- This thread has run its course. You will find newer threads in the discussion section.

Another discussion thread - the fourth - has reached the (arbitrary?) 500 comments threshold, so it's time for a new thread for Eliezer Yudkowsky's widely-praised Harry Potter fanfic.

Most of the paratext and fan-made resources are listed on Mr. LessWrong's author page. There is also AdeleneDawner's collection of most of the previously-published Author's Notes.

Older threads: one, two, three, four. By tag.

Newer threads are in the Discussion section, starting from Part 6.

Spoiler policy as suggested by Unnamed and approved by Eliezer, me, and at least three other upmodders:

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Yudkowsky which is not supposed to be publicly available (which includes public statements by Eliezer that have been retracted).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

It would also be quite sensible and welcome to continue the practice of declaring at the top of your post which chapters you are about to discuss, especially for newly-published ones, so that people who haven't yet seen them can stop reading in time.

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Chapter 61:

So Voldemort is a perfectionist seeking the "most powerful" combination of enemy, servant, and ancestor. Nice and good. But it sounds like if he were maybe a little less perfectionist, he could get any servant (I'm sure Lucius could spare Crabbe or Goyle, or he could just buy a house elf), any enemy (it's not like he doesn't have enough enemies, and anyone who wasn't an enemy before he took their blood would certainly be afterward), and so the only even slightly hard-to-come-by ingredient is the bones of the ancestor. So why in the name of Merlin haven't the bones of all Voldemort's ancestors been dug up and placed in a locked box under Dumbledore's desk? How come Mad-Eye Moody is out guarding the graveyard as if leaving Dark Lord Resurrection Ingredient #3 literally lying in the ground is at all safe?

(even so, an MoR-worthy solution would be for Voldemort to grab a sufficiently old hominid from a museum and assume it was common ancestor to everyone, but it would at least slow him down).

7Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
I congratulate you on noticing your own confusion. Yes, I thought of that.
Canon Voldemort killed his own father. Since he was already planning to make the horcruxes anyway (or perhaps that was how he started? I forget.) what I would have done in his place was secure some of his bone at that time so I would have it available I case I ever had need to revive myself. Of course, I would also have had Bellatrix donate some flesh, which I would keep frozen somewhere inconspicuous, unless the recipe actually requires that it be fresh.
I think Voldemort would have been staggeringly stupid NOT to have kept a remnant of his father's body given how much blood magic requires these types of ingredients.
I had assumed that Dumbledore had destroyed the remains but posted a guard at the grave in case someone showed up.
Another question is: would the most immediate or the most distant ancestor possible count as the best option for Voldemort? If the most distant, then he'll probably be wanting Salazar Slytherin's bones. If their location is known. A hominid fossil might have no living descendants at all.
I think a fossilized hominid might have worse than average chance of having no living descendants too: To be fossilized they have to undergo a fossilization event, which is probably correlated with disaster: and given that ancient human did not stray far from their genetic siblings (and progeny) this probably indicates a high chance of that disaster affecting their progeny. I certainly wouldn't rely on it. Nevertheless, given my cultural heuristic for what counts as most important, it would probably be father (in terms of how much various cultures put a value on either the father or the mother), or most recognized powerful ancestor (Salazar Slytherin in this case).
That would not be a safe assumption; most of what we dig up are our auncles, not our parents. Still, it's worth a try.

Not having read fanfiction before, one thing I find fascinating about MoR is the Americanisation. Mostly it's just fun to spot trivia but the way Eliezer deals with class is pretty curious and I thought I'd get some thoughts down:

Rowling is very careful in the series to draw her heroes from a cross section of the "honest" classes: Ron obviously is very stereotypically working class, Hermoine's upper middle (though not management) and the Dursleys are little englanders.

So kicking Harry up to Hermoine's class (and giving him a multi-barelled surname to boot! Though I'm not sure if that's a stereotype in the US?) and replacing Ron with the aristocratic Draco narrows the class perspective quite a bit. I wonder if this contributes to the more personal air to the fic's conflicts, particularly as Quirrelmort lacks Voldemort's evil aristocrat act, and Draco's now more of a racist than a snob. I'm thinking of reading some more american fanfics, to see how they handle things, it's an interesting insight into how the american's think about class (I'm looking forward to the American adaption of Skins for similar reasons, though in that case the relationship is reversed).

I'm not sure what stereotype you're referring to, but the length of Harry's surname reads to me as almost a parody of the inclination to signal egalitarianism. I take it as evidence that his adopted parents (particularly the father) are Very Liberal, but that's all. I hadn't actually noticed that particular issue before, but now that it's been pointed out, it seems to me more like a LessWrong-related bias than an American one. We like to focus on big, progressive, constructive issues, and upper-class people are in a better position to do so meaningfully; stories with disenfranchised characters are more likely to deal with apartment cows [http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1414347.html] like 'how can I keep my abusive stepfather from attacking me' and 'how can I afford to replace my broken wand', which we don't generally like to think about.

My big problem is the amazing breadth of American idiom that somehow falls out of the mouth of a child brought up by Oxford academics. Those kids really just don't talk like that. Not even slightly. It jars every single time and gives the impression of an author who can't be bothered.

If the characters in a story are supposed to be speaking Mandarin, no one, not even bilingual Chinese Americans, will complain that the American author wrote the dialogue in American English rather than the words the characters are literally speaking. Unfortunately, it appears that British English is too close to American English for dialogue between British characters to receive the same concession.

As an American, I don't particularly mind the Americanisms. If EY tried to write in British English, it would come out stilted and sound wrong to both nationalities. If he got a Britpicker, it would take longer for new chapters to come out. I don't like either of those options. On the other hand, translations are being done into Chinese, Korean, and German. Is there anyone here willing to translate it into British?
If it helps you suspend disbelief, the early chapters gave me the impression that Harry was brought up by books, with his parents playing a supervising role at best.
Kids like that are already brought up by books. And Hermione talks like that in the story too. No, it's a common careless HP fanfic author failure mode [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WeAllLiveInAmerica], not anything clever or intentional.
I don't really see it as careless; it's just a work obviously written by an American. Well, I guess I do see it as careless, in the sense that "I don't care".
This seems like something that would take some amount of work to fix in case the author did care. Problem with speech pattern differences is that you have no idea they're there if you're not familiar with the target speech pattern, so it's not like regular fact checking where you can generally tell when you're dealing with something tricky. I'm not terribly familiar with spoken English and had no idea about incongruent Americanese in the lines, though I can't think of anyone sounding very British either now that you mention it. The most straightforward fix would seem to be to run the dialogue through a native British English speaking editor, and that's a bit heavyweight for a fanfic.

In fanfiction, the problem is solved (if the writer cares) collaboratively-- American writers trying to do British English well is such a common problem that the proof-reading and copy-editing has a name: Britpicking. I assume that most of that is done by native speakers.

The problems can be subtle. I was shocked to find that modern British English doesn't include "gotten". How do they make it through the day without such a useful word?

And I'm not going to mention the book because the author's a friend, but she writes excellent British English. When she had a couple of short passages of American dialogue, the result was agonizing. She didn't make the typical error of exaggerating differences, but there was something very wrong with the rhythm.

It bloody does include "gotten"! It's just regarded as an "Americanism", hence evil to the purity and beauty of the sacred English tongue [*]. British writers writing 'Merkin can be painful. I'm Australian and even I can tell. [*] may not be 100% pure nor 100% sacred. Beauty may vary. Grammar may have settled in shipping.
I did two [http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/443591.html] polls [http://nancylebov.livejournal.com/446091.html?view=2946187#t2946187] because of annoying constraints. The second one has comments, the first one may eventually get comments. The results back up what you've said.
Thanks. At this point, since I did get this confirmed by someone British, I'm going to do a livejournal survey. There may be local variation.
In fiction, it would pretty much never be wrong to remove "gotten", but it does come out of their mouths.
That's an interesting question. British people-- some of them (and not all Americans, apparently) do use 'gotten', but seeing them use it in print will destroy some readers' suspension of disbelief. Truth or plausibility? It seems to me that it would add versimilitude to have some British characters use more Americanisms than others, but that might be too subtle.
They just use "got" - at least, that's what I was taught in school. And I would definitely appreciate it if Eliezer had a Britpicker "fix" HP:MoR. There should be good chances of a sufficiently dedicated fan in Albion.
Preferably someone who lives in Oxford or Cambridge and knows from personal experience what the smart children of academics in those cities talk like. LessWrong would be one of the few sites where there would actually be quite a lot of people fitting that criterion ...
There are no small children in Oxford; the place is entirely populated by students, academics who used to be students, and tourists. The surrounding villages are fairly normal though. By which I mean typical English home-county. ETA: But Harry is in no means typical. Unless something awful happens to these kids at puberty, there just aren't enough player characters at 18 for Harry to be the norm.
However, I think they'd be good enough examples that Harry PVE could be expected not to talk in American slang.
Can you give a few examples of MoR's more blatant Americanisms? As a non-native speaker, asides from the spelling issues ("realis/ze", "toward/s") and the most iconic terms ("bloody" vs. "doggone"), it's hard to notice and remember which side of the Atlantic any given phrase comes from.
raises hand Hey, I'm originally of British origin. I can indeed confirm that the language Harry uses has made me wince a little. This hasn't happened in the last few chapters, since we've been hearing from harry!Mort rather than Harry, and mind-dumps don't respect style, but "I'm in Mary's Place, Professor, in Diagon Alley. Going to the restroom actually. What's wrong?" -contains the word "restroom", which no speaker of British English would ever use in that context, and the question "What's wrong?" is a little aggressive. I would suggest something like "I'm in Mary's Place, Professor, in Diagon Alley. Ah, I'm actually just going to the bathroom - is there something wrong?"
Aside: As an American, I've often been quite surprised to find out that authors were British (if I read the books before I got background on the author.) My reaction is "British? It can't be!" This has happened with Alan Moore, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, and Charles Stross. I wonder when my brain will figure out that not everyone who's fun to read is from my home country.
Americans who learn music from British rock bands too. The British learn it from the Americans then sell it back to them better. That's why it's always fun to see Alan Moore writing in what's quite definitely British rather than in American. (And Neil Gaiman married an American, his children are American and he's lived in America for many years.)
Fair enough, this is a derivative work and shouldn't deviate from the established canon except where it needs to. I am tempted to argue for a special exemption in the case of Harry Potter fanfictions written by authors more skilled than Rowling.
There are things that assume American style systems that just don't exist over here. In the first chapter it talks about "Elementary Schools", where in the British system it would be Prep schools, probably (they tend to be classed the "best"). And Tenure doesn't exist in the same way. It didn't jar with me too much. I just ignored the fact it was supposed to be British, to be honest.
Prep schools - as a Scot I have no idea what they are and they sound awfully posh. Are they the same thing as primary schools?
Awfully posh independent primary school [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preparatory_school_%28UK%29] is a good description. Although the sometimes go up to 13 years old as well.
In countries with an aristocratic tradition, upper class people tend to have multiple middle names and surnames to better show off all the prominent families the person descends from.
This tends not to be done in Britain. (Hyphenation does appear at all social strata to some degree.)
I don't buy your second point here, because while in reality yes, the rich have the ability if not necessarily the inclination to deal with the world's problems, stories about those problems tend to maximise emotional impact by making their protagonists part of whatever strata of society is most affected by them. In the story of english democracy, the Chartists are much more sympathetic than Disraeli, and Christy Moore is unlikely to write a song praising John Major for his role in the peace process. If Eliezer were writing an original story with a similar plot to MoR, he'd be well advised to amp up the prejudice against Muggle Borns and make his hero one. I suspect the narrow class focus here is an incidental result of the intersection of his interests and Rowling's, particularly her fondness for "salt of the earth" working class stereotypes. That is, Rowling made all the smart kids posh and Eliezer picked all the smart kids.
I agree with this, and I think it may also have been inspired by/intended as a parody of either: *The fanfics where Harry finds out he's descended from Merlin or the Founders and picks up a pile of extra surnames *The use of hyphenated titles for characters like Boy-Who-Lived or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in canon and fanfic Even if it's not inspired by either of those, the associations made it funnier. [edited for format issues]
Good point about narrowing of the range of classes-- now that you mention it, the effect is a little claustrophobic for me compared to canon. I think not having Hagrid has somewhat of the same effect-- he comes off as a something of a low-status outsider, even before we find out he's half giant. I'll be curious to see if you find patterns about class in American fanfic, but it's worth remembering that it's a non-random sample and probably won't give you a complete view of how Americans think about class.
Now I'm wondering what fiction about a rationalist who's not extraordinarily intelligent and who's up against significant prejudice would look like.

Now i'm wondering about that too. The best way to show how rationality wins (if it does, in fact, win) would be to show how it works even for someone of average intelligence - otherwise you can never be sure if you're looking at the effects of superior intelligence instead.

