the beginning of the Hogwarts school year, and the dark magic he used is only good for about a year before it "uses up" the possessed body in some sense. (Killing it, rendering it an un-possessable vegetable, something like that.)

But after thinking about this hard, I'm not so sure about that. Maybe the degredation in that body's condition is due to being in constant close proximity to Harry Potter, or something. Also, that may not even be Quirrell's body, Quirrell may be long dead and this is just some poor schmuck Voldemort decided he could pass off as Quirrell.

I assume Voldemort has a backup plan, in case his plans for Harry do not come to fruition this year.

Going back in time, what was going on when Voldemort was also, simultaneously, David Munroe? It seems he was planning on using the Munroe persona for many years, so he can't have used the same method he used for the Quirrell-body. What if the Munroe body was his original body, and he was just counting on years of aging to prevent people who knew him as Tom Riddle from recognizing him?

We may safely assume Voldemort used different facial features for Voldemort and Munroe. I don't know if it's been explicitly stated in HPMOR if Voldemort (as Voldemort) was disfigured as he was in canon, but it seems likely. However, I doubt the disfigurement was an unintentional side-effect of dark rituals, as in canon, because Voldemort had no trouble appearing as Munroe. More likely, it was a deliberate choice, to make the villain he set up for himself to defeat as Munroe as evil-looking as possible. One possibility is that this was not a second body, but the same body as the Munroe body, shape-shifted.

I assume what happened on the night of Harry's parents' death went exactly as planned for Voldemort. While Voldemort could have been betting on his ability to resurrect via horcruxes, it's not clear what going there would accomplish. More likely, he either (1) did not die (2) sort of died, but already had a second body ready to go so he wouldn't have to waste time gathering his power to resurrect.

If he had two different bodies for the Voldemort and Munroe identities, it's possible he kept the Munroe body in reserve upon retiring that identity, deliberately disposed of the Voldemort body shortly after or as part of whatever he did to Harry, and then went back to using the Munroe body secretly as he prepared for Stage 2 (to be executed when Harry became old enough to attend Hogwarts.) I wonder if the place he goes when he leaves the Quirrell body is back to the Munroe body.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 19 July 2013 08:58:43AM 10 points [-]

Maybe the degredation in that body's condition is due to being in constant close proximity to Harry Potter, or something.

I thought the clear implication was that Quirrell performed more powerful magics by ritual magic, sacrificing some bit of health with each exertion of power, so that he aged quickly after large exertions.

Comment author: Velorien 19 July 2013 11:06:04AM 2 points [-]

sacrificing some bit of health with each exertion of power, so that he aged quickly after large exertions.

Yet all his uses of powerful magic either have no visible effect on him whatsoever, or cause him to revert to pretty much the same zombielike form for varying periods of time. It's strongly implied that different dark rituals require entirely different kinds of sacrifice.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 July 2013 07:38:04AM 3 points [-]

Yet all his uses of powerful magic either have no visible effect on him whatsoever

I can't remember whether it was after the "war" that stuck people to the roof, or after Bellatrixes rescue, but there was visible aging to Quirrell.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 19 July 2013 06:06:09PM 3 points [-]

Huh, hadn't thought of that. Which raises the disturbing possibility that he uses body-snatching as a way to cheat on the costs of dark rituals. But what do the rituals do that he's been using do, beyond the fiendfyre?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 July 2013 07:55:30AM 5 points [-]

Can't say what exactly Quirrell did, but he seems to be aging quickly. Search for "bald" and you'll find rapid balding in Quirrelll, where early on he may have been balding, to increasing indications of baldness. After Azkaban, as Quirrell recovers in the infirmary, Harry notes:

stared into the pale blue eyes, and thought that Professor
Quirrell looked...
It was subtle, it might have just been Harry’s imagination, it might have been the poor lighting. But the hair above Quirinus Quirrell’s forehead might have receded a bit, what remained might have thinned and greyed, an advancing of the baldness that had already been visible on the back of his head. The face might have grown a little sunken.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 July 2013 07:32:28AM 2 points [-]

Yeah, I think he takes bodies and burns them out, then moves to new ones.

