Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality discussion thread, January 2015, chapter 103

by b_sen1 min read29th Jan 2015174 comments


HPMOR (discussion & meta)
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New chapter, and the end is now in sight!

This is a new thread to discuss Eliezer Yudkowsky’s Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and anything related to it. This thread is intended for discussing chapter 103.

There is a site dedicated to the story at hpmor.com, which is now the place to go to find the authors notes and all sorts of other goodies. AdeleneDawner has kept an archive of Author’s Notes. (This goes up to the notes for chapter 76, and is now not updating. The authors notes from chapter 77 onwards are on hpmor.com.)

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Eliezer Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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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Confirmation the prophecy isn't about Neville:

Neville Longbottom... who took this test in the Longbottom home... received a grade of Outstanding.


Harry raised the parchment with its EE+, still silent.

The Defense Professor smiled, and it went all the way to those tired eyes.

"It is the same grade... that I received in my own first year."


As was first proposed on /r/rational (and EY has confirmed that he got the idea from that proposal)


Here was the original thread proposing this as a solution to the prophecy and here is the comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky confirming to be influenced by that thread.

8Michelle_Z7yI saw that and laughed irl. There's probably no significance to a dead girl getting a grade for a class she did not complete. Probably.
7gjm7yWhat's not clear about this is whether it's intended to be Q's joke as well as Eliezer's. (I forget: how much is he supposed to know about the prophecy?) And, if it's Q's, whether he means it as a message for Harry (he surely must realise that Harry might know all about the prophecy) or for others like Dumbledore. [EDITED to add: In Rowling's version of the story, V. doesn't know exactly what the prophecy said, at least not at this point in the story. I forget exactly how much he does know about it. His attempts to find out the exact wording are a plot point later on in the series.]
0AlexMennen7yHe knows that Harry knows about the prophecy.
4gjm7yHe has very good reason to suspect that Harry knows something about the prophecy. He doesn't know that Harry knows the actual wording. He may not know the actual wording himself, though I'd have thought HPMOR!Quirrell would have found a way to find it out.
0MathMage7yHe already heard it from Snape, and can reasonably expect that after Voldemort's supposed return Dumbledore&co. would share it with Harry. It doesn't sound like Snape was thrown out partway through the prophecy the way he was in canon.
0AlexMennen7yGood point.
3buybuydandavis7yYes. Various theories have Q trying to build up Harry as appearing to be the savior of the magical world. Q tends to have the smug psychotic smiles when he is putting something over on someone. Harry thinks he has a Hallmark moment, while Q is just gloating over the "Mission Accomplished" sign in his head.
3Viliam_Bur7yMaybe that's a red herring, and the true explanation was given in the previous chapter: The Dark Lord is Harry. The power he does not know and which will destroy him at the end is: Unlike Quirrell, Harry considers the rest of humans to be his equals. At some moment he will need their help to change the laws of physics, but they will all ignore him. Later Harry will grow old and die. Or someone will kill him for some trivial reason. There will be no one else like him in this universe, so finally the entropy will tear the stars apart. (Just kidding.)
5MarkusRamikin7yExcept Ron, whom he considers unworthy of existence [https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/7/Harry-Potter-and-the-Methods-of-Rationality] .
2Alsadius7yRon's an NPC in Harry's mind. The Joker Oath he took a few chapters back was aimed at people like Ron.
2MarkusRamikin7yJoker Oath? remind me?
9JoachimSchipper7y* Batman is a murderer no less than the Joker, for all the lives the Joker took that Batman could've saved by killing him. ch. 85 [http://hpmor.com/chapter/85] * "It's not fair to the innocent bystanders to play at being Batman if you can't actually protect everyone under that code." ch. 91 [http://hpmor.com/chapter/91] * Harry had no intention of saying it out loud, of course, but now that he'd failed decisively to prevent any deaths during his quest, he had no further intention of being restrained by the law or even the code of Batman.ch. 97 [http://hpmor.com/chapter/97].
0dspeyer7yMore immediately relevant: Even in the world of comic books, the only reason a superhero like Batman even looks successful is that the comic-book readers only notice when Important Named Characters die, not when the Joker shoots some random nameless bystander to show off his villainy.
1Alsadius7yJoachim has the relevant bits. I came up with an new term for it, though, because I don't know of a better way to refer to it.
2JoshuaZ7yI did not pick up on that. That's brilliant.

Not a spoiler, but rot13'd for explaining the joke:

"All of you in this room... have received grades of at least Acceptable. Neville Longbottom... who took this test in the Longbottom home... received a grade of Outstanding. But the other student who is not here... has had a Dreadful grade entered on her record... for failing the only important test... that was given her this year. I would have marked her even lower... but that would have been in poor taste."

Gur bayl tenqr ybjre guna Qernqshy vf "Gebyy".

2dxu7ySomewhat off-topic, and I obviously had an advantage from already knowing what the joke was, but I managed to decoe your rot13 word-for-word by counting the number of letters in each word and identifying a few matching letters. I was... irrationally excited when I managed to do so.

