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May 10 2006

Physics of the Buffyverse. A science writer goes indepth on what scientific principles the Hellmouth relies on to keep things smooth.

In the tradition of Lawrence Krauss’s bestselling The Physics of Star Trek, The Physics of the Buffyverse uses the characters, concepts and plot lines of two popular television series—Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its successful spinoff, Angel—to illustrate a wide range of fundamental concepts in the physical sciences: everything from sound, electricity, materials science, and thermodynamics, to concepts of time (and time travel), wormholes, black holes, and string theory

I cannot wait to find out whether or not it was the Pauli Exclusion Principle (as I suspected) that prevents there from being only one slayer and that it was the Bose-Einstein condensate that allowed for Faith and the others to co-exist without....oh well, maybe it's just me who is all excited.

Yay! For someone writing this book. Great link.

Having said that, I will admit here in front of God and everybody that I will never read it. I don't do physics. Heck, I barely do math.
Oh that looks fun!
From the blurb: "Is Miss Kitty Fantastico alive, dead, or both at the same time after that unfortunate crossbow accident?"

I love when people slip in Shroedenger's cat references when they're actually talking about cats. Oh yeah, and being an engineer and therefore having an expensive piece of paper that proves I'm a geek, I'll be reading this one.
I think she's definitely both, nobody seems to have opened the box that they've been keeping her in.
Me neither, cronopio, but if there's anything that'll get me to do physics, it's the possibility of finding out the truth about Miss Kitty Fantastico's fate!
If the Buffyverse book sells well, perhaps we can convince her to do the same for the Firefly 'Verse.
I think she's definitely both, nobody seems to have opened the box that they've been keeping her in.

That's because it's now buried under about 3 million tons of Sunnydale ;).

Anything that gets people reading about physics is a good thing IMO (especially people that ordinarily might not) and this might make a nice jumping off point into the subject. However, Buffy has about as much to do with science as, err, something that doesn't have much to do with science. Magic, by its nature, is arbitrary and doesn't have to adhere to the laws of physics.

Firefly's slightly better but not much, in line with Joss' emphasis on emotional truth rather than the actual kind and if you ask me, both series are all the better for it.
Everyone knows MKF simply ran off after being scared by the crossbow going off ;-) MKFlivesOn! LoL
Maybe Larry took her in as a stray to help with his recovery from the broken back he sustained after surviving Graduation Day ;).
Saje said:

Magic, by its nature, is arbitrary and doesn't have to adhere to the laws of physics.

Well, that depends on the writer and how they decide to use magic. Obviously it can be, and commonly is arbitrary, but not always. For example, in the Belgariad series (or one of the associated books) there is mention of one of the sorcerors using their power to lift a huge rock which had an equal and opposite reaction of pushing them into the soft ground. Sartan and Patryn magic in the death gate cycle also has basis in theoretical physicsy stuff based on principles of multiple possible universes where all outcomes are played out.
Ah, interesting eviltobz. A loooong time ago I remember a friend saying they were reading a series of books wherein the magic had to be used judiciously and had real physical (and more importantly consistent) consequences and I wonder if they were talking about one of the series you mention. At the time i'd given as one of the reasons for my dislike of fantasy the deus ex-ish quality of the way magic is sometimes used (which, in fairness, can't really be said of the Buffyverse since there were always real emotional consequences even if there were no phyiscal ones).

The scene you mention with the rock and soft ground sounds good since, presumably, if the ground wasn't soft, the wizard couldn't have used the spell as his bones would have been crushed by the figurative 'weight'. Those sorts of external limitations on the protagonist's abilities are, to me, one of the things that separates fantasy from science-fiction (and, for me personally, usually makes sci-fi more interesting).
The only time I had a major problem with how magic was used in the Buffyverse was in Smashed when Willow and Amy are in the Bronze just doing whatever they want with a quick hand gesture. Didn't really seem to fit with how magic had been used in the past and just seemed too easy to, for example, transmogrify an entire band. On of the very rare occasions where the fantastical took me out of the story.