Comment author: taelor 18 July 2013 04:48:01AM *  4 points [-]

You are Muggleborn. I speak not of blood, I speak of how you spent your childhood years. There is a freedom of thought in that, true. But there is also wisdom in the caution of wizardkind. It has been three hundred and twenty-three years since the country of magical Italy was ruined by one man's folly.

I find this interesting, considering that non-magical Italy didn't exist as a unified nation until 1861. It seems odd that the magical political map so closely mirrors the non-magical.

Edit: It seems that Transylvania has its own national Quidditch team seperate from Romania, though this does not neccesarily mean that they are independant -- Scotland, after all, has its own Quidditch team, despite being governed by the Ministry in London

Comment author: bogdanb 18 July 2013 10:31:28AM *  6 points [-]

Well, “Italy” was unified before, in the form of the Roman Empire. The magical sub-section of the world could simply have had very different history than the muggle one. Given that wizard population is so small and concerned with blood lines, it’s a likely hypothesis that they’d form and maintain more-or-less unitary communities bounded by language and the like, even if the muggle societies they’re overlaid on are fragmented into city-states.

Comment author: taelor 19 July 2013 03:57:51PM *  2 points [-]

This hypothesis would predict political unity between US and Canadian Wizards (same language, similar culture, divided by an arbitrary line drawn by muggles as a result of a series of conflicts that wizards probably don't care about). Does anyone remember hearing anything in Rowling!canon or MoR!canon about an independent magical Canada existing?

Edit: on further consideration, what it would actually predict would be unity between US and anglophone Canadian; if I recall my history right, the union of French and English speaking Canadians was also a result of muggle conflicts that wizards wouldn't care about.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 18 July 2013 04:59:44AM *  5 points [-]

I find this interesting, considering that non-magical Italy didn't exist as a unified nation until 1861. It seems odd that the magical political map so closely mirrors the non-magical.

He may be referring to a subarea that was roughly what is modern day Italy. Out of universe what is there's a more likely set of explanations: Transylvania is a natural spooky/magical thing (hence Rowling's decision to include it as separate), and Eliezer doesn't know much history, so things like the unification of Italy aren't on his radar screen.

Comment author: [deleted] 18 July 2013 03:37:04AM 4 points [-]
Comment author: hairyfigment 18 July 2013 07:01:42AM 20 points [-]

The decrease in sense-of-doom does seem like evidence for this. However:

Whatever my one vulnerability is, I will fake a different one. For example, ordering all mirrors removed from the palace, screaming and flinching whenever someone accidentally holds up a mirror, etc. In the climax when the hero whips out a mirror and thrusts it at my face, my reaction will be "Hmm...I think I need a shave."

Comment author: fractalman 19 July 2013 02:36:06PM 2 points [-]

The other thing is, quirrel...is passed out. remember the azkaban fight? it decreased a bit when quirrel passed out.

it is, at best, rather weak evidence for a truly fundamental change in Quirrelmort's view. enough to tip the scale over the 50% mark? maybe.

Comment author: DanielH 24 July 2013 02:49:50AM *  2 points [-]

I recently started yet another re-read of HPMoR, and noticed something I don't think has been discussed before.

In chapter 1, Petunia is talking about Lily making her pretty (which I believe she did using a potion of eagle's splendor with the blueberries replaced by Thestral blood), and says

And Lily would tell me no, and make up the most ridiculous excuses, like the world would end if she were nice to her sister, or a centaur told her not to - the most ridiculous things, and I hated her for it.

I used to think that Lily just wanted to protect Petunia from the danger and possibly other reasons. However, after hearing the prophesy in Chapter 89, I'm updating in favor of Lily telling the truth as she understood it. Centaurs are, after all, great at divination, especially astrology (tangent: I've never understood how that can be used for predicting the future on Earth, because it seems like anybody for the last several hundred years could have then, in a vague way, predicted the entire course of human history at least until the Space Age) and may be able to see this coming. Usually astrology isn't the precise, at least not in canon HP, but when it predicts the destruction of the "very stars in heaven", it may be more precise (and the centaurs may care more).

Comment author: JoshuaZ 24 July 2013 02:59:31AM 2 points [-]

Yes, this has been pointed out. Even more worrisome, how Lily treated Petunia is apparently the main divergence point between HPMOR and canon.