A very intelligent but irrational person is easy to show, but a rational yet dumb one seems much harder to me. I suppose you could ham-fist it by making them suck at various intellectual challenges - any better ideas?
I thought early Bella from Luminosity did a pretty good job at showing someone rational but with no special cognitive abilities (we're talking about averages, here, not idiots). She just had noticed her limitations and practiced at overcoming them, but that by itself was very good at making her more effective. One of the simplest author tricks I can come up with is to give your character a thought speed and stick to it. Harry seems to run through ten lines of text in seconds, sometimes, but if you go with, say, your speed reading aloud you can get a reasonable estimate of how long it takes an average person to ponder something. People can mention how they zone out; they can miss opportunities; they can not come up with a good enough solution in time. They can make conscious decisions about what they will and will not think about.
Stubbornly refusing to believe in magic. Stubbornly agreeing with an outside view prediction even when faced with many convincing arguments why this example is special, if most examples are expected to have similarly convincing arguments. Stubbornly refusing to consider solutions to a problem before examining it more carefully. Quickly changing opinion when faced with a valid argument, even though it "should" be emotionally unconvincing.
You can catch a glimpse of this in Harry dealing with McGonagall if you remember that adults are significantly prejudiced against children, before his extraordinary intelligence overpowers and dissolves the situation. Assuming their goal is to remove the prejudice, my guess is they would work within the confines of the prejudice where possible, towards changing the environment into a place where the prejudice is untenable. Something like agitating for a law that requires subservient tasks to be performed by the prejudiced group, then pulling a Fight-Club-esque "we drive your ambulances, we guard you while you sleep." In a smaller environment such as a woman in an unenlightened workplace, become the indispensable secretary to everyone and then punish the prejudice when it appears (changing the environment so that the prejudice is now directed at an authority figure). It would be an unfolding plan rather than an impassioned speech and I expect would involve a lot of simple judo-ing of peoples' surface treatments of the issue.
wonder how his parents managed that
Presumably, the same way porcupines have sex.
Porcupines have the same dimensions in the important parts. Giants and humans might not.
TheOtherDave was alluding to a joke that goes like this: Q: How do porcupines have sex? A: Very carefully.
My answer makes sense even if I knew the joke. Which I do. Was it ever addressed in canon? How tall are the Giants?
Something like twenty feet tall, if I remember right.
I thought it was more like fifty feet, but I checked my copy of OotP and you're right.
Ah, I had a totally wrong mental image. In many movies giants are like: bigger. [I happen to be about 2 meters (6 and a half feet for the non-metric users), so maybe I need more size to perceive someone as a giant.]
He's human on his dad's side and giant on his mum's, rather than vice versa. I imagine that made things easier.
That's a great point about Hagrid, and yeah I don't think reading more will be particularly informative, but it's interesting given how class-orientated the original's conflicts are.
I don't understand what "little englanders" means in this context, since it seems to refer to an attitude rather than an economic class as such. IIRC, Mr. Dursley owned a moderate-sized business. Wikipedia says he "is also the director of a drill-making firm, Grunnings, and seems to be quite successful in his career."
The obvious place [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Englander] describes it reasonably well.
Er, yes, and it describes an attitude rather than an economic class.* Now as an attitude with a bad reputation, it's likely acquired connotations of class. But I think I've seen British fiction (Foyle's War) apply it to an Aristocrat or someone approaching that class, and the one example of use on Wikipedia applies it to a "Sir". *Must...resist...giving...examples!
Hmm, I was aiming for that broad swath of the middle classes that considers itself to be average, despite being at least slightly above. But a director is a bit above that, I thought he was a middle manager of some kind. It's hard to get much in the way of class signifiers off Harry in the book, which I suppose is the point.
It is.

(ch 58)

I'd thought this question would have already been raised, given the nature of this site and the author, but I haven't found it, so here goes.

Harry has already stated his intention of becoming as a god, and I'm not inclined to bet against him. He has already achieved partial Transmutation and Dementor-eradication, both considered impossible by other wizards, by virtue of his greater understanding of the Underlying Nature of Reality, and it seems likely he's just getting warmed up, and the Rule of Cool is with him, and the author seems sympathetic to that sort of transcendence (unlike most authors, whom I would expect to be setting Harry up for an Icarus flameout and a lecture on hubris).

It would not take much, really. Let him start researching an "Increasium Intelligencium" spell, and all bets are off.

So it seems reasonable to ask the question: is Harry Friendly?

I mean, obviously he avoids the Vast majority of unFriendly design space, simply by virtue of being human. He isn't going to tile the galaxy with paperclips or anything like that. But as I understand the idea, most human minds aren't Friendly either (are any?). It doesn't ordinarily matter, because humans... (read more)

My feeling is that the more obvious UFAI-alike in MoR is Quirrelmort. Consider: Inhumanly fast (newspaper reading; duel with Bahry). Inhumanly intelligent (passim). Very powerful in part because of being inhumanly fast and intelligent. Interested -- supposing him to be Voldemort, on which topic I shall say no more -- in defeating death (just the sort of thing someone might ask a superintelligent AI to find ways to do).

Speaking of which: "Tell them I ate it", says Quirrell concerning the destroyed Dementor. Dementors in MoR are a symbol of death, even if many wizards don't quite grasp that. Dumbledore doesn't, but Harry surely does. Is Quirrell really not concerned that Harry may get the message: "I am a death-eater"?

But does Quirrell know, or suspect, that Dementors are a form of death? If not he wouldn't even notice.
Well, like Harry he is unable to cast Patronus v1.0, and he seems to understand just fine when Harry calls the Dementors "life-eaters" in ch58.

So it seems reasonable to ask the question: is Harry Friendly?

Perhaps the purpose of the entire narrative will be to gut-punch the readers with a lesson in Friendly AI, by showing Harry acting determinedly and rationally to ensure his own Friendliness, but failing anyway.

To me, the most likely candidate for the role of an allegory of AI in MoR currently seems to be the Source of [Atlantean] Magic, assuming that Harry's speculation wasn't completely off the mark. (My Wild Mass Guess on the matter would be that Harry will eventually discover that the Source was the Atlanteans' equivalent of a moderately unFriendly AI, which didn't destroy the world but did wipe away Atlantis. Eliezer will then be sorely tempted to go on an all-out Author Filibuster [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AuthorFilibuster] (TVTropes) on the subject, but will manage to restrain himself to a couple of paragraphs in the Author's Notes.)
I'll be disappointed if Harry doesn't turn out to have been completely off the mark there. I mean, the process he went through was roughly "Hey, look at this thing I don't understand. It doesn't behave at all the way I would expect it to. Um... maybe X is an explanation!" with no particular justification for privileging X over the uncountable number of hypotheses he could have come up with instead. Worse, the hypothesis he came up with was pretty much unfalsifiable, and doesn't make any particular predictions. It doesn't "pay rent," to quote an early OB post. The moralist in me does not want Harry "rewarded" with a correct answer for reasoning that way. That having been said, I grant that if I knew the SO[A]M existed, I would conclude that Harry was somehow being influenced by its existence such that the theory of SO[A]M was more available, which doesn't require any additional assumptions given that it is necessarily responsive to wizards' thoughts to begin with. (That is, I don't want to repeat the reasoning error I made elsewhere regarding Quirrell being polyjuiced.) But right now I don't know that.
We don't know much about how stable human values are under recursive self-modification. It's entirely possible (albeit seemingly unlikely) that humans even tend towards tiling the galaxy with paperclips in particular.
Compared to the Vast space of minds in general, they certainly do. Few minds in that Vast space have heard of the concept of a paperclip, after all.
Indeed, it seems likely. Many humans have the concept that 'locked' values are better than 'wishy-washy' ones; few have the concept of local maximums and even fewer the understanding of complex, changing human value systems. Thus a priori we should expect there is some bias or leaning in that direction, which would presumably have a chance of affecting one human in particular. This chance is greater than that of an AI's, who chooses at random. Harry is aware of these ideas, but he often catches himself in errors. When it comes to self-modification there are no opportunities to catch your errors; you are stuck with them and will never even realise there are any. I wonder if Quirrell realises Harry desires to be an actual god, and not just Supreme Emperor of the magical world.
Hopefully Harry is bright enough not to test invasive intelligence improvement on himself.
Ugh, he's exactly bright enough to do just that, complete with justification that he can't trust anyone else to both be safe (Quirell, Dumbledore, Draco all too dangerous) and effective (Hermione wouldn't exploit enough).
He could time-turn himself to allow for self-monitoring of the experiment.

I haven't exhaustively read all these comments and all the reviews, so these theories might have been presented before, but here are two things I'm thinking:

-1- (medium probability) Quirrell seemed genuinely surprised to learn Harry had a mysterious dark side after the learning to lose chapter. He may not have realized this until they met, but he probably generated the hypothesis that it was a fragment of Voldemort very quickly. I think his bringing a Dementor to Hogwarts was his attempt to verify this hypothesis.

It was mentioned in Stanford Prison Experiment both that Quirrell is unusually sensitive to Dementors (probably because Voldy is unusually afraid of death) and that Harry's dark side is unusually sensitive to Dementors. Since Quirrell knows he is unusually sensitive, he theorizes that if Harry's dark side is really Voldy, Harry should be unusually sensitive. So he brings in the Dementor, arranges for the wand to be placed next to it, waits to see how badly Harry is harmed, and then pulls the wand away before there's any permanent damage.

Because of how badly Harry was harmed, he concludes that he probably does have a fragment of Voldemort in him. He asks Harry where he wo... (read more)

I'd expect that Quirrell would ask Harry his opinion on death some time before the test. Otherwise, it could just be that Harry is unusually afraid of death.
I'd say Quirrel was trying to kill Harry with the dementor. He only warned about the wand after Hermione was about to go before the dementor and discover it anyway. Sense of doom comes from 2 voldemorts(or horcruxes) being dangerously in sync. (Voldy marked harry as his equal ie made him Voldemort)
Sense of doom/magic incompatibility explains Voldemort dying in the first place (in MoR).


Somewhat trivially... I hadn't realized that Patronuses (Patroni?) could be sent on remote missions, or that they were able to track down individuals whose location the casting mage didn't know (as Professor McGonagall seems to do here).

I'm trying to figure out why, given that, anyone would break into Azkaban to give prisoners temporarily relief from Dementors, rather than just send a Patronus (or hire someone who can send a Patronus) to do the same thing.

So far I can't think of a plausible reason. Admittedly, Patronuses can't bring chocolate, but that seems inadequate reason to take the additional risk of breaking in personally.

Am I being dense?

A related nitpick: I was wondering why McGonagall's Patronus found this Harry if there are multiple Harrys around at this time because of his use of the Time-Turner. It seems likely that either the earlier Harry is still around at this time, or the later Harry has come back and is around at this time, or both. Is it because this Harry is using his Patronus?

(A similar issue about communicating with people who have time traveled naq oebhtug gurve pryy cubarf came up in another work of fiction, but I won't say anything more about that to avoid spoilers.)

I want to propose two more possible solutions. First, as I initially assumed, wards that Quirrel cast at Mary's are rendering them undetectable to patronus communication. That way, if there were no second Harry in Azkaban and third Harry on the way back, McGonagall's patronus wouldn't be able to contact him at all. Second, for all we know about patronus' methods of travel, it might get autonomously dispatched directly to target's location, which is normally unique. There are no conservation laws that prohibit patronus splitting into two independent messengers, as there are no conservation laws preventing you from having two mirror reflections, or two acoustic echoes at the same time; and reflections and echoes can be interacted with in magical ways in Potterverse. That means that all two or three copies of Harry can get the same message, give non-conflicting answers, and McGonagall won't suspect anything.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
Azkaban's future cannot interact with its past.
McGonagall and the other two Harrys aren't in Azkaban, so don't see why that fact would make her Patronus go to the Harry that is in Azkaban.
WTF. There are multiple Harry's now? Wow, I must catch up on the recent chapters!

Yeah, he suffers from spontaneous duplication, which is being treated by his spinster wicket.

This must mean that when Harry's Patronus knows that another Patronus is looking for it, it isn't because Harry, say, went back in time and sent himself a Patronus message. (Which would have been problematic on its own: where would the information have come from in the first place? It'd be a stable loop with no reason to exist, and I'd like to think such things don't happen.) So either someone who has non-time-travel knowledge of Dumbledore's actions sent this message to Harry (and who could have done this?)... or his Patronus knows this on its own, and it isn't a message after all. The first option is unlikely, but I am confused by both options. A Patronus isn't actually that intelligent is it? And even if Harry's Patronus is, how would it know that another Patronus is looking for it?
Patroni are sentient!
The same place where "Don't mess with time travel" came from.
I have a theory about that, actually. If the experiment had gone just as Harry expected, would he have been able to avoid the temptation to write something different on the paper, just to see what happens? Quite possibly the only stable time loop was one which involved a sufficiently creepy experimental result.
My pet theory was that Harry wrote "Don't mess with time" to himself because in a previous iteration, he had succeeded in using Time Turners to quickly factorise, and then parlayed this capability into a money-making scheme; shortly followed by a world takeover-cum-ascension to godhood, realised it was overall a bad thing, had one of his "this is that moment twenty years from then where I look back and point to exactly where it went wrong" moments, and used his power to return to that time, complete with the knowledge that he shouldn't mess with time. Which leads to him writing "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" down, which leads to him seeing that, realising none of this, but writing down "DO NOT MESS WITH TIME" with the same level of fear and thus the same hand-shakiness, and thus we get a stable loop. I would like to point out that this theory is both more consistent with the evidence available to us from the story, and more consistent with what we know about Eliezer: that a world that simply cheats is aesthetically unpleasing; and that it would amuse him to hide this from us.
I get this as meaning you can’t use the Time-turner inside Azkaban. I’m not sure if this is relevant to the story, but could one “duplicate” himself (or more) outside Azkaban, and then get all copies inside it? E.g., go to Azkaban, get out, go back to before entering Azkaban, and enter again? Are you forbidden to go back in time over a period you were in it, or is your copy prevented from approaching, or what?