Strangly I seem to have much less trouble buying ridiculous things on paper than on the screen. If I read about a warrior taking on 10 others in a book it doesn't give me pause at all, but watching it in a film or tv show just seems a bit harder to swallow. (Though is the film/show is good then it doesn't bother me as much.)
Hehe...I was going to do a thing in my physics class next year using the Physics of Star Trek book but held off for fear of exposing myself as a Trekie. ^_^ Now, I don't have to worry. I can just do a project on the physics of Buffy!
Well, if Miss Kitty Fantastico is still alive, I do wish she'd write. Or call.

Sigh. What's a mother to do?
Maybe it's just me, but I have trouble believing the writers were consciously attempting to incorporate the laws of physics into the storylines of the Buffy episodes. Or maybe it's just a spell ;)

I'm always impressed at the lengths people are willing to go to make a buck, and a book explaining physics using the Buffyverse seems pretty darn impressive. But if it helps teach physics ,and at the same time keeps the 'magic' of the verse alive, it can only be of the good.

Saje said:
Magic, by its nature, is arbitrary and doesn't have to adhere to the laws of physics.

But as Spike reminds us in "the Afterlife", "That's the thing about magic, there's always consequences. Always!"
Ughh. This book was okay when it first came out, I think it was called "The Physics of Star Wars", then we had "The Physics of the X-Files", "The Physics of Harry Potter" and so on and so forth. Its all the same basic concepts, which absolutely should not be applied to entirely fantastical realms such as HP and Buffy.
Everyone knows MKF simply ran off after being scared by the crossbow going off ;-) MKFlivesOn! LoL
TaraLivesOn | May 10, 12:10 CET

I agree the assumption of the death of Miss Kitty is highly premature. I believe that the unfortunte incident of the crossbow involved her triggering it and sending an arrow through one of Joyce's antique vases, much as Kendra smashed a lamp in the library in her first appearance. After which Miss Kitty was sent off to live with Willow's parents who never, ever leave loaded crossbows lying around the house.

Anything that gets people reading about physics is a good thing IMO (especially people that ordinarily might not) and this might make a nice jumping off point into the subject. However, Buffy has about as much to do with science as, err, something that doesn't have much to do with science. Magic, by its nature, is arbitrary and doesn't have to adhere to the laws of physics.
Saje | May 10, 11:58 CET


Well there is a difference between using imaginary examples drawn from the Buffyverse to demonstrate science, and trying to explain the Buffyverse in scientific terms, the latter being impossible. For instance I'd like to see the anatomical explanation for how vampires can do certain er things that require blood flow to particular organs, when their hearts don't beat to cause their blood to circulate.

I love when people slip in Shroedenger's cat references when they're actually talking about cats.
gt0163c | May 10, 04:01 CET

Reminds me of the book "Science Made Stupid" where a footnote states that "A further discussion of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle may be found in the appendix. And then again, it may not."
Does he explain how in "chosen" Buffy ran upstairs in the school and emerged in downtown Sunnydale by the movie theatre?
Smog - time portals, clearly!
I have The Physics of Star Trek and it is very well written. I'm so going to have to buy this now.

I always assumes MKF died, but on second thought, there may indeed be hope.
OK, here's a topic I can really sink my teeth into. If a tree fell in the woods, would Buffy wily a stake from it?

Hmmm, waiting for answers.
Ah... Well, see. I hadn't considered time portals.
I'm lost. How do we know the high school campus wasn't in the downtown area?
I think Willow's use of magic in that one ANGEL episode was annoyingly deus-ex-machina-y (and out of character in that point in her arc). And Paul_Rocks, to your point re warriors, I definitely felt that way in Fellowship of the Rings, when Aragorn was killing every single big meanie in sight. I had to remind myself, "He's epic level, he"s epic level..." Aaaaaaanyway...
Well there is a difference between using imaginary examples drawn from the Buffyverse to demonstrate science, and trying to explain the Buffyverse in scientific terms, the latter being impossible. For instance I'd like to see the anatomical explanation for how vampires can do certain er things that require blood flow to particular organs, when their hearts don't beat to cause their blood to circulate.

