Update: Discussion has moved on to a new thread.

The load more comments links are getting annoying (at least if you're not logged in), so it's time for a new Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread.  We're also approaching the traditional 500-comment mark, but I think that hidden comments provide more appropriate joints to carve these threads at.  So as of chapter 67, this is the place to share your thoughts about Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter fanfic.

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: one, two, three, four, five, six.  The fanfiction.net author page is the central author-controlled HPMOR clearinghouse with links to the RSS feed, pdf version, TV Tropes pages, fan art, and more, and AdeleneDawner has kept an archive of Author's Notes.

As a reminder, it's often useful to start your comment by indicating which chapter you are commenting on.

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Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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

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Today I met a relative of mine named Eliezer Yudkowsky. First words out of his mouth: "Oh, it's you! You're the one who ruined my life!"

I also met Avi, who (I was told) used to come over to babysit me, and I would do his math homework for him.

And I was told that at one point during my distant youth, I was holding a camera and kept tilting it, and Uncle David kept telling me "Hold it steady!" without effect, and then Dad said "Hold it in a plane perpendicular to the floor" and that worked.

Just in case anyone was still claiming that my eleven-year-olds are unrealistic.

Just in case anyone was still claiming that my eleven-year-olds are unrealistic.

People still won't buy your character, because reality is unrealistic (TVTropes). Orson Scott Card got the same reactions to Ender (although I can't find the reference now).

[-]see120

It's in the introduction to (later printings of) Ender's Game, starting on page XIX:

For some people, however, the loathing for Ender's Game transcended mere artistic argument. I recall a letter to the editor of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, in which a woman who worked as a guidance counselor for gifted children reported that she had only picked up Ender's Game to read because her son had kept telling her it was a wonderful book. She read it and loathed it. Of course, I wondered what kind of guidance counselor would hold her son's tastes up to public ridicule, but the criticism that left me most flabbergasted was her assertion that my depiction of gifted children was hopelessly unrealistic. They just don't talk like that, she said. They don't think like that.

And it wasn't just her. There have been others with that criticism. Thus I began to realize that, as it is, Ender's Game disturbs some people because it challenges their assumptions about reality. In fact, the novel's very clarity may make it more challenging, simply because the story's vision of the world is so unrelentlessly plain. It was important to her, and to others, to believe that children don't actually thi

... (read more)
1TobyBartels
Thanks!
8CarlShulman
Which particular effects were annoying him?
4Eliezer Yudkowsky
Google shadow, of course.
8Nominull
Some eleven-year-olds might be that way, but if your sample consists mostly of relatives of geniuses, it's going to be pretty skewed, I would think. There's no causal link between Harry and Draco and Hermione and Blaise and... I dunno who else people are claiming is unrealistic. Still, four unrelated genius-level children out of the, I don't know, one hundred first year Hogwarts students? It's not entirely unfair to see that as statistically unlikely, even if theoretically possible.

Keep in mind that Blaise's plan was Dumbledore's.

5Desrtopa
I don't get the impression that Draco is especially brilliant (for a real eleven year old, he would be, but Eliezer's characters don't act eleven in general,) but rather that he's especially well trained. He might be a one-in-a-hundred intellect, but he's had an education that not one muggle in millions gets. Blaise is clever, but likewise learned from an exceptionally duplicitous mother, and had Dumbledore passing him notes.
3hairyfigment
Hermione of course has great scholarly talents in canon. Harry -- I've seen people argue that he would have been a genius in canon if the abuse didn't warp him, and here he obviously had an excellent environment for developing mental abilities. But Harry does see himself as an anomaly. Some people here (apparently not believing nurture can explain that much) have a theory to account for him. As for Draco and Blaise, we know for a fact the former had extensive training. On a meta level, increasing Harry's intelligence required a smarter Voldemort and thus a smarter Dumbledore. Lucius Malfoy then needed smarts in order to produce a more-or-less canonical starting point for the story. And his erstwhile (?) Lord would not pick an idiot as a servant (not if he could find a way to control a smart minion.) Notice this means that, if MoR!Voldemort affected Harry's intelligence, three out of the four names you mention would have an indirect causal link in-story as well as in reality.
1Vladimir_Nesov
They have magic, and they are physically sturdier than Muggles. Maybe they are also on average smarter than Muggles. Which constitutes evidence for Terry Tao being a wizard.
9Desrtopa
Their being smarter on average than Muggles doesn't seem particularly well supported by the story so far, except insofar as the average intelligence of characters in the story is raised by virtue of being written by Eliezer.
[-][anonymous]390

Ch. 68 I thought was particularly strong. I find I really enjoy parts of the story that dip into Hermione or Draco's POV, so I'm glad to see more of that.

Ch. 68 also mitigated a negative reaction I'd had to the previous chapter -- watching Harry and Neville wipe out all of Sunshine by themselves, my reaction was a reader was an exasperated "Okay, must we really be bludgeoned with evidence of Harry's manifest superiority to all the other canon characters? It's getting to be a bit much." So for the next chapter to dip into Hermione's head when she's having the exact same thoughts--it helps a lot to counter my objection, because it shows a self-awareness in the text. It seems to promise we're going somewhere with all this.

I also think it's kind of interesting to contrast MoR!Hermione with the canon character. Canon Hermione was pretty much totally okay with her part as a supporting player in Harry's quest. There's this exchange in the first book:

'Harry — you're a great wizard, you know.' 'I'm not as good as you,' said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him. 'Me! Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery and – oh Harry – be careful... (read more)

[-]Raemon130

Good comment. Upvoted.

I've been wary of the way Hermione was presented so far. A month ago I was involved in a feminist discussion of literature, and more than one person expressed an explicit lack of interest in stories about "white dudes being responsible for saving the world." Upon reading it I thought back to MoR. I know there are constraints on the story that Eliezer doesn't control, except for choosing to have written the story in the first place. Harry's already a white dude responsible for saving the world, and adding SuperRationalist to his resume is going to inherently blow Hermione out of the water in her own sphere of influence.

At the time of the conversation about feminist literature (or lackthereof) we were at chapter 63. Hermione had yet to do anything significant. There were enough hints that Eliezer was aware of the issues facing her, both as a character in general and as "the Girl™" in particular, but those issues had merely been mentioned, not addressed. She had attempted to regain her personhood by becoming the general, and then lost everything she gained when she kissed Harry.

I had a vague faith that Eliezer would eventually address it someh... (read more)

9Eliezer Yudkowsky
High probability this comment had something to do with the surprise creation of SPHEW.
2Raemon
Heh. As I noted elsewhere, whatever your exact motivations were, I thought it was pretty awesome.
8Eliezer Yudkowsky
Oh, it's a critique all right, but it's not a feminist critique. One free karma point if you can guess what it's a critique of.
[-][anonymous]240

I have no idea if this was intended, but reading the chapter reminded me strongly of these two posts.

On the one hand, it is possible that Harry has simply gone on to a level where Hermione cannot follow. This suspicion, naturally, is devastating to her ego, but it's part of what she's grappling with now. And that moment is completely part of the archetypal Nerd Journey--for a lot of us it happens in college. All our lives we've always been the smartest kid at school, but suddenly we go to a much bigger school and we're confronted for the first time with the reality that we are maybe not the colossal geniuses our high school teachers and our parents always told us we were. We realize there is a level above our own. That moment can be very difficult.

But at the same time, as Hermione grapples with this realization, she's wondering if she can go any higher, and she's being told: No, because you don't have the aura of destiny.

Of course this is a fantasy story, a world with magic, and there is a special prophecy that names Harry and does not name Hermione. But I think she's right to object when Dumbledore and McGonagall refuse to give her the kind of help they're giving Harry, merely because it's not her name on the title of the story.

7[anonymous]
The hero archetype?
8NancyLebovitz
I think it's something like that-- it's a critique of the idea that a hero accretes followers, and the followers didn't have anything else they wanted to do with their lives. It may also be a critique of the idea of wanting to be an individual in a fairly loose context when sometimes it's necessary to get more involved to do what's important.
4David_Gerard
Humans accumulate followers. It's disconcerting to realise just how easy it is to accumulate followers - even from those who'd make quite good leaders themselves - just by telling people to do things and looking vaguely like you know where you're going. This is some sort of human universal.
3NancyLebovitz
Fair point. On the other hand, Sam Gamgee following Frodo is probably an oversimplification of the process, and Hermione:MOR is a good counterbalancing image.
4Raemon
Ha. I have no idea what's intended to be critiqued here, but Society for the Promotion of Heroic Equality for Witches is hilarious. Perfectly works alongside Canon Hermione (It even spells out S.P.H.E.W, I assume intentionally). And whatever your intentions, I think it does a decent job of accomplishing the actual goals of feminism while lampooning some of the more ridiculous efforts. Props to Dumbledore.
4Raemon
I'm assuming that "bad writing" is too broad an answer, whether or not the more precise answer happens to fall within it. The obvious answer is a tendency (both in writing and among humanity in general) to latch onto figureheads/heroes and give them disproportionate amounts of praise and expectations. But that seems too obvious. For the record, I'm defining feminism in a fairly broad "women should generally be treated equally to men, for the same reason that people should generally be treated as equal" sort of way. Not that men and women are completely identical or any other specific policies that you might or might not agree with. I know you have some concerns about gender politics, although I don't know what they are. (If the answer was a critique against "objectification of people in general", I'd consider feminism a subsidiary of that)
3benelliott
My guess, its about the other side of the Tsuyoku Naritai coin. An obvious implication of "run your fastest, you shouldn't have to feel bad if get ahead of other people" is "if other people run their fastest and get ahead of you, don't resent them for it". The same point is also made briefly by Draco's internal narration in Ch67.
3ArisKatsaris
A meritocratic critique of egalitarianism?
3Barry_Cotter
Agency; the idea that one person really can make a massive difference, whether that be all by their lonesome, or by setting things in motion or leadershio.

Eliezer's stories are full of people who make a massive difference. That'd be a weird thing for Eliezer to criticize.

7Eneasz
I think it's more a critique that EVERYONE can be that one person. Obviously they can't. Not necessarily just because the aren't the best either. Support staff is critical. Logistically it's impossible for everyone to be the hero because a hero without a support staff is just a dude waving a lightsaber around on his uncle's moisture farm.
1LucasSloan
The concept of the "chosen one."
0tondwalkar
A satirization of the mahou shoujo genre? Complete with costumes! An aside, they way you used "feminist critique" isn't the standard meaning of the phrase. A feminist critique would be a critique from a feminist framework, not a critique of feminism, much like a Bayesian critique of something would argue that it's fallaciously reasoning about probabilities.
3Eliezer Yudkowsky
That is what I mean; HPMOR's Hermione represents a critique of something, but not a "critique from a feminist framework" of that thing.
0[anonymous]
The idea that heroism is intrinsic, rather than something that people can be prodded into or pushed out of?
-2loqi
One dollar.
0wedrifid
Jumping in from the future... it looks like Harry has grown out of this! It kind of freaked Hermione out. :S
0[anonymous]
Canon!Hermione is so much stronger than canon!Harry that she has to encourage him, yes. Calling this "yielding gracefully" strikes me as exaggeration.
[-]major320

If you want to figure out the James' Rock thing yourself, you should probably stop reading now.

I read this in ch58

Luckily - well, not luckily, luck had nothing to do with it - conscientiously, Harry had practiced Transfiguration for an extra hour every day, to the point where he was ahead of even Hermione in that one class; he'd practiced partial Transfiguration to the point where his thoughts had begun taking the true universe for granted, so that it required only slightly more effort to keep its timeless quantum nature in mind, even as he kept a firm mental separation between the concept of Form and the concept of substance.