A copy with knowledge of a Azkaban at a certain time seems forbidden from approaching/entering Azkaban at a prior time. See "Azkaban's future couldn't interact with its past, so she hadn't been able to arrive before the DMLE had gotten the message," in Ch55. The restraint isn't so much when the DMLE gets the message, it's when Azkaban sends the message. It can't send a message that affects its past.

Azkaban might be a good place to try a can of Comed-tea.

You’re right, I had forgotten that passage. I’m still curious how it actually works. The portal she used could simply refuse to work, but how would you be prevented from simply walking in? An invisible wall you can’t walk through, or just a sequence of increasingly improbable events happen that keep stopping you? (If Harry’s explanation of how Comed-tea is right, it probably means just that you won’t get the urge to drink it. That “or your money-back” line suggests that you can drink it without a result, presumably if you figured it out. Though the charm might also inhibit your wanting to drink it when nothing will happen; otherwise, there would be a lot of unsatisfied customers who drank it just because it was hot and they were thirsty. If it does, you might not get the idea to test it.)
The reason Harry lied to McGonagall, was because he didn't want her to know his location, and suspected that the only thing she was going to warn him about was that Quirell might be involved in a break in at Azkabam, which he already knows about. If her Patronus had reached earlier Harry, he would have listened to her and told the truth, and she would have arrived, and he certainly wouldn't have time travelled. But then there would have been no attempt to enter Azkabam, and so she wouldn't have know that something was wrong. Since time-turners don't cause these sorts of paradoxes, her Patronus had to find later Harry.
That explains not finding pre-Azkaban Harry. If Harry makes it out of there, there should be a post-Azkaban Harry as well. They want to time it so that they return to Mary's place at about the time they leave. Travel time means there should be three.
If the patronus found post-Azkaban Harry, then Harry would not have known to travel back in time to by found by it; another paradox that time-turners don't cause.
Er... really? For the sake of argument, let's assume that in later chapters we will discover that Harry's future goes according to the plan he lays out... that is, at T1 Minerva sends her Patronus, and at T2 Harry gets out of Azkaban and travels to T1. So at T1 Harry is in Azkaban and in Mary's Room. If the Patronus finds Harry in Azkaban (as we've read), Harry travels to T1 in order to be found by Minerva, as you say. But if the Patronus finds Harry in Mary's Room (as you're arguing couldn't happen), then Harry travels to T1 for some other reason, or no reason at all. "But then there's no actual motivation for Harry's action!", I hear someone object. "No fair!" Well, I agree. Similarly, by this theory, there's no actual motivation for the Patronus' choice. "Because it would cause a paradox" is a little bit like "Because it would violate conservation of energy"... it's a reason to predict one consequence over another, but it isn't actually an explanation.
Of course, I will admit that I am confused about what local laws could add up to the "no paradox" global law.
0Paul Crowley13y
Something like a multiply-branching Universe in which those branches that turn out to contain paradoxes cease to exist?
Not "cease to exist", simply won't exist. Think of the interference patterns of the double slit experiment. The wave-functions of universes with paradoxes cancel out to give zero probability to those collective sets of conditions.
I thought the plan was to have no gaps at Mary's place -- he'd travel back for that in any case to get back there/then.
I am not sure, I remember having the impression that Harry was making specific time travel plans in response to meeting the patronus. They had already travelled backwards in time, I am not sure how much time has passed. I will re-read the chapter later tonight. Though if it was non paradox causing either way, then the patronus was acting in accordance with another global law of the HP:MOR universe: it was more awesome for the patronus to meet Harry in Azkaban and make the situation more complicated.
I think they were planning on going back anyway, so that it seemed like they had never left Mary's room.
How are you counting to three?
Uneel vf tbvat gb gnxr n frpbaq gevc onpx va gvzr, fb gung ur pna jnyx bhg bs Nmxnona orsber gur nynez vf fbhaqrq, naq trg onpx gb Znel'f cynpr va gvzr gb zrrg ZpTbantnyy.
I was initially wondering about this too. Actually, I was thinking about it the other way around: that maybe Harry had to make sure not only that he arrived earlier than the time he recorded so he'd be there for Minerva to find, but also that he arrived after the time of the communication to avoid there being two Harrys for the Patronus to find. But putting it that way made me realize that no, clearly that isn't a problem: the Patronus (did/does) find the Harry in Azkaban, regardless of what else might be true. As you point out, we don't know how it did so... maybe it flipped a glowing animal-headed coin... but we know it did so, by observation, and Harry does too.
Oyvax ba Qbpgbe Jub [http://rot13.com/index.php?text=Oyvax%20ba%20Qbpgbe%20Jub]?
Huh, I thought he was referring to Cevzre [http://rot13.com/index.php?text=Cevzre].
I saw that a few times, but dont remember cellphones. Great one still.
I'm not familiar with that one. I was thinking of gur zbivr Cevzre [http://rot13.com/index.php?text=gur zbivr Cevzre].
Ah. I haven't seen either.
4Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
I hadn't thought of that, but (in canon) only members of the Order of the Phoenix can use their Patronuses that way.
I bet the Patronus' power isn't very strong when it's far away for its owner. It's just strong enough to get the message across, but not enough to repel dementors.

I hereby declare this to be fact. Not least because otherwise Harry would be tempted to send his Patronus into the Dementors' pit at any time, which problem I had thought about and planned to have him just not think of.

Does this count as a violation of the "don't say 'Eliezer said X'" rule? :P
This could make sense, but does it say anything about the possibility of long-range Horcrux action?
It seems that messenger Patroni don't have quite the anti-dementor effects that a local Patronus does. This would make sense both for the reason people go into Azkaban and for the reason that Harry didn't feel any different from the sending being around.
Normal patroni can be identified, tracked, and presumably dispelled, so there's not much of a reduction in risk.
It would still be a lot easier. Besides, if this is true, then Harry's cover story to McGonagall about being in Mary's room is blown. Especially with the heightened security, the Aurors would have noticed her patronus. Unless communication between McGonagall and Dumbledore + Aurors is especially poor, this would tell them that Harry is in there. Edit: Sorry, fixed.
Spelling. Edit: Downvoters: What? There are 4 misspellings in that paragraph (plus nonstandard capitalization). It hurts.
I want to propose two more possible solutions. First, as I initially assumed, wards that Quirrel cast at Mary's are rendering them undetectable to patronus communication. That way, if there were no second Harry in Azkaban and third Harry on the way back, McGonagall's patronus wouldn't be able to contact him at all. Second, for all we know about patronus' methods of travel, it might get autonomously dispatched directly to target's location, which is normally unique. There are no conservation laws that prohibit patronus splitting into two independent messengers, as there are no conservation laws preventing you from having two mirror reflections, or two acoustic echoes at the same time; and reflections and echoes can be interacted with in magical ways in Potterverse. That means that all two or three copies of Harry can get the same message, give non-conflicting answers, and McGonagall won't suspect anything.
IIRC, The method for sending messages using a Patronus was developed in canon by either DA or OoTP, and is not common knowledge. In MoR, Harry develops it himself but it presumably has been used in the war games by now. ETA: Chapter 28, it's mentioned that Minerva's cat patronus contacted Harry, so that's probably where he got the idea.
not the DA, but I think OotP

Tonight, after the Deathly Hallows premier, there are going to be readers who don't normally advertise HP:MoR flooding social networking sites with posts about the movie. Posting more chapters by the time they get to their computers to do so could get them to include their joy over the superior story in this flood, simply by relevant association, advertising MoR and spreading the love. Using the release of the canon movie in this way is the right thing to do, if there are chapters ready to be posted, and the fact that I desire moar MoR is a mere coincidence.

Chapter 61: 'There was another pause, and then Madam Bones's voice said, "I have information which I learned four hours into the future, Albus. Do you still want it?"'

This seems like a useless question. A bit of information was already conveyed representing the fact that Amelia Bones was 4 hours into the future & found some information that would be useful to Dumbledore. Is this not sufficient information transfer in and of itself to prevent Dumbledore traveling backwards?

Sorry if I'm confused, but reasoning about time is hard, and my diagrams are not as helpful as Snape's and Dumbledore's.

"Is this not sufficient information transfer in and of itself to prevent Dumbledore traveling backwards?"

Obviously it is not. I'm sure that Harry would find it ludicrous that such a rule exists permitting the transfer of this one bit of information but not the rest of it... but neither Amelia nor Dumbledore think in terms of "bits".

Btw this "6-hours" window? Though I don't expect it, it'd be hilarious if in-story this had anything to do with the infamous "TimeCube" ramblings. Something like "Gene Ray was once an Unspeakable that went insane trying to figure out the mysteries underpinning the 6-hours rule.".

It seems to be anything that would change the actions of the ones who hear it can't be passed back. I'm thinking it's a simulation that's processing 6 hours at once, with the earliest arbitrarily small unit of time being finalized at the same rate new time starts processing. So Harry just needs to upgrade the universe's hardware and he'll be good to go further back, but he should be able to get around the maximum daily uses per Time-Turner before then.

In other words:

All Cube Truth denied. 4-corner days, 24 hours divided by 4 corners is 6 hours per corner. The math is simple but no wizards will debate me. Time-Turner can only turn one corner at a time. 4 days are in one rotation. If Time-Turner turned more than 6 hours it would be in a previous day! Turners are connected in ONEness with Time and to disconnect equates death of opposites.

This is the best timecube reference I've ever seen. I think its very clear that the wizarding establishment is afraid of confronting your revolutionary claims.
That's not obvious; what's obvious is that Amelia thought that it was not. (I guess that Dumbledore also thought that it was not, since he had to think about whether he wanted the information anyway.) Amelia might actually be wrong here; she's good, but time travel is confusing.
I think the info was sent to Bones rather than her finding it and going back, but your point may still stand. Perhaps "somebody sent something back to Amelia Bones" is vague enough to slip past the filter. There must be some nonzero cutoff, because otherwise the info would affect the whole future (from the point of receiving the info) light come of anyone who got time-traveled info, and the whole earth would be interdicted whenever somebody went back. If I'm wrong about that, it's possible that either Bones or Dumbledore wasn't thinking, or Dumbledore realized that he was already blocked and that's part of why he decided he wanted the info.
Amelia Bones learns something at time x is an event happening at time x and information of that event could be taken back to time x - 6. If the information that she gets is from time x + 4 then that information could only go back to time x-2.
But she got information from time x + 4: the fact that there was interesting information to get at that time. Think of all of the logic puzzles where you have (just) enough information to deduce that somebody else had enough information to deduce that somebody else … etc.
I imagine there are many ways in which it can be inconvenient to have information about things that have, from your own perspective, not happened yet. Your own actions could become constrained on pain of paradox when previously they had not been.
But you aren't allowed to cause a paradox while ignorant any more than while informed. From a determinist viewpoint, your actions are already constrained.
That's true. When I first considered the situation, it seemed obvious to me that accessing the information could have a controlling effect on your own behavior, but on further reflection it shouldn't actually matter. However, it would still be able destroy one's illusions of freedom of choice, which would probably be discomforting, if not actually tactically disadvantageous.


erm... Harry was worried that they'd figure out that he'd used partial transfiguration to make a hole in the wall, but he's not worried that they might figure out that he's just about the only wizard on the planet who would ever think of transfiguring a rocket-powered broomstick? Surely that idea has Harry James Potter Evans-Verres stamped all over it?

Debatable. Sirius Black, and then Hagrid, rode a flying, roaring motorbike. This was wizarding propulsion on a Muggle vehicle, rather than the reverse, but it makes a rocket broomstick quite a bit more believable.
It's an obvious idea for any Muggleborn wizard, at the very least. The only reason it hasn't been used to escape Azkaban before is that everyone was using Quirrel's original "perfect" plan. :-)


Has the nature of Harry's mysterious dark side been established yet? If not, the latest chapter gives a strong hint toward it being a shard of Voldemort.

In chapter 56, Harry discovers that his vulnerability to Dementors is due to his dark side's fear of death. And, back in chapter 39, in the discussion between Harry and Dumbledore it was suggested that Voldemort was motivated by fear of death. Not quite proof, but interesting nonetheless.