I wonder what, in Harry's model of the world, has been going on with Bellatrix all this time, and why he never inquired about her.

9ChristianKl7yIt seems like a serious blind spot given that Harry has to expect Quirrell to die sooner or later and take the information with him into his grave.
0roystgnr7yIt's not like this is the only serious blind spot he has regarding Quirrell, though, is it? My current theory seems almost obvious, after I coincidentally decided to reread HPMOR myself shortly after rereading Chamber of Secrets with my daughter: Early in Chamber of Secrets, a Death Eater gives Tom Riddle's horcrux, a nearly-indestructable magical diary, to Ginny. One of the powers that diary has is to take partial control of her as she reads it intently over the coming year, and one of the ways that control manifests itself is to make it difficult for her to even think about what's going on with the diary or the blind spots it's creating in her mind. Early in HPMOR, a Death Eater (who is probably Tom Riddle) gives a nearly-indestructible magical diary to Harry. Harry clearly wants to read it intently, but we never see what happens when he tries, and later (because he'd need to learn Latin first? really??) he hardly even thinks about it, or about a couple other obvious blind spots in his mind, again. I suspect that Quirrelmort was handing Harrymort a horcrux as yet another way to try to turn him to the dark side, and although that didn't work, even temporarily clouding Harry's better judgement about a few key topics is a decent secondary benefit.
0ChristianKl7yIt's not really a blind spot against Quirrell. If what Quirrell says it's true and Quirrell dies soon, it's important information to acquire from him. There no time pressure to read the diary. There's time pressure to get information from Quirrell. It requires an environment where Quirrell can cast the spells against eavesdropping.
3roystgnr7y"The Voldemort-and-dementor-victimized lady who we sent to a healer is being healed, but healing doubly-demented people takes a long time" would be a reasonable guess from Harry's perspective. Guessing instead of just asking Quirrell seems less reasonable, though.
4ChristianKl7yEven if healing her takes time it's worthwhile for Harry to learn about her location and contact details to follow up after Quirrell's death.

If someone wishes to give their readers the choice of whether or not to access a piece of information, it is in very bad taste for a third party to then take that choice away for no good reason.

Draco's plan at the start of the chapter is entirely correct and Harry should have been doing it on his own. They will find out that Hermione was reading about the stone before she was killed.

In fact she was probably killed precisely because she was getting too close to the stone in her readings. She may even have said something out loud like "eureka" that gave away that she had gotten it. This, by the way, points to her being killed by someone other than QQ, since he would want her to succeed since she would tell Harry and harry would tell him.

I question the wisdom of reading books that someone was potentially killed for reading without better opsec than Malfoy was demonstrating.

5ChristianKl7yMalfoy did hand the books for someone else to read.
3Velorien7yIt could be bait - the school is more secure than ever, and he may be keeping track of who knows that the books are being read. The wisdom of this is still questionable, but given how flashy Hermione's murder was, Malfoy is probably assuming that the killer can't just walk up to him and Avada Kedavra him when no one is looking.
7WalterL7yThat doesn't make much sense. Villain watches Hermione getting closer and closer to the fatal information. Then she reaches it, and he kills her. Why not just change the books, or steal them? "I'll kill anyone who tries to read this" is like the worst imaginable way to keep information in a book from being popularly known.
2William_Quixote7yChanging the books stealing them or altering library records may be harder than it seems. The day of Hermiones death QQ went to the library and added a number of additional wards, nominally around the restricted section, but who know what else they cover.
1Viliam_Bur7yMaybe the books are so boring that almost no one wants to read them. Hermione was an unlikely exception, and under usual circumstances no one else would bother reading the books. On the other hand, the library might have magical protection against damaging books.
0Desrtopa7yWell, if they have access to the dorms, they could steal the books and replace them with altered copies.

I originally interpreted the following as subtly implying the students were using prediction markets

A sudden air of attentiveness, as of long-standing disputes about to be settled. "Well, finally," someone said, as Millicent tried to catch her breath. "He's only got, what, ten days left to go bad?"

"Eleven days," said the seventh-year who was running the betting pool.

But it seems more likely that eleven days is how long the year has left.

2MathMage7yThey're not mutually exclusive. Doesn't the mention of a betting pool make it pretty explicit?
0UnclGhost7yThat's what I thought too, but any idea why the chapter ends by saying "nine days yet remained"?
0Ben Pace7yEither EY has made a little error, or the narrator is giving us information outside the minds of the characters. Or something else of course.

As a comment on the story as a whole, I used to think it was likely that the story would cumulate with Harry finding the source of magic. But with only one arc left, there simply isn't the time. It would be like the hobbits setting off to Mordor halfway through 'the return of the king'.

I also thought there might be a hunt for the horocruxes, but I doubt there will be time for that either. Without the horocruxes destroyed, Quirrelmort will at least partially survive. I'm guessing Harry will too. Dumbledore might be killed, either by Quirrel or by Harry, wh... (read more)

4MathiasZaman7yThe following chapters together will be at least as long as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. There might be room for all sort of directions. Some stories work very well with endings that quickly escalate. Not from Yudkowsky. He has said before that he wants to wrap up all the plot points in this story.