Comment author: elharo 23 July 2013 12:30:41PM 2 points [-]

Something I don't think anyone has commented on yet: exactly why is Harry in the permitted forest in Chapter 95? What is he looking for? This Harry has not previously shown a tendency to wander off into nature for peaceful relaxation. He's more of a library sort of guy, if he wants a place to quietly think and consider.

Comment author: gwern 23 July 2013 09:22:37PM 3 points [-]

He's more of a library sort of guy, if he wants a place to quietly think and consider.

Too closely linked to Hermione?

Comment author: gthorneiii 23 July 2013 04:15:07PM 2 points [-]

Perhaps, but the forest offers better isolation if he's more concerned about being disrupted from his thoughts.

Comment author: ChristianKl 23 July 2013 06:32:47PM 1 point [-]

Especially, why does Quirrell know that he's in the forest?

Comment author: [deleted] 23 July 2013 06:43:57PM 9 points [-]

Triangulation via sense of doom.

Comment author: shminux 23 July 2013 07:12:58PM *  6 points [-]

Only works if Quirrell knows where to start looking to begin with. Actually, it is fun to speculate on whether this sense of doom obeys the inverse squared law or something else. Options:

  1. there is a conserved "doom charge" which repels another one like it: you get inverse squared for the force of repulsion.

  2. there is a "doom radiation" affecting a "doom detector": simple inverse for the discomfort level. Something like a "doom magic" source.

  3. Quirrell has a doom charge and Harry is a doom dipole: this would be 1/r^3, but it does not really work since the sense of doom is not directional

  4. Quirrell has a doom charge and Harry gets a "doom induction", forming a doom dipole whose strength depends on Quirrell's doom field strength: 1/r^4. This breaks the symmetry between the two, however.

  5. Both H and Q get doom induction from each other: 1/r^6. This is way too steep to fit the experimental data, as it would feel more like a "doom wall".

  6. There is a dissipating doom charge (because the doom charge carrier "doomon" is massive, or because of the ambient magic vacuum polarization): exponential (Yukawa) decay.

1 or 2 are probably the only likely options, with 2 less likely, both because of the need for the doom source and because simple inverse decays too slowly to fit the description.

Comment author: TrE 24 July 2013 08:31:00AM *  9 points [-]

That would be (I find this kind of funny).

Comment author: Jost 25 July 2013 11:28:33AM 1 point [-]

… and thus were postulated the Maxwell-TrE-equations of Doomodynamics.

Comment author: gjm 24 July 2013 04:28:58AM 7 points [-]

Kinda OT: Your having posted the above, plus being an LWer, makes it very likely you would enjoy Yvain's post on Newtonian ethics (but also that you've read it already).

Comment author: ygert 25 July 2013 03:40:06AM 1 point [-]

And also Blessed Are The Taxonomers, For Theirs Is The Phylum Of God, and well, a lot of stuff that he wrote. He has written multiple posts in this style, and they are uniformly excellent.

Comment author: gjm 25 July 2013 04:12:52AM 1 point [-]

Yes indeed, but the "Newtonian ethics" one seemed particularly apposite here.

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 July 2013 07:19:58PM 2 points [-]

I must try to work ‘magic vacuum polarization’ into conversation.

Comment author: Sheaman3773 30 August 2013 03:32:02PM 1 point [-]

I was going to say that it appears that their connection is not symmetrical, because Quirrell was able to track down Harry during the troll event. Further research seemed to reduce this likelihood, however.

Quirrell started burning through the substance of Hogwarts once he realized that Harry had found the troll. He didn't know that the two had met until he read Harry's emotions. That he did not realize that they were getting closer before means that he wasn't tracking both the troll and Harry. I was going to say that it appears clear that Quirrell was tracking Harry (almost certainly via link), because he is not fool enough to leave his magic on his weapon, but not only did he strengthen the troll (and thus must have a method of covering his tracks) but also there is this:

The Defense Professor had felt the boy's horror, through the link that existed between the two of them, the resonance in their magic; and he had realized that the boy had sought the troll and found it.

That does not seem to imply that he could feel Harry zipping all over the place, because I would expect Quirrell, being able to read Harry's emotions in the Great Hall and since, to correctly deduce where Harry was going if he started moving in a hurry. That implies that what he was tracking was indeed the troll, and so reduces the likelihood that he could track Harry with the link.