And the problem with that art having become so routine...

...was that Harry could think about other things while he was doing it.

and (putting my contrarian nature to good use) thought, the other reason he was good at it was, he concentrated on maintaining his transfigured ring stone all the time. Then I realized that's all thanks to Dumbledore and I started to wonder if it was intentional. In search of clues I reread ch17, specifically the part where Harry got the rock, and then went on to read the Lily's potion book part because it seemed related. That's w... (read more)

7rdb
If there is a training effect in increasing magical strength, and or improving concentration, keeping the rock transfigured works that way too, without being Transfiguration specific. Quirrel's armies help too - would normal classroom activity exhaust magic that much? Harry could try a controlled experiment over the Easter holiday if he thinks about it. With McGonagall's permission, ask his classmates to keep a loop of cord transfigured into an unobtrusive platinum toe ring (or more than one) over the holiday when they're not otherwise allowed to use magic. Then compare deltas in transfiguration scores on the next test between those who did & didn't attempt it. Is Harry getting letters back from his parents? He doesn't yet seem to be thinking about measuring magical strength, but a tool to compare would permit some kind of scale - if it could use embodied magic in magic items as markers. That could argue for faster access to later year charms. Similarly of pre-electronic tech that may be useful, that his parents may remember. (Slide rules, Curta calcs, Microfiche & hand held readers, ...)
0bigjeff5
The toe ring test probably wouldn't fly, the Ministry detects underage magic outside of the vicinity of Hogwarts and responds harshly.
1wnoise
In canon, the detection spells can't even tell the difference between Dobby's use of magic and Harry's. Telling the difference between a kid's magic and his parents' would appear to be even harder. For the wizarding kids, if their use of magic can't be told apart from their parents, there would be no way to sanction them. At that point the detection spells are only effective for muggle-borns. I'm not aware of any in-canon detection of children living with magical parents. (This would also let the wizarding families train their kids even when not at school, as a convenient way to bolster their status).
0TobyBartels
I'm pretty sure that I read somewhere that Wizarding families themselves are expected to keep an eye on their children when at home.
1orthonormal
Plausible, but that can't be the only reason for the rock; too big a deal was made of it at the time.
0bigjeff5
You do have to bear in mind that Dumbledore is quite crazy (in a purposeful sort of way). It wouldn't surprise me if he simply found a rock that James Potter had kicked around for a while, and on that basis claimed it was "James's Favorite Rock". Then the rock became a way to force Harry to improve his Transfiguration skills in a huge way. Also, as rdb notes below, that kind of concentration simply must have bleed over into other types of magic.
0thomblake
Yes, several people I know in-person had the same take-away from the rock transfiguration exercise when it was first introduced.
0major
Good, I'm probably no crazier then them, than. Did they also guess Quirrellmort's endgame plans before the hiatus? (Well, in retrospect, it was guessable way before that.)

As of 4:17am PDT, HPMOR is the #1 most-reviewed Harry Potter fanfiction on the entire Internet.

8cultureulterior
How did the pair writing go? I'd be interested in trying something like that myself.
3Psy-Kosh
Congratulations! (Now, you must aspire to make it the fanfic for which the reviews themselves are most reviewed!)
1wedrifid
Congrats! How far to go until it is the most reviewed fanfiction on the entire internet?
1Eliezer Yudkowsky
There was a Twilight fanfiction with 55,000 reviews but it seems to have disappeared off FF.net; I don't know what was #2.
0LauralH
...and that Fanfic is now 50 Shades of Gray.
0Nisan
Hooray!

Hi Eliezer, one minor issue I have with this (awesome) story is the punctuation. In particular, you often use commas when other punctuation might read better. Here are a few examples from chapter 68:

1.

Hermione wasn't feeling very nice right now, or Good either, there was a hot ball of anger...

Would read better as:

Hermione wasn't feeling very nice right now, or Good either. There was a hot ball of anger...


2.

Hermione began speaking, despite her newfound resolution her voice still stumbled a little with nervousness, as...

Would read better as:

Hermione began speaking. Despite her newfound resolution, her voice still stumbled a little with nervousness as...


3.

"That -" Harry's voice said urgently, she wasn't looking at him but his voice sounded like he had his head turned toward her. "That was...

Would read better as:

"That -" Harry's voice said urgently - she wasn't looking at him but his voice sounded like he had turned toward her - "that was...


I get the impression that you often do this in order to create a sense of rushing/urgency, and it mostly works, but other times it reads awkwardly. It's particularly noticeable at the beginnin... (read more)

4TobyBartels
I'm no expert, but I'm confident in my own knowledge here; your edits are more correct by the prescriptive standards of English. They also read better to me too, although may I suggest some semicolons sometimes?
6Manfred
I agree that semicolons are awesome, and one would probably be the best choice for sentence two.
1free_rip
Both colons and semi-colons are known to break the flow of writing. Dashes generally flow better than semi-colons. This is something I've found after writing many pieces (often with lots of semi-colons, which my natural style has a lot of) on a peer review writing-site and having reviewers tell me - 'x sentence doesn't flow well' for basically every sentence with a semi-colon. They work better in non-fic writing, where the flow can be more formal.
1syllogism
A substantial disadvantage of semi-colons is simply that they're rare. If a small but significant portion of your readers don't read them as you intend you're better off finding another way. It's a pity though, because if I were writing for perfect clones of me, they'd often be the best choice.
1TobyBartels
I use semicolons a lot more when writing on Less Wrong (and other places where intelligence is high) than on many other places.
[-]dclayh210

Ch. 68:

Hermione wears makeup? On a regular basis?! Has this been mentioned before, in MoR or canon? Seems somewhat-to-very out of character to me.

ETA: Eliezer has now removed the reference.

8Sheaman3773
I was also surprised when I read this line. I wouldn't have thought it typical of her at all.
[-][anonymous]120

Yeah, I blinked a bit at that too. In canon she can't be bothered to use hair product (even though she likes the effect on her frizzy hair) because it takes too much time to put on, so it seems probable that makeup is in the same category. I could maybe see a light lip gloss, if Hogwarts is dry and her lips tend to chap.

On the other hand, Emma Watson obviously wears makeup, so perhaps this is movieverse Hermione.

Lastly, I know this opinion makes me, like, ninety years old and Amish to boot, but twelve is too young for make-up.

7free_rip
I'm 16, female, atheist and don't wear make-up. There's nothing old-fashioned about it - it's just practical for the school years.
8[anonymous]
It's the notion that twelve is too young that I suspect is out-of-date, not the notion that makeup is generally impractical -- lots of women of all ages don't wear any. I don't in my everyday routine, although I do if I'm dressing up.
1Eneasz
I agree. Isn't the primary purpose of make-up the attraction of a mate? I know many kids start experimenting around that age, but that kinda weirds me out.
2David_Gerard
We have teenagers who've worn makeup since 14, but that's because they had the Kevyn Aucoin books and learnt it as a form of dressing up well. Aucoin's books are the books on how to do makeup well and should be regarded as standard texts on the subject.
2Unnamed
She's already kissed a boy and gone on a date.
0bogdanb
It’s the “primary purpose” in the sense that it’s also the primary purpose of jewelry and pretty clothes. Which I kind of doubt in general, although of course it could be true in particular cases.
3ArisKatsaris
Yeah, that was weird for me too. Seems both uncanonical and out-of-character.
3Raemon
Add me to this list of reactions.
[-]GeeJo190

Given the number of people struggling with the "Azkaban Saturday" timeline, I thought I'd have a go at mapping it out and uploading the result to Google Documents. If anyone's got any corrections, feel free to say so.

[-]Raemon190

Something I've mentioned before, but usually as part of a reply to something else: I strongly believe that the work would benefit from being officially divided into different books. Chapter 63 was incredibly cathartic to read, partly because it was a very intense chapter that resolved a lot of stuff, but partly because at the time, we knew a hiatus was coming and that it was the End™ of a particular section. That, in combination with the fact it touched upon every single plot thread, made it feel more potent. And the PDF version, at that time, was a little over 1000 pages, which is about right for a Harry Potter book.

It's also a daunting to get new people to read something when there's a bajillion chapters. I don't know if you're planning for two parts or three, but presumably there will be at least 120 chapters when this is done, if not 180+. I had better luck getting new people to read it when I specifically said "book 1 just finished, I can give you the PDF of that," and I think that's in part because "one book" is a friendlier way of measuring length than some large number of pages.

Fanfiction.net might have specific rules, or you might want to just keep thin... (read more)

3benelliott
Funny, I have the exact opposite reaction. I quite enjoy getting into a story by reading through a long archive and I'm often put off by small page-counts, since I know that even if I like it I'll just hit a frustrating stop in the near future.
1Raemon
My personal criteria is "likelihood of being finished" regardless of how long it is. Part of what I like about book 1 being a separate PDF is that no matter how long it is till the next part is done, you have one section that you can point to and say "finished."
0benelliott
I also try to judge by that, although its not always easy to do so. I also like the idea of Book 1 being separate, for many of the other reasons you gave.
2humpolec
To go with the TV series analogy proposed by Eliezer, maybe it could be an end of Season 1?
6Raemon
Yeah, that's exactly how I'd think about it. I actually think that usually, books should be turned into TV shows, not movies. A thousand pages of book translates into approximately a thousand minutes, so making a movie requires you to gut the book down to the equivalent of 200-300 pages, whereas making a tv series would allow you to actually flesh things out further, giving the director time to actually do something interesting with the material. I firmly believe Harry Potter should have been a TV show, not a movie. At least from an artistic, if not economic standpoint.
2hairyfigment
Back when the story ended with the "Humanism" arc, I told someone that a hypothetical publisher could reasonably treat it as the end of Volume One. If we can actually agree on possible ending points, then it makes sense to at least note these at the end of the chapter (somewhat like the sub-books within The Fellowship of the Ring etc.)

Ch 69

"Excuse (gasp) me," she said, "can you (gasp) Unjellyfy my legs?"

I can't believe I couldn't figure out the countercurse was just "Unjellify!" (ETA: Act I, Part 4, 9:07, if anybody cares). (Edit June 17: link changed to be more precise; it used to be this.)

0trlkly
And what does some people eating donuts on a string have to do with anything you said? Is YouTube reusing hashes from removed videos or something?
0TobyBartels
I believe that I was intending to link to a playlist, whereas I actually linked to the YouTube user who posted that playlist, and this user is now featuring an unrelated video. Here's a link to the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC76BE906C9D83A3A
0Manfred
If only I could vote this up twice.
2TheOtherDave
Well, you certainly can... just create another account. I don't recommend it, though.

Ch. 69:

Currently she was being referred to as the Sparkly Unicorn Princess of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Sparklypoo.

Reference.

Animate armor.

As Dumbledore demonstrates in Order of the Phoenix, any spell, even Avada Kadavra, can be blocked by a temporarily animate statue (the spell "kills" the statue instead). Which actually annoyed me when I read it, since that implies wizards could imbue each layer of their clothing with intelligence before a battle, and gain a bunch of extra lives.

(Having your breastplate shout taunts at your enemy also frees you up to focus on fighting.)

It wasn't the animatedness of the statue that made it block Avada Kedavra, it was that it was a huge block of solid stuff. Voldemort in the same sequence crafted a physical shield for himself, though he didn't need to block any Avada Kedavras (as Dumbledore didn't cast any).