Some stories work very well with endings that quickly escalate.

If he manages to fit everything in the last arc, then never mind 'quickly escalate' its going to be a literary singularity.

4Baughn7yThe final arc is 90,000 words. That's a fairly large book on its own; there's time enough, if he's even halfway terse.
1Alsadius7yI don't think you read as much epic fantasy as I do.
2Baughn7yI've read Worm. Does that count? However, getting your point across with fewer words is also a skill. 90,000 is enough to describe quite a lot of things happening.
4skeptical_lurker7yEY for better or worse is generally quite verbose, although out of the whole of HPMOR the only part I felt was superfluous was Hermine vs the bullies.
0Alsadius7yIt does, but my comment was intended as a joke.
1polymathwannabe7yMy guess is that Hermione has already been resurrected. Her body was stolen. Harry returned from the future to a time when her body was still fresh, and took it to the future, when he has already defeated death.
0Gondolinian7yIf Harry gains access to arbitrarily powerful time travel (That's how I've interpreted your scenario. I apologize if I'm wrong.), doesn't that make the whole plot redundant? Can't Harry just go back to the beginning and tell himself everything?
4Nornagest7yThat's a well-established fanfiction genre, but I think its popularity is actually evidence against its use here. On the other hand, I don't think I've ever seen a Peggy Sue that ended with the time-travel event rather than starting with it.
275th7yThat would pretty much DELETE ALL THE PEOPLE AFFECTED and REPLACE THEM WITH DIFFERENT VERSIONS [http://hpmor.com/chapter/14], so I don't think Harry would do that.
0WalterL7yWell, what if even uber-time travel still has the paradox limitation. Harry figures out his becomus-goddus spell, and can go back in time arbitrarily far. But if he mucks about with his own past in any way he doesn't remember he may unhappen his omnipotent ass. Moreover, this is true of almost all of history. Any mucking about that might prevent his timeline from making him invincible would be verboten. So, what could he do? Not go back and tell himself everything, it would be a big gamble that his past self could consciously fake its way through the events of his own past timeline well enough to keep him in existence. No, he goes back and Imperiuses himself, and only interferes in his life in the manners that he recognizes must have always been his future self. So he: 1. Gives himself the strange sense of certainty that makes him believe in magic in the first chapter. 2. Whispers to himself on the train to meet Hermione Granger. 3. Steals Hermione's body (presumably what Harry did while alone with it was pointedly not observe it to leave a moment for future versions of himself to time travel in and steal it without creating a paradox) I hope this isn't right, but I assign a relatively high plausibility that future Harry is running behind the scenes throughout the story. Another offhand guess, he kills Volemort in the past via his own remembered dialog. Voldemort agrees (sarcastically) with Harry's mom that Harry is to live, she is to die, then requests she drop the wand and let him murder her. She doesn't, and he kills her. Then he goes to kill Harry. But I don't think "now drop the wand and let me murder you" was part of the deal. My guess is he's unknowingly (possibly due to time travel Harry) under some magic that makes everything he says Unbreakable, and when he kills her and then goes to kill Harry he's killed by the oath enforcement mechanism, since he's agreed that she's to die and Harry is to live.
0AnthonyC7yIn that scenario he could become a closed timelike curve: go back, become the being that invented magic in the first place, and program it to record the brain states of everyone at every moment in there lives for future recall given a spell or ritual that he would then know. This could also explain the "Atlantis erased from time" business. It would rely on magic changing the laws of physics in a way that allows magic time travel to operate before magic existed - or for the invention of magic to have happened outside the timestream.
0ReevesAnd7yI would guess that the time travel would keep the restriction that he can't change the past. So he could recover her body and resurrect her in the future, but couldn't change the past events.
3skeptical_lurker7ySo, Amycus Carrow is a psychopath who is willing to do dark rituals. I don't see how this means that a Horcrux has already been used ( do Horcruxes have a use beyond preserving life?) But Rationalist!Horcruxes are hidden in ocean trenches, on voyager 2 etc. I don't see that Dumbledoor would be able to find them, or reach them even if he knew where they were. I also think that in canon Voldemort knew when a Horocrux was destroyed, but if Quirrel thought that Dumbledoor was a serious threat (e.g. because a Horocrux was destroyed) I think he would stop holding back and just kill Dumbledoor. There must be a way for someone with the intellegence, rationality and raw power Quirrel has. Incidentally, now that Harry has given Quirrel a physics textbook, the odds of a transfigured antimatter bomb being used just went up. Unlike nukes, antimatter weapons can be made small enough yeild that you don't flatten the whole of hogwarts when you use one.
0skeptical_lurker7ySubtle indeed. Conservation of detail might suggest that Amycus Carrow is going to play some sort of role involving dark rituals conducted in the past, but... is there an advantage to having a human Horcrux? I mean, its a lot less safe than all the other Horcruxes, but if if allowed Voldemort to posses Amycus Carrow then it would be useful.