Though it is still clear that the resonance is not wholly symmetrical, as Harry lacks the emotion-reading aspect.

If he does get even a vague sense of doom at large distances, then he could have triangulated regardless, first with the second set of emotions that would have popped up an hour ago, then with the current ones from a different starting location.

Comment author: Vaniver 18 July 2013 05:22:26AM *  2 points [-]

Hmmm. So, I suspect that Quirrelmort is back to regular Quirrel, though whether that is temporary or permanent remains to be seen. (Rereading it, from the dialogue it looks temporary.)

Comment author: ialdabaoth 19 July 2013 01:03:03AM 3 points [-]

On the 'starfield' spell:

Are we seeing the stars from the perspective of the Voyager probe?

Comment author: Lambda 21 July 2013 09:02:13PM 6 points [-]

I often get this confused, but isn't it supposed to be the Pioneer probe?

Comment author: JoshuaZ 19 July 2013 01:23:52AM 6 points [-]

This is a common speculation.

Comment author: ialdabaoth 19 July 2013 01:41:49AM 4 points [-]

I'm getting that another common speculation is that HPMOR!Voldemort has to 'synchronize' himself to all of his Horcruxes.

If so, what are the chances that part of the motivation of drawing Harry into the spell, is that he can synchronize himself to the plaque and Harry at the same time?

Comment author: DaveX 19 July 2013 05:43:14PM 6 points [-]

Incremental synchronizations are interesting -- if Horcruxes can get out of sync, then the "soul" recovered from each may develop conflicting objectives.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 18 July 2013 09:57:37PM 3 points [-]

But the fallen figure flinched away from Harry, and then slowly began crawl to away from him, in the general direction of the distant castle.

"Don't turn into a giant snake. That never helps."

Typo: "to away from him". (Same typo at hpmor.com and fanfiction.net.)

Comment author: Velorien 19 July 2013 12:29:48AM 9 points [-]

"Don't turn into a giant snake. That never helps."

Haven't we already had Quirrell all but explicitly invert this? He's admitted to reading the Evil Overlord List, and his comment on the Animagus transformation is "all sensible people do, if can. Thus very rare."

Comment author: fractalman 20 July 2013 10:38:35PM 3 points [-]

"become animagus" is a bit more general than "turn into a giant snake". The original evil-overloard rule is about how turning into a snake lets the hero kill you without losing alignment points, which is why it's such a bad idea.

that ISN'T what quirrel does. He uses it to slip into harry's pouch instead and reduce the sense of doom. much smarter than Jafar.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 25 July 2013 02:34:18AM *  2 points [-]

Chapter 96 spoilers (it's out; please read): The graveyard made me remember how canon implied that Voldemort was a descendant of the Peverelles as well, and how there was Peverelle tombstone there... I had a "Oh crap... no, this is the end of this arc; EY wouldn't have Voldemort show up there to use Peverelle bones in this chapter... right? I mean, there was supposed to be padding before the next arc..."

I couldn't help but wonder what Harry would think if he found out that inscription was also in the Bible (I forget which book; one of the apissles?)

(ETA: 1corenthians15:26.)

Comment author: [deleted] 25 July 2013 02:49:31AM 1 point [-]

That part of 1 Corinthians is a prophecy, not a call to action.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 25 July 2013 02:58:19AM 3 points [-]

This is quite true (the action that Paul's writings seem to call for are "turn to Christ; be nice to each other; don't be afraid if people try to torture and murder you for joining our cult, because our founder resurrected and promised he'd bring us back if we die before he's done with his work in Heaven". While Paul comes across as way more antideathist than modern Christians, it is abundantly clear he meant it differently from the Peverelles. (Did canon give a time period for the Peverelles? I got the impression they predate the founders of Hogwarts, but I don't recall anything more specific. Presumably, they would have been familiar with Christian memes in any case, so somewhere down the line, verses that would fit their mission without setting off Muggle heracy detectors became the family's choice for epitaphs.)

Comment author: TobyBartels 25 July 2013 07:30:41PM 1 point [-]

Did canon give a time period for the Peverells [sp]?