Of course, imbuing your clothing with intelligence so it will absorb killing curses has some truly horrifying moral implications.

8sketerpot
Does Avada Kedavra require that its victim be intelligent, or just alive? If it's the latter, then a wizard could presumably turn a leather jacket into a flesh golem or something. It's gruesome enough that there would probably be an old book giving detailed instructions, with horrible illustrations.
8FAWS
I believe Bartemius Crouch Jr. demonstrates the curse by casting it on a spider so intelligence is not required in the books, but this seems like something that might be changed in the fanfic.

Quirrell distinguished himself early on in the fic as saying that the Killing Curse was a spell that solved many problems. He also said (ch 16):

The Killing Curse is unblockable, unstoppable, and works every single time on anything with a brain.

1benelliott
Didn't think of that. I suspect that the exact requirement amounts to having a 'soul', whatever that means.
7DanielLC
Only if you're death-averse. I figure intelligence for a little bit is better than no intelligence at all. Besides, you cease to be intelligent every time you fall asleep. People never seem to worry about the moral implications of that. I admit Harry is death-averse. I suppose he just never thought about sleep.

Comparing sleep to death for intelligence is like comparing a screensaver to dismantling for a computer. The brain is still very active during sleep, external stimuli can still be recognized, and sleep isn't a permanent condition. I don't see how such a comparison is meaningful for discussing intelligence.

2DanielLC
All those things except permanence are true of animals, or for that matter, a computer. Permanence causes a lot of paradoxes. For example, if you "kill" someone in their sleep, they never wake up, so it was permanent. That is, unless you start using counterfactuals, and talk about if they could have been woken up. In that case, they still can. It's not completely impossible, just really unlikely. But if you were dead set on killing them once they went to sleep, it would be really unlikely for them to wake up from that. Also, if they stop being intelligent, it becomes impossible to follow what "them" is. Intelligence stops. Intelligence starts. Who's to say it's the same one?
8Vaniver
hides face behind hands reveals PEEKABOO!
1Dreaded_Anomaly
That's a weak use of permanence. Nothing about the process of sleep requires that it be permanent, so sleep does not have the inherent property of permanence. Sometimes, people incidentally never wake from sleep, but that's not permanence in the way that death is inherently permanent. I don't agree that we stop being intelligent when we sleep. You continue to assert this, but without supporting it. Again: Also, if intelligence "stops" and "starts" from the same physical generator, i.e. the brain, (which isn't what happens with sleep) then it is the same one. (Edited to add article link.)
3DanielLC
What makes it inherently permanent? The only difference between sleep, cryostasis, and being shot in the head is how likely you are to be revived. It's never certain, and it's never impossible. Death is permanent by definition, but that just means we're never quite certain anybody is dead. Pretty much everyone's brain is made of the same quarks and leptons, so the same physical generator doesn't exactly narrow it down any. I would explain what I mean by that, but the link you have already does it.
-1Dreaded_Anomaly
Yes, it does. The link says, actually: The physical generator includes the configuration of those quarks and leptons, which is what gives rise to the specific intelligence.
-1DanielLC
The configuration isn't the same when you wake up. It's similar, but how do you know how similar it has to be? Again, there's nothing prevent a given configuration from ever occuring again, so you can't tell if someone dies. Also, the configuration I had when I was little no longer exists. Wouldn't that mean that as I live, each earlier instance of me is slowly dying?
-1Dreaded_Anomaly
When the butterfly emerges, is the caterpillar dead? I don't think so. Life still exists, and though its form changes, there is continuity from one moment to the next. The same is true for intelligence. To say otherwise is to stretch the meaning of "death" beyond relevance.
0benelliott
If they have the same memories and the same personality then its still them.
0DanielLC
But then you're not the same person "you" were a year ago, and it's possible for you to be two people at once. Also, that means that it's impossible to ever tell if you're dead. Even without some way of working out who you were, another you could start by complete coincidence.
2bigjeff5
The Sorting Hat disagreed. It seemed pretty pissed at Harry for accidentally making it sentient, which then meant Harry would be forced to kill it by removing the source if the hat's sentience.
1TobyBartels
You could imbue an item with intelligence and the desire to die gloriously in battle. In response, DanielLC seems to take it for granted that the rule of morality is "Do to others what you would have them do to you.", which is not bad as a rule of thumb, but leads to irreconcilable conflict when applied by people with different preferences (such as intelligence, even for a brief period, vs continuing to survive, once intelligence exists). The real rule should be "Do to others what they would have you do to them.". Since your clothing has no preferences before imbuing it with intelligence, anything that you do to it is (directly) morally neutral. As for the indirect effect that it's liable to be horribly killed, the morality of that depends entirely on what its preferences are after it is imbued with intelligence. All that said, I didn't read the statues in OotP as having intelligence at all. Edit: I forgot to state the correction to the Golden Rule above! Fixed. (Also minor grammar fix and removing the false reference to Dreaded Anomaly.)
0David_Gerard
And noting, of course, that this precise issue comes up when Harry has accidentally made the Sorting Hat sentient.
0JamesAndrix
Would it also be moral to genetically engineer a human so that it becomes suicidal as a teenager?
0TobyBartels
It would be immoral to genetically engineer suicidal depression, and it would be immoral to engineer the desire to die in this society, where it cannot easily be fulfilled. But imagine that puberty, instead of leading people to want to have sex, led us (or some of us) to want to die. While this might be as bad as puberty currently is, with new hormones and great confusion, hopefully a competent genetic engineer would actually make it better. No depression here, but looking forward to becoming an adult, with all that this entails. Presumably the engineer even has some purpose in mind, but even if not, I'm sure that society is more than capable of making one up. There must already be a science fiction story out there with this premise, but I don't know one.
-1David_Allen
It would be immoral to engineer the desire to die in this society, where it is considered immoral to make people want to kill themselves.
0Dreaded_Anomaly
I haven't commented on the morality of the issue at all, just the comparison of death to sleep.
0TobyBartels
Sorry, the opposing moral viewpoint against which Daniel argues is actually Daniel's interpretation of Harry, not you. I've edited my comment.

Ch 68

feeling a lot like a sad little bug that had just been squished

Trust me, Hermione, you're still much better off than her.

[-][anonymous]110

I just figured out a possible bit of twisty logic while listening to the podcast that I didn't notice on first read through.

I've spoilered this entire thing even though I probably don't need to, just so that you can can figure it out yourself If you want. I think it explains Dumbledore's otherwise incomprehensible behavior in chapter 17.

Cebsrffbe Qhzoyrqber frg hc gur ragver guvat jvgu Uneel'f Nhag, naq ur ncbybtvmrq sbe znavchyngvat guvatf va gung snfuvba. Naq Uneel qvqa'g haqrefgnaq vg orpnhfr Qhzoyrqber vf n ovg qvfgenpgvat.

Puncgre 1: "Naljnl," Crghavn fnvq, ure ibvpr fznyy, "fur tnir va. Fur gbyq zr vg jnf qnatrebhf, naq V fnvq V qvqa'g pner nal zber, naq V qenax guvf cbgvba naq V jnf fvpx sbe jrrxf, ohg jura V tbg orggre zl fxva pyrnerq hc naq V svanyyl svyyrq bhg naq... V jnf ornhgvshy, crbcyr jrer avpr gb zr," ure ibvpr oebxr, "naq nsgre gung V pbhyqa'g ungr zl fvfgre nal zber, rfcrpvnyyl jura V yrnearq jung ure zntvp oebhtug ure va gur raq -"

Cbvag 1: Uneel'f Nhag Crghavn qenax n cbgvba sebz Yvyl Cbggre gung znqr ure fvpx sbe jrrxf, naq gura zber punevfzngvp.

Puncgre 17: "Juvpu ubyqf n greevoyr frperg. N frperg jubfr eriryngvba pbhyq c

... (read more)

So, I was curious to see how each chapter was getting reviewed. Here are some numbers as of a few minutes ago:

The reviews cover a total of 856,252 words, more than double the size of the fic itself.

Some charts: reviews per chapter total review words per chapter avg. words per review per chapter

The 10 most reviewed chapters are:

  • chapter 05: 758 reviews
  • chapter 01: 411 reviews
  • chapter 10: 387 reviews
  • chapter 09: 358 reviews
  • chapter 06: 342 reviews
  • chapter 07: 306 reviews
  • chapter 47: 305 reviews
  • chapter 17: 299 reviews
  • chapter 08: 294 reviews
  • chapter 70: 282 reviews

In terms of average words per review, the top 10 are:

  • chapter 39, words per review: 158
  • chapter 27, words per review: 110
  • chapter 20, words per review: 106
  • chapter 63, words per review: 105
  • chapter 55, words per review: 103
  • chapter 54, words per review: 96
  • chapter 40, words per review: 95
  • chapter 35, words per review: 94
  • chapter 36, words per review: 94
  • chapter 49, words per review: 94

Top 10 for total review wordage produced per chapter:

  • chapter 09, words: 32684
  • chapter 05, words: 29331
  • chapter 63, words: 28956
  • chapter 01, words: 28198
  • chapter 20, words: 27191
  • chapter 47, words: 25956
  • chapter 27, words: 25288
  • chapt
... (read more)

ch68:

Hermione is very much correct. If she wants to play the hero, she needs to level up.

Hermione Skills- photographic memory, high intelligence, fast learner, high level of spell casting ability. No Patronus capability (although her minions might) Minions - several capable Sunshine luitenents, Ms. McGonigal (not very forthcoming with aid) Magic items - magic bag of holding

Harry Skills - high intelligence. Natural Occlumens. Patronus 2.0 capability. Partial Transfiguration capability. Rational thinking and scientific methods. Highly intuitive with lateral thinking. Knowledge of various Muggle technologies. Parseltongue language Minions/Allies - Chaos Lieutenant Longbottom, Lesath Lestrange, Bella Lestrange, Prof. Quirrell, Prof. Dumbeldor (not very forthcoming with aid), Prof. McGonagal (somewhat forthcoming with aid), Fawkes (?), Santa (?) Magic / Items - Deathly Hallow Cloak, Time Turner, Wealth (limited access), Chest of holding, Bag of holding, various Muggle tech artifacts (batteries, arc welder, ...)