I'd suggest not so much subtle as overinterpreting. Carrow is shallow-minded and status-driven, he thinks he'll sound more deatheaterish if he puts on a particularly grim voice, and Malfoy sees right through him and tells him to stop being silly. This is simple, compatible with everything else we're told, and sufficient to explain Draco's memory described here.

2skeptical_lurker7yI'd agree - I doubt Carrow is a Horocrux, but the repeated mentions of him might indicate that he has some further role to play, possible involving dark rituals. But the joint probability (Carrow will appear) and (his role will involve dark rituals) and (dark ritual is a Horocrux) is quite low. Also, IIRC there are 7 Horocruxes in cannon. In HPMOR, it is hinted that we have one for each greek element (magma, ocean trench, stratosphere and buried underground) and one in space. Presumably, Harry is one and Quirrel is one. So all Horocruxes are accounted for.
4Gunnar_Zarncke7yJoint probabilities don't work that way if you have a designed story line. Esp. by this author.
8skeptical_lurker7yI'm sorry I don't understand. Even when discussing a work of fiction, the probability that 'Carrow has conducted a dark ritual which makes him a Horocrux' has to be strictly lower than the probability that 'Carrow has a further part to play'. Probability doen't stop working in certain fields, its universal.
4Alsadius7yStrictly lower, yes. "Quite low" was what you said, and that part can be disputed based on a read of the author.
0skeptical_lurker7ySure, if you think you have a really good read of the author. But as I said, all Horocruxes are accounted for, and as gjm said, there is a simpler explanation, and so I'm sticking by my opinion that Carrow probably isn't a Horocrux, even if he does show up later.
0Desrtopa7yThat sounds a lot more like a Rowling type twist than an Eliezer type twist. There are elements that could be interpreted as vague and oblique hints, but it doesn't suggest particularly clever or well-considered behavior on anyone's part.
0Velorien7y(...) What Quirrell is remarking on is that Harry's following an elemental pattern, not that he himself followed the same one.
0gjm7yQ is saying that he didn't think of that as a thing to do with a Dementor and should have. One possible reason for his "very odd smile" is that he did already think of it as a thing to do with a horcrux. I think it's reasonable to call this a hint that maybe there is a Voldemort horcrux buried deep underground. (Certainly far from a proof that there is, though.)
0solipsist7yAssuming those are horcruxes, not like parts of the Philosopher's stone or something (but Horcruxes are more likely). Totally-not-going-to-happen reason for Hogwarts to stop playing with a snitch: the "air" horcurx is a snitch. Dumbledore realizes that Snitches are dangerous, and bans touching them. (Much more likely: Mcgonagall becomes headmistress).
2AnthonyC7yQuirrell in Ch46 said they " sound like something of a riddle," which I guess could be interpreted to mean Tom Riddle, which may be evidence in favor of horcrux-status or something similar.
0[anonymous]7yOMG I never thought of that!
2skeptical_lurker7yThe entire world plays with a snitch. It seems very unlikely that any one school would stop playing with a snitch (and thereby ruin their preparation for games against other schools, adult competition etc). But, if the whole of Hogwarts stops playing altogether, perhaps because the school has been destroyed, then technically they have stopped playing with a snitch. The last act of whoever is the head (Dumbeldoor might have died) is to declare that in the last year of Hogwarts, all houses won the cup, as a symbolic act of unity in the face of tragedy.
0MathiasZaman7yHarry's wish was for quidditch to be played without a snitch. Not playing quidditch doesn't fulfill the wish.
0AnthonyC7yIs the present king of France bald? I'm not sure where Quirrell and Harry stand on the truth of vacuous statements- if Hogwarts plays zero games of quidditch, all of them do not involve the snitch. Also, technically Harry wished that "in Hogwarts we should play quidditch without the Snitch." Should can mean "will" but it can also mean Quirrell will somehow make it a moral fact that quidditch should be played that way, not a factual matter of actually playing that way.
2buybuydandavis7yI believe so. Chapter 102: By which I infer that if the horcrux is alive, you can pass powerful spells through it. Also, that whole discussion simply screams of Quirrell setting Harry up for a ritual where Quirrell will transfer his mind to Harry's body, and set up shop there, the end.
0buybuydandavis7yHarry musing on what Q might have done to the Pioneer Plaque: Q later describing the Horcrux spell. It seems another case where someone's musing turns up in detail later in the book. There are lots of these. Often, it just seems like EY foreshadowing (and possibly making the story nature of the events part of the plot), but in this case, it also seems very much like making up a lie that fits in with Harry's preconceptions.
0Nornagest7y...but the amount of antimatter you'd use for that is very small indeed; about 0.000023 grams for an explosive yield equivalent to 1 ton of TNT, going by Wikipedia's numbers. I wouldn't put it past Quirrell to figure out a way to transmute quantities that small, but it'd be tricky; everything we've seen transmuted onscreen has been macroscopic. Also, all the initial yield would be in the form of highly energetic gamma rays, so we'd likely be looking at something more like a hard radiation pulse than a bomb.
2AnthonyC7yHermione transfigured single walled carbon nanotubes
2Nornagest7yHermione transfigured a macroscopic volume into single-walled carbon nanotubes. Barely macroscopic, if memory serves, but still macroscopic.
0skeptical_lurker7yDo wizards generally have a reason to transmute microscopic things? There's also the possibility of transmuting a larger portion of antimatter, levitated within a vacuum (bubble head charm maybe?) and then subdivde it, if that is possible.
0DanielLC7yYou could transmute something into something containing trace amounts of antimatter. Once the gamma rays hit something and get absorbed, they'll turn to heat. The bomb will make the floor explode.

