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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality - What if Harry was smarter than Ender? (Page 16)

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Author Topic: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality - What if Harry was smarter than Ender?
ricree101
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quote:
Originally posted by Hobbes:

I am curious how Albus thinks a ban on muggle inventions for wizarding war would play out with Voldemort. I agree with Raymond's reasons for why it's a good idea but this isn't the US and the USSR (who were stable and seeking a future for their countries as international players) this is someone who, at least in the cannon, is displayed as cartoonishly evil. Why would he ever follow that restriction? I understand it was brought up in the context of a warning (Albus thinking it's a message to not do it or Voldemort will) but why would Voldemort keep his word?

Dumbledore thinks that because Voldemort didn't use muggle technology in the first war, he doesn't really want to use it in this one either. According to this rationale, the only reason for Voldemort to use muggle technology was to match the other side's use of it. So in theory, if they make it clear that their side is sticking purely with magic, then voldemort will be inclined to stay that way as well.
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Why would he ever follow that restriction?
At the time they are mostly conjecturing. But the things they note are that:

a) Voldemort had access to Fiendfyre and other extremely dangerous magical "weapons of mass destruction" last time, and he didn't use them.

b) Quirrel (who admittedly is not in the room with Snape, Albus and Minerva, but whom we the readers suspect has a connection to Voldemort) ranted about how insane Nukes were and how Voldemort, evil as he was, he didn't want to rule over a heap of ash.

c) Albus and co are specifically theorizing that Voldemort is WARNING them that if they use muggle weapons, he will retaliate with them. They are issuing a blanket ban of weapons on the Quirrel Armies (not the general Auror population, who wouldn't bother using muggle weapons anyway), to send a message that they understand the message and that Harry will not be relying on Muggle weapons in the upcoming war.

It's not an agreement, just a coded message. Which they happen to be misinterpreting, because it assumes that Voldemort was the one using the rocket in the first place. They actually needn't worry, since a) Harry was responsible and b) assuming Quirrel is Voldemort, we already know he has no intention of using nukes no matter what.

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Rakeesh
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quote:
"No," said the old wizard's voice. "I do not think so. The Death Eaters learned, toward the end of the war, not to attack the Order's families.
Wow. Well, that statement does lend the, shall we say, potential of credibility to Draco's accusations against Dumbledore, doesn't it?

I also very much appreciate this chapter, because it really nails what I've always felt about Azkaban, and how I think a character should react to it. That's what I was getting at much earlier in this thread when I talked about revolt and whatnot, too. It's a horror.

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King of Men
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Hmm. Madame Bones's statement about making a jinx around Azkaban so 'opposite reaction science' won't work is very interesting. I wonder just what happens to a human body if the laws of Newton, who is not forgotten for a reason, no longer apply? I suppose it depends a bit on what replaces them, but I'm of the opinion that Eliezer will not make this easy on any witch who doesn't know what she's meddlin with. If the magic compensates for all the biochemistry being suddenly out of whack, fine. But unless that is specifically built into the spell, I can see a lot of suddenly-dead Aurors and prisoners. Even if they don't push it down to the microlevel, a whole area in which Aristotelian physics suddenly rules is going to be very difficult to get used to.
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Rakeesh
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I also think it'd be appealing to his story because it's one of those things where a government agency starts mucking around in areas it doesn't understand for a quick, easy fix (with science, no less) and instead does something awful. Very true life, that.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Rocket fuel is made out of hydrogen and oxygen and burns back into water.
No its not and no it doesn't. The author says specifically it's an ammonium perchlorate composite sold rocket fuel. I pointed this out before. Ammonium Perchlorate is not made out of hydrogen and oxygen. It does not react to form water in a solid rocket.

quote:
There's really no reason that water transfiguring into water should cause problems.
It's not water transfigured into water. It's water tranfigured into Ammonium Perchlorate, which then decomposes into N2, Cl2, O2 and H2O gases.

quote:
This isn't an author breaking his own rule, he's circumventing it using perfectly logical means.
First off., since this fanfic is specifically focused on rationality it should be noted that it is irrational to presume that any hypothesis is correct until it has been thoroughly tested. Harry has a hypothesis about the mechanism behind transformation sickness which even he notes doesn't make much sense. Acting on that hypothesis as though it is certain when he knows nothing about the physical laws that govern magic and hasn't done a single experiment to test the hypothesis is a major mistake from the rationalist perspective. As a scientist I can assure you that even the bests scientists first conjecture about how things work is rarely correct, especially when they are working in a field in which they have no expertise (like magic tranfiguation).

Second, the author went to a great deal of effort to establish this rule. Never at any point before Harry is trapped in Azkaban, do the ideas that a bubble head charm or transfiguring ice would make transfiguring safe. If the issues isn't further explored and doesn't have some other serious consequence, it reads very much like the author painted Harry in to a corner and then made up new rules to get him out of it.