"Isn't that like having a coitus fetish?" And of course Harry heard his parents die at the hands of someone who wanted to kill him, after which he arguably suppressed the memory. Sure, canon!Harry doesn't fear death as much, but the Sorting Hat told MoR!Harry that going to Gryffindor or Hufflepuff would change him. The best evidence here for your theory lies in the fact that he managed to give himself that kind of acceptance and friendship.
I wonder if Harry's dark side (assuming it's part of Voldermort) knows it's part of Voldermort. If it doesn't, what will happen to it when it/Harry finds out? Obviously Harry considers Voldermort an enemy. Will he try to destroy it?
I'm pretty sure it doesn't know anything normal Harry doesn't. Harry finding out it's part of Voldemort won't make a difference. It's useful, but dangerous. Harry already knows this.

An easy way of linking to all the past discussion threads is to link to the harry_potter tag, which doesn't require updating all past discussion threads every time a new thread is created. Except that this latest thread is tagged with "harrypotter" instead, which ought to be changed.

Thanks. Fixed.

I'm not happy with the rule about time travel not allowing travel more than six hours back of information. If that's the case then time travel should be much less common since anything sharing the same light-cone segment will transmit information back based on minute changes to gravity. This only makes sense if it means information that humans would regard as information because magic works like that. If that's the case, I'm really waiting for Harry to find the explicit rules for that and then find a loophole to engage in major havoc.

I think I can actually deflect this one by appeal to Actual Reality. (Some familiarity with quantum mechanics required.) Note that photons, by virtue of their momentum, have gravitational pull; yet in the quantum double-slit experiment, the gravitational pull of the photons is not enough to "collapse the waveform" as to which path they have taken. This seems to me to be exactly the same sort of "prohibited information" as in the fic. The best explanation I'm aware of for this is that the uncertainty in the quantities involved is high enough that, even though the photons' gravitational pull could in theory transmit information, in practice the resolution of the universe is simply not high enough for that to happen. The same thing could be at work here. I feel like I just used a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
I think a pretty straightforward answer is that for it to be information, an intelligent being has to perceive it as such. I don't think there's a loophole - if you would successfully send information farther back in time using any means, Time Gets Mad, and things somehow work out so that you don't. And even if you get around that, unspeakably bad things probably happen. However, I suspect that the six hours is an artificial safeguard built into the spell. You could PROBABLY create a new time travel spell that can go seven or eight hours without breaking things. I doubt the 6 hour limit is actually the snapping point. It's just the limit to what you can do before you start to deal damage to reality. Going farther once might work, but if everyone did it then Very Bad Things happen. If the payoff matrix for "everyone defects" is that the universe stops existing, you should probably cooperate. Edit: NVM, reread the end of the chapter, and it seems like if there's any way to go more than six hours, period, it's such a well kept secret that no one thinks its possible. Then again, this would not be the first time Eliezer has employed the "powerful weapon being an amazingly well kept secret" thing, and it was somewhat foreshadowed when Harry mused that maybe scientists had come up with things worse than nuclear weapons.

However, I suspect that the six hours is an artificial safeguard built into the spell.

Either that, or that's the size of the simulation's event buffer. ;-)

(That is, it might be a hard limit on the size of time loop the simulation is able to process, if they're actually in a simulation.)

Assume they are in a simulation - why would it have an event buffer created able to compute time travel at all, and why pick 6 human hours (equivalent) as the magic number constant for it? Presumably simulating a human brain is harder than simulating the same mass/volume/atom count of solid metal, so as the population increases has the time-turner interval shrunk correspondingly? Seems unlikely it would settle on such a round number if it was changing with population. (Or is that why magic is getting weaker - as the simulation computer fills up?)
It occurs that magic is basically the ability to hack the simulation; the wizards who developed time travel didn't know what was actually safe, what was unsafe, what would crash the simulation, and what the simulation could actually even do - so they picked the weakest version of time travel to implement (both branches consistent) and slapped a bunch of arbitrary limits on it so it (hopefully) couldn't break anything major.
Also, Merlin in T.H. White's The Once and Future King lives his life backwards in time, from old age to youth - is that canon!Merlin, and does that property carry over to the Merlin to whom the characters refer in HP:MOR?
Merlin is not in the canon except as a curse-word of sorts (By Merlin's beard!).
And as the figure referenced by the Order of Merlin, which is awarded to people who perform exceptional deeds, and as the first person to get his face on a chocolate frog card [http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Merlin]
Why not? I think it'd be kind of cool to simulate a universe with magic and I'd feel altogether clever if I could implement time travel in it. :)
OK, simulating time travel for the hell of it sounds good, I still question the buffer limit idea: "Simulated time travel now working, but what should we set the Horological Constant value to?" "Dunno. Three years? A thousand years? Just enough time to undo saying something rude? MAX_INT seconds? AVAILABLE_MEM? User configurable?" "Oh whatever, it's time to go home, I'll just put six simulated hours and be done with it. Shall I start locking up?" That would be a disappointing reason for the 6 hour limit, and an unconvincing way to make the universe work so that the plot works. I hope the 6 hour limit is either not real, or something more interesting.
My first hypothesis would be simple processing complexity. Time travel is complicated. It is the kind of problem that grows ridiculously with time and space. The programmer has been able to invent an algorithm that simplifies it for low dimensionality but even with that algorithm higher order time travel would still take too much time on the given hardware. Second: the programmer initially programmed the buffer in to allow for short term time processing. Things like the soda that prompts you to drink, spell dodging time hop magic, etc. It didn't even occur to him that the wizards would find a way to exploit the mechanism for long term use.
Another possible reason to have a time-buffer in a world simulator (which, btw, I don't believe the HP:MORverse is) is that the simulation doesn't actually do everything in real time. Rather, you may have situations where process A and process B are defined as taking the same number of simulated time-slices, but process B takes more actual time to simulate for whatever reason, and so the simulation of process A is halted until process B catches up. (This presumes that it's not possible to reallocate simulated processes across simulating resource threads with arbitrarily fine granularity.) Which means that at any given real-world moment, some parts of the simulation are at timeslice T, some parts are at timeslice T+1, and so forth. The six-hour limit might simply reflect the typical spread, and simulated time-travel might be a hacking of the system that is bound by that spread, rather than an explicitly simulated capability with an explicitly simulated upper bound. Something like this is true of the only reality-simulating system we know of, namely our own brains. For example, color phi [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_Phi_phenomenon] is a kind of simulated time travel where, in response to a perceived event E1 at time T, your brain constructs an illusory event E2, which you experience as occurring before T. This works because different parts of your brain construct your experience of time T at different rates, and tag those parts as occurring at T; the experience of simultaneity is constructed by your brain.
If the six-hours is to avoid too much time-skew, it's a hack and one would expect better from simulation-builders. There are plenty of ways to efficiently calculate differing time-space regions, using lazy evaluation [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazy_evaluation] or equivalents thereof. For example, the famous Hashlife [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashlife] algorithm for Conway's Game of Life does exactly that - different regions can be billions or trillions of generations apart thanks to memoization [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memoization]. Lazy evaluation proper allows weird techniques like the reverse state monad [http://lukepalmer.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/mindfuck-the-reverse-state-monad/] or circular programming (aka time-traveling [http://community.livejournal.com/evan_tech/216270.html]).
It may be that the limit is not due to the physics itself but because of the intervention of an early wizard. Unbounded time travel is one of the most powerful abilities imaginable. The first witch to exploit this and take ultimate power would obviously want to prevent others from overthrowing her. It would be in her best interest to find a way to put constraints on the powers of others. Longer than six hour anomalies may well trigger destructive countermeasures.
If the simulation is filling up that might make time travel less powerful but I don't see why the processing/resource constraints should make other forms of magic also need to be restricted.
(fixed simulation resources / increasing population) = less magic per person (fixed simulation resources for magic / increasing population using magic simultaneously) = less spare magic at any given moment Were the sort of ideas I was thinking. But, if it's a simulation it needn't compute in realtime, so it is a weak suggestion.
A 6 hour simulation buffer would explain a T-6hour limit, but not that you couldn't go back into the same simulation buffer more than once, or that you couldn't operate on the 4 disjoint 6-hour segments of the 24 hour limit. With an un-shelled Time Turner, could Harry go backwards from 23:59 to 17:59, then cover most of the same 6 hour interval again by jumping back from 00:01 the next day to 18:01? Depending on how the 6 hours in 24 constraint is imposed, (Scotland's midnight-midnight, noon-noon, whenever the operator's variable 24-30hour days roll over, 9:00pm-9:00pm, a leaky-bucket token at 15sec/min, or whatever), what happens at 9 hours past lunch could be odd.
If it is a simulation, and time travel devices are limited in ways to save on computation and such, some of these restraints make sense: the quibble over what counts as information is resolved as "anything that will force the simulation to recalculate futures", the simulation buffer is locked to one per time-turner because allowing an arbitrary number of retries would cause the computation requirements to explode, and Harry can get around the limit by using someone else's "turn", even if they can't use it, because they have information that the simulation won't allow to travel. My money is on Dumbledore's timeturner. McGonagall, Snape, and Amelia Bones won't suspect it, all having witnessed Dumbledore receive future information (therefore he can't travel back in time far enough). Harry will capitulate to Dumbledore's offer of the Timeturner once he determines that a) Dumbledore knows Harry was involved in the Azkaban break, and b) being able to travel the full 6 hours will convince the rest of the wizarding world, including his teachers, that Harry was not involved. Dumbledore will do this because it suits his interests (or sense of drama) to have war declared on Voldemort.
I don't think Dumbledore would knowingly declare war on Voldemort prematurely. If he doesn't believe Voldemort is back, he won't try to convince others that he is.
Dumbledore very nearly took over the wizarding world of Britain last time there was a war, according to the Malfoys. This is a good reason for him to have war declared yet again, even (especially!) in the absence of Voldemort.
Then why wait until he actually has reason to think that Voldemort may be on the brink of returning? Why not simply fabricate evidence? I'm fairly confident that the Malfoys are wrong in their assessment of him. Not only would it be an arbitrary departure from the original canon, having nothing to do with making certain characters more rational, there are also plenty of ways he could have pursued his supposed ends more effectively if those were his real goals.
I don't think it would depart from canon, and it would be very much in line with fanon: the fanfiction involving Dumbledore shows him as someone who thinks he knows better - and has no qualms about misleading or mistreating anyone to get them to do as he wishes. Canon never states this outright, but it does give you all the evidence you need to make a decision: Dumbledore, with full knowledge of the situation, condemned Harry to spend nine years of child abuse under the Dursleys.
People like to think of themselves as good. Many ambitious people might use unfortunate circumstances as a reason to get power even as they wouldn't go out of their way to cause those circumstances to come about.
If the six hour limit is or resembles a natural limit of any kind, which it may, it seems most likely to correspond to one quarter of a day, where "day" might be sidereal, stellar, or solar (probably not civil). Hours are just... very artificial, and while magic seems perfectly happy to abide by artificial rules, this limit is likely to predate accurate timekeeping (and accurate timekeeping precedes the careful pinning down of how long an hour is!) The "quarter-day" interpretation would have the following implications: * Depending on which sort of day limits time travel, certain astronomical phenomena would mess with time travel. * Six hours is unlikely to be an exact figure, and the figure in question may vary depending on seasonal and geographical context. * Time travel in outer space will behave very strangely.
Maybe the natural limit is some naturally derived constant that happens to be slightly more than six hours, and the time-turner was designed by humans to operate in units of exactly an hour. Which you could test by seeing if it was possible to send information back in time 6 hours and 1 second using two chained time-turners.
This makes for an interesting question: How do you test stuff like this? It seems dangerous. What exactly breaks when you go back too far? Just the local area? Can I launch a time turner into space with a suitable automatic device and watch from a safe distance? Is having an observer involved relevant (more likely with magic than quantum mechanics)? Would testing with wizard or house elf participants be unethical? Is the anthropic principle relevant?
Yet Dumbledore says that someone erased Atlantis from time, and I'm guessing Atlantis existed for more than six hours. (Also, it was erased from time in such a way that people still know about it). We know that earlier wizards were stronger, yet the book says "time turners can't go back more than six hours" multiple times, so it seems an important fact and widely believed by the characters. We know that strong Dumbledore can't do it, nor can efficient Quirrellmort (or he wouldn't suggest to Harry the plot with Bulstrode), and that time travel can be blocked long-term by the Wizards who created Azkaban. I think it will be a matter of partial-transfiguration style understanding for Harry to find some kind of loophole.
I think Atlantis serves as a cautionary tale for what happens when you TRY to go back more than six hours.
That's what you get when you program your universe without checking your array indexes consistently!
Perhaps the six hour limit was placed on time travel a long time ago, by wizards much more powerful than today's, who knew (perhaps first-hand) how nightmarishly screwy time travel could get. This sort of thing has precedent: the Interdict of Merlin prevents the most powerful magical knowledge from being passed on in writing. The reasoning is similar, too: some magic is just that dangerous.
I would not be surprised if the destruction of Atlantis involved Time Travel. Especially if we consider that this fic might be influenced by "Harry Potter and the Wastelands of Time."
This is what I figured. The same thing applies to prohibiting time travel in Azkaban, or allowing one person to tell another person (while giving them access to who knows what subtle face expressions) to talk to a person that the first one can't communicate with.
Which suggests that to time-travel further than 6 hours back, you'd just need to completely Obliviate yourself, wiping your mind so clean that a Remembrall in your hands would blaze like a miniature sun. Best to also take the form of an infant, since you'll be a mental one anyway.
I suddenly really hope Harry doesn't "Where did all you zombies come from" travel back to himself as an infant to destroy You-Know-Who for the second-first-only time as the end of the book, leading to his obliviated-adult-in-the-form-of-a-child brain as the cause of his "childhood" genius.
I'm in an unusual position I find hard to express! 1. I never considered that possibility until your comment. 2. The possibility is awesome and if the story had really ended that way I would've been totally satisfied, I think. 3. Now that you've pointed it out and I've thought about it, I'm greedy and want a different awesome ending, so 4. Now I agree with you and hope it doesn't end that way.
As long as the Remembrall blazes in the same way (as far as any person would notice), regardless of what you've actually forgotten.