As for the rest of you... those who have received Exceeds Expectations or above... have received my letters of recommendation... to certain organizations beyond Britain's shores... where your training might be completed. They will contact you... when you are old enough... if you still appear worthy... and if you have not failed an important test.

Any guesses about these "certain organizations beyond Britain's shores" that Quirrell finds capable of completing his students' training?

4Alsadius7yI suspect he's referring to other schools which he believes to be more capable of teaching Battle Magic than cursed Hogwarts.
4fezziwig7yInteresting guesses in the responses here. It never occurred to me that this organization might be anything other than "the next iteration of the Death Eaters".
0zedzed7ySalem Witches' Institute or a dojo in Asia seem the obvious choices, so we can probably safely eliminate them (because when was the last time EY used the obvious solution in MOR?)
3Gondolinian7yThat would be just what he would expect.
0CronoDAS7yEarlier in the story, Quirrell gave Harry a Portkey claiming it would take him somewhere that he would be contacted by people who would take him to a magic school in America...

Wasn't that Dumbledore who gave Harry the portkey and told him it led to the US, and then Quirrell who checked it and told Harry it led to somewhere local? Or are we thinking about different points in the story?

1CronoDAS7yYeah, I remembered that wrong. Sorry!
0Velorien7yIt is also possible that Quirrell is referring to narrower training in Battle Magic. He's made previous references to knowing assassins in other countries (whom he could put in touch with Harry), and this could be an extension of that.
-4[anonymous]7yI'm unsure if this cleanly fits - but if by training Q means in rationality, "certain organizations beyond Britain's shores" could be referring to CFAR. A case for this not fitting is of course that CFAR does not exist in 1992. I can't now think of other (real, this world) organizations which fit the phrases of training, old enough, beyond Britain's shores, letters of recommendation, and be something EY would reference. Otherwise it would be a gesture to an implied larger magical world. But that gesture itself seems...unnecessary, beyond implying that Q considers the future education of his students important.
2fractalcat7yAt a guess, "certain organizations beyond Britain's shores" is most likely to imply "somewhere we don't have to worry about pesky 'laws'".

'Throw away the cheese and buy a new pair of shoes.'

Any ideas on what this is alluding to? Shrieking Eels are from The Princess Bride.

4shminux7yYou are not the only one wondering [https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10153066319594228?comment_id=10153066452609228] .

How did the grading work? My first guess was that Quirrell was telling the truth, but this seems unlikely, and would mean that the EE+ he gave Harry couldn't mean anything. My second guess was that Quirrell came up with the grades before-hand, but all he knows is how well they could actually defend themselves, and real-world ability is not a good indicator of how well you'd do on a written test. My third guess is that a Time-Turner is involved, and he'll have Harry deliver the tests to him in the past.

He ignored the test results entirely. That's why "what an amazing spell" is a joke that made the Ravenclaws indignant, and made the Slytherins chuckle.

6b_sen7yQuirrell could have decided that their overall grades should reflect only their ability to defend themselves, and so chosen to adjust the non-exam grades such that each student's overall grade (with the final included) matches his assessment of that student's defensive ability. (This is really a more detailed version of your second guess.)
7[anonymous]7yIt could mean that, by surviving this long, Harry has exceeded Quirrell's expectations.

Registering some predictions and observations before the next chapter comes out:


The snippet at the start of Chapter 1 is from somewhere in the final chapter. 40%

Lily wasn’t making up the "excuses" Petunia mentioned in Chapter 1; she was indeed warned through some form of Divination that the world would end if she made Petunia pretty, and a centaur did actually tell her not to do so. 95%

Magic’s full power allows the user to rewrite reality. 99% (Look at Harry’s reaction to McGonagall’s Animagus transformation: "Magic isn't enough... (read more)

1Velorien7yShe does.
0b_sen7yPoint taken. (The quote is from the start of Chapter 89, in case anyone was wondering.)
0solipsist7yInteresting. I have a proposition for you: I'll take a bet on the "false" side of any of the following: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'll bet on the true side for any of the following: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Wanna do a mass bet? I'd buy $10 prediction future contracts off you (e.g. I pay you $6, and if "The snippet at the start of Chapter 1 is from somewhere in the final chapter" false, you pay me $10, otherwise you pay nothing). We could do it for charity, if you prefer.
0b_sen7yI have to pass on betting, unfortunately.