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dabbler
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I think it was a mistake for Harry not to have been curious to Dumbledore what muggle weapon V used. If Dumbledore is as bright as he ought to be, that should tip him off.
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sinflower
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Agreed. I also think that Dumbledore and McGonagall should've thought of the possibility of Harry using another student with a time turner to help him.

But perhaps Dumbledore is aware of all of this and is just pretending to be dim to fool Harry into complacency.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
No its not and no it doesn't. The author says specifically it's an ammonium perchlorate composite sold rocket fuel. I pointed this out before. Ammonium Perchlorate is not made out of hydrogen and oxygen. It does not react to form water in a solid rocket.
Went back and checked, you're right, I'm sorry. I know just enough rocket science to know how it could have been done but not enough to look at the phrase "Berserker PFRC, N-class, ammonium perchlorate composite propellant, solid-fuel rocket" and see anything other than "rocket science gibberish." Looking back I don't see a place where you specifically clarified what that meant, although I see places where you probably assumed I'd understand what you were talking about.

quote:
But perhaps Dumbledore is aware of all of this and is just pretending to be dim to fool Harry into complacency.
I'm pretty sure Dumbledore is at least still suspicious. I'm positive that he's supposed to be smarter than Harry assumes he is.
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Raymond Arnold
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Talked a bit with my dad (who is a combustion engineer) about the Rocket thing. He said it'd depend on another factor which the rocket name doesn't tell us, but that the most likely things for the rocket to be expelling are still oxygen and hydrogen.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
Talked a bit with my dad (who is a combustion engineer) about the Rocket thing. He said it'd depend on another factor which the rocket name doesn't tell us, but that the most likely things for the rocket to be expelling are still oxygen and hydrogen.

I don't know what your Dad's expertise is, but there are no kinds of rockets that expell oxygen and hydrogen. There are rockets that are fueled by hydrogen and oxygen and expel water. These are not solid fuel rockets. Solid rockets use ammonium perchlorate as an oxidizer to oxidize aluminium. It's called APCF (ammonium perchlorate composit fuel. The reaction is

10 Al + 6NH4ClO4 --> 4 Al2O3 + 2 AlCl3 + 3 N2 + 12 H2O.

Solid rockets expel all of those reaction products. Water makes up 22% of that by mass.

BTW, The space shuttle is propelled by 3 rockets. The two thin rockets on the outside are APCF solid rockets, the center rocket is a hydrogen fueled rocket.

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Glenn Arnold
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Rabbit: As Raymond and I discussed, any rocket relies on an oxidation reaction, and thus expels species composed of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. In our conversation I specified CO2 and H2O.

Solid rocket fuels containing ammonium perchlorate generally use something like a butadiene based rubber as fuel with aluminum. Aluminum combustion generates very high heat energy, but aluminum oxide is heavier than H2O an therefore isn't as good an propellant, because it's harder to accelerate. I'm not even sure that an Al + O reaction would produce any thrust given that the product doesn't generally behave as a gas.

Even according to your own equation, H2O is the prevalent product. And your original statement:

quote:
Ammonium Perchlorate is not made out of hydrogen and oxygen. It does not react to form water in a solid rocket.
...is completely untrue. Not only is NH4ClO4 composed of hydrogen and oxygen, but it does react to form water.
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The Rabbit
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Glenn, I don't mean to disrespect your expertise in combustion but as a Professor of Chemical Engineering I am far from ignorant on the subject of combustion. Not all combustion reactions involve oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. In a solid rocket, ammonium perchlorate, not oxygen, acts as the oxidant and alluminum serves as the primary reducing agent. Yes some butadiene is also oxidized so some CO2 and some H2O are produced, but they are not the primary reaction products.

I never said no water was formed in this reaction. In fact I gave the reaction which clearly shows water being formed. My point was that Ray's argument that burning ice transfigured to solid rocket fuel a could be described as transforming water to fuel and then back to water, (and therefore coudln't possibly cause any problems, was factually incorrect. Sure some of the ice transformed to fuel will end up as water. Some of it will end up as ultrafine particles of Al2O3 and AlCl2, some will end up as N2, some (as you point out) will end up as CO2. Since the reaction probably doesn't go to completion, you will likely get some Cl2, some CO, and who knows what else in the solid rocket exaust

How that relates to transfiguration sickness is anyones guess, since we have no idea what the real mechanism is behind transformation sickness, since no one has done even one experiment on the subject.

[ November 28, 2010, 07:49 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:

Even according to your own equation, H2O is the prevalent product. And your original statement:

No!! According to my equation H2O is the prevalent product by moles, but not by mass. As I stated before, it is only 22% by mass.

quote:
Ammonium Perchlorate is not made out of hydrogen and oxygen. It does not react to form water in a solid rocket.
...is completely untrue. Not only is NH4ClO4 composed of hydrogen and oxygen, but it does react to form water. [/QB][/QUOTE]I don't know why you are being so obtuse. I gave the chemical formula for Ammonium Perchlorate and showed the reaction which is predominant in solid rockets. Its obvious that I know that solid rocket fuel contains some hydrogen and oxygen and reacts to form some water. In that context, I assumed you and Ray could insert the implied "solely" and "just" in my sentence.