I just had an awesome misreading of Ch. 60. Quirrell says to Harry, "People don't care in the slightest, and if you had not led a vastly sheltered childhood you would have noticed that long ago. Console yourself with this!" and hands him a game console. Wham, Dumbledore's hero neutralized.

Chapter 59

I'm a bit miffed about Dumbledore apparently knowing about the requirements for Voldemort to cast the spell to restore his body. That wasn't part of the prophesy, that was, in the original canon, magic of Voldemort's own creation. Even if Dumbledore knows Voldemort to be capable of such a thing, he shouldn't know how. One difficulty of compressing plot elements from a series that takes place over seven years into a one year space is that you have to be extra careful that people don't suddenly start knowing things they shouldn't know.

EDIT: Elieze... (read more)

Perhaps that means that Dumbledore's blood is required instead.
I would think not, if we were going on the original canon's rules, but in the original the potion didn't require flesh of one's most faithful servant, otherwise Wormtail would never have done. Eliezer may have altered the requirements to make achieving the same goal more difficult for Quirrelmort, because if he wanted to he could easily have already gathered all the ingredients the original Voldemort did, and probably without anyone noticing to boot. Requiring the blood of one's worst enemy would neatly preserve the thematic symmetry in this version of the potion, so in that case it would make sense if Dumbledore is the only candidate.
-1Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
First, ask yourself how you would set things up if you were Lord Voldemort. Then, reread Ch. 53.

I'm afraid I haven't a clue how I would set things up if I were Voldemort, because I'm still not clear on what it is he's actually trying to accomplish. Assuming I were simply trying to defeat Dumbledore, I can think of what I might have done that would explain some of Quirrel's actions, but not others.

Actually, on second thought, if my opponent were Dumbledore, I think I do know what I'd do, because it's a Dark Lord strategy I've contemplated before which seems practically tailor made to the situation.

V jbhyq neenatr sbe gur perngvba bs n erq ureevat cebcurfl juvpu bhgyvarq fhccbfrq cererdhvfvgrf sbe zl qrsrng, fb gung zl rarzvrf jbhyq ubyq bss ba nggrzcgvat gb qrsrng zr va rkcrpgngvba bs n frg bs bppheeraprf gung jbhyq cebonoyl arire unccra. Qhzoyrqber, jub oryvrirf va gur cbjre bs fgbevrf, jbhyq yvxryl nggrzcg gb shysvyy gur cebcurfl yrggre naq fcvevg, ybpxvat uvz vagb na haivnoyr fgengrtl V jbhyq or pbzcyrgryl cercnerq sbe.

V'z abg ng nyy pbasvqrag gung guvf vf jung Ibyqrzbeg vf npghnyyl qbvat gubhtu, gurer'f fgvyy n terng qrny vg jbhyq yrnir harkcynvarq.

What, nobody? Oh, well. Voldemort stands next to the crib of his destined enemy, the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord, the completely defenseless one year old child. The Dark Lord's most faithful servant, Bellatrix, is waiting for him at the graveyard, near his father's grave. One Side-Along-Apparition, and not even death will slow Voldemort down for long. Too bad he died the moment he touched the baby.
Why would Voldemort touch the baby at all, if he was aware of the danger? And if he wasn't, why did he leave his wand to Bellatrix, why did he come alone and prepared for the ritual? There's also Harry's flashback in which he learns the precise shade of avada kedavra.
Why would Bellatrix hide the wand next to Pappa Riddle's grave? Kinda arbitrary, isn't it? Unless that was the designated meeting place where she was supposed to wait. As Yvain pointed out, it's possible she aquired the wand from Voldemort's corpse, and went looking for the shade afterwards. There are other possible meeting places beside the graveyard, the only reason I can see for going there is for the bones. It means a plan for the revival ritual was in the making, still missing an enemy. My guess is, it was a safety net thing, bring the baby there, do the deed, and if something goes wrong, instant resurrection. Who would think a simple touch of the destined enemy could kill as well. Something did kill Voldemort, and with the safety net almost ready, it must have been something unexpected. Had everything went as planned, Voldemort wouldn't have disappeared for ten years. This is my guess, anyways. Still a few things unexplained. What made the scar? Voldemort's touch? Horcroux? Also, technically, Lily died in a duel, same as James. There might not be any protection at all. Also the AK color thing? mor!Harry saw only the one that killed Lily.
Voldemort might have vanished for ten years intentionally. It's certainly within his power to reveal himself to his old followers now, and probably take charge of them again, but he hasn't done so. Whatever his intentions are, it seems they're probably not served by people being aware that he's still around. Who knows how long he's been possessing Quirrel?
That wouldn't make any sense- by doing so he loses a lot of followers (Bellatrix at least was imprisoned), allows the enemy to regroup, and would make them more hopeful of winning the next time. (Who's going to believe him, after all?)
Probably any of the Death Eaters. If you were Voldemort, would you leave yourself without a way to identify yourself to your followers whatever shape you happened to be in at the time? As for the followers who were imprisoned, remember that if canon is anything to go by, when he's prepared to reveal himself, Voldemort could break everyone out of Azkaban. His enemies aren't just recuperated, they're complacent. Do you think Voldemort could have gotten this close to Dumbledore while the war was on? Far from making them more hopeful of winning, if he pulled off a coup against Dumbledore and did whatever it is he's trying to do with Harry, he could very well win before his enemies even had time to assess their prospects.
Well, because the prophecy didn't say "The touch of the Chosen One will instantly annihilate bad guys".
The world would be a better place if (true) prophecies did say that.
A couple of scenarios I considered would suggest that Voldemort's death was not an accident, but suicide. I can think of reasons he might have done it, but I don't put a lot of stock in them, first because it doesn't seem like the most practical course of action, it's not what I would have done in the same circumstances, and second because even with every expectation that he would actually survive, considering how much he fears dying, I don't know if Voldemort would commit an act of suicide if he could possibly avoid it.
Chapter 53 strongly indicates that Voldemort had left his wand with Bellatrix at the graveyard; where she hid it before she left. This strongly implies that he knew there was atleast a high chance of being incapacitated in some way; and he didn't want his wand taken by aurors.
9Scott Alexander13y
But then what wand did Voldemort use to duel James and Lily and to cast Avada Kedavra? It's not really clear whether Bella knows how Voldemort died. She recognizes Harry from his scar, and it's improbable that she could have been captured so soon after Voldemort's death that she didn't have time to read the newspapers. But she also says: "My... Lord... I went where you said to await you, but you did not come... I looked for you but I could not find you..." Which would be an odd thing to say if she knew his body had been found on the floor of Potter's house. Maybe she knew about the horcruxes and other dark magic, and figured Voldemort losing his body would be only an inconvenience? So either Voldy gave Bella his wand and used a different wand to duel the Potters (which meant he knew something was up and probably planned to die), or she just took the wand from the corpse or stole it from the authorities or something.
As his most faithful servant, Bella likely dismissed the possibility of Voldemort's (permanent) death out of hand, burned corpse or not. Several people do so in canon, with her group's torture of the Longbottoms occurring specifically because the former thought the latter had information regarding Voldemort's location.
Any reasoning from Bella's apparent knowledge should take into account the Dementor-induced censoring of good memories, (e.g., sun, clouds). Perhaps she can still remember parts of the plans that went wrong without remembering the successful parts.
Oh my! That's an interesting point. What if his suicide was a way of short-circuiting the Prophecy? I'm assuming that's what your scenario is, and it's brilliant.
That wasn't one of my ideas, actually. To know if that was viable, I would need a much more precise understanding of how prophesy actually works in this setting. My guess is that suicide would not allow him to circumvent the prophesy unless it killed him off for real, and if it was a true prophesy, then he wouldn't kill himself off for real, because that's not how he's prophesied to die (not that he'd be likely to kill himself if there weren't a prophesy.) It's not the prophesy I imagined Voldemort might be trying to throw off by suicide, but his enemies. If you check the rot 13 text in my earlier post, you'll find an explanation of why the prophesy might not be trustworthy at all, but whether it is or not, note that Voldemort is now in the close circles of his most prominent enemies, none of whom seem to be aware of his true identity.
Father's bones are buried inside Bella? That's twisted but so is Voldemort.
Guvf pbhyq or n genc sbe Qhzoyrqber, jvgu Uneel nf gur onvg. Vg frrzf yvxr n cbbe pubvpr sbe n genc, gubhtu- Ibyqrzbeg jvyy cebonoyl or qenvarq ol tbvat gb Nmxnona, naq Qhzoyrqber vf (va pnaba) fvzcyl fgebatre guna Ibyqrzbeg vf. Pnaba!Qhzoyrqber fnpevsvprq uvzfrys gb fnir Uneel (naq Qenpb), ohg ZbE!Qhzoyrqber frrzf gb unir frg guvatf hc gur bgure jnl nebhaq, jurer Uneel vf n urebvp pehvfr zvffvyr cbvagrq ng Ibyqrzbeg, naq fb V jbhyqa'g gehfg nal nygehvfz ba uvf cneg. V pna'g frr jung Ibyqrzbeg tnvaf ol sbepvat gur vffhr abj, gubhtu. V vzntvar cbjreshy jvmneqf qb abg eryvadhvfu gurve oybbq rnfvyl, rfcrpvnyyl qhevat onggyr. Ur pna'g enafbz Uneel vs Uneel'f znva hfr gb Qhzoyrqber vf xvyyvat Ibyqrzbeg. Gur zbfg frafvoyr cyna V pna pbzr hc jvgu vf Ibyqrzbeg jvyy fnpevsvpr Dhveery va sebag bs Uneel, fb n jrqtr vf qevira orgjrra Uneel naq Qhzoyrqber, naq abj ur gnxrf bire fbzr bgure uncyrff mbzovr gb thvqr Uneel shegure, naq Oryyngevk vf bhg bs Nmxnona naq va fbzr snenjnl ynaq (jurer V vzntvar gur Zvavfgel pbhyq fgvyy svaq ure).
Canon!Dumbledore didn't sacrifice himself to save Harry (and Draco) -- he was already dying, and he just arranged his death in such a way that Snape would be in the most trusted position possible, and the Elder Wand permanently deprived of a "true master". He failed in the latter goal.
But he was already dying because of anti-Voldemort choices he made. I'm not sure we can expect MoR!Dumbledore to make the same choices unless he sees them as a fitting end for his life (which he may not, given that he's not Harry's mentor figure).
I would expect this would be a well-known spell to anyone who knows about horcruxes (at least, knows about it to the point of either actually using them, or opposing someone who does). Am I forgetting some reason why it wouldn't be? EDIT: Oops, I guess this comment is obsolete - I misread the "old piece of dark magic" edit.
I was operating on the assumption that horcruxes were supposed to make one nigh invulnerable, like the soul-displacement objects of myth by which they were inspired, with the unstoppable killing curse being an exception. Being left as a disembodied shade after death would be a side effect rather than the main purpose, so the body returning spell would not be a necessary complement. It made sense in light of what I thought horcruxes were actually for. Apparently the conversation between Tom Riddle and Professor Slughorn in Half Blood Prince contradicts this, but I had forgotten it.

How did Sirius manage to switch with Peter?