Yep, very true. Clearly the author likes Buffy and has gone with what they enjoy for the jumping off point. Fair play, i've no problem with that (and i'll very likely buy the book). Personally though, i'd say something like 'The Physics of Stargate' is a more natural fit. It also has wormholes, black holes, string theory, (more realistic) discussions of energy requirements etc.

Obviously, the Stargates are fiction and so concepts are stretched a bit (sometimes a lot) but they've always made an effort at plausibility. I remember a scene in, I think, the pilot where a technician says a task will take 24 hours and the General says 'Get it done in 12'. The technician politely informs him that 'it doesn't work like that, sir', clearly a wee dig at Scotty's famously 'conservative' estimates ;), but also an admission that tasks take time in the real world and you can't just wave a magic wand or speak a bit of cod Latin and finish instantly. That kind of limitation tends to drive plot though (not necessarily character development), nor does it produce emotional 'hits' which is why, IMO, it's never been all that important to Joss.

Never mind blood flow, BTW, where the hell do their clothes go when they're dusted and what about stuff in their pockets ? ;). And how did invisible girl see and still not have two little patches of eye pigment floating around the school ? And... etc.

(it'd be interesting to see an analysis of how much energy would need to be expended to vapourise clothing completely and, by extension, what would happen to anyone standing right next to the vamp at time of dusting)
BTW, where the hell do their clothes go when they're dusted and what about stuff in their pockets ? ;)

Oh, have you learned nothing from The Hulk? ;-)

(Actually, I kind of assumed the same thing as you -- energy of dusting = vaporization of cotton, leather, keys, small change, etc.) /fanwank
Never mind where their clothes go, I'm more curious about where they come from - or to be more specific, how they dress and groom themselves so nattily without being able to see their reflections. Way back in the day, they had servants to do it, but when was the last time you saw Angel with a manservant? How does Spike get his hair that color and not miss any spots, eh? I actually have a theory about this. I think there is a whole underground ecomony around grooming vampires. Just as we've seen there are vampire bars, there are vampire hair salons, and personal dressers, and yes barbershops where male vamps can get shaves, in answer to Willow's famous question from season 1.
Two words. Polaroid. Cameras.

Take a photo, wait 30-60 seconds and viola (hell, make it a cello ;) you can see any awkward spots you missed washing/shaving/dyeing/plucking/other types of grooming i'm not aware of.

Course, if they weren't evil the film would cost a fortune but vamps probably just steal it (Angel would have to buy it which may explain why he didn't need too much persuading to start charging the helpless).

It all makes perfect sense. In my head.
And Paul_Rocks, to your point re warriors, I definitely felt that way in Fellowship of the Rings, when Aragorn was killing every single big meanie in sight.

Yeah Scotto, that scene was exactly what I was thinking about when I wrote my previous post :)

As for the camera situation, surely these days a good digital camera would be a better option?
Yeah, but then how could you explain Angel charging the helpless if he didn't have to buy polaroid film ? Think about it man ! It's like a house of cards, take one away and the whole thing comes down.

Unless it's one of the ones at the top, come to think of it. Hmm, maybe my whole polaroid camera philosophy needs a bit more thought.
Actually, a webcam would be a lot more efficient. You could rotate it around so that you could actually see the back of your head on the screen. But, back to the polaroid, how then do you explain that Angel was shocked by his own appearance when he saw his reflection in Pylea? And more curiously, why he then continued the same hairstyle when he returned? Obviously he had to charge the helpless in order to pay his stylist. And to pay for the coffee habit that he picked up somewhere between BtVS season 3 and AtS season 1.
Personally, I found it depressing to learn the "Magic works off Physics". Particularly if you're the one who has to grind down the Baltic Stones or persuade the Kraken to visit the dentist...

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