The HP Wikia makes them 13th century, citing a gravestone from the film (although I cannot read the dates in the film still on their site). Since they cite the film instead of the book, the book probably doesn't say (although it might have just said something less precise than the full dates that Wikia gives).

Hogwarts was founded about 1000 years before the events of the series, so apparently a few centuries before the Peverells.

Comment author: pangel 18 July 2013 05:52:52AM 2 points [-]

So MoR might be a meta-fantasy of the wizarding world as The Sword of Good is a meta-fantasy of the muggle world. Or at least, MoR!Harry might make the same impression to a wizard reading one fic as Hirou does to a muggle reading the other.

Although my instinct is still that Harry fails at the end.

Comment author: DanArmak 18 July 2013 07:16:22PM 7 points [-]

Although my instinct is still that Harry fails at the end.

As long as he's alive, he'll keep trying, so either he dies, or he succeeds, or something very unexpected happens. Otherwise there will be no closure to the story.

Comment author: GuySrinivasan 21 July 2013 12:35:14AM 1 point [-]

Did I miss something, or do we still have very little idea about what the word substitution in Snape's remembrance of the prophecy means?

And Severus Snape drew a breath, and intoned, "FOR THOSE TWO DIFFERENT SPELLETS CANNOT EXIST IN THE SAME VULD."


She couldn't imitate the deep, chilling tone of the original prophecy; and yet somehow that tone seemed to carry all the meaning. "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies..."

"And the Dark Lord shall mark him as his equal," came Severus's voice, making her jump within her chair. The Potions Master loomed tall by the fireplace. "But he shall have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must destroy all but a remnant of the other, for those two different spirits cannot exist in the same world."

That last line Severus spoke with so much foreboding that it chilled her bones; it was almost like listening to Sybill Trelawney.

Comment author: knb 21 July 2013 02:06:59AM *  6 points [-]

It's an impersonation of an accent (maybe Eastern European?) Spellets = spirits, Vuld = world.

Comment author: Kindly 21 July 2013 01:10:05AM 5 points [-]

I thought "SPELLETS" and "VULD" are just Seer-y ways of saying "spirits" and "world" respectively.

Comment author: elharo 21 July 2013 06:12:16PM 3 points [-]

I thought Severus didn't want to repeat the real prophecy to a random student, so he substituted in some nonsense words, while attempting to keep the tone, meter, and rhythm in place.

Comment author: DanielH 24 July 2013 02:54:18AM 1 point [-]

I thought approximately the same thing, but along the lines of wanting the student to focus on the tone, meter, and rhythm (which apparently carry much of the meaning) so taking away the meaning of the actual words to remove distractions.

Comment author: Kindly 21 July 2013 10:49:28PM 1 point [-]

I want to like this theory, but I'm not sure that the nonsense words sufficiently obscure the real prophecy. For example, if Voldemort tracked down the student, somehow reversed her Obliviation (if necessary), and then used Legilimency to find out the wording (if it turns out that Voldemort doesn't know this part?) then I'm pretty sure Voldemort would be able to reconstruct the original words.

For that matter, we are also told that "only someone who heard the prophecy in the seer's original voice would hear all the meaning that was in the riddle." Therefore what Voldemort would actually be interested in, given access to all of Rianne's memories, is Snape's own interpretation of the prophecy, or even any hints at it.

Comment author: DanArmak 22 July 2013 09:47:36AM 4 points [-]

Therefore what Voldemort would actually be interested in, given access to all of Rianne's memories, is Snape's own interpretation of the prophecy, or even any hints at it.

But didn't Voldemort already get that when he Legilimized Snape, when Snape originally told him the prophecy?

Comment author: Atelos 23 July 2013 03:38:53AM 2 points [-]

He got 1980ish!Snape's interpretation/thoughts, 1991!Snape presumably has new ones.

Comment author: Michelle_Z 18 July 2013 04:32:12AM 1 point [-]

The man sitting on the grass fell over, his head impacting the ground with a light thud. At the same time the sense of doom diminished so sharply that Harry leapt to his feet, his heart suddenly in his throat.

Doesn't look too good for Quirrell.

Comment author: Macaulay 18 July 2013 05:20:32AM *  11 points [-]

We are nearing the end of the school year, after all.

Edit for clarity: referring to the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position.

