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Professor Wright
Time to extend your minds, Advanced class.
Wed Aug 15, 2018 15:30
40.132.221.111

Before he had come to work at Sonora, Gray had thought of his degree as useless to his real interests in life. It had simply been a thing he had acquired to please his parents, one fragment of the set of complex, unspoken bargains which formed the outlines of their relationship of mutual affection and just as mutual lack of understanding. When he had lost his network contract (something which still baffled and annoyed him – he had been head writer of two programs in his day, had won awards, even – what more could they have wanted, him to hand in scripts where he used his own blood as ink, and never mind that he did not think blood would really make a terribly good ink with all the clotting and attracting flies and whatnot?), he had more or less come to see his degree in a different light – as a symbol of failure. He had tried to prove that life needn’t be endless drudgery at make-work, had failed, and had ended up just like his father after all – nobody in particular, plodding along, first trying to play the private tutor and now the schoolmaster. Then last year had happened, when they had been under quarantine for what had seemed like forever –

Well, something had had to give, and he just counted himself lucky that it had not done so – badly. Instead, the quarantine – at least for those of them who had already been ill – had lifted before that, and then over the summer, being forced to write instead of being forced not to, he had been able to really think about what he did now. For one thing, school life had its own rhythms, its own symbology, and its own morals – both from the point of view of the teacher and the student. For another thing, there was his actual subject, which he of necessity knew better now than he probably had when he’d sat his exams in it. There were a wealth of ways in which theory could be mined for metaphor, and he had started working on one before the school year had begun – which had allowed it to flow freely into lesson planning, with lesson planning flowing back into the work, until, for the moment, he felt fairly balanced.

“Good afternoon,” he said to the Advanced class, just after two-fifteen on a Monday. He felt some sympathy for them – thought he would of necessity be at work for several hours more, holding office hours and marking papers, after the Advanced class left, this was his last structured class of the day, and it would be over at three. After that – well, it would be quite late before he could give himself up to whatever pursuit happened to catch his mind, but he could scratch a line here and there between actual work if he was careful, along with doing some staring off into space, unless it was truly a difficult day and fifteen people required help at once. “Welcome to your second week of Advanced Charms for this year.”

They had spent the first few days in hard but fairly mentally undemanding labor, mostly focused around getting a grip on basic non-verbal spellcasting. Now that he felt sure they were back on form, the real work was going to start.

“Generally, before now,” continued Gray, “Charms is a subject where you’ve dealt with material objects. You’ve mostly directly altered the features or function of things you could see and touch – we’re talking here about colors, sizes, position in space, density and weight. In Advanced Charms, thought, more and more of our focus is going to move to abstract objects. Anyone care to offer some hypotheses – or prior knowledge – about what that means?”

Gray took a few comments before taking the floor back. “Good, everyone, thank you,” he said. “The charms I’m talking about here are those which operate in increasingly invisible ways – at the highest level, or at least the highest level we’ll cover in this class – and will cover only in theory in this class – this involves spells like the Fidelius Charm and the binding spell for an Unbreakable Vow. Spells which are entirely based around an absence. A little more practical – something you may all encounter in your adult lives – are magically binding contracts. These interact in curious ways across time and space – any guesses what the common factor between them is?” He nodded when he got an answer. “Right, relationships,” he said. “The spell, for lack of a simpler term, knows the status of the relationship between persons in these advanced examples – one of the great debates in theoretical charms is if this magic comes from within persons or is an external tie around them. One thing almost everyone – “ there always had to be a dissenter in every field; Gray suspected some of them of doing it deliberately, Socrates-like, to keep everyone else honest – “agrees on, though, is that all charms are based on relationships of some kind.”

He waved his wand toward the blackboard and diagrams began to draw themselves. “The most ancient charms worked on the understanding that it was necessary to balance classical elements – balances of earth, water, fire, air. Alchemy – the Great Science – attempts to synthesize the core magical disciplines of Charms, Potions, and Transfiguration. The simplest levitation charm involves a balance of forces between the wizard, the earth, the object, and the air – if any of you pursue Charms further than your RATS, that will be one of the first things you study, actually, if things haven’t changed too much,” he said offhandedly. He had rather liked that, as he recalled – going back to the bottom, going higher by going deeper into what one already thought one knew. “Today, however, we’re going to begin our study with physical objects, with the undetectable extension charm.