It is entirely different thing to claim something "contains" certain elements and that something is "made" of certain elements. Would you consider it remotely accurate if I claimed "cars are made of butadiene rubber", or people are composed of hydroxy appetite?

Ray's argument was that he couldn't imagine how burning solid rocket fuel (transfigured for ice) could possibly cause any harm since burning the fuel just made water. The fact that it makes water and a whole bunch of other stuff that is definitely not water, pretty well negates Ray's point. Would you not agree?

[ November 29, 2010, 07:15 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
I never said not water was formed in this reaction.
Yes you did. See above.

quote:
Not all combustion reactions involve oxygen, carbon and hydrogen.
I didn't say they did. I said they were the primary reactants that Raymond and I discussed.

And as I pointed out above, I'm perfectly aware that aluminum burns with a great release of thermal energy, but probably provides very little kinetic energy on it's own.

In fact, I once proposed that since aluminum has a higher oxidation potential than water, you could make a hybrid rocket engine in which aluminum was oxidized with steam. My friend Harry Ryan (a phD mechanical engineer, whose work was instrumental in the design of the space shuttle's fuel injectors) pointed out that the remaining hydrogen would probably be monatomic, and would thus be capable of accelerating to very high velocities, thus maximizing the energy transfer from thermal to kinetic.

We never did try it however.

quote:
as a Professor of Chemical Engineering
Hmmm. I thought you were a climatologist. Where does the crossover to chemical engineering come in?
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
In that context, I assumed you and Ray could insert the implied "solely" and "just" in my sentence.
So you are assuming we are supposed to make your argument for you? No.

You are a scientist, and from a scientist I expect exact language. Raymond is not a scientist, and when a scientist argues with a layman and plays word games with his inexact language, I see that as intellectual dishonesty. You should be capable of better than that.

quote:
Ray's argument was that he couldn't imagine how burning solid rocket fuel (transfigured for ice) could possibly cause any harm since burning the fuel just made water. The fact that it makes water and a whole bunch of other stuff that is definitely not water, pretty well negates Ray's point. Would you not agree?
As I said, Raymond is not a scientist. He knows that I refer to water as "burnt hydrogen" and also that I sometimes describe my job as "making water." Remove the "solid" from the "rocket engine" in the discussion, and Raymond's argument would likely be entirely correct.

As for transfiguration and how it applied to chemical reactions, I think it's ridiculous to attempt to create rational arguments for how magic and science could co-exist. Before Raymond asked me to discuss this, I had not entered this thread for exactly that reason. And in fact, I only entered this thread because I saw "Deathly Hallows" last night and mistakenly clicked on the wrong thread, only to find myself being used as an authority.

I'll head over to that thread now.

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The Rabbit
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I expect you to read in context. I expect everyone to read in context.

I've never claimed I was a climotologist. I've claimed to be an atmospheric chemist, which is accurate enough even though my Ph.D says Chemical Engineering. You can see a very brief bio here. I have in the past given my publications list, if you doubt my authenticity, go to web of science and search my name. You will in fact find publications in all the areas in which I represent myself as having some expertise . My expertise is in interfacial phenomena and surface chemistry which is applicable in many areas, which means I've been involved in research varying from microbiology to atmospheric chemistry.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
[QB] [QUOTE]]I didn't say they did. I said they were the primary reactants that Raymond and I discussed.

Well no, you said

quote:
As Raymond and I discussed, any rocket relies on an oxidation reaction, and thus expels species composed of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. In our conversation I specified CO2 and H2O.
The construction A thus B, is only logically valid if A always means B. Since "oxidation reactions" do not all produce products composed of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen, your statement as written is invalid.

If you are going to get snippy with me for being imprecise in my language, you should follow your own advice.

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Raymond Arnold
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At this point I'm still not entirely sure what the facts are, but I don't care that much beyond making an if-then statement: if the majority of the rocket reaction output was water, there would be absolutely no reason for me to think the Author was cheating here.

If the majority of the rocket reaction is not water but is nontoxic, then I think the author is skirting the lines of cheating, but the fact that Harry HAS studied transfiguration extensively as well as science and was in a desperate situation and took reasonable precautions means that I don't feel particularly betrayed. (I do wonder why Harry WOULDN'T choose a rocket that actually produced water, to avoid the issue entirely, unless they are noticeably less potent than other kinds. That was what I originally asked my dad about).

I do think that, no matter what, if we get to the end of the story and NOBODY ever transmutes anything dangerous into a gas, the author fails at properly foreshadowing, but that doesn't have to be now. As I said, it's already been further hinted that someone ELSE might copy Harry and lead to something dangerous happening, which I think makes more sense anyway.