I realized why Quirrell gave Hermione a Dreadful grade, rather than just failing her. Recall from canon that there are three failing grades:

[passing grades]



[redacted for explaining a joke]

But a Poor grade indicates that the student can repeat the course. Death is final, there are no do-overs.

2DanielLC7yTell that to Harry.
0b_sen7yI know, I'm just explaining Quirrell's reasoning in a world where death has not yet been defeated.
0hairyfigment7yThe scene certainly looks like evidence for my theory here [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/km5/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/b5xh] , if we're talking Doylist reasoning.
0RichardKennaway7yCould you rot13 it? I have not read canon and am unlikely to.
1zedzed7yYbjrfg tenqr vf "Gebyy"

Harry sat there silently. He had seen the point immediately, and even if it was a wrong point, he knew Professor Quirrell would never, ever be talked out of making it.

Anybody wish to provide arguments for why this decision of Quirrell's was a wrong one?

Public excoriation of failures usually lowers everyone's performance (in complex tasks or those that require creativity, like the candle/drawing pins test). If, in dangerous situations, his students are afraid that they will fail by dying, they're going to be less effective at defending themselves.

4Alsadius7yDying is pretty much a failure no matter how you look at it, so I doubt worries about your grades will make any marginal difference.
2lmm7yPeople are irrational, especially in high-stress situations.
0Alsadius7yGranted, but that's a really unusual thing for the mind to jump to. "Oh god, who will feed my owl?!", maybe, but "I'm going to fail DADA! Ohnoes!" seems terribly unlikely. Also, at risk of pointing out the obvious, he's fricking Voldemort. He's allowed to do evil stuff.
0lmm7yDADA would be on your mind at that point. It seems pretty likely to me. Shrug.
0gjm7yAllowed? (I don't think anyone has been suggesting that it would be, I dunno, out of character for Quirrelmort to make the point he's making. What's at issue is -- isn't it? -- that Harry thinks it's unwise or irrational or unfair or something of the kind. And Harry evidently hasn't figured out who Quirrell really is yet. Or maybe he has, at the very end of the chapter, though I am inclined to doubt it.)
0Alsadius7yRight, good call.
4Vaniver7yCites? I've been relying on Hanson's read of the evidence [http://www.overcomingbias.com/2013/05/reward-or-punish.html], which points the opposite way.
2Ben Pace7yI think the effect of his statement was to better calibrate his students' attachment to written tests (make them less worried), but also to make them more vigilant in life.
8DanielLC7yProfessor Quirrell believes Hermione's death is final. Harry intends to make sure it is not.
1Ben Pace7yThat... Doesn't seem right. The important point is that Quirrell is teaching the other students what it means to truly fail. Even if she does come back, she failed that test.
2MathMage7yNote first that Quirrell's perspective is informed by his conversation with Hermione [http://hpmor.com/chapter/84] on the night she returned from the Wizengamot trial. In his view, her decision to stay involved, knowing the dangers, means she assumes the burden of her failure (as represented by her death). That said, I imagine Harry thinks Quirrell is making a hasty generalization from what must be considered an exceptional case. Further, that Quirrell is mischaracterizing Hermione's death as a failure of preparation, when in fact she could not have been prepared, because her enemy was an unknown meticulous assassin who could readily counteract every preparation she could make. And finally, that these moves (starting with the attempt to frame Hermione for murder) were made against Harry, and so Harry at least shares the burden of responsibility for Hermione's death.
4ChristianKl7yShe could have left the school the same way Longbottom did who got his "Outstanding". Rereading that conversation it feels like Quirrell's position is: "I know you don't like me. I don't want to you to be here and I give you the opportunity to leave. I need a decision tonight." It's all said with plausible deniability but Hermione was already thinking that Quirrell was evil enough to ask him: "Are you here to kill me?". In particular: Killing her is also an example of "arranging her departure".
0MathMage7yFair points. Hermione had enough information to make getting out rational, though perhaps not enough to trust Quirrell to get her out. And if Quirrell is the culprit, all the more reason for him to consider her failure to leave as assumption of responsibility for her own demise. That said, these may be blind spots for Harry.


If Dumbledore saw a chance to possess one of the Deathly Hallows, he would never let it escape his grasp until the day he died.

Wait, is the message Harry got with his cloak from Dumbledore? (edit: he admits that in ch79). I thought Dumbledore refused to lie? And yet he's letting the cloak escape his grasp while saying that.

(For a moment I thought he might be saying he wouldn't let the chance escape his grasp, rather than the cloak itself, but that's just silly, and there's no particular reason why that would even be true, if the other isn't.)