With Harry thinking the best way to break out of Askaban not to be sent there in the first place when he first hears about Sirius, the Quibbler story that Sirius and Peter are secretly the same person and someone Fawkes is particularly unwilling to leave in their Askaban prison cell mumbling "I'm not Sirius" over and over I have very little doubt that it somehow happened. I see no way to show that all just to have been a red herring that's even the least bit awesome. And then it has also repeatedly been ... (read more)

I made the same argument on tvtropes independently. My thought was that Sirius and Peter were human-form animagi of each other, as a wizardry analogue to getting matching tattoos. Although maybe one's choice of animagus form is involuntary: Peter was completely obsessed with Sirius at the time that the two performed the spell, but not Sirius with Peter, so Peter's form was Sirius but Sirius, to his surprise, turned into a dog instead. Maybe that's why they broke up. I'm not sure the dementors see people the way we do: they certainly don't in canon. If Peter's mode-lock wore off in Azkaban, the dementors might not notice or care. If Fawkes thinks that Peter is innocent, he probably is. But maybe Sirius is too. Maybe Sirius was the only one who knew that Peter was the secret-keeper, so he assumed that Peter betrayed the Potters but he'd never be able to prove it. So he switched identities and faked his own death, and remains ignorant to this day that Voldemort doesn't need a traitor to find his victims.
If Sirius is innocent, and Dumbledore knew it but couldn't prove it, then the swap could have been done by Dumbledore, replacing some other Deatheater (not necessarily Peter) with him. Goblet of Fire (and Barty Crouch Jr's escape after swapping with his mother) shows us that Dementors are okay with you bringing in a fresh victim to trade for a less fresh one.
That would be possible, but doesn't match the hints. Sirius would have been in Askaban, it wouldn't explain the confrontation, and the scene with Fawkes would be out of place if Dumbledore knew.


I think I figured out Quirrell's plan, or at least what the big challenge for Harry is going to be.

Quirrell spoke of Voldemort learning Slytherins secrets from the basilisk, tempting Harry. Oh but the snake is dead, too bad all those secrets are lost.

Now Harry figures out that his mysterious dark side is Voldemort, has all those secrets, and apparently can be 'reformed'.

So he can have all those secrets (and at some point he is likely to be made to need them) but to get them he has to strengthen the horcrux-voldemort talk to it and listen to it.

The answer to Harry’s question at the end of Chapter 60, “Why am I not like the other children my own age?”, is, of course, that he is the protagonist of a story, and therefore he must do interesting things to amuse the readers. It would be pretty cool if he actually realized that and started considering in his decisions the likelihood that this story will have a happy ending and the likelihood that he will be killed off as a result of a minor accident as opposed to an epic duel with Voldemort. It would be really hard to write, though, and Harry would natu... (read more)

As per a comment by Pavitra in an earlier thread, I think it might be that he's a copy of Voldemort, without (most of?) Voldie's memories - hence the single soul under the hat, the red remembrall, and various insinuations by Quirrelmort.
In the latest couple chapters, the remembrall's importance has been revealed I think: He was at broomstick flying class, and yet he had forgotten Newtonian mechanics and thus failed to see they didn't apply to broomsticks.

I don't like this interpretation because I don't think there's any problem to solve.

My memories tell me that broomsticks in both the books and movies were determinedly Newtonian, and not Aristotelian. Broomsticks do not stop instantly, people smash into the ground when they can't pull up enough, and so on. Before I accept that Eliezer has not made a mistake or is not deliberately diverging from canon and so there is even a forgetting for the remembrall to be linked to, I want to see some citations where broomsticks act in a clearly Aristotelian manner.

It seems that they might act in a hybrid Aristotelian/Newtonian manner. Certainly in canon they talk about broomsticks having maximum speed not maximum acceleration. And people have trouble pulling from being near to hitting the ground, something which sort of makes sense in an Aristotelian framework because objects want to go to the ground. Outside canon, the movement of the broomsticks in the movies does seem to be a definite mix but this is likely more due to standard movie physics than anything else.
I remembered the top speed from the whole Firebolt/Nimbus sequence of events, but I don't regard that as even weak evidence for Aristotelian mechanics. Wind resistance/drag means that there's a 'terminal velocity' even in free fall; change of acceleration simply changes a broomstick+wizard's terminal velocity upwards, doesn't remove it at all. (Another example: my car operates according to Newtonian mechanics in the real world - but still has a top speed, which is why I'm not setting land-speed records on Nevadan salt flats in my spare time.)
But the terminal velocity should then be a function of the cross-section of the person on the broomstick. Instead the brooms themselves have maximal velocities.
I don't think Quidditch players vary all that much in cross-section. As well demand that auto manufacturers list their speeds as a function of how clean the car exterior is, how inflated the tires, what weight is being borne, the altitude, etc. EDIT: OK, after looking at the descriptions on the Harry Potter Wikia, I've changed my mind. The Seeker article specifically characterizes seekers as small and lightweight and the fastest players on the team. Which, fortunately for my self-esteem, is consistent with my position that canon uses Newtonian mechanics.
Broomsticks have very tiny cross-section, so cross-section due to the person will be the majority of the air resistance. The difference in size between say Harry Potter and some of the big Slytherin Beaters should matter a lot.
Newtonian brooms are supported by canon then even more, aren't they? Most Beaters are large and burly, and all the Seekers (with their premium on top speed) are the opposite. Exactly as expected with Newtonian brooms (or horses). But if air resistance didn't matter because brooms move at a fixed velocity/acceleration in an Aristotelian manner, one would expect Seekers to have normally distributed body sizes as Quidditch team captains select for things like piercing eyesight, lightning reflexes, or just simian arms. (Harry & Draco are both relatively small and thin; Viktor Krum [http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Viktor_Krum#Physical_appearance] is tall, but also 'thin'.)
Yes, that supports Newtonian broomsticks quite strongly.
It makes sense by postulating that a broomstick always goes where it's pointed (no Newtonian momentum), but there is a maximum angular speed for turning the broomstick. The rider applies force to turn the broomstick, which means there's resistance, so it's not difficult to assume that the resistance creates an effective maximum angular speed. This doesn't sum up to Newton, of course, because this maximum angular speed isn't dependent on current linear speed.
Um, I thought it was pretty clear that he forgot he wasn't supposed to use his Time Turner for silly shit like that.
That was also my belief up until this passage: In-universe, this is little evidence for or against anything. But from a narrative point of view, if the answer to "What did the Remembrall flare up about?" had been "Do not use the Time-Turner for showing off", this was the time to reveal it, rather than show Harry and McGonagall being confused. Certainly it wouldn't be an answer worth waiting over forty chapters for.
I agree that you could read it like that, but I'd have thought that if it was something immediate like that, we'd have seen Harry realize and acknowledge it to himself. There doesn't seem much point in leaving it a bit mysterious if that's all it meant.
There's an abrupt scene change, after which Harry is sitting in McGonagall's office. Now, his conversation with McGonagall is evidence for Harry being dim about that question (which is not that unlikely) or it being foreshadowing, possibly for this (which is not that unlikely). (McGonagall would also have to not point out "hey, maybe it was that you forgot my rule", which makes the first somewhat less likely.)
That doesn't seem like sufficient payoff, especially since there was no way to anticipate that meaning ahead of time. Also, that's not really something Harry forgot, more something he didn't even notice.
Whether it's "sufficient" is a matter of taste, I'd say. It's just sufficient enough payoff for me and avoids becoming ludicrously much payoff -- the Remembrall is a child's toy, afterall, not an ancient Artifact with DarkLord-detecting capacity. Indicating you neglected to do something (forgot to lock your door, forgot to apply your knowledge of physics) is more in tune with what I'd expect it to do. More to the point it correlates heavily where locale is concerned -- the first broomstick lesson. So it's more likely that it indicates something near those events, instead of something in Harry's remote past.
That just doesn't feel like how Remembralls work, though. For one, "forgotten something" involves having known it: using Aristotelian instead of Newtonian physics seems like a mistake, not a forgetting. Like, if he had learned through some comically painful experience that broomsticks did indeed follow Newtonian laws, and then put a rocket on his broomstick: I would expect the Remembrall to be glowing this brightly at this point. For two, a simple magic item that works exactly as intended, no matter how trivial or gigantic the task - that feels like how magic items in the MoR Potterverse ought to behave. For what it's worth, I believe Vaniver has the right answer.
Considering the language used to describe the brightness of the remembrall, I'd guess that it's supposed to imply that he's forgotten something of great magnitude or importance. Magic doesn't appear to think in terms of natural laws (insofar as it can be said to think,) so forgetting to apply Newtonian physics in a particular situation doesn't sound like something the remembrall should mark as a major lapse of memory.
Regardless of what magic thinks the laws of physics are, it ought to notice how important they seem to Harry. However, I still doubt that they're important enough to Harry as all that (although the writing in Ch 60 may suggest otherwise).

I'm not reading the comments to these threads because I'm a few chapters behind. Do you all feel like the comments here are valuable contributions to this site's content? Like I said, I'm not reading them so for all I know the heavy discussion and high karma indicates a really productive and insightful conversation. But the Harry Potter stuff is dominating the recent comments thread and this is the 5th top level post hosting it.

I think I second the intention of this post. Clearly a lot of people here are interested in discussing MOR, but that shouldn't dominate LW.

Proposal: why not move the MOR discussion threads to the discussion section, where they won't clog up the "recent comments" for those who aren't interested in the story.

The MOR reaction threads began before the Discussion section existed, but you're probably right.
Actually the MOR discussion morphed into a discussion of evolution and then into a discussion of voting on posts. Some of that discussion might have been of interest to LW folk who wanted to avoid MOR spoilers. It probably shouldn't have taken place on the MOR thread, but there was no clearcut point in time when it was clear to the participants that the discussion was just getting a second wind. So I'm not sure what to suggest. Regarding your proposal: I thought that comments in the discussion section appear in Recent Comments interspersed with comments on ordinary (10 point) top level postings. Or am I misunderstanding?
Discussion has its own "recent comments" that can only be accessed via the discussion section. Those of us who don't ever visit the discussion section don't ever see discussion section comments.
That will fade away once it is finished.
Which we have no idea when it will be.

(up to #56)

The title "Stanford Prison Experiment" evokes the possibility of Harry taking on some of the feelings and brutality of Voldemort during his roleplay. So far it doesn't seem like he's fallen.

Not that I would expect him to become like Voldemort - the prison roleplay experiment mostly demonstrated that people have unrealistic fantasies about how heroic they would be if placed in a role, e.g. they were a soldier in Nazi Germany, when in fact they'd behave the same as any other person in that environment. We wrongly blame others' nature f... (read more)

Hypothesis: Quirrel staged this entire rescue mission simply because it would force Harry to pretend to be a Dark Lord, specifically the same one he's a horcrux of. He may also have believed that interacting with his most useful minion would be beneficial to his dark side reclaiming its memories and taking over Harry.
And he is in fact beginning to make use of her.

How long until the next chapter is posted anyway?

Personally, I found it very useful when Eliezer posted when we could expect the next update in his author's notes. The RSS feed is cool but doesn't seem to update right away, so I still find myself checking ff.net compulsively so I can read the new chapter the moment is goes up.
If you get an account on ff you can set it up to email you when the story updates.
Or you use my mailinglist on http://felix-benner.com/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fanfic [http://felix-benner.com/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fanfic]

Is "I'm not serious" a The Dark Knight reference?

There's a brilliant bit of speculation in the reviews on FF that it's actually "I'm not Sirius". Makes sense to me, I was trying to imagine what "worst memory" would prompt "I'm not serious". Although now that you mention it, a guy like the Joker might end up that way.

If I remember correctly, the non-patronus Fawkes also lingered at that cell, which would make sense if there was an innocent trapped in there in place of Sirius.

The latest A/N links to an awesome picture that gave me two minutes of non-stop laughter. Best fan art yet IMO.

Gosh golly gee whiz, that's me! I'm blushing with gratitude!

I'd like to second how awesome that was. I'm almost tempted to do a full color version of the idea.

This thread is going to reach 500 posts soon. Should future threads be posted in the discussion section?


Vote this comment up if you think that future MOR threads should continue to be posted here on the main page, not in the discussion section.

vote discussion section, reason for this poll, karma balance


Vote this comment up if you think that future MOR threads should be posted in the discussion section instead of here on the main page.

vote main page, reason for this poll, karma balance

The poll is evenly split (tied 13-13 now), which I see as support for moving to the discussion section, considering that the poll is located in the middle of the MOR comments. I was leaning in that direction anyways. Most of the MOR discussion is about the story, not that closely related to rationality or that interesting to people who aren't reading MOR. And these discussion threads do clutter up the site, especially for people trying to follow the site via the Recent Comments. We've had over 3200 MOR comments over the past 6 months (over 17 comments/day). Plus another 600 Luminosity comments over the past 3 months. Having so much fiction discussion on the main page also doesn't accurately reflect what LW is about. One disadvantage of switching is that it's a bit inconvenient. For one thing, the tags are separated - a main page tag only shows main page articles, and a discussion section tag only shows discussion section articles - so you won't be able to get all the MOR discussion threads just by clicking on one tag. Also, the MOR thread might help get people who found LW via MOR to stick around, and that won't work as well if it's hidden away in the discussion section. But I don't see those as strong enough reasons to stay on the main page, especially since it seems like the story still has a ways to go. This thread is already over 500 comments. I plan on posting Part 6 in the discussion section later tonight, but first I'll wait a few more hours to allow for disagreement and debate.

Chapter 59 Author's Notes

I think I've finally come up with an answer to everyone who asks "How long is this fic going to be?", which is that it will resolve at least as much as got resolved in canon, but in less story time.

Does "story time" mean word count (the time it takes to tell the story), or in-universe chronology (the time of which the story tells)?

Given it's already longer than the first three books of canon, the second seems to make more sense.