By now, the last chapter's come out and it's obvious that water is, in fact, safe. This doesn't contradict anything McGonnagal actually said, and I think that's fine.

In other news... WOW! I was expecting a short chapter that basically said "and then Harry went back to Ravenclaw, looked sadly at Hermione for a minute and then went to bed, the end." Instead we got five chapters worth. Hella worth waiting for. Even if the story is never finished, I could be satisfied with what we have so far. I intend to donate $25 to the Singularity Institute, if for no other reason than because this story was worth $25 to me and I know that's where the author would want the money to go.

[ November 29, 2010, 11:21 AM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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The Rabbit
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quote:
At this point I'm still not entirely sure what the facts are, but I don't care that much beyond making an if-then statement: if the majority of the rocket reaction output was water, there would be absolutely no reason for me to think the Author was cheating here.
I just disagree. To me, it reads like the author painted Harry into a corner and then amended his own rule to get him out. It's disappointing. And like I said earlier, it is really counter to rationalism to presume that transformation sickness works the way people think it does without having tested that hypothesis at all. If the history of science should teach us anything, it is that the "obvious" answer is rarely the correct one, even if it doesn't contradict anything you think you know about the world.

I think you are blinded by positive bias on this issue. You have been a bit obsessive about rationalism and the Less Wrong forum and this story.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
I think you are blinded by positive bias on this issue. You have been a bit obsessive about rationalism and the Less Wrong forum and this story.
I think that this statement is true to some degree. I've actually been spending the last few days rereading the story and trying to identify parts that I DIDN'T like that much because I've been getting too evangelical about the story and was wary of the halo effect. (Yes I'm aware of the irony of using a term I learned from Less Wrong here).

I do think the escape from the prison strained plausibility. Too many things had to go just right, Harry had to be too strong in ways that he simply couldn't be expected to be. Being able to maintain multiple personalities like that is possible (I've done it), but extremely hard and the only way I'd buy him being able to do it is by using his Dark Side, which he specifically couldn't do in Azkaban.

But honestly, water causing permanent problems by transmuting into itself is just not one of those things. I am not flinching from anything there, it just doesn't bother me. I wouldn't be disappointed if it DID turn out to be a problem, 'cuz "it's magic" is a perfectly acceptable solution. But at this point Harry has had enough random setbacks that letting magic actually work intuitively with science this one time doesn't bother me at all.

Now, if the rocket in question seriously DOESN'T primarily produce water... I'm not sure what I think about that. I might be flinching there, dunno. But that just means I think the author should have specified a rocket that produced water, not that he shouldn't have let Harry use a rocket at all.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Now, if the rocket in question seriously DOESN'T primarily produce water.
Primarily in what respect? Primarily in terms of number of molecules? Primarily in terms of mass of expelled matter? Primarily in terms of volume of the reacted gases? You are going to get a little more than 50% of the molecules as water, but no matter what ratio of Al/butadiene you use in the fuel, you will end up getting nearly half the molecules as something other than water. I'm sure Glen can confirm this. If you look at this in terms of mass, its significantly worse with only 22 - 25% of the expelled gases being water.

But the details don't really matter. Mass is not conserved in a transfiguration, neither is the number of molecules or the volume of the object. As a result, there is no way to reconcile basic scientific principals. Harry should have recognized that transfiguring ice into solid rocket fuel violated the conservation of matter and energy. That negates pretty much all of classical physics and everything we know about matter, even at quantum level (no especially at the quantum level). Faced with that large and dramatic a breach in what we recognize as physical laws, the most logical response would be negativism: a belief that we can not actually know anything about the world in which we live.

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King of Men
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Nu, in the first place Harry is 11 and has already been shown to have made basic mistakes where breaches of scientific principle are involved, such as not recognising the Aristotelian flight characteristics of broomsticks. But in any case, that Harry doesn't see where the energy comes from does not mean that it has no source!
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Ron Lambert
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The Rabbit said: "Solid rockets use ammonium perchlorate as an oxidizer to oxidize aluminium."

I used to make a simple solid rocket fuel out of sodium nitrate and powdered zinc (I may have added sulfer sometimes, too). It may not have been as efficient as using powdered aluminum, but the zinc worked. At least it made little paper rockets fly.

Conventional fireworks rockets I believe use modifications on the basic gunpowder theme, which is basically what I did with the powdered zinc. The inclusion of different minerals produces the various colors.

I read a feature magazine article one time many years ago that told about an experimenter who used sodium nitrate mixed with feces to produce solid rocket fuel. It was said to work quite well, although I do not recall what might have been said about the smell.

Apparently there are many ways to formulate solid rocket fuel. The problems with solid rocket fuels are to get it to burn uniformly with minimal cavities and uneven combustion, and of course once it is ignited it is pretty hard to turn it off, so it is not suitable for maneuvering jets that have to be turned on and off frequently.

There is something really thrilling about seeing a rocket you made, with a fuel you formulated, take off with a powerful whoosh!