Draco Skills – high intelligence. Patronus. Learning rational thinking and scientific methods. Trained manipulator.
Minions / Allies – Lucius Malfoy, Prof. Snape, P... (read more)

9dclayh
For Draco, you forgot Knowledge: wizard society and Status: Noble and Most Ancient House. ETA: And Status: Boy-Who-Lived for Harry, of course.
9wedrifid
I like this strategizing. I'd actually like to see a Hermione and the Methods of Rationality spinoff. Like the HP one only with less of Harry confusing clever and arrogant with rational (unless Harry has changed his personality in the last 20 or so chapters since I tired of him). Of course, with all Hermione's leveling up she still will not have a: Neville is badass.
7[anonymous]
Very true. But hey, you know who Hermione does have, in her Allies column? Harry Potter. She should get Harry's help with her heroine project. He certainly wouldn't try to hold her back like Dumbledore and McGonagall. The only difficulty would be explaining her problem to him in a way that he could understand -- but once he did understand it, he'd want to help and he'd probably be good at it, too.
2endoself
Harry doesn't exactly strike me as psychologically prepared for this particular revelation.
9derefr
He's quite prepared in a Hero's Journey sense, though. In Harry's own mind, he has lost his mentor. Thus, he is now free to be a mentor. And what better way to grow, as a Hero and über-rationalist, than to teach others to do what you do? Of course, Harry would say that he's already doing that with Draco—but in the same way that he usually holds back his near-mode instrumental-rationalist dark side, he's holding back the kind of insights that Draco would need to think the way Harry thinks; Harry is training Draco to be a scientist, but not an instrumental rationalist, and therefore, in the context of the story, not a Hero. (To put it another way: Draco will never one-box. He's a virtue-ethicist who is more concerned with "rationality" as just another virtue than with winning per se.) Mentoring Hermione would be an entirely different matter: he would basically have to instill a dark side into her. Quirrel taught Harry how to lose—Harry would have to teach Hermione how to win. If Eliezer has planned MoR as a five-act heroic fantasy, it will probably go like this; usually, in a five-act form, acts 4 and 5 mirror the character developments of the Hero in 2 and 3 in another character, for the purposes of re-examining the (developed, and now mostly stagnant) Hero's growth and revealing by juxtaposition what using that particular character as Hero brought to the journey. It seems more likely to be a three-act form at this point, though, with Azkaban as the central, act 2 ordeal. That's not to say the story is more than half-over already, though; Harry has just found his motivation for acting instead of reacting (to change the magical world such that Azkaban is no longer a part of it.)
7gjm
That must be the first time anyone has ever called Draco Malfoy a virtue ethicist. Probably the last, too.
6TobyBartels
Just because his values don't match yours doesn't mean that he's not ethical. Whether for good or evil, evarybody in canon is a virtue ethicist. (Presumably because Rowling knows no other ethics.)
5gjm
For the avoidance of doubt, I wasn't disagreeing that one could categorize Draco that way. I just thought the incongruity of it was striking. (To me, canon!Voldemort doesn't seem like much of a virtue ethicist even in the relevantly expanded sense. More of a consequentialist.)
4wedrifid
I had the same impression. I think it was Eliezer's-characaturization-of-canon!Voldemort that was the virtue ethicist. Voldemort harnessed, encouraged and exploited a form of virtue ethics in others to reinforce his own power. Tom Riddle was perhaps more of a virtue ethicist. As they say, power corrupts - it even corrupts away virtue systems that were fairly abominable to begin with. I did upvote the grandparent despite this possible exception.
3Desrtopa
How so?
3Desrtopa
Hermione knows how to win. She won the first mock battle quite resoundingly. She doesn't necessarily know how to hurt people for the greater good though.
3Normal_Anomaly
I hope it plays out like this, at least in part. The bits early in the book with Harry teaching Draco were fun. Draco may have already had the instrumental rationality part; certainly he was on a higher level instrumentally than epistemically. He had already had tutors in influencing people, he didn't have an akrasia problem, and he grew up in a culture of "find out what you want and go get it". Also, did you mean "Draco will never one-box?"
1derefr
Er, yes, edited.
1TobyBartels
Well, he's had some lessons to clarify the difference between clever arrogance and rationality within some of those chapters.
7DanArmak
Hermoine right now doesn't have a goal. In a story, the strength of a protagonist is proportional to the importance of their goal or the power of their enemies. Tsuikou Naritai won't work if all she wants is not to be weaker than Harry.
4cousin_it
Why would she do all this? Just to compete with Harry? She has no sacred quest, remember.
4Sheaman3773
To be herself in the only way she can? To get out from under Harry's shadow? To not belong to him? She has expressed a desire for all of these.
3Acrinoe
I just thought of a potential tactical trick for any of the three acting Generals. * bringing some bludgers jinxed to target enemy Generals/Officers/fodder Also, too bad neither of the Weasley twins could have been recruited. (I'm not sure if the existence of the map is known to anyone besides the twins) The Marauder's Map would have been an ideal tool for any Army to outflank, deny ambush, and execute precisely timed manuevers.
3CronoDAS
Freudian slip? ;)
0Desrtopa
Acquire, perhaps, but she has fewer funds available to her than Draco or Harry, and anything she's capable of enchanting as a first year wouldn't be especially worthwhile on the scale of magical items.
-1Sheaman3773
If you are speaking strictly of the Battle Magic armies, have you forgotten: from chapter thirty-one?
0Acrinoe
Hmmm, I did forget about that. Still, magic items would be useful for any other hero quests that might come her way. Harry has certainly made full use of all the tools at his disposal outside of the battlegrounds.

through chp 70

I'm surprised that Harry hasn't tried to learn everything he can about wizarding history, wizarding society, and everyone who's important in the wizarding world. Since before he got to Hogwarts he's thought that he would have a major role in the wizarding world, possibly very soon. He needs to learn about how the wizarding world works, what problems it has that need solving, what good things need protecting, what obstacles could get in his way, what resources there are to draw on, what traps to avoid, who his potential enemies are and how they can be dealt with, and who his potential allies are and how he can win them over.

He's destined by prophecy to fight the Dark Lord (as he learned in chp 6), so you might think that Harry would be using every method available to learn as much as possible about Voldemort, but as far as we know he hasn't been doing that. Dumbledore is one of the most important people in Magical Britain and one of the main people shaping Harry's life, but we know that Harry didn't make much of an effort to learn about Dumbledore (chp 46). He ought to be learning what he can about Grindelwald's war, the Ministry of Magic, Quirrell, Lucius Malfoy, ... (read more)

8Nominull
Harry canonically disdains "people stuff", and while some of that may be an act for Draco, it does seem in character for him to be more interested in the sciences than the humanities, more interested in learning the rules by which magic operates than facts about the past actions of people who have operated it. As I recall, the only reason he knows so much about the historical decline of Slytherin House is that it came up in the course of his research into the Patronus Charm.
[-]Raemon100

Anyways, one post someone made someone made there was kinda interesting: with the Transfiguration rules being as strict as they are, deliberately breaking those rules seems like a pretty broken combat technique if you were to use them to create biological weapon-ish things. Do wizards simply anticipate that and set up appropriate charms for defense, or what? Given how strict the rules are, it's clear that Harry would NOT be the first person to think of that sort of thing.

This chapter was fun. I'd have liked somewhat better foreshadowing in regards to "what exactly is capable of blocking a magic spell?" though.

I've wondered if it would be a good idea to transfigure some antimatter (Or about 50 kg of uranium if you can transfigure that much) if you ever end up near Voldemort and a bunch of death eaters.

Come to think of it, use Imperious to make other people become your suicide bombers.

That reminds me of wondering why nobody ever made an Imperius virus where they just have each person cast it again.

4drethelin
As far as antimatter goes, considering how hard it was to partially transfigure, I Imagine it would be impossible to craft something foreign to most people's understanding without a lot of practice, and anyone who tried to practice would explode the first time they succeeded. I can't recall If there's a canon limitation on Imperius curses, but I imagine they are strictly limited in MORverse simply because if they weren't the entire wizarding world would constantly be suffering from constant control of everyone by everyone.
2Raemon
Oh god I love your Imperius idea. Although the sense I get is that Imperius is very hard to cast and powerful wizards can resist, so a) it wouldn't necessarily be an effective virus, b) it might be pretty easy to notice and then counter, if you were too obvious about it.
5Sheaman3773
Not to mention, if you lost one person, then everyone they infected, and those they infected, ad nauseum, would be released. You could try to mitigate that by having overlapping vectors of infection, but I'm not sure how someone would react to having multiple Imperiuses cast on them.
9Raemon
Granted, the way this was accomplished in the actual story was by Imperiusing people who were poor wizards but politically powerful, to effectively gain control of large swaths of the population with minimal effort. Which is probably a better idea in the first place. Still, cool concept.
5benelliott
I'm surprised Quirrel hasn't mentioned something like that in his arguments against democracy. It's possible that rule by the strong really would be safer for wizards.
3Raemon
He actually did make this point to Harry.
1[anonymous]
The Imperius virus is a brilliant idea, although the caster of the curse has to spend at least some mental energy giving directions to the victim, so there might be a limit to how many victims could be chained from the initial casting. A direct line seems to work just fine--there are canonical instances of Imperiused characters going on to place others under the curse--but I think a tree with many branches would not work.
3Normal_Anomaly
I think the main problem is that you'd probably take yourself out too.
8Manfred
Bubble-head charm.
2Raemon
Was my post moderated? A chunk is gone that I don't recall editing. If so, I'd appreciate at least a notification, let alone explanation why.
0Pavitra
Is it possible there was a bug, or that you misremembered? Edit it back in and see if it re-disappears.
1Raemon
At this point I think I just deleted a section by accident when I edited, but by now I don't care about it that much.

Chapter 67 was a lot of fun, but why was everyone just standing around long enough to have big speeches, watch individual duels, etc? Haven't they read their TVTropes? ;)

edit: Also, I'm not sure how it was meant, but Daphne seemed more like she was under a literal spell than a figurative one, given that her crush reached sanity-compromising levels so quickly. Or was it supposed to be a long-running thing?

From Harry's POV,

  1. becoming more serious has made him less serious about battles, so he's willing to slightly hurt their chances of winning in order to make the battle more awesome and fun
  2. he's especially willing to let Neville be awesome, since Neville's development is one of his projects
  3. Harry & Neville don't really have to defeat the entire Sunshine army, they just need to stall them while the rest of Chaos defeats Dragon (this is conveyed through Draco's thoughts), so pausing for a dramatic duel might actually help Chaos's chances

Sunshine was probably glad to have a chance to defeat half of the army that they were facing while only putting one soldier at risk.

0ShardPhoenix
I would have assumed that the bulk of the Sunshines as whole would have at least kept trying stuff (and maybe hit one of them in the face with Somnium) rather than become passive so quickly.
7Sheaman3773
The Knights of Chaos are covered from head to toe in the gray cloth, while the rest of the officers in Chaos are only wearing breastplates. It's probable that their faces are not protected, but Sunshine lacks the visual clues that Dragon Army has to make that leap. Besides, they're wee ickle firsties. Their magical reserves are tiny, it could be that many of them aren't attacking in hopes that someone will figure out the trick and then they wouldn't be useless because they blew all of their magic. Or they're currently scared sheep terrified of the invincible Knights of Chaos. Who knows?
5knb
I assumed it was because none of them knew how to hit Harry, and Potter just wanted to watch a lightsaber duel. If any individual Sunny had tried to hit him with a Somnium, they knew it would probably fail, and Harry would probably curse them. Sanity-compromising? Because she cast a complicated spell during a play-fight?
2Dufaer
Also, everyone seems to be shouting their incantations, which seems just dumb. Harry could have also just Somniumed Daphne, after she has reflected his first Stunner and was currently cumbersomely battling Neville – it would cost him just the magical cost of a Sleep Hex itself. Instead he risks Neville getting heavily fatigued or even stunned and chats on.
8Sheaman3773
Agreed, but they're first years. Plus, I got the impression that the dueling incantations were shouted for effect, and that Stupefy was such a large spell for them that they couldn't spare the concentration not to shout, that in fact they needed to shout in order to generate the required amount of magic (I forget what it's called, but there's a concept in some martial arts that making a sharp noise as you strike increases the strength of the blow. A similar concept could apply here). Yes, he could have, and in some ways he should have. But would it have had the same effect as everyone saying that he defeated almost every Sunshine soldier by himself? Harry has already shown that he'll do what he needs to to boost his legend.
4TheOtherDave
The term you are looking for is probably kiai.
7benelliott
I'm not sure of the details of the spell she and Neville were using (I don't think it appears in cannon) but I had assumed that is protected both of them from everyone else for the duration, which would make sense if its purpose is to allow two aristocratic wizards to have their own private duel.
6Dufaer
Seems more like just a further Star Wars reference to me. Well, even if she was somehow protected, note that she was not passively protected (not like a shield spell) - she still had to move to deflect and: So she probably did not have the agility to deflect another shot - especially in the middle of a block or similarly. Also: A reflected or friendly-fired Somnium could harm neither Harry nor Neville, so there was really little harm in trying - even if Harry came to your hypothesis, he still should have tried it – right after he made sure that she wouldn’t be cut in half subsequently. As for the other Sunshine soldiers blocking it - I confess that I do not remember how exactly the first-year Contego shields work and what their limitations are (I do not think this has been elaborated upon), but Daphne seems to be out of the main Sunshine cluster here (if there still is one), wielding a sword, as is Neville (so other would tend to distance themselves - they already have, before). She should be quite hard to protect. Of course, there might not be any Sunshine cluster anymore, if Sunshine rushed in-between the enemies, as they planned. But it rather seems to me that that plan failed before it was even initiated. (Their formation is not mentioned in the chapter.)
1bigjeff5
They were directional, not particularly large but large enough for one or two people to stand behind, could not be fired through, and had to be maintained with the wand. The larger versions expand that up to a full sphere that can be fired through and only require concentration to maintain once cast. It seemed that each hit would drain the shield caster's magic, so your shield strength depended directly upon the strength of your magic.
2HonoreDB
I think if he'd tried to Somnium Daphne, the other sunnies would have blocked it.
2Sheaman3773
And now we have it. Harry Somnium'd her, but waited until the others were distracted to do so.