“You all know how to enlarge or shrink an object to size,” he observed, “either through Charms or with some biological cases, potions. But in this spell, you make an object – essentially – larger on the inside. Sometimes impressively so.” Gray flicked his wand and levitated a small fabric box onto his desk. It was small enough to fit into one of his pockets. He opened it and began removing odds and ends: his teacher’s edition of the textbook, a cauldron, his lapdesk, and a lamp. All were visibly larger than the box; no one should have fit inside it, never mind all. “If I really wanted, I could fit that bookcase in here,” he informed them, pointing to a bookcase to indicate. “You won’t start out doing that. Instead, you’re just going to take little boxes like these and work your way up, by the end of the week at least, to putting your textbooks inside them.”

Having issued this challenge, he supposed he really ought to offer some pointers on how to get there. “The key understanding to start out with is that space and time are not, at this level, things you treat as separate things,” he instructed them. “Nor are they things that run in straight lines. The usual model…here we are.” He flicked his wand to light the candle which provided the light source for his projector and put up the first slide.



"This represents the movement of the Earth around the Sun throughout the year," he explained. "You see from the curving line connecting the Earth-dots how the Earth is moving through space-time. Now there, they're represented as points on an axis - a second model, maybe more helpful for what you're going to be doing, is this." He put up the next picture.



"Here, space-time is the grid, and it's distorted by massive bodies - here, that's being represented by those spheres," explained Gray. "Essentially, you're doing something similar, on a very small scale, inside your box." The theory could get much more complicated, but for the purposes of RATS and a first lesson, that would do. "The tricky part is simultaneously sustaining the shape of the box - managing the way gravity works on its exterior so that its interior can hold your textbook while the box maintains all its own properties - including how easy it is for you to move it right now - while the space within it is distorted to much larger dimensions.

"To cast it, you'll have a two-step process - two broad circles around the box, first clockwise and then counterclockwise, with your wand while you begin the incantation, forasiempra, and then a sharp flick and tap to the inside with your second half, intraugeundo. If it doesn't explode right away, you're doing well," he added cheerfully. "I'll be very surprised if everyone doesn't have at least one explosion - at least in terms of the exterior blowing apart, if not actual fire - or implosion or other disaster before you get the hang of it, which is why I don't recommend trying to put your book into it without flame-retardant charms and after you've already observed the box remain changed and stable for at least five minutes.

"For homework, you're going to read the next chapter of your textbook, which goes into more detail, and do the problems at the end of it - I warn you, there is math involved. And graphing. You can take some time to begin reading now if you prefer, or come get a box and start working on the practical lesson." One of the perks of the Advanced class was that they were supposed to take less direction from him by definition - though it was hardly restful today, when he was blithely asking them to almost certainly blow stuff up.

OOC: My thanks to the European Space Agency and the University of Pittsburgh for the images. My apologies to all of you (unless you like this sort of thing) for the images. If you, too, feel like diving into science and trying to incorporate it into your post, this is an excellent way to increase the number of points you receive, but the only rule is that all posts adhere to the site rules, as always. Have fun!

    • It works because it doesKyte Collindale, Pecari, Sat Sep 1 19:34
      Kyte initially thought he had made a mistake when he sat down in Charms and Professor Wright started talking, and then just kept talking, and talked some more and then there were even slides. It... more
      • Re: It works because it doesZevalyn Ives, Aladren, Wed Sep 12 09:25
        Given that she had made it through muggle middle school and therefore actually had a solid background in science, Zevalyn felt she had a better chance of understanding Professor Wright than most of... more
    • Breaking physicsJozua Sparks, Teppenpaw, Thu Aug 16 09:50
      As a general rule, Jozua liked charms. It wasn’t his favorite or best class and he’d only gotten an E on his CATS, which his mom had frowned at him about, but mostly Charms was a good solid reliable... more
      • Breaking physics may break my brain.Joe Umland, Teppenpaw, Mon Aug 20 10:56
        I am a bad friend, thought Joe, mere seconds after Professor Wright mentioned that fire was a decidedly likely outcome of their early attempts at undetectable extension charms. This was not a thought ... more
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