Comment author: buybuydandavis 20 July 2013 10:37:48PM 0 points [-]

Foreshadowing patrol.


Even so, the most terrible ritual known to me demands only a rope which has hanged a man and a sword which has slain a woman; and that for a ritual which promised to summon Death itself—though what is truly meant by that I do not know and do not care to discover, since it was also said that the counterspell to dismiss Death had been lost.

Since Harry wants to defeat Death, and has a glowy counterspell to destroy him, he'd have some use for this.

Strangely enough, Harry:

or Hermione Granger’s robes, which can be torn into strips and tied into a rope and used to hang someone,

If this bit of obscure bit foreshadowing comes true, I update for the probability of Harry living in some simulation or story to 1.

Comment author: Benquo 22 July 2013 03:35:30AM 1 point [-]

Nah, there are already enough dementors around.

Comment author: BlindIdiotPoster 23 July 2013 10:18:25AM 2 points [-]

The probability of Harry living in a story is already 1.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 23 July 2013 10:33:25AM 1 point [-]

1-epsilon: Perhaps Harry winds up simulating this world and beaming the ideas for HPMoR to Eliezer to see how people react, or perhaps Eliezer is really Harry James Potter Evans Verres with polyjuice and lots of memory charms, or some other highly unlikely possibility that could make it less than 1.

All of which is to say that the probability that Harry is living in a story is ~1, given the evidence available to us.

Comment author: BlindIdiotPoster 23 July 2013 11:00:01AM 2 points [-]

I was assuming the -elipson part just went without saying. Of course you're right.

Comment author: Benquo 23 July 2013 12:12:35PM 1 point [-]

I don't understand how that's a reply to my comment.

By far the most likely explanation for this passage is the Quirrel is describing the ritual to summon a dementor, and Harry rediscovers the counterspell. So the hinted-at event has already happened.

Comment author: Kindly 23 July 2013 12:16:01PM 1 point [-]

That wouldn't be a hinted-at event, since that passage occurs way after the Patronus chapters. It would be... aftershadowing?

Comment author: CAE_Jones 18 July 2013 03:59:45AM -2 points [-]

I started typing a comment on Eliezer's Facebook post about people not believing in their future selves, and was hartily distracted, and it turned into an HPMoR comment, so instead, I'm posting it here.

I don't expect to like future me. I don't expect future me to be all that happy in general. If I could... well, I just got distracted by "have a genie" turning into "have a first year god spell" turning into "ROOT!" turning into "Wait, Harry knows the sorting hat was willing to tell him secrets of its creation, and now he knows how to summon it... would he memorize the spell / believe it a reasonable thing to use the hat for given how their last conversation went?" ... Future me is probably going to be annoyed at present me for getting distracted from the problem of making his existence more desirable by an eight hundred year old hat. I fail at commenting forever, apparently.

Comment author: atorm 18 July 2013 05:23:45PM 3 points [-]

Didn't the Hat demand never to be put on Harry again?

Comment author: CAE_Jones 18 July 2013 05:27:54PM 2 points [-]

That sounds right. Also, the hat observed that Harry is highly unlikely to consider it ethical to risk providing the hat with self awareness again, which is to say, he'd probably be reluctant to try it before exhausting other avenues first.

Comment author: ikrase 18 July 2013 06:10:14PM 3 points [-]

Harry has changed a lot though, and is potentially more brutally consequentialist.

Comment author: CAE_Jones 18 July 2013 01:57:35PM 1 point [-]

Judging by the downvotes, the last sentence was indeed correct.

Absurd stylings aside, I do wonder if the sorting hat doesn't have the ability to circumvent the interdict of Merlin, and whether or not Harry's exposure to the spell Fred Weasley used to summon it is sufficient that he could replicate it and ask it for those secrets he missed out on in chapter 10. He did ask Dumbledore about the sword (and the heir of Gryffendore and such), so I'm not sure if this falls into the category of resources he hasn't considered, or resources he has decided not worth pursuing.

Comment author: Mithrilian 18 July 2013 01:41:23PM 0 points [-]

Ok, my head hurts, what is going on with Quirrell?