I was a bit sad to see today that the last bit of Chapter 1 had been changed. I really enjoyed the original.

6Eliezer Yudkowsky
Point 1 - it wasn't stylistically consistent with later chapters. When I wrote the original Chapter 1 I didn't realize that this story was going to be funny. The part where Harry bites a math teacher in the original Chapter 2 is the exact part where I realized this story was going to be funny. Point 2 - I got tripped up by the differences between the published SF I knew and the expectations of fanfiction. If you saw a character talking like that in a published SF novel, you would know that he was an alien or genetically engineered or that the author meant you to know something was funny about him. In fanfiction they assume that it's either the author's conceit or, more probable yet, you're just a terrible author who can't write realistic eleven-year-olds. I thought it was so blatantly lampshaded that nobody could possibly mistake it for an accident, but no, fanfiction readers just don't think like that - they don't look for clues and they do assume lousy authors. So I made Harry's intellect slightly more subtle in the first chapter and let it dawn slightly more slowly.
5BenLowell
I think that with the popularity of the fic, most people are making their way to it with recommendations that it is already good, so they will have a different reading strategy than somebody browsing for something worth reading.
-1komponisto
I noticed quite a while ago with considerable disappointment that you had changed to (with annoyance at the inappropriate punctuation on top of it: if you must avoid a question mark here, use an ellipsis, not a period!) ...but until seeing Eneasz's comment I totally failed to notice that you had deleted that whole paragraph! Shame! As a regular reader of neither SF nor fanfiction, I don't really care about the "expectations" of those genres. As far as I'm concerned, Methods of Rationality is its own genre, and that paragraph was very much stylistically consistent with the rest of the story, funny parts and all, and it was particularly consistent with Harry as we have come to know him. Actually, this part (minus the phrase "unmotivated conspiracies") sounds like something out of British children's fiction: Anyway, maybe the passage could be tweaked for lightheartedness if that's what you prefer, but I was really sorry to see the point about noticing confusion disappear.
4wedrifid
But, but... that was the defining introductory moment! It set the tone for the entire fanfic!
-1komponisto
I'm not sure why this was a reply to my comment, beginning with "but", since it seems to be an expression of agreement.
0wedrifid
Conversational emphasized disbelief, not directed at yourself (as implied by the subsequent words).
0komponisto
That's what I first thought, but then I worried that I might have misunderstood.
6JoshuaZ
I agree. I prefer the original form.
4Raemon
Me as well.
0[anonymous]
And me too.
1NancyLebovitz
What was the change?
[-]Eneasz140

New:

There was a long silence in the backyard. Then a boy's voice said, calmly and quietly, "What."

Previous:

Harry just stood there, stunned. That was... unexpected... The skeptical part of himself noted that he still hadn’t seen anything that violated the known laws of the universe. Surely a little conspiracy was far, far less improbable than the universe really working like that. But it was also a technique of rationality to notice when you were confused. To stop and say: wait a minute, that feels a little off, my understanding of the world didn’t predict for that to happen. Even if Harry tried to explain the day’s events by sudden insanity or unmotivated conspiracies, that didn’t put everything back to normal. It didn’t make the day’s events expected. It didn’t make him feel not-confused. There was no denying that something very, very, very odd was going on. Harry looked up at the sky, and began laughing. He couldn’t seem to help himself. This is the most improbable day of my life.

6Risto_Saarelma
That looks like a really good change.

I can't help but think that Harry dropped an incredible idiot ball on deciding to go to Azkaban. I don't mean his deciding to trust his Professor and Mentor. I'm having trouble reconciling Harry's timeline with either his or (more importantly Quirrel's) decision making style.

8 AM - "Well, I have a big day of breaking into Azkaban today. So much to set up, I've got to be super careful!"

3 PM - "Hmm, it seems that the failsafe Quirrel setup in case anyone believes I was involved in Azkaban was triggered. Better go through with the plan anyw... (read more)

Harry got the note from himself at around 3:10pm. He left for lunch with Professor Quirrell in the late morning, went back in time, went to Azkaban, went back in time again to Mary's Room, and was grabbed by Dumbledore and rescued at around lunchtime. Those two time-loops did not intersect; they are separate time-loops.

5TobyBartels
So not only did they break into the most heavily guarded prison ever, not only did they break out the[*] most dangerous criminal known to be still alive, not only did they get away with it all to boot, but they did it BEFORE LUNCH! [*] (assuming that MoR!Voldemort already killed Grindelwald) (OK, I know, they had plenty of time in their own personal timelines to eat lunch. And they didn't finish until after lunchtime. But still.)
5Xachariah
Thank you, that clears up my confusion. I am afraid that I am too used to intelligent fictional characters having supernatural powers of planning and foresight. I suppose it is much easier to have readers be impressed with intelligence if smart characters are simply omniscient rather than acting rationally at all points. Therefore, if you were to be writing Quirrel with maximum intelligence, he simply MUST have planned it all at the earliest possible moment. It didn't occur to me that they could just be making the best of a bad situation, since that doesn't maximize the illusion of cleverness. He's a very smart human; he's not L/Light. I'll try not to be so hasty to make assumptions in the future and scan for any unspoken assumptions that are coloring my view when reading MoR. On further reflection, that's a good general life lesson too.
5Vladimir_Nesov
He doesn't know about Azkaban in the morning.
1major
Harry was tested (via Veritaserum) after the Daily Prophet incident. The fact that he is being tested in regards to Quirrell's illegal activity is not evidence of it's failure, it only shows that it's impossible enough to make someone suspect Harry Potter was involved. A flashback where Quirrell explains the failsafe to Harry might have helped, though. For example, he would have foresaw the hide-from-dementors nature of Patronus 2.0 as a clue for Dumbledore (which is probably what prompted him to make this particular failsafe in the first place). How much of it did he explain to Harry? It is not really important, however. The moment Harry recieved the message at 3PM, he was committed. DO NOT MESS WITH TIME! Still, your question made me notice my (possible) confusion, so... good one.
0Xachariah
The alarming thing about being tested isn't that they tested Harry specifically; it is that they were aware that tests needed to be performed at all. Had the plan gone successfully, nobody would have ever have known that Bellatrix was removed. Remember that the entire advantage of Patronus 2.0 (to Quirrell) was the undetectable nature of it. It allowed a person to commit a perfect crime without the guards or dementors being aware that a crime ever occurred. From the point of view of Harry, sitting with his invisibility cloak in the empty room at 3:00 PM, only a small number of possible futures could exist: No note - Either the plan will go successfully, Harry shall be captured/killed in the attempt, or they abort for some other reason. Do not mess with time note - This also should result in aborting the mission since some terrible paradox occurred and you DO NOT mess with time. Passcode note - Harry will not be apprehended, but the plan will fail in some way and Harry is a suspect. Or Harry will chose to abort the mission and send back a false passcode preserve a stable time-loop. This is the result that actually occurred and is the only one that confirms a definite partial failure. I admit it is possible that, once the message was sent back in time, Harry and Quirrell were committed via fate to perform the prison break. The problem is that both Harry and Quirrell act as if No Note was received. In the TPSE chapters, we do not see characters who are aware that their plan will be detected. They do not seem to act as if their plan is definitely going to partially fail. Neither does Harry take heart in nor mention the fact that he has already survived escaping Azkaban. Contrast with the same situation in cannon!PrisonerofAzkaban where it is a major plot point. Edit: There is the possibility it is related to "Azkaban's future cannot interact with it's past", but then you run into the problem of Harry being able to send the note at all. If they abort or are just mo
0wedrifid
Such loops are stable even without any paradox. The extent to which one can deduce whether bad things happen depends on the psychology of the individual and existing priors. But so is this. A message 'Abort! X, Y and Z bad things will happen if you try!' can be reproduced and sent back in time perfectly well - and this kind of thing has been observed already in MoR.
2TobyBartels
Have we had the version with X, Y and Z listed? (I agree that we have had Abort! messages reproduced and sent.)
0wedrifid
No, haven't. This seems to indicate a failure of rationality of the part of the time turner users. :)
-1TobyBartels
They may be trying to avoid sending more information than necessary into the past, since there are known limitations on that. (No information can be sent more than 6 hours in the past, even through a sequence of time-turners.) I can't think of a situation where it would be safe to send the information that something has gone wrong but not the information about how, and maybe they can't either, but they could just be playing it safe.
0cata
One obvious option is that Harry might have chosen to commit to sending a note back with opaque instructions to himself either way, even if no test were being performed. In that case, getting the note would mean only that he returned in one piece. Is there an advantage to that?
-2Danylo
Let's speculate. Say, Harry Potter tried, failed, and sent a note to the past. What happens to the Harry in the future? He presumably continues to exist, in an alternate universe where he didn't get a note and went on with the plan. Thus, we have a scenario where, if the test was planned for, Harry must have both Gone on the mission and Not Gone on the mission, and we're merely following the one that did in the narrative.
2TobyBartels
That's not how time-turners work in canon, nor in this fic (other fics notwithstanding). See TVTropes:Stable Time Loop.
0[anonymous]
Such loops are stable even without any paradox. The extent to which one can deduce whether bad things happen depends on the psychology of the individual and existing priors.
0Nominull
I know Azkaban is warded against time travel, I don't know in what way that would play havoc with a time loop that passes through Azkaban.
0JoshuaZ
Isn't that a Harry version that's gone back in time again a few hours? Edit: It actually might be nice if Eliezer could provide a diagram that has everyone's worldlines to help keep track of this. It isn't as bad as Primer but it is getting there.
2Vladimir_Nesov
Harry didn't go back in time to 3 PM.
[-]Atelos130

Indeed. Harry's personal timeline looks like this.

Wakes up, does morning stuff.

Goes to lunch with Professor Quirrell.

Azkaban!

Back in time to be picked up by the Professors at Mary's Room.

Receives coded note, delivers message to Professor Flitwick.