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Nu, in the first place Harry is 11 and has already been shown to have made basic mistakes where breaches of scientific principle are involved, such as not recognising the Aristotelian flight characteristics of broomsticks. But in any case, that Harry doesn't see where the energy comes from does not mean that it has no source!
There's a few different issues at work here. The first is what Harry would do (of this, I am 100% certain he would make the rocket exactly the way he did, because it was the best idea he could think of at the time). The second is whether the author violated a general agreement that authors are expected to make with their audience - that if they foreshadow something, there will be ramifications.

The disagreement is on what, exactly, was foreshadowed. I simply don't think it was foreshadowed that you literally cannot do any of the things McGonnogal warns about without bad stuff automatically happening. I think it was foreshadowed various degrees of bad stuff would happening depending on how you did some of them in particular circumstances. There's several different ways that the transfiguration might or might not have turned out to be dangerous. Arbitrarily, the best I can come up with is around a 10-25% chance of it turning out to be safe for the auror. I'm fine with Harry getting lucky here so long as 75-90% of his hypothesis turn out to be wrong, and as long as at some point SOMEONE does something horribly wrong with transfiguration. We've already see the vast majority of his hypothesis turn out to be wrong, and there's plenty more story left for the foreshadow to get resolved.

The worst source of damage I can imagine is the material ripping apart the auror's insides as it reconfigures itself. That damage would be significant, but it would be a one-time thing, and then magic could repair what was left unless the damage actually killed him.

That all said, honestly I'm kinda sick of this topic now and I don't think we're getting anywhere on it. (Although I'm glad to have learned a bit about rockets in the process).

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
I've never claimed I was a climotologist.
Forgive me if I gave the impression that I was accusing you of misstating your credentials. I made that assumption entirely on my own, based on your explanations of global warming. I only asked how chemical engineering was related to climate research because it wasn't obvious to me.

And while I'm discussing credentials, I need to point out that while Raymond claimed that I'm a "combustion engineer," that isn't accurate either. I exist in the grey area known as "senior engineering technician," and as such I do a fair amount of engineer level work, but I would never identify myself as an engineer.

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Raymond Arnold
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I'm pretty sure you've called yourself a combustion engineer on at least one occasion. (Though maybe you amended it to "combustion technician" shortly afterward). Whatevs.

Anyways, I really want to talk about the last chapter now.

First of all, if you haven't downloaded the PDF yet, you can do so here. It's really nicely laid out, with the same font and structure as a Harry Potter book, so it has a different feel to it then reading the text in the browser. I recommend grabbing a copy, especially now that we have a complete "book."

I hope the author explores Harry's fixation on Hermione, and how potentially unhealthy that is. It's not fair to Hermione that Harry uses her as a symbol of all that is good in the world, on top of being his only friend. I can only hope that her last line "How many have you saved?" is a bit of a step in that direction - showing that the author at least knows that Hermione isn't actually perfect and has a lot of work to do before she can truly be "good" instead of just "nice." In was an excellent beginning to the end chapter - a challenge to not merely be smart, but to actually go out and DO some good things with your life.

I loved Blaise Zambini and Fred and George. Great moments that managed to be hilarious yet still tie into all the poignant stuff that was happening.

I love the poetic tie-ins to earlier turns of phrase. "Hey," said Hufflepuff, "notice how, once you're all the way up here, and the individual trees sort of blur together, you can actually see the shape of the forest?" As well as Harry's later statement:

quote:
It didn’t seem fair, it didn’t seem fair, that this was what happened if he lost his grip on his rationality for just a tiny fraction of a second, the tiny fraction of a second required for his brain to decide to be more comfortable with ‘yes’ arguments than ‘no’ arguments during the discussion that had followed.
Which echoes Draco's bawling thought from 30+ chapters ago. I do think Harry grossly undershoots the amount of time he was being irrational. I kinda wish the "just for a fraction of a second" had instead been "a moment" so it's a little more ambiguous what he meant. Pinning the whole thing on a single moment of weakness jolted me out of the story and reminded me that Harry is not perfect at a time when I'd rather have had him give a more honest appraisal of himself. But still, it was a good moment that captured the harshness of the moment for an 11-year old to face.

And despite my concern for Harry's idolizing of Hermione, I actually cried when I got to:

quote:
37 of 40 subjects had continued their participation in that experiment to the end, the 450-volt end marked ‘XXX’.

And if you were Professor Quirrell, you might have decided to feel cynical about that.

But 3 out of 40 subjects had refused to participate all the way to the end.

The Hermiones.

They did exist, in the world, the people who wouldn’t fire a Simple Strike Hex at a fellow student even if the Defense Professor ordered them to do it. The ones who had sheltered Gypsies and Jews and homosexuals in their attics during the Holocaust, and sometimes lost their lives for it.

I had been talking recently about other fantasy stories, and how certain "real" things are exaggerated into symbols. Obvious stuff, I know. The book spells out that Dementors represent Death and Phoenixes represent Light and all. What should also have been obvious, but which I just recently put into words, is that Harry's dark side represents the danger of looking at the world in sheer rational terms without leaving any room for emotion or human connection. I know, I don't get any points for decoding that, but it made me go "huh" when I thought about it.

The whole chapter was exhausting to read. It was long (several times I glanced at the slider, thinking I was almost done and feeling sad that there wouldn't be any left, then realized I was less than half finished), and the subject matter was pretty heavy. But by the time I got to the end, the whole thing felt very cathartic.

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Raymond Arnold
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Oh, also, anyone know what's up with Harry's statement:

quote:
And no matter what, I’m not having anyone Obliviate everything I know about calculus. I’d sooner die.”
Did I forget something important? Is this connected to anything at all?
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King of Men
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I think he's just saying that he doesn't want to be ordinary if it means giving up knowledge. If knowing things that the average 11-year-old doesn't makes him un-average, too bad.
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Raymond Arnold
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That seemed obvious, but it also seemed like it was referencing something particular. Makes sense though.
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scholarette
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I thought the calculus reference was connected to the whole no muggle transformation- like knowledge of muggle stuff could be deemed dangerous (including calculus) but he wasn't going to get rid of it even if it was dangerous.

I think it is a bit wrong to blame 90% of citizens for Azkaban. I disapprove of a lot of things that the US govt does. I have protested, written letters, signed petitions, given money and so far, it has done squat for me. I voted for a president I thought was in favor of civil rights because of that and yet Gitma is still open. Next election, I can't see either person as being good for human rights. I could try less peaceful protests, but that would just end with me arrested. Some times, you can know something is wrong and want it ended, but it is outside your power- there is no clear path to ending the abuse.

I was watching that show What would you do and I was thinking, what is the right solution in this case? And sometimes, I really didn't know. How many people do nothing simply because they don't know what they should do?

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Raymond Arnold
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Yeah the Gitmo parallel is pretty obvious (I don't think he set out to write a parable about Gitmo, but any realistic discussion of Azkaban ends up paralleling Gitmo by default). My feeling is not that Obama explicitly lied about that, but that its easy to make all kinds of promises before reaching the white house, and once you get there you realize how seriously entrenched the surrounding political strucutres are. In the case of Gitmo, I don't know exactly what is required to end it. Is it actually possible for him to just sign an executive order getting rid of it? If he can't, does publicly legalizing it make it better or worse?

Part of me feels like it's simply impossible to have a government last more than a hundred years before power accumulates and the only way to restore balance is with a complete overhaul. But A) Mao already tried that in China and the results weren't pretty (how much of that had to do with Mao being an idiot is up for debate), B) at this point corporations are so powerful that any attempt to sweep the board would probably end with one or more of them in complete control, and that's not good either.

Bleh. I hold onto the "some percent of humans are truly good" sentiment because its warm and fuzzy and on some level that warm fuzziness is necessary. But I don't know if it's actually valid. The other 37 people have an AWFUL lot of power. I don't know that 3 Hermiones is enough.

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King of Men
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It seems established in canon that most wizards who haven't personally been to Azkaban are ok with its existence, unlike Gitmo. It is also a theme of Mr Yudkowsky's thinking that a lot of what we do is not really caring about issues, but signalling caring; thus letter-writing, for example, is not costly to the writer, or not very much so, and thus it is not a very strong expression of real caring.
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scholarette
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But KofM- what is the right thing to do if we care? What action can one take that will have a reasonable chance of success?

I;ll be honest. When I was young, I thought I would be heroic if the situation arose- do the right thing no matter what the consequences. Now that I have children, I realize ultimately, I will do what is right for my children. I would take a bullet for them, but for some random stranger- nope.

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King of Men
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quote:
what is the right thing to do if we care? What action can one take that will have a reasonable chance of success?
A difficult question, but a good start is to realise that the first things to come to mind, like letters and demonstrations, are not usually effective, and that one should start by clearing the mind of these signalling methods. (Or alternatively by realising and accepting that yes, I genuinely do only care about the signalling; c'est la moi.) And then, perhaps, the Five Minutes Exercise. Another point often made in Mr Yudkowsky's writing is that it's not actually very difficult to do better than most of humanity is currently managing. The bar is so low that almost anyone can raise it.
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Raymond Arnold
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One thing to note is that while getting rid of Gitmo is a noble goal we should be pursuing, there's plenty of other goals just as noble, which can be conveniently pursued by donating money to the right people. (I think the single most important thing I found on lesswrong.com was a link to givewell.org, which studies various charities and gives you information on how well they do).

Focusing on Gitmo is actually almost entirely an exercise in signally, now that I think about it. Whatever time you spend getting the government to change is probably less effective than time you spent earning money to donate to charities overseas to help dying children, but by getting the US to get rid of Gitmo, you're getting the entire government to signal that they're a government that cares about human rights, and there is some value to having a government do that.

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Ron Lambert
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The terrorists in Gitmo are not being tortured to death. If anything, they are better off than inmates in the typical federal penitentiary. Some, shortly after being captured as enemy combatants, may be subjected to truth serum interviews and even waterboarding, to find out information that may thwart other planned attacks and save many lives. Since they were captured as enemy combatants it is wrong to regard them as mere criminals and put them in criminal courtrooms. The only right way to deal with them is try them in proper military courts.
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Raymond Arnold
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whoops.
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Raymond Arnold
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New chapter up. I actually find myself more frustrated, not less, that it's starting up again, since now I'm back to knowing that at any moment it might suddenly update again. But that it probably won't.

I seriously hope Harry does not pursue this avenue with Quirrel for long. I was willing to buy Harry going to Azkaban because it wasn't any stupider than the things he does in the original story and the whole plot had built up to it and I didn't expect it to go on for that long.

I'm still willing to buy that it's plausible for Harry to continue to work with Quirrel, because he clearly knows its dangerous and is evaluating it as such, and there are enough surrounding factors that, even though doing so IS pretty obviously the wrong thing to do, Harry has emotional reasons to do it anyway.

But although I can buy it making sense for Harry to decide to go with it, I'm not sure I can actually continue to root for him much longer if that's the case. It's just too big a disconnect between me and the character.

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Seatarsprayan
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The omake for the Witch and the Wardrobe was pretty obnoxious. Removing Aslan simply because he's a stand-in for a real-life religious figure that the author doesn't believe in... how rational is that?

So in his rational version, there's still a witch that can make 100 years of winter, there are talking animals with swords, there's a magic wardrobe that transported English children to this land, but there's no Aslan, because it wouldn't make sense?

Why not instead actually have Aslan there, but have Lucy question him as to his methodology, without any of this "Aslan works in mysterious ways" acceptance?

But the author is apparently so anti-religion that even in fiction it can't exist... I can understand twisting HP canon to remove the actuality of souls, because even though JKR clearly intended they be real, the author is able to deal with what's actually there as evidence for souls and explain it away. Preachy of him, but fiction-wise it is consistent.

quote:
You think of convincing otherss they are misstaken. Far eassier to convince them they are right.
Sadly true.

quote:
"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."

Hahahahahahahahah!

quote:
But there was also a certain question as to whether the appropriate moral to learn from the last experience was to always say no immediately to the Defense Professor, or...
For a truly rational mind, there is no harm in not saying no immediately. However, a mostly rational mind should recognize it is not truly rational.

Harry will probably rationalize why a smart exploitation of Quirrell has a reasonable risk/reward compared to rejecting him.

Thing is, sometimes foregoing any benefits because of the danger really is better. How many movies did the good guys have some possession that they should have just destroyed to keep it from falling into the wrong hands? Instead they guard it and it gets taken...

The otherwise mindless action film The Rock had a part that I really liked. As soon as Cage disarms the rockets, Connery destroys the control chips. Doesn't keep them for bargaining or anything stupid. Finally!

In Card's Shadow series, governments keep trying to make use of Achilles instead of just killing him. That's because they all think they are smart enough to control him.

Thing is, in real life, not fiction, sometimes you really can control a dangerous object or person, and it really is the smart move to make use of them instead of destroying or rejecting it out of fear.

Harry is 11 years old and really shouldn't be assuming that he can out-think Quirrell though. He should probably say no.

Probably...

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Removing Aslan simply because he's a stand-in for a real-life religious figure that the author doesn't believe in... how rational is that?
No, he removes Aslan because Aslan makes the story pretty lame. (He's on record saying this elsewhere, and I had already come to that conclusion). He makes the story lame for exactly the reasons the characters outline: having a superpowered lion show up and save the day renders the actions of the actual protagonists pretty meaningless.

Aslan doesn't even convey the magnitude of what [I consider] Jesus actually accomplished in the original story. Even as an atheist, I'm impressed by the notion that when Jesus died, he genuinely did have to suffer for all the sins of the world. But so far as I remember, that wasn't conveyed much at all in LWW, so it basically looked to me like Aslan cheated. He had his hair cut off and he got stabbed, then woke up the next day like nothing happened.

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King of Men
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Indeed, even as a stand-in for Jesus, Aslan comes off as a crybaby. Jesus is going to die by the most painful means the Romans could devise, and what's more, Jesus is not actively connected to his divine side - he may know intellectually that he's also a god, but he has no memory of an eternity of godhood to buck him up. (Aslan, you should note, remembers singing Narnia into existence; he knows perfectly well that he's a god.) So Jesus has a moment of weakness at Gethsemane, and who can blame him? But otherwise he faces his crucifixion like a man. Aslan, on the other hand, will be mocked, spat upon, be shaved, and then be stabbed and die almost instantly. Big deal. What's with the whining?