This will, of course, miss one thing that is nice about the canonical books: they show Harry change through adolescence.

From the latest Author's Notes:

ADDED 1: Several readers commented that tension was rising and falling in Ch. 56. On reflection, they were right, and I've done a minor rewrite accordingly.

Does anyone have the original version? I'd like to compare.

I'm pretty sure that the first two paragraphs of the current version are new or changed. I haven't found any other differences so far.
If you're quick, the PDF version is still the older one.
I have an early version, but I'm not sure how to send it.
Sign up for a free Box.net [http://www.box.net/] account, upload the original version of the chapter, and post it here so we can all read it.
Thanks [http://www.box.net/shared/rhunb0j3fd].

Chapter 61:

Two minor (and easily fixable) plot holes:

1) Harry never got around to tell McGonagall that the Hat called her an impudent youngster etc., and it's an interesting enough exchange that one doesn't expect it to have happened off-screen. More importantly, he freely told the story to random Ravenclaw pesterers just minutes after his Sorting, so it wasn't at all a safe security question since it's the kind of funny anecdote two-thirds of Hogwarts would know by now.

2) Lesath addressed Harry as his (Dark/Light) Lord, and didn't stick around to hear Harry "compare" himself to God while talking to Neville; nor does it seem likely that he would have learnt it indirectly at a later point.

2 isn't a plot hole. Severus saw Harry make the comparison. That's what matters to the analysis.
Oh, right. I had forgotten about that. Nevermind then.
Snape was pointing out that Lesath unknowingly prayed to Harry.

I was thinking whether, considering the nature of the wizarding world, Azkaban is really that unreasonable a punishment for Death Eaters. Keep in mind that in order to deter crime (to acausally prevent it) a potential criminal calculating the expected utility of committing a crime must get a negative value.

This value depends on:

  • EB, the criminal's expected benefit from getting away with it.

  • SP, the severity of the punishment should he get caught.

  • p, the probability of getting caught.

Specifically we want (1-p)×EB < p×SP or equivalently (1/p-1)×EB ... (read more)