  1. Where is the real owner of Quirrell's body? I mean his personality.
  2. Who is the Defense Professor? One would think Voldemort, but what is this David Monroe business then? And was the person who "returned from Albania" a real David Monroe? Or could it be just another mask of Voldemort (himself his own spy, why not?)
  3. The body of QQ is destned to die. Is the time of his inhabitant also up? I doubt it.
Comment author: Intrism 18 July 2013 02:10:01PM *  14 points [-]
  1. The real Quirinus Quirrell was most likely lobotomized long ago, to become the Defense Professor's "zombie mode."
  2. The going theory is that Monroe and Voldemort were the same person, and that the real Monroe did not return from Albania. Usually, this is because the Defense Professor wanted to manipulate Wizarding Britain to concentrate power in the Ministry, and then put himself at the head of it.
  3. I strongly doubt that the Defense Professor intends to die with his body. The real Quirinus Quirrell, however, probably will.
Comment author: Kindly 18 July 2013 01:52:15PM 12 points [-]

We have been prepared for the idea that Quirrell has any number of identities, multiple times.

Chapter 59:

"How many different people are you, anyway?"

The pale man lying on the ground didn't laugh, but from the broomstick Harry's eyes saw the sides of Professor Quirrell's lips curling up, the edge of that familiar sardonic smile. "I cannot say that I bothered keeping count. How many are you?"

Chapter 86:

"There's Dark Wizards that have one name. There's Dark Wizards that have two names. And there's Dark Wizards that change names like you and I change clothes."

Comment author: Mithrilian 18 July 2013 08:08:58PM *  2 points [-]

I am all for the different masks, but that when a person makes many people out of himself. Here we have Tom Riddle who is definitely was born and David Monroe who was born(*), and Q.Q. who was born, and Harry's teacher could be only one of those three (or someone else entirely), but not the three at once.

(*)I mean a boy, a baby, not the "returned from Albania" one.

Comment author: ChrisHallquist 18 July 2013 08:15:55AM *  0 points [-]

On Voldemort's plan:

I'm surprised. Why does he want Harry to show him his books? He could have read those books without Harry's help. Is he afraid that if he studied muggle science without a guide, he'd be at too great a risk of accidentally destroying the world? Or is he hoping that Harry will tip his hand regarding the power Voldemort knows not?

Edit: it's also possible this is a fake out and just one more step in the process of manipulating Harry into something.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 18 July 2013 08:26:33AM 10 points [-]

He might be afraid that he'd waste a lot of time if he doesn't have a guide to at least point him at the good stuff.

Comment author: linkhyrule5 18 July 2013 09:04:06AM 6 points [-]

Also, brilliant he may be, but there's a limit to how fast you can learn without a teacher.

Remember that story about the dojo? Quirrell isn't too proud to learn.

Comment author: gthorneiii 18 July 2013 03:06:02PM 2 points [-]

Or rather, he simply want to know what Harry knows so he can produce an even better model of Harry and improve his influence over him.

Comment author: elharo 18 July 2013 10:28:53AM *  25 points [-]

Quirrell wants to know what Harry's plans are. The books Harry is reading and/or familiar with help Quirrell understand what Harry is thinking or likely to try.

Comment author: bogdanb 18 July 2013 10:52:22PM 4 points [-]

I think he just wants to keep himself in the loop. (Which is probably the same reason he offered to teach him any spell he can.)

If he refuses to help, Harry will just do everything in secret, which is dangerous. Quirell probably reasons that his best chance of exerting influence is to be near, preferably a part of, Harry’s plans.

Comment author: linkhyrule5 07 August 2013 10:43:40PM 1 point [-]

So, something from the sub-Reddit:

EY: If you throw a Transfigured object and de-Transfigure it, it continues moving at exactly the same velocity, regardless of momentum and kinetic energy. There are at least two good reasons for this, one of which is that, even in MoR, Special Relativity is simply the way reality is; you can add laws that violate conservation of momentum and even conservation of energy (though the latter requires the insanity of single-world QM, but then so does the Time-Turner), but in a Minkowskian universe the idea of a privileged frame of reference is too incoherent even for magic. The other reason is that if you didn't know about conservation of momentum or energy, of course you'd expect the object to continue with the same velocity.

My limited physics knowledge is failing me. Assuming that you stick with relativistic velocity transformations, why is conserving momentum problematic?