Reports to McGonagall's office, receives message to be passed to Flitwick.

Back in time one hour from 9 PM to send coded note through Slytherin mail to Margaret Bulstrode who will/did bring it the rest of the way back to 3 PM using her own time turner.

Visit to Dumbledore's office to hear his theory on Bellatrix's escape, and it turns out, to help Fawkes yell at him.

I was curious about the status of the review race, so I wrote a scraper to extract all HP fanfics of all ratings, with more than 40,000 words, and a bunch of data about each from ff.net. That is about 23,952 fanfics.

Here you can see the top 50 sorted by reviews, and if you know sql you can fiddle with the query whichever way you like. For those interested in the scraper itself, it's here (Click on edit to see the code. Please don't edit it unless you know what you're doing)

[edit: the data is updated daily]

Reactions to Chapter 70:

Why, just a few centuries earlier -

What exactly is she talking about here? From the reactions, it appears to be rape (forcible rape of women by men), but unfortunately there's no reason to go back centuries for that. Even if Sinistra ignorantly assumes that votes for women put an end to rape, she still doesn't have to go back any farther in her history than she's already gone.

I think that's the most overtly evil Defense Professor we've ever had.

A good line made great by the follow-up.

she realized that it was Professor Qu

... (read more)
7Mass_Driver
Overt slavery. Prof. Sinestra also has dark skin.
3TobyBartels
Thanks. That fits the timeline, but I don't think that it fits the students' reaction: Of course, slavery ties in to rape (my reading of their reactions), but it doesn't make sense for Penelope to say "us" here. (Penelope has white skin.) There's also the sense of slavery in which men were (or are) owners of their wives and unmarried daughters, but that doesn't seem to be what you mean.
6TheOtherDave
If I see George being treated badly by Bill, I might conclude that Bill would treat me badly in the same circumstance, even if I know that George has green eyes and I have hazel eyes and Bill has some weird prejudice I don't entirely understand having to do with eye color. Someone raised in a culture that considers skin color of no more significance than eye color would presumably react similarly even if they know that George has brown skin and they have pink skin and Bill has a prejudice having to do with skin color.
1TobyBartels
Yes, but bringing in eye or skin colour distracts from the matter of sex, which is the focus of every other remark in the conversation. So it's an interesting hypothesis, and I don't have a better one, but it still leaves me confused. I'll provisionally accept it, but I still hope that somebody can think of a better one.
6TheOtherDave
Professor Sinistra was talking about the unequal role of women in Muggle society, and brought up her mother as an example. "And that wasn't the worst of it," she continues. "Why, just a few centuries earlier -" The writer cuts off at this point, but it seems entirely plausible that Sinestra went on to talk about how women like her mother were treated a few centuries earlier, and slavery is a pretty major component of that narrative. If they were discussing "the matter of sex," then I agree it's a distraction from the discussion. OTOH, if they were discussing how Muggle society treats its low-status members, with sex simply being an example of that, then it's a continuation of the discussion. This sort of situation arises all the time in real-world conversations, where what one person considers a reasonable continuation of the conversation strikes another person as a confusing change of subject. All I can say is, it seems like a reasonable continuation to me.
0TobyBartels
I agree that discussing slavery would make perfect sense, given the conversation that preceded it. However, this ignores the conversation that followed it, whose participants seemed to be entirely unaware that they had been discussing any examples of discrimination other than on the basis of sex. Based on Quirrell's remarks in particular, I'm pretty sure that they'd been discussing rape, in one context or another. As I said in my last comment, I'll provisionally accept that they were discussing it in the context of slavery, since I can't think of any better fit. But it's still not a very good fit. Another point that I just thought of: Sinistra's "several centuries earlier" should have been simply "a century earlier", for this hypothesis to fit. Several centuries earlier than the early 20th century almost predates modern race-based slavery. (By the way, can we assume that Sinistra's ancestors were enslaved? Her ancestors may well have come from slave-holding British colonies, but are there any likely alternatives?)
[-][anonymous]80

Chapter 69 was adorable. Thank you for that, EY, it was wonderful from beginning to end. Your Hermione is recognizably the same Hermione that I loved in canon, just reacting to a somewhat different set of circumstances: I think SPHEW is an excellent twist. And I'm starting to feel extremely fond of Daphne as well.

Very small question: I was confused by the line the Hufflepuff boy was sitting up, and groaning and rubbing his skull where he'd been dropped head-first into the floor; it was a good thing he hadn't been a Muggle, Hermione realized, or he might have snapped his neck.

What is it about wizards that makes their necks less likely to snap? Can somebody explain that reference for me?

9JoshuaZ
There are some implications in canon that wizards are more durable than Muggles, although canon isn't completely consistent on this matter. It may be simply due to the unconscious or reflexive use of magic. The two data points that are most relevant in canon off the top of my head are Hagrid's remark in book one that there's no way Lilly and James would have died in a car crash, and the fact that the upper limit on the lifespan of wizards is apparently much higher than that of Muggles (Dumbeldore is well over a hundred.)

Of course, it's possible that James and Lilly would never have died in a car crash because they have no need to drive.

2Raemon
I thought it was more of a joke about the movies, where people get thrown around in typical hollywood fashion in ways that should kill a human but barely seem to phase the wizards. (Mostly during Quidditch)
7Sheaman3773
In chapter 36, when Harry's family goes over to the Granger's for Christmas, I'm fairly certain there are other instances as well, but I can't seem to find any more. My vote is on reflexive use of magic, rather than a physiological difference.
1[anonymous]
My vote is on reflexive use of magic Okay, gotcha. I don't think that's supposed to be very reliable, though, at least not canonically.
8Sheaman3773
Applying Fridge Logic, I don't see how they could play a game where iron balls flew around trying to brain people without it being at least somewhat reliable. On the other hand, Dobby's Bludger did break Harry's arm...
0Eliezer Yudkowsky
Yep, see Ch. 17.
0[anonymous]
Applying Fridge Logic, I don't see how they could play a game where iron balls flew around trying to brain people without it being at least somewhat reliable. On the other hand, Dobby's Bludger did break Harry's arm...
-10major
6Nornagest
It's not made particularly clear whether this is due to physical differences or unconscious use of magic, but there are a number of suggestions in canon that wizards tend to be physically tougher than Muggles. IIRC, Rowling's version of Neville was only discovered to be a wizard when he was dropped from a height and bounced.
3[anonymous]
IIRC, Rowling's version of Neville was only discovered to be a wizard when he was dropped from a height and bounced. Ah, see, it never occurred to me to read that as anything other than subconscious use of magic.
2wedrifid
That is what Rowling implied. Eliezer seems to have satirised some of the unrealistic parts of canon with respect to human physiology under trauma by making wizards explicitly more durable in MoRverse.
2Normal_Anomaly
As some other commenters have pointed out, there's some fanon out there that says wizards are protected from damage by unconscious use of magic. I think it may have started with this essay from 2002.

A question on transfiguration, timeless physics and what HJPEV could have known:

Harry's first year at Hogwarts is 1991. He transfigurates materials outside the confines of forms by thinking in terms of timeless quantum physics.

What was the state of timeless physics in 1991? Barbour's book was not published until 1999, for example, though presumably to have a book there was work leading up to it. What knowledge on the subject could Harry have had at that time, in a world without the Web as we know it, without even arXiv?

Edit: Barbour started publishing pape... (read more)

[-]Eneasz140

Let the man have some licence for pedagogy! The story wouldn't be worth much if it only taught lessons of things learned up to 1991.

Yup. Harry is allowed to know about cognitive psychology from arbitrary time periods, too, and have read anachronistic science books, etcetera. Science is Timeless.

5TobyBartels
I don't think that this is a good idea. If Harry talks about, say, ice volcanoes on Titan, that will seem wrong to me. On the other hand, Harry doesn't seem to have said anything on physics that requires having read Barbour. Or have I missed it?
4ata
Chapter 28:
8TobyBartels
Other than the buzzword "timeless physics", this doesn't go beyond anything that I knew about in 1991 (when I was older than Harry but still in high school and had never heard of Julian Barbour). This is implicit in Minkowski's formulation of special relativity (1908) and Heisenberg's formulation of quantum mechanics (1925); I don't know who made it explicit, but I probably read about it in popular science books. ETA: The buzzword that I knew then (or perhaps learnt later and immediately connected to what I knew then, I'm no longer sure) is "block universe".
0[anonymous]
Why doesn't Harry seem to have heard about the Singularity then?
-2[anonymous]
What about the Singularity/FAI/Yudkowsky stuff that Harry would be allowed to read? Would HJPEV (given his disposition) have been a Singularitarian if he was born in the 90's?
7DanielVarga
Slightly offtopic: Is Barbour becoming the "public face of timeless physics"? All right. But let's not believe it is because of scientific priority. The Wheeler–DeWitt equation is from 1967. Huw Price's book was published in 1996.
0David_Gerard
Certainly the LessWrong face of it, per the QM sequence.
3JoshuaZ
Harry's universe diverges somewhat from ours in a variety of respects. He'd have a lot of trouble knowing about carbon nanotubes also. It seems that accelerating some specific areas of science is within poetic licence.
[-]gjm80

Way way way way back in chapter 3, after McGonagall has told Harry about Voldemort's attack on him and his parents, it says:

(And somewhere in the back of his mind was a small, small note of confusion, a sense of something wrong about that story; and it should have been a part of Harry's art to notice that tiny note, but he was distracted. For it is a sad rule that whenever you are most in need of your art as a rationalist, that is when you are most likely to forget it.)

Is the "something wrong" simply that if the story is correct then there we... (read more)