2ChristianKl7yWhat makes you think that?
2MarkusRamikin7yIn ch71 he even refused to say "I solemnly swear I'm up to no good" for that reason, so that's at least reason to think he claims to be a principled truth teller. And generally his behaviour seems consistent with that to me, like when he was teaching Harry obfuscation without lying, in ch18 when they were having their round of bargaining/blackmail over Snape's behaviour, or his reaction after Harry pressed him on the matter of whether he killed Narcissa Malfoy. Of course he could be willing to lie for sufficiently important reasons just like Harry (though Harry ended up that way under Quirrel's influence), but I see no really pressing reason for that here, and if it comes out that the note is from him, Harry could call him on it.
4Velorien7yIt seems transparent to me that the whole thing with the cloak was a gambit to manipulate Harry. Harry's trust in the note-sender's warning, followed by Dumbledore's noble and forgiving reaction, caused Harry to feel guilty for doubting Dumbledore, and to tend towards trusting him more and trusting people who told him to doubt Dumbledore less. If Dumbledore was playing both sides (and thus lying his head off), he achieved his real objective (to make Harry trust him more) very elegantly.
2MarkusRamikin7yOf course, I understand that part. It's not really the point. My point is that at all other times he seems to do his manipulations by misleading without lying. Another example: the note about the escape-out-of-Hogwarts portkey, which Dumbledore later admitted to have written (and now that I checked, he admitted to writing both). In it, he misleadingly suggests the portkey leads to the Salem's Witches' institute without actually saying so. (Quirrel picked up on that for Harry).
0ChristianKl7yHaving a reputation of not lying is valuable.
2MarkusRamikin7yYes, yes it is. And you keep one by not risking it when you don't have to.
0Nanashi7yDumbledore clearly is not above telling the truth with manipulative intent. I think it's quite easy to make the case that the note was true to the word, that the portkey would eventually lead Harry to Salem. Same with the cloak message: Dumbledore has not let go of the chance to possess the Cloak. Harry remains firmly under Dumbledore's ward, thus holding on to that chance.
0Velorien7yThen the two notes contradict, as letting Harry go to Salem, and beyond Dumbledore's reach, would entail giving up on the Cloak.
0Nanashi7yFor the two notes to contradict: * Harry would have to be out of Dumbledore's reach at Salem (unlikely, given the extent of Dumbledore's influence and meddling). * Dumbledore would have to let Harry keep the cloak before sending him to Salem. (fairly likely, but not guaranteed). * Dumbledore would have to be alive (also fairly likely, although if this follows canon then Dumbledore will die at some point) There's enough wiggle room to where I think someone like Dumbledore would feel comfortable saying it's not a lie.
0Velorien7yThe second note states that magical America can protect Harry from Dumbledore. If Harry isn't outside Dumbledore's reach at Salem, and Dumbledore knows this when writing the note, then he is lying. Technically speaking, Dumbledore can't take the Cloak from Harry by force, since its powers apparently rely on formal and deliberate transfer of ownership. I suppose he could resort to blackmail, but doing that before sending Harry to America would almost certainly result in complete breaking of ties (at least friendly ties). Given everything else that happens (with Hermione's death as the strongest example), I think we can be fairly certain that this story will not follow canon plot developments except by coincidence.
0Nanashi7yWhat's arguably more valuable is having a reputation of not misleading people, either.
0Velorien7yWhat does the "so" at the start of the last sentence mean, if it does not connect the tearing of the card to the preceding statements about the Salem Witches' Institute?
0ChristianKl7yIt's possible that going to the house in London is simply a step on the way to the Salem Witches' Institute.
0Vaniver7yI was under the impression that in canon, at least, the Deathly Hallows are sensitive to 'ownership,' and so Dumbledore might think that giving the cloak owned by Harry to Harry is the best way for the cloak to end up being owned by Dumbledore.

Not that it matters, but I don't really understand Quirrell's grading criteria. Is Neville's score 'outstanding' because he alone made the sensible move of escaping to safety of his home from life-threatening dangers of Hogwarts and Hermione's grade low because she failed the 'ultimate' test? If so, does Harry's surivival to-date 'exceed' Quirrell's expectations?

Alternatively, is Neville's score a reflection of his rate of improvement over the term, which admittedly was outstanding, relative to Harry's (or Hermione's)?

Perhaps, grades other than OWL's and NEWT's do not matter academically, so Quirrell's grading is purely subjective/random?

1ChristianKl7yQuirrell likely cares about the effects of the grades and not so much about whether they are fair.
1buural7yI agree that being fair is probably not at the top of Quirrell's priority list, and that his grades are meant to give a message to students. However, he is rational, and it still doesn't answer my question about the criteria he is basing his grades/signals on.
0avichapman7yThe only answer that doesn't feel like a stretch is that the O is a reward for the phenominal progress made during the year.

I rot13d it in my comment just because it's funnier if you figure it out yourself, and like many stealth jokes, it's easy to figure out once you know there's a joke to look for (if you've read canon). If it was an actual spoiler for the chapter that would facilitate discussion because it wasn't just a random throwaway joke, then I wouldn't rot13 it.

A spell to grade tests is probably not an old spell that's been around forever since no one else seems to use it, but QQ may have invented it for this purpose.