I have always had the impression that, in real life, people treat very small probabilities of being caught as zero, however severe the punishment. Maybe I'm wrong, but if I'm right torturing criminals isn't a good strategy.
That depends on how available [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Availability_heuristic] the punishment is.
Azkaban was not created, in-canon, in order to specifically deter potential Dark Lords. Its history is never stated, but it seems likely that it is a fairly old arrangement between the wizards and the dementors. It was created, instead, as a prison for ordinary criminals (viz. the woman Harry hears pleading while in Azkaban, who is forced to keep reliving the moment of her presumably accidental murder). The Dark Lord and his followers were indeed put in Azkaban when the opportunity arose, but this was for their crimes in the way of murder and such, not for their intention to take over magical Britain. Dark Lords are not very common (the only marginally-modern ones mentioned are Voldemort and Grindelwald, and Grindelwald is not even put in Azkaban, nor ever really messes with Britain except with the Muggle side, aka World War II). With this in mind, I think it becomes very obvious that Azkaban is vastly, awe-inspiringly overkill in the SP.
Many Death Eaters were put in Azkaban, but Voldemort never was. Indeed, there's no evidence in canon that Azkaban has ever been used to hold a Dark Lord. Also, and this has come up before although I forget whether it was in this specific thread, increasing the severity of punishments statistically tends not to result in a reduction in the rate of crimes, whereas increasing the certainty of punishment does. Creating a justice system on the assumption that criminals are good rationalists would be profoundly misguided.
I suppose this depends on what we consider evidence. I would personally assign high credence to that based on 2 considerations: 1) that there have been quite a few Dark Lords, such that they are considered a generic natural category and are spoken of collectively; the Harry Potter wikia [http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Dark_Lord#Known_Dark_Wizards_and_Witches] includes a list of 9 wizards/witches who don't appear in canon events, but I'm not sure on what basis they are listed. 2) the only other Dark Lord whose disposition we know of was put into an institution much like Azkaban, but not Azkaban for at least 2 plausible reasons (Grindelwald having built that prison himself, leading to it being poetic justice that he be confined there rather than Azkaban; and having rampaged mostly over Europe, and not Britain.) Given that Grindelwald was not given the death penalty, it seems reasonable to think that captured Dark Lords are not executed out of hand, but imprisoned; and where to imprison the many Dark Lords but Azkaban?
What basis do we have to suppose that there have been many dark lords? There have certainly been multiple dark lords, but canon provides us with a grand total of two examples, and the gap between Grindelwald and Voldemort was implied to be atypically short. We don't know how far back the history of Azkaban goes, and how many Dark Lords have been contemporaneous with it. We only know that the one canonical example of a dark lord who was imprisoned, was not imprisoned there.
That's my own personal reading of the language scattered over the seven books; obviously, it's not easy to prove this to someone else who didn't already pick up on it - I would have to re-read all 7 and take notes where language that could have pointed to Dark Lords being rare as hen's teeth instead pointed to them being fairly commons (1 or 2 a century, which is 10-20 over the lifespan of Hogwarts). Given the powerful magics implied to have been used on it, and the general Golden Age conception in the Potterverse where older=more powerful, again my inference is that Azkaban is hundreds of years old - per above, we could expect >5 Dark Lords contemporaneous.
The only powerful magic in the defense of Azkaban seems to be the fact that time turners can't be used on its premises, which might be deep old magic, but I'm inclined to suspect otherwise. Aside from that, its defenses seem to mainly boil down to 1) taking away wands 2) anti apparation jinx 3) dementors 4) human guards. Our impressions may differ based on the fact that I still tend to draw most of my background information from the original canon, which didn't actually contain the Golden Age element used in MoR. New magic was described as being invented over time, but very little was ever described as being lost, and Voldemort was described as the most dangerous dark wizard of all time, not just the last century, with Grindelwald, his immediate predecessor, a close second. While the two are both referred to as Dark Lords, when they are compared to each other, it's within the class of dark wizards, and I infer from this that Dark Lord is a prohibitively small class within to draw comparisons.
That's Yudkowsky-only, I think. I expect Azkaban to be as well defended as Gringotts in Deathly Hallows - all sorts of intruder spells, monsters (if they can survive), and whatnot. I think canon has the Golden Age! The founding of Hogwarts, the heirlooms of the founders, controlling the basilisk, the Deathly Hallows themselves, the Dark spells Voldemort uses, the list goes on. If it's powerful, it's probably old. The entire 20th century sees only a few new magical feats: the Philosopher's Stone (maybe); Inferi; and... some new uses of dragon blood, I suppose.
The part about time turners being unusable on Azkaban premises doesn't show up anywhere in the original canon, no. There's nothing in the original books I can think of that suggests that any especially strong magic went into the creation of Azkaban. Its main strengths are that it's guarded, and that the people who aren't supposed to get out have their wands taken away. While plenty of powerful things in canon are old, most of the old knowledge is still available. The Interdict of Merlin is also HPMoR original. Voldemort knew old dark magic because he looked it up, the basilisk was controlled by communicating with it via Parselmouth, and the heirlooms of the founders are presumably powerfully magical, having been made by some of the greatest wizards of the day, but the greater part of their value comes from the fact that they are heirlooms; if you made another sword with all the properties of the Sword of Gryffindor, it wouldn't be the Sword of Gryffindor. The only founder's heirloom that actually does anything really remarkable is the Sorting Hat, and while it's probably a work of magic far beyond ordinary wizards, it doesn't appear to be treated as an awe inspiring relic of the golden age of wizardry. If Dumbledore hasn't created anything like it, it's quite probably because he doesn't have any incentive to. He already has the Sorting Hat, after all. Rather than the founders of Hogwarts setting an unreachable standard, Dumbledore is described as the greatest headmaster Hogwarts has ever seen (albeit by a probably biased source,) and Voldemort and Grindelwald are referred to as the most dangerous dark wizards of all time. The Deathly Hallows have powers which surpass ordinary magical objects in the original canon, but their powers are not that outstanding compared to other, non legendary magical objects, and while they were probably not actually made by Death, the people who did make them never divulged the methods of their creation. All in all, the wizarding wo
Flamel's stone presumably dates from the 17th Century, since that's when Flamel himself (a real historical figure) dates from.
I'm not sure. I seem to recall that the language implied that Dumbledore co-created it with Flamel, which would mean 20th century, after all; it's not clear how long wizards naturally live, speculation based on apparent size of Magical Britain to the side. But it's also possible Flamel created in the 1600s, this is how he survived to the 1900s, and the brilliant young Dumbledore hearing of Flamel's stone, independently reinvented it. Or something.
The wording in book one which you may be thinking of just says that Dumbledore and Flamel did alchemical work together. Flamel's construction of the philosopher's stone is not mentioned until much later when Hermione finds the reference and there it just says that Flamel is the only person known to have made one.
I don't recall any language suggesting that Dumbledore worked on the Stone with Flamel, only that he worked on alchemy with Flamel (reported on his Chocolate Frog card). And I don't recally anything to suggest that Dumbledore ever had a Stone of his own, only Flamel's for safe keeping. In MoR, Dumbledore cites Flamel's expertise, not his own, for his conclusion that Voldemort couldn't create a Stone. In canon, Dumbledore reports that Flamel has destroyed his own stone, without saying anything about himself.
Well, all that may be true. It has been a very long time since I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. (Although I could have sworn Dumbledore was implied to have been using the elixir, and this was one reason it wasn't surprising that he he died later on.)
Not that you should just take my word for it, but I reread the books about this fall, and I'm confident that Dumbledore didn't use the elixir. According the the Wikia (which is more authoritative than I), he died at age 107 (not unusual for a Wizard, although he was killed), and it says nothing about his using the Stone.
It's also useful, if you're going to do this kind of equation, to decide ahead of time how many innocents tortured for how many years you're willing to exchange for a reduced chance of political insurrection... and to develop as realistic a sense as you can of how reliable your courts are, so you don't fool yourself into thinking the quantity is lower than it is.
I'm considering doing a more detailed calculation, including such things as false positives and the fact that you don't have perfect information about criminal's utility functions as a top level post.
(nods) This sort of thing is worth thinking about cautiously before supporting, even in theory. A few other points worth considering in a more detailed analysis: Beliefs vs. actuality It's not the actual probability of getting caught that matters for deterrence, it's the potential criminal's belief about that probability. That is, if I only have a 1% chance of being caught but I believe I have a 99% chance of getting caught, I'm easier to deter. Conversely, if I have a 15% chance of getting caught but believe I have a 0.0001% chance of getting caught, I'm difficult to deter (at least, using the kind of deterrence you are talking about). Similar things are true about EB and SP -- what matters is not the actual expected benefit or cost, but rather my beliefs about that expected benefit/cost. Magnitude vs. valuation People's valuations of a probability of a cost or benefit don't scale linearly with the magnitude of either the cost/benefit or the probability. Which means that even if (1/p-1)×EB < SP is a manageable inequality for crimes with moderate risks and benefits, SP might nevertheless balloon up when p gets small enough and/or EB gets large enough to cross inflection points. So the threat of a lifetime of psychological torture might not be sufficiently unpleasant to deter certain crimes. Indeed, it might be that for certain crimes you just aren't capable of causing enough suffering to deter them, no matter how hard you try. Knock-on effects Official policies about criminal justice don't just influence potential criminals; they influence your entire culture. They affect the thinking of the people who implement those policies, and the people whose loved ones are affected by them (including those who believe their loved ones are innocent), and of their friends and colleagues. The more extreme your SP, the larger and more widespread the knock-on effects are going to be. Addendum For my own part I think Azkaban, and the whole theory of criminal justice th
Such as, ...
I suspect you can answer this question yourself: think about all the crimes you don't commit. Heck, think about all the crimes you didn't commit today. Why didn't you commit them? If your answer is something other than "fear of being caught and punished," consider the possibility that other people might be like you in this respect, and threatening to punish you might not be the most cost-effective way to keep them from committing crimes, also. But if you want more concrete answers, well, off the top of my head and in no particular order: * Increase P * Compare attributes of people (P1) who commit a crime given a certain perceived (p,EB,SP) triplet to those of people (P2) who don't commit that crime given the same triplet, and investigate whether any of those attribute-differences are causal... that is, whether adding a P2 attribute to P1 or removing an attribute from P1 reduces P1's likelihood of committing the crime. If any are, investigate ways to add/remove the key attributes to/from P1. * Decrease perceived EB -- for example, if a Weber's-law-like relationship applies, then increasing standard of living might have this effect. * Condition mutually exclusive behaviors/attitudes. * Arrange your society so that there are more benefits to be gotten by participating in it than by attacking it, and make that arrangement as obvious to the casual observer as possible.
If your answer is something other than that and other than "being considered or treated as a bad person by others despite absence of legal proceedings", then I would be very interested in hearing about it.
Altruism? It doesn't happen every day, but I often have the urge to commit petty theft (technically a crime, but probably not worth prosecuting) under circumstances in which my expectation value of punishment (including extralegal punishment such as you suggest) is well below my expectation value of the item that I might steal. Nevertheless, I almost always resist the urge, because I know that my theft will hurt somebody else (which effectively reduces the value of the item to me, since I should also include its value to others). I evolved to care more about myself than about other people, but reason allows me to (partially) overcome this; it doesn't reinforce it.
And what is your rational reason to care about other people?
It's the same as your rational reason not to: none at all. But once I do, I can notice my selfishness and work to overcome it.
But why do you work to overcome it? You've said it's not due to evolution or to rational reasons, but if it's due to e.g. social conditioning, why would you use your reason to assist this conditioning? I can think of reasons to do so - although I am not sure they are weighty enough - but I'm interested in other people's reasons, so I don't want to reveal my own as yet.
Because I care about other people. I expect that social conditioning, especially from my parents, has led me to care about other people, although internal exercises in empathy also seem to have played a role. But it doesn't matter where that comes from (any more than it matters where my selfish impulses come from); what matters is that I consider other people to have the same moral worth as I have. Looking over this conversation, I think that I haven't been very clear. Your comments, especially this one [http://lesswrong.com/lw/30g/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/3072?c=1], seem to take as an assumption that all rational people (or maybe, in context, only rational criminals, or even rational Death Eaters) value what happens to their future selves and nothing else. (Maybe I'm reading them wrong.) Some people do, but most people (even most criminals, even most Death Eaters) don't; they care about other people (although most people aren't altruists either). I think that this is some of what TheOtherDave was getting at here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/30g/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/2zvm?c=1]. And it is certainly the reason why I myself don't commit petty thefts all the time, and why I feel bad when I do commit petty theft: because I care about other people too. Almost all of the people that I know are in a similar position, so I'm surprised that you would find it interesting that we don't commit crimes, even when we can get away with them (completely, not just legally). That's the point of my original response to you. (Actually, I do commit some crimes that I get away with, and without regret, because criminal law and I don't agree about morality. That's also important in the original context, but I didn't address it since I don't actually want the penal system to be effective in deterring such crimes.) (Also, I'm not really an altruist either, but I still feel that I should be: I'm a meta-altruist, perhaps, but I'm still figuring out what
Well, there are a huge number of crimes I didn't commit today because I feel no particular impulse to commit them. And there's a smaller number of crimes I didn't commit today because I've internalized social prohibitions against them, such that even if the external threat of being punished or considered/treated a bad person were removed, I would nevertheless feel bad about doing them. I suspect this is true of most days, and of pretty much everyone I've ever met, so I'm not sure what's so interesting about it.
Well that's given; I meant other than crimes you don't want to commit in the first place. A heuristic, a learned behavior. As a rationalist I see value in getting rid of misapplied heuristics of that kind. It would puzzle me if this wasn't the default approach (of rationalists, at least). Granted, most of the social conditioning is hard or impossible or dangerous to remove... Your answer sums up to "fear of repercussions that is active even when I know consciously there's nothing to fear". This is the standard (human) answer, and not very interesting.
Well, you were the one who said "if you have any reason other than X or Y then I'd be very interested to hear it" where X and Y don't cover the "standard answer", so it hardly seems reasonable for you to complain that the standard answer isn't interesting. (I also think it's highly debatable whether those internalized social prohibitions are best described as "fear of repercussions that is active even when I know consciously there's nothing to fear". You've certainly given no reason to think that they are.)
I agree with your points in general; however, note that unlike increasing SP your suggestions can't simply be implemented by fiat. Also given these things weren't done, I believe TDT requires us to use the values of p and EB at the time the crime was committed when calculating SP because those are the values would be dark lords are using to determine whether to start an overthrow.
Re: by fiat... yes, that's true. In behavior-modification as in many other things, the thing I can do most easily is not the thing that gets me the best results. This is, of course, not an argument in favor of doing the easiest thing. Re: TDT... I don't see where TDT makes different requirements from common sense, here. Re: using p/EB at the time of the crime... of course. If I want to affect your decision-making process now, the only thing that matters is the policy I have now and how credibly I articulate/ that policy. But that's just as true of my policy around how I investigate crimes (which affects p) as it is of my policy around how I select punishments (which affects SP). Relatedly: yes, most of my suggestions require lead time; if you're in a "ticking time bomb" scenario your options are more limited. That said, I distrust such claims: it's far more common for people to pretend to exigent circumstances than it is for such circumstances to actually occur.
My point is simply that you shouldn't reduce the punishment after the fact, by say rescuing Bellatrix, simply because you have since changed the value of p and/or EB.
On the account you've given so far, I don't see why not. If I've followed you correctly, your position is that severe punishment of prisoners is justified because it deters crime in the future. But if I implement a 100% effective crime-deterrent -- say, I release a nanovirus into the atmosphere that rewires everyone's brains to obey the law at all times -- then from that moment forward severe punishment no longer deters crime. That is, I will get the same crime rate in the future whether I punish my current prisoners or not. So why should I continue punishing them in that case? It seems like wasted effort. Granted, none of the suggestions I've proposed are 100% effective. But it seems like the same argument scales down. You're claiming that in order to deter crime today, I should establish an SP inversely correlated with p (among other things). If I raise p today, then, it follows that I should lower SP today to keep deterrence constant. What benefit is there to continuing to punish existing prisoners under the old SP?
Otherwise your new value of SP isn't credible. After all, you're likely to lower it again in the future and then apply the change retroactively.
If I assume that changes to SP are retroactive but that changes to p and EB aren't... for example, if I assume that if today I increase my ability to catch criminals (say, by implementing superior DNA scanning), this only affects criminals who commit crimes today or later, not criminals who committed a crime last year... then I agree with you. If that's not true, then I don't agree. The same logic that says "Dave will probably lower SP in the future, so I should apply a discount factor to his claimed SP" also says "Dave will probably raise p in the future, so I should apply an inflation factor to his claimed p." And since what's driving the reduction in SP in this toy example is precisely the increase in P, the factors should offset one another, which keeps my level of deterrence constant. Now, I grant you, this assumes a rather high degree of rationality from my hypothetical criminal. In the real world, I strongly doubt any actual criminals would reason quantitatively this way. But in the real world, I strongly doubt any actual criminals reason quantitatively from EB, SP, and p in the first place.
Well, retroactive changes to p tend to be much smaller since most evidence degrades with time. Also in this case since the crime is attempting violent overthrow of the government retroactive changes in p are almost non-existent, after all a successful overthrow by its nature virtually eliminates your chances of getting punished for it.
That's a fair point. So, yes: if p is effectively constant and SP is not, you're right that that's a good reason to keep applying the old SP to old prisoners. I stand corrected. So are you saying the SP-setting strategy you're proposing doesn't apply to crimes that don't destabilize the criminal justice system itself?
I'm saying what I said and hopefully what's true, redo the calculations yourself if you like. Here I'm saying that if a crime has the potential to destabilize the criminal justice system itself, that should be taken into account when calculating p.
I believe Harry considers some punishments completely out of bounds, too severe for anyone. Certainly I do. The following may have no connection to the real reasons for this; but even without Many-Worlds you have a non-zero probability of personally suffering any possible punishment. Legally allowing a given punishment for anyone seems to produce a non-zero increase in this probability (even in a world without Polyjuice). Some possible punishments may have such negative utility for you that a course of action which avoids such increases, but which almost certainly leads to your death, would still have positive utility. Azkaban seems like a good candidate for such a punishment.
On the other hand, reducing the deterrent for potential dark lords, increases your probability of winding up living under a dark lord at which point your chances of suffering horrific torture, either in Azkaban or somewhere else, is greatly increased. Assuming you don't consider being wrongly punished in Azkaban under the current administration vastly worse then being punished and/or tortured under a dark lord, you can't simply declare certain punishments out of bounds. Another way to think of this is that any government that fails to provide sufficient deterrent to prevent successful overthrows will be overthrown. This process will continue until you get someone who is willing to be sufficiently brutal. So it doesn't matter how nice your ideal government would be; if it can't prevent overthrows, you won't get to live under it.
That certainly seems like the relevant Star Goat probability. (I speak of the One True Star Goat, braise His mane, who will devour the souls of all who believe in God and make them stew in His Holy Bile for eternity, not the vile worship-demanding blasphemy proposed by the Restored Church of the Star Goat.) The Anti-Pascal's Wager argument may not work here, though. The part of your argument that deals with Dark Lords overthrowing each other until we reach sufficient SP assumes that some possible deterrent will stop them -- although canon!Voldemort clearly did not fear Azkaban after enlisting the dementors' aid, and he allegedly altered his own mind, ensuring himself another dreadful fate if he lost. The argument also seems to assume an inexhaustible supply of at least minimally competent Dark Lords. It may further assume that said Lords themselves can make a subjective distinction between 'different' people who've altered their own minds, repudiated their original names/origins and left bits of soul strewn around the countryside, since otherwise Voldemort would have no rational reason to object if some 'other' Dark Lord of this kind tried to possess him. More on that later. In practice, the ambiguity in the term "Dark Lord" makes it hard to show that reducing deterrent increases the probability of Azkaban or some other torture >= Azkaban. Offhand I don't recall canon!Voldemort personally doing anything worse than kill people, give them brief though intense pain or try to use the Imperius curse on them. I just realized something that makes our disagreement seem silly, but I'll finish for the sake of completeness: while canon!Voldemort used dementors against Muggle-born wizards in a horrific way, I don't believe we know if he favored prolonged happiness-free death such as we find in Azkaban. So wrongful punishment of the sort we find under the current wizard administration could easily seem far worse, for individuals, than canon!Voldemort's version. A lot of Fudge'
We don't know if he can possess people against their will. In canon, Quirrel allowed Voldemort to make use of his body. Even if he can, He's claimed that he's trying to set Harry up at the ruler of the country, and Harry is one person he almost certainly can't possess.
In canon, Voldemort did possess people against their will, including Harry (despite his mother's protection) in the climactic Ministry scene in Book 5 (although it was a struggle that Harry shortly won).
He inhabited Harry briefly, but it's not clear that it afforded him a useful degree of control over Harry's body, and as Dumbledore noted, inhabiting Harry caused Voldemort excruciating pain. Considering the way their magic has been shown to interact in MoR, I'd think any attempt to possess Harry would turn out even worse in this canon than that one.
As far as Harry goes, I agree, but possessing some other dictator would be much easier.
Hear, hear!
Furthermore even if one is a pure consequentialist, there may be a case for acting like a deontologist in some cases. While a perfectly rational entity can properly weight costs and benefits, people can't. Chances are if a person's moral code says "it's a good idea to subject some people to mind rape for decades" that person has made a mistake, and one should account for that.
Doesn't that assume people are rational?
No, that only assumes that society in general exhibits certain patterns attributable to rational agents behind the scenes. Groups, memes, corporations, tournament players, lottery organizers, markets, butterbeer optimizers can all be rational. The smarter villain is, the more aligned with rationality (all things considered) his behavior is. Stupid baddies have higher probability of failure even with deterrents not working on them as intended.
Just because somebody has a significant degree of irrationality doesn't mean they will necessarily fail- skill is a far more important factor (and people can be rational in some areas but not others). How would you deter irrational crooks?
That depends on which biases they're exhibiting. For example if they're exhibiting availability bias, make punishments public and memorable. Maybe put the mutilated corpses of criminals on display in public places. For overconfidence bias if they're underestimating their probability of getting caught, you may have to make the punishment more severe to compensate.
That won't work. If the prospective criminal in question is being flat-out irrational, thinking that the probability of being caught is arbitrarily low or zero, no logistically-feasible increase in severity will compensate for that. Instead, you should attack the subject's confidence directly. Brag about your analysis of some form of evidence that can't be effectively suppressed, tell fictional but realistic-seeming stories about crime scene investigators with mythic levels of competence and dedication. To make it clear that you're not bluffing, capture some people who thought they'd never be caught and extract confessions from them. Ideally, these would be people who've actually committed serious, well-concealed crimes, but depending on your other governmental priorities almost anyone could serve as such an example. Yes, that strategy gets ugly if you carry it far enough. There's a reason 'police states' aren't fashionable anymore.
So have lots of cop shows on TV? That seems to be the best strategy given how much people generalize from fictional evidence.
That is a chilling thought. The preponderance of cop shows on TV is real-world social engineering to predispose individuals not to commit crimes?

There's a simpler explanation: people like watching cop shows with mythically competent investigators because it helps them maintain the pleasant belief that most crime will be detected and punished. This not only makes them feel safer, but also helps them rationalize away any feelings of cowardice or subordination associated with choosing to follow society's rules.

To the extent that network execs push cop shows with happy endings for ideological reasons, it's much more likely that they simply applaud when they see "criminals get caught" than that they follow any hypothesis as complicated as "the best way to deter crime is to lower criminals' confidence that they will escape detection by propagating fictional evidence that people will erroneously generalize from."

Right; stupidity (or at least, weakness to bias) is a much better explanation than malice.
Agreed. Even if there's an attempt at social engineering, the audiences would have their own motivations for watching. Anyone have information about whether such shows are popular with people who are subject to obviously corrupt and/or arbitrarily violent policing? Infallible