8Sheaman3773
There are loads of fan-theories as to how they would know specifically; my favorite is, based on how confidently Dumbledore explains exactly what happened that night, that he used Legilimency on the newly orphaned Harry. Another fairly prevalent one is that the scar Harry has is unique for being the result of a Killing Curse, yes, but curse scars in general are not unique at all. They also could have used any number of detection spells--honestly, there are a multitude of options. What I thought was wrong was that McGonagall explicitly said that the Killing Curse struck directly at the soul, severing it from the body. This is why victims of Avada Kedavra don't have a mark on them. But Voldemort's body was a "burnt hulk." Odd, that...
7gjm
At this point in the story Harry has never even heard of Avada Kedavra, never mind what someone who's been AKed would look like. [EDITED to add: The relevant question isn't whether there are in the Potterverse or the Methodsverse ways in which wizards might be able to know what happened that night despite there being no survivors other than the infant Harry, but what rational!Harry could reasonably have thought possible and plausible.]
4Sheaman3773
Saying that a spell severs the soul from the body comes along with the strong implication of not killing someone via bodily harm. He hasn't heard the incantation yet, that's true. But he just heard plenty about the Killing Curse. edit: I'm fairly confident that the concept of magic forensics is not beyond him at the moment. Besides, looking at it narratively, there has been way too long of a wait to find out what that meant for the payoff to be minor.
7[anonymous]
Could the "something wrong" have to do with the concept of the soul?
7cwillu
That's my bet: Harry doesn't believe in souls, but he swallows the explanation without a second thought.
4gjm
He just heard plenty about the Killing Curse, yes. But that plenty doesn't include anything about what people who have been struck by it look like. I am not even slightly convinced that "it severs the soul from the body" carries a clear implication that it doesn't damage the body in the process. (Contrast "it removes the brain from the skull". If you heard that someone had had his brain removed, would you then be surprised if his head looked a mess?)
3Sheaman3773
No. However, the brain is a physical object. The soul is not. This is a rather significant difference. edit: I'm not certain why I got downvoted. The brain is a solid object. If you remove it, it can be done in a way that leaves the rest of the head intact, especially when you factor in magic, but I wouldn't be surprised if it resulted in the head looking like a mess. The soul, on the other hand, does not have a physical component that we've found, so removing it would not necessarily result in any physical change (excepting the death of the target). Thus, the difference between the physical and the metaphysical object is relevant. Furthermore, by way of example, if the Killing Curse killed by turning their targets inside out (or immolating them) I would expect them to say that it kills by making their internal organs external (or burning them to death) rather than specifically and explicitly saying that it strikes the soul directly. Is this clearer?
4bigjeff5
I think the reason you were downvoted is the fact that a very large proportion of people on this blog (including Eliezer) believe that if their is a separate component we could refer to as a soul (or consciousness, or any similar concept), that it is entirely contained within the real world - that is, it is going to be some component of the brain instead of any sort of separate metaphysical property. I don't think it's fair to downvote you for that, since the opposite is clearly the prevailing opinion in the HP universe. However, given Eliezers extensive arguments against any sort of epiphenomena, I think it is highly probable that it was the mention of the soul that should have set off alarm bells for Harry, because SuperRational Harry shouldn't believe in a soul, at least not without major caveats. I think the soul question is going to come up in the eventual direct conflict with Voldemort, and that it is going to be a Very Big Deal. It is the source of Voldemort's immortality, after all. It's the most important question Harry needs to answer, and he hasn't even asked it yet.
0Danylo
Ah, but Harry doesn't believe in the concept of a "soul" as anything other than the result of a physical brain. Thus, his interpretation should be focused on damaging the brain.
1Sheaman3773
I think it more likely that Harry would think that it would still appear to kill without physical damage--the witches and wizards would take that as proof that the spell attacked the soul, and Harry would think that does something that we aren't sure of, but almost certainly it didn't actually attack a literal "soul." In my opinion.
2TobyBartels
And that would be his error. I still hope to find that the kind of soul that Draco believes in --one that Muggles don't have-- will turn out to be something real (but of course not what Muggles mean by "soul", nor anything that Wizards really understand).
1ata
Yes, I recall that one of the books described the Killing Curse as leaving victims in apparently perfect physical health other than being dead.

Ch. 67: why does metal stop spells while cloth doesn't? It's not as if spells pierced clothes and made holes where they hit. If it's about tiny holes in fabric, something like permeability to water, would plastic bags work as well as metal? If it's about thickness, would styrofoam do? And if it's honestly about metal, how about aluminum foil?

In canon, the hardness and thickness of materials are described as stopping spells, especially stunning spells. Hagrid, e.g., is able to resist several Aurors' stunning spells for a few minutes because of his thick, hard, half-giant hide. No form of cloth or wool clothing is ever described as stopping a magical attack, but Harry can hide behind (presumably granite) gravestones for some time while Death Eaters blast away at them. Toilets, which presumably are not quite as thick or hard as gravestones, are shown as stopping one offensive spell but then exploding.

IMHO wearing metal armor is a brilliantly canonic tactic. The least plausible facet of it is that first years in January, average age 11.5, probably cannot build enough muscle mass to wear a full suit of medieval armor at all, let alone in two weeks. I do not think we have seen evidence that wizards are stronger than ordinary folk, as opposed to more resilient. The captains are described as wearing only metal shirts, but they practice by swinging metal objects on their hands and feet -- this is odd.

Actual medieval plate mail, of the kind intended to be worn in battle, weighed about as much as the safety equipment that hockey goalies wear today. There was a guy in a History Channel show that did cartwheels while wearing it. So Harry wearing plate mail probably would work, assuming he could get it to fit properly.

Chain mail, however, was indeed heavy and cumbersome, and "armor" designed for merely decorative or ceremonial purposes could indeed have been heavy enough to compromise the wearer's mobility, but Harry wouldn't have been wearing something like that.

0TobyBartels
Then how come plate mail is listed with a higher encumbrance than chain mail in my D&D manual? ETA: :-)
6wedrifid
Perhaps the same reason that the D&D spells Melf's Minute Meteors and Meteor Swarm have much of their effect in the form of fire damage.
6CronoDAS
1) Because the D&D designers either didn't know the truth or didn't care and 2) because it works better for game balance.
0magfrump
If you care about this kind of thing I recommend Riddle of Steel.
0JoshuaZ
D&D arms and armor has very little connection to history. Indeed, many historical fighting styles are either impossible or very difficult under the standard rules. (This is true in both 3/3.5 and 4th. I don't know how true it is in earlier editions.) Similarly, arrows are aren't nearly as deadly as they were historically. And then you have ridiculous things like the "dire flail" which seems to be a recipe for getting yourself hurt real fast.
0Randaly
@ arrows: "I have seen soldiers with up to 21 arrows stuck in their bodies marching no less easily for that." ~Beha ed-Din Ibn Shedad (an advisor to Saladin) To be fair, the source I read the quote in ("50 Battles that Changed the World," page 34) implied that Beha meant that the arrows were mostly absorbed by their cheap quilted armor, not their actual bodies.

I've worn full-weight chain and plate reconstruction items while running around for a full day, and I'm not physically fit at all - I'd say that a random geeky 12 year old boy would be easily able to wear an armor suit, the main wizard-combat problems being getting winded very, very quickly if running (so they couldn't rush in the same way as Draco's troops did), and slightly slowed down arm movement, which might hinder combat spellcasting. It is not said how long the battles are - if they are less than an hour, then there shouldn't be any serious hindrances; if longer then the boys would probably want to sit down and rest occasionally or use some magic to lighten the load.

2drethelin
This. I've also worn multiple layers of armor, and something that's heavy to lift with your hands becomes much easier to handle when you're supporting it with your shoulders/body. If we extrapolate from harry, they transfigured the armor into existence, so it could be even lighter than average armor in any case.
0bigjeff5
They wouldn't have had to get the heaviest stuff either, they were trying to stop first year sleep spells, not Auror stupify's. Chain mail was probably more than enough, and heavy wool might have had good effect if it were thick enough. Edit: I should have read down further, apparently chain mail is much heavier than plate. Who knew?
3gwern
My first thought when I finally figured out that the metal was about mundane armor and not something crazy like transfiguring muscles was 'why don't Aurors wear impressive clanking armor, then?'

As Harry said, this was a tactic that would only work against weak first-year spells; he did have to dodge Hermione's Stupefy.

7Sheaman3773
It says early in the chapter, when Harry and Neville are alone, that this didn't count as giving Voldemort a good idea b/c the armor would only stop minor jinxes.
6gwern
But this is for the crappy armor that first years can both build in a short period and also wear. A full grown adult with governmental resources ought to be able to obtain and wear much better armor. Given the problem Aurors seem to have with surprise attacks, that alone might make them worthwhile! (In the real world, no one says bulletproof vests can stop only weaker bullets and don't do anything about explosions or knives, so there's no point in equipping soldiers or cops with such vests...)
6benelliott
On the other hand, its not a new idea. Harry mentions that some wizards used to wear armour in the dark ages, and they probably wouldn't have stopped using it if it was useful.
4gwern
In Eliezer's HPverse, that may be a sensible argument. (Given the general irrationality of wizard-dom, not a very strong one, though.) I'm criticizing Eliezer for diverging from canon, which IIRC has no suggestion that armor would be useful or had been tried but abandoned in the past. (The only example I can think of is maybe canon had goblin armor, and I'm not sure how that would apply.)

Canon already suggests spells can be stopped by solid objects, but only if they're sufficiently solid. And powerful spells have been shown to blast objects, while weak spells haven't. It's not much of a leap. In HP canon, historical wizards may or may not have worn armor of some sort, but for an adult wizard, armor is probably more trouble than it's worth. Considering how versatile a properly trained wizard can be in combat, it shouldn't be able to do more than force the opponents to slightly revise their tactics, while increasing the wearer's fatigue.

Remember that these are first years. The difference between the quality of armor they and the government can procure is much smaller than the difference between their combat ability and those of aurors or Death Eaters. If they didn't have such a demanding teacher, they would probably be incapable of anything resembling proper dueling at this point.

4Sheaman3773
It could be that in order to get it to the strength that it will stand up to adult hexes, the armor becomes too cumbersome to actually use. This is true, but in the real world, cops face bullets somewhere around as often as knives (I believe; does anyone know differently?) and far more often than explosions--Dark Wizards, on the other hand, don't go around offensively using first-year spells...basically ever.
0gwern
Isn't that a rather convenient outcome, though? Why should we think that? Hence the point that we would expect adults with government resources to be able to wear both heavier armor and much better armor for a net protective effect far beyond what Harry et al managed.
9Desrtopa
Because if that weren't the case, we might expect aurors to wear armor, and they don't. A hypothesis that suggests that armor isn't useful for adult wizards predicts our observations better than one that suggests that it is.
0gwern
One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens; we can use the observed lack in canon to argue for Eliezer conflicting with canon or we can use it to argue canon invisibly agrees with Eliezer.

General rule of fiction. If there are two possibilities, neither of which is confirmed or denied in text, assume the one that makes sense.

0gwern
OK. So to use an earlier Yudkowsky example, what possibility about arbitrage should we assume holds true in canon? That there's some clever witchery which makes it impossible or that Rowling simply made a mistake and didn't think about the economics? If we assume perfection on the part of the author, doesn't that lead to an odd and desperate kind of rabbinical midrash?
4TobyBartels
I assume both: Rowling never thought of it, but if it were brought to her attention (and she considered it worth bothering about), she would probably declare that the Goblins had some clever witchery (or goblinery) that makes it impossible. So I proactively make that assumption for her, while still doubting that she ever thought of it.
1JoshuaZ
More plausible explanation if you need a fanboy defense: Nothing in the text ever says the coins are pure gold and silver. They could work just like Muggle money and when people refer to them as silver and gold it isn't any more meaningful than calling US pennies copper. The fact that coins are stored in large vaults and apparently aren't earning interest does indicate that there are aspects of the system that don't work as the modern muggle system does, but there's not a strong argument that the coins are pure metal.
0TobyBartels
Both possibilities (protective spells, not real gold) are suggested at the Wikia.
2benelliott
One could assume that wizards never thought of it. I'll grant that sometimes author's do just not think of things. However, if there is a perfectly good explanation then I see no reason to throw away my enjoyment of the story by ignoring it.
3gwern
Ah, but I don't come to the MoR discussion threads just to enjoy it. That's what reading it is for. I come to the MoR discussion threads to nitpick and tear it apart!
1buural
My thought is that wizards are not confined to projectile weapons. Armor would be next to useless if the offensive magic, for example, is fire based or involves water or gravity manipulation. Moreover, an armored helmet significantly constrains both visibility and mobility, which may make the wearer more vulnerable.
1Thausler
It probably wouldn't be too hard to create a magical patch for the problem of not being able to carry armor. Wingardium Leviosa is a simple patch to lighten the load, and even if it has limited duration it would be an excellent spell to cast immediately before going into combat.
3Sheaman3773
Doesn't Wingardium Leviosa have to be maintained? I don't think it's a fire-and-forget spell.
2Desrtopa
Even if the armor isn't weighing down on you though, it still has inertia, so you have to exert yourself to move the extra mass. Maintaining a wingardium leviosa on it might be more trouble than it's worth.
5Eneasz
Magic'ed stuff may not have inertia. Remember the description of broomstick flight during the escape from Azkaban? Harry was surprised to have to deal with concepts like "inertia" again when using a rocket, as the broomsticks do away with such inconveniences.