Either way, it's existence is a further hint to the nature of magic in the world of HPMOR. It involves some pretty sophiscated natural languge processing. The fact that magic can do natural language processing is hinted as significant in chapter 6 while Harry is studying the retrieval charm and trying diffent phrases that point to "bag of gold". If we knew how magic could read a test and p... (read more)

"an incredible spell... is it not?"

A few students on the Ravenclaw side were looking indignant, but for the most part the students just looked relieved, and some Slytherins were chuckling.

Quirrell is joking. He doesn't care about the results of the ministry-mandated test, as he already knew what grades his students had earned from him regardless.

2AnthonyC7yAt the beginning Quirrell had said any tests he gave would grade itself in real time so students could help each other for bonus points. So Some method of achieving a similar effect exists.
0Gondolinian7yAssuming Quirrell did have the final grades already calculated before the test, did Quirrell know ahead of time how the students would score on the test and have the final grades reflect that, or did he use the grades up to that point in total indifference to the test scores? ETA: Oops, I seem to have completely missed this discussion [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/lmk/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/bwoo] when I posted this here. My bad.

There's a much simpler explanation: The tests came pre-graded and QQ just cast a spell to reveal the invisible grades and ignored all the answers.

5DanArmak7yThe spell might just be querying Quirrel or a confederate in real-time to grade the results.
9gjm7yYes. Note that Q is terrifyingly fast; remember the scene where he speed-reads the newspaper.
6gjm7yThough now it's been pointed out by others, I agree it's pretty much certain that the actually intended meaning is that Q is joking, he ignored their answers to the official exam, and their grades were determined before they ever took it.
0DanArmak7yAnd even more relevantly, the scene where he sits in his office, grading papers, not moving anything but his eyes.
0gjm7yIt's not clear he's doing it super-fast on that occasion, though, is it?
0DanArmak7yThat's true.
2Jiro7yIf you accept the definition of the supernatural as a physical law that applies to ontologically basic mental things [http://lesswrong.com/lw/4xt/the_supernatural_category/3r7d], then finding the answers to a test would seem to be something the supernatural can do without having to do natural language processing, the same way a spell can turn someone into a frog without having to process DNA. We think of "the answers to a test" as a concept.
1EphemeralNight7yThat just means that the spell inventor doesn't need to know anything about or implement natural language processing. To get magical primitives like ontologically basic mental parts you still have to have complex and fully reducible algorithms running over the base physics outputs somewhere even if that somewhere is "parallel to or between frames of the simulation".
0Jiro7yIf "gets the answers to the test" is a primitive, no you don't. The magic just does it. That's the difference between magic and science. The spell is a black box with no parts inside.

The Pythagorean theorem hasn't been mentioned in HPMOR. Given this, would anyone bet me at 100-to-1 odds that future chapters will reveal that Harry rederived the Pythagorean theorem, in secret, while a student at Hogwarts, before April, and had fun?

7JoshuaZ7yIs there some reason to locate this hypothesis? Is there some reference I'm forgetting?

I have a very, very long, not very likely, crazy theory. Here it goes.

If you recall, Harry made a number of TODOs when he started the year.

To-do 1. Research mind-alteration charms so you can test the Comed-Tea and see whether you actually did figure out a path to omnipotence. Actually, just research every kind of mind magic you can find. Mind is the foundation of our power as humans, any kind of magic that affects it is the most important sort of magic there is.

To-do 2. Actually this is To-do 1 and the other is To-do 2. Go through the bookshelves of the Hogwarts and Ravenclaw libraries, familiarising yourself with the system and making sure you've at least read all the book titles. Second pass: read all tables of contents. Coordinate with Hermione who has a much better memory than you. Find out if there's an interlibrary loan system at Hogwarts and see if the two of you, especially Hermione, can visit those libraries too. If other Houses have private libraries, figure out how to access legally or sneak in.

To-do 0: Check out what sort of information-search-and-retrieval spells exist, if any. Library magic isn't as ultimately important as mind magic but it has a much higher priori

... (read more)
1solipsist7yThis Pythagorean theorem hypothesis is the best I have, but it's not all that likely. I'd expect some foreshadowing about right triangles if it were true, but I see none. Does anyone have alternative hypotheses as to why Harry said "I'm not having anyone Obliviate everything I know about calculus"?
3jmmcd7yNot sure if it's in HPMOR but the symbol for the deadly hallows contains two right triangles. EDIT err, deathly, I guess. I don't seem to be a trufan.
3hairyfigment7yBecause he was explicitly wanting to be normal, or at least wanting to do something normal?
0lmm7yI take it you mean bet against you? In present circumstances I shouldn't, but I'd most likely be willing to before the 15th (probably only at a scale of something like your $5 vs my $500, which may not be worth the effort).
0solipsist7yMeta information makes me even less confident than before. If it were true that Harry rederived the Pythagorean theorem, in secret, etc., EY would have upvoted my comment asking for a bet. My comment received zero upvotes.
4somervta7yI think you overestimate the likelihood that EY even read your comment. I doubt he reads all comments on hpmor discussion anymore.
1solipsist7yI'd still take a 250 to 1 bet.