Now, if it were made clear that Aslan didn't know he was going to survive, that would be different. Then his sacrifice, as it appeared to him, would be meaningful. But this is not at all clear; he doesn't seem even slightly surprised to awaken at dawn, and glibly explains the Deeper Magic to the sisters. Just one line of a throwaway "I'm as surprised as you" nature would have fixed the whole scene.

It would still be a total deus ex machina, in which Edward's actions (and by extension, one assumes, those of the other children) are shown to have no consequences. But at least it would not be showing Aslan as the Cowardly Lion.

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Raymond Arnold
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I don't know that "whining" and "cowardly" are necessarily appropriate. I don't think Aslan complained or even made that big a deal about it. It's just that "brave" and "meaningful" certainly weren't words that were relevant. The only lesson I learned was if you have magic powers that let you cheat at agreements, go right ahead! And if you have a friend with magic powers that let THEM cheat at agreements, you can get away with stuff.
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Seatarsprayan
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I guess I'd rather Aslan exist in the story and the other characters point out how lame it is.

For one thing, Aslan could have told Lucy and Susan what was going to happen... or not even brought them along in the first place...

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Raymond Arnold
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That might make for a fun parody, but it wouldn't be a story Eliezer would write. Not because of his position on his religion, but his position on good fiction - the antagonist's strength should be proportionally stronger than the protagonist's, and the protagonist should be responsible for solving their own problems.

[ January 04, 2011, 10:36 PM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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Aris Katsaris
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Let's please remember that the Narnia books are meant to be Christian fiction, not rationalist fiction -- people commenting on the "lameness" of events therein based on rationalist criteria are Missing The Point (tm).

In Christianity, Jesus is the protagonist in the history of the world, and he is ultimately stronger than the antagonist.

It's not the story Eliezer would write. It's not a rationalist story about the human heroes solving their own problems. Narnia is the story of people accepting Jesus' power to save them, accepting Aslan's strength to drive away the White Witch.

For the Pevensies to think they could save the world with their own power alone would be pride that would doom them to failure. It wouldn't even be rational, as rationalists aim to win.

quote:
Jesus is not actively connected to his divine side - he may know intellectually that he's also a god, but he has no memory of an eternity of godhood to buck him up.
That's an interesting interpretation, but which Christian dogmas actually claim Jesus had no memory of an eternity of godhood?
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Rakeesh
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Aris, key word there being 'actively'.

Anyway, I think we're all aware that the Narnia stories weren't very rational, we're just discussing some criticism and discussion that's all. And it seems pretty valid to me. Aslan's 'sacrifice' falls pretty flat as storytelling, largely because it relies so incredibly heavily on its allegorical weight. I mean, cast your mind about for a general who wouldn't make the choice Aslan made with the knowledge he had and be quite happy about it. I think you'd have a hard time finding one.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
That's an interesting interpretation, but which Christian dogmas actually claim Jesus had no memory of an eternity of godhood?
The LDS church teaches this quite explicitly. I'm curious to know which don't. The New Testament says that jesus "grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and Man. (Luke 2:42). How could he grow in wisdom if he had a clear memory of an eternity of godhood where he was omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

Perhaps other churches aren't explicit about it, but to the best of my knowledge they all teach that Jesus experienced the fullness of the challenges and difficulties of being human. The concept that he had no memory of an eternity of godhood arises quite naturally out of that teaching. Some of the most difficult challenges I face in life are because I have to make difficult choices in the face of uncertainty. Others would be made far easier if I could clearly and fully see the roll death and suffering played in an eternal plan or knew with certainty that injustices would eventually be made right. It's impossible for me to see how Jesus could be said to have really experienced the challenges of being a mortal human if he did not live with same questions and uncertainties we all face as humans.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
In Christianity, Jesus is the protagonist in the history of the world, and he is ultimately stronger than the antagonist.
The issue I had with your original statement was attributing Eliezer's rewrite to his disdain for religion, as opposed to his disdain for stories without tension and with irrelevant protagonists.

In LWW, the protagonist is not Aslan, it's the kids. Trying to mix Jesus with an adventure story produces something that has none of the impact of Jesus' actual sacrifice and none of the tension of an actual adventure story.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
That might make for a fun parody, but it wouldn't be a story Eliezer would write. Not because of his position on his religion, but his position on good fiction - the antagonist's strength should be proportionally stronger than the protagonist's, and the protagonist should be responsible for solving their own problems.

On this Eliezar is wrong which is most likely why he's still writing fanfiction and not best selling novels.

Harry Potter is one of the best selling series of all time and its author is a billionaire. The Narnia has inspired the imaginations of children for over half a century. The Lord of the Rings inspired an entire genre of adult fantasy. None of them stand up well to rational critique. What that ought to tell you is that being completely rational isn't an essential component of story telling. These are all books that I have enjoyed reading and rereading despite their flaws. In fact, I would say that none of the flaws were so glaring for me that they disrupted the suspension of disbelief and threw me out of the story during my first reading. The fact that they are so popular, suggests my experience is common.

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