Maybe its the same reason that broomsticks use Aristotelian physics. If magic was intelligently designed by people who didn't know much science you would expect it to obey the law of "it makes sense so long as you don't think too hard".

7cousin_it
Another idea along these lines is that combat spells work like "counterfactual weapons" - they get through iff a blade would have worked instead. But in any case Harry should have investigated that before trying to level up Str. As per the current version, he probably did check that metal would stop spells (otherwise the whole plan would be mere stupidity); it's not such a big leap to try styrofoam while you're at it.

it's not such a big leap to try styrofoam while you're at it.

Muggle artifact prohibition?

6DanielLC
He said it was only allowed because people wore it as regular clothing. Unless he could find records of wizards wearing styrofoam, that won't work.

This is a good question for gaining insight into the way spells work, and it seems like an easy one to investigate - one just needs to shoot several spells at another person through a bunch of shields made of different materials and of varying thicknesses, then check if any patterns emerge. If Harry's not too busy, he should look into it.

7NihilCredo
I suspect plastic and refined aluminium are Muggle-only technologies.

I have hesitated before posting this, "is it appropriate", "is it relevant", I wondered. But this siteis deeply concerned with morality, and the application of rationality threin. Hence, I submit the following, knowing that I am not alone in the predicament I describe, and that people who are in my current state are among the greatest obstacles we have to overcome in our way to saving humanity from the UFAI. Here is my report:

I have been rereading this fic aas of late. I am dismayed to find out that the distance between me and Rational!... (read more)

1Raemon
The things that inspire people vary wildly. We (I) can't answer this without knowing more about you (possibly more than would make sense to share in a public space). Are there particular things that have made you feel like humans are hopeless? There's a narrow subset of people who are inspired by the all-encompassing vision of a utopian future that Harry desires. I think most people are inspired by more specific things - addressing issues of racism that they have particular exposure, addressing specific issues of government corruption that they care about, etc. Are there things you care about that are more specific than "fix the entire world?"
2Raw_Power
Eh, how can I put this... I used to think I could make huge improvements in that sense through the invention, perfection, production, and distribution of useful machines. Hence why I decided to become an engineer rather than an MD as my parents intended: I thought I might help more people the first way rather than the second. But then I find out about the FAI, the ultimate machine, which, in sixty years or so (the time I thought it would take me to cause any actual change), would make all my efforts as a drop into into the ocean... And I'm cmpletely useless at math higher than Calcuculs II, and hate coding, so I'm also irrelevant in making the AI, so I feel like whatever I'd be doing until the Singularity would be... passing the time, basically. Plus I thoght I'd eventually need politics, social manipulation, etc. if I wanted to neutralize those on whoe toes I would inevitably step. But the more I learn bout that stuff, the less I feel like people are worth the sacrifice, and ALSO the less worthy and capable I see myself of those tastks, since my ideals hav been tested against real-life situations, and I have failed to reach my own standards, time and again. I mean, I know I have a very strong Neutral Good inclination, but in practice that usually translates into "fuzzy-maximizing" rather than "utility-maximizing". I need to feel I'm useful right now, immediate gratification, otherwise... are any of you familiar with the Rage Comic meaning of "Yao Ming"? Yeah, that tends to be my reaction to stuff s simple to "rise in the morning, take a shower, go to class, take notes, work at home, do it again tomorrow". Oh, and the "you're putting too muc wieght on your shoulders" argument does not work for me: if you tell me I'm getting ahead of myslef and nobody needs me and nothing really matters I'll just go in a basement and dedicate the rest of my life to jerking off or something. The reason I'm sharing all this here is that, from what I can tell, these traits aren't so
3Eneasz
We're a HIGHLY specialized society. For several dozen people with just the right skills, capabilities, and motivations to get together and dedicate their efforts to creating FAI requires a support society that numbers in the hundreds of thousands. People to sell them goods, people to build their houses, people to patrol their streets, people to keep their governments running. People to transport their goods to the store, people to have built them in the first place, people to grow their food. People to mine the ore and smelt it into steel and shape it into tractors and harvesters to grow that food in the first place. People working at all levels of all the corporations in between, making sure things keep flowing smoothly - accountants, clerks, managers, salesmen, janitors. And all those people are also supporting each other at the same time. And in between being productive, people need to rest and recharge, which requires entertainers, and maybe inventors to create new devices which make life easier so they can spend less time washing their dishes and more time being productive or enjoying their time. You are contributing directly even if you are only a cog in this vast machine. It is a wondrous machine of humanity that makes the creation of FAI possible, and just because you are not in the group putting the lines of code together doesn't mean you are unimportant to the final product.
3Raw_Power
Thanks ;_; Then this means I should dedicate all of my efforts to be the best engineer I can. I may only play the role of a speechless extra, but like Brad (Glee's Pianist), I'll still give it my all! (Also, my life has gotten ''much'' better as of late, and new opportunities for advancement both academic and social have opened up... Germany, here I come!)
2hairyfigment
Don't know if this has helped me yet, but I'll ask anyway: what would you want to do a few subjective years or centuries after the Singularity? If you find an answer then by your assumptions you have something to live for. This at least gives working for survival some added value.
1[anonymous]
If you only care about reclaiming a superficial feeling of humanism, I find listening to Carl Sagan's old recordings helps. But somehow I feel that's not what you're looking for. To be perfectly honest, I feel like this most of the time, too. Humans are bastards, but only because the bounds on their rationality tend to be rather tight. Humans are idiots, more or less. But I think the crux of the problem is whether or not humans are really hopeless. We have some evidence, in the litany of heroic spirits, that every once in a while some humans can rise above being bastards and idiots. In my own view, the short-term purpose of humanism is to make that happen more frequently. Who better to start with than oneself...

We're told that Azkaban cannot interact with its past. I take this to mean that there are no loops of causality within Azkaban, where time A affects time B, which in turn affects time A. More generally, no information from a later time in Azkaban can be sent to an earlier time in Azkaban (since the converse seems always possible). Similarly, it's implied that, even through a chain of time turners, no information can be sent more than six hours backwards in time anywhere.

By the understanding of modern physics, these cannot be hard-and-fast rules. A slig... (read more)

4JoshuaZ
Yes, this point has been made before. In general, magic seems in many ways to operate on a human scale according to human intuitions. See e.g. my remarks here and the subsequent discussion.

I wonder if Quirrelmort has been every DADA teacher since the supposed "curse". If V. was the one who supposedly cast it, it would have been simple enough to remove it, make an exception for himself, or simply not cast it in the first place. He is known to be many people, and to desire the position. Why not make maximum use of it? The constantly changing identities would both enable him to give a highly inconsistent quality of education from year to year without raising eyebrows, and would make his activities harder to track in general.

3Desrtopa
Why would he want to give a highly inconsistent quality of education from year to year? Whatever Quirrelmort's goals, I personally doubt he would accomplish them by way of a plan that involved a four-way with a group of fifth years in a closet.
0Pavitra
Not terminally, but instrumentally. There's no obvious reason to constrain himself to give a highly consistent quality of education, so why not make himself some room to move around? It's not like two consecutive unrelated teachers must provide totally different qualities of education. He probably wouldn't actually do that, but he might Memory Charm them into thinking he had, or Crucio or Imperius them into saying he had.

One theory I've had for a while:

Maybe the death needed to make a horocrux is not needed to preserve the mind. it is needed for the minds ability to cast independent magic. One could make a perfectly fine horocrux without killing anyone that had the only problem that you'd be a muggle when you were brought back.

This is the most important consequence of a more general theory: What a wizard means with the word "soul" is their independent magic power source, and that follows some conservation law. Evbidence for this includes wizards not considering m... (read more)

2Pavitra
This would make Draco's statement that muggles don't have souls accurate. Combined with McGonagall's statement that AK strikes directly at the soul, it would seem to imply that (1) AK should have no effect on muggles, and (2) AK should be nonlethal, only rendering the wizard nonmagical.
4TobyBartels
Canonically, AK causes destructive side effects (inanimate objects' blowing up when hit, etc). It could be that it strikes at the soul, severing a Wizard from their magical power, and additionally causes a blast that would kill an ordinary Muggle (but not a Wizard that remained a Wizard). So it kills Wizards by a two-step process, and Muggles by one. However, modern Muggle technology might be able to defend against it, unbeknownst to the Wizards. I think that this makes AK a little more complicated than it should be. But the canonical AK (and especially the AK as seen in the movies) already is more complicated than it should be.
2Normal_Anomaly
I don't think it would be a "blast" in the sense of blowing up a desk, since people hit by it are left (according to canon) "in seemingly perfect health, except for being dead."
0TobyBartels
That's true; the problem is that this is not how it's shown in the movies, nor is it consistent with the side effects in the books. Further research is needed.
2Armok_GoB
McGonagall might simply be WRONG about it striking directly at the soul.
0Pavitra
Of course. And likewise, wizards in general could be completely rather than partially wrong about the nature of souls.
2Armok_GoB
um, I think you misunderstood my theory: what wizards mean with the sequence of symbols "soul" is not "that which makes you, you" but "magical power source that can't be copied". It's not about if they're right or wrong, it's about what concept the symbol references. Their beliefs ABOUT souls, such that people without souls are of less moral worth, can and is still often wrong.
1Pavitra
That's what I thought you meant. Perhaps you misunderstood mine: that the concepts wizards associate with the sequence of symbols "soul" does not even slightly resemble anything in reality.
-1Armok_GoB
Well, it's possible but it doesn't seem very likely. The only requirement of reality for that concept to make sense is that magic requires somehting that is in some way scarce, for example such that wizards have it but muggles or spell effects don't. If this comes in discrete chunks or not, if if's made of information or some more tangible magic substance, if it can be duplicated with sufficient effort, etc. do not place strict requirements.
2DavidAgain
If McGonogall is right, then agreed on (1). But not (2): if wizards have integrated a magic source into themselves sufficiently to use it, presumably destroying it could have knock-on effects. If I strap a jetpack to myself, something which strikes directly at the jetpack could still lead to me being left in small, burning fragments when it exploded.
0Pavitra
That's a good point. And even if the magic doesn't explode, the body might have grown dependent on the magic; we know that wizards don't break easily, and it seems reasonable that there might be other health benefits as well.
1DavidAgain
Indeed, especially the really old ones who presumably haven't bothered to use anything else to sustain their bodies. Rather like vampires descending into dust as the supernatural forces holding them together disappear and the entropy catches up with them. Which is why newly-created 25 year old vampires becoming grave dust in Buffy always distressed me.

Ch 69

she'd never been able to detect the magic involved

That's because, thanks to Dumbledore's knowledge of Muggles, there is no magic involved.

4Sheaman3773
There's no magic involved in making a tin appear out of nowhere? So, sleight of hand?
2TobyBartels
That's my guess. ETA: McGonagall could probably detect this easily, once she actually knows what to look for.

Two Questions/Guesses

1) Prof. Quirrell pointed out that Harry was especially vulnerable to the "Finite Incantatem" spell (to removed his transfigured armor). How does the canon mechanics of this spell work from a tactical standpoint? Is it area of effect or targeted on a per spell basis? Can a weak 1st year dispel a casting done by Headmaster Dumbledor or does caster strength play a role in its effectivity? Depending on the answers, Harry's vulnerability could be mitigated by pure strength or recursive spell depth or minor covering spells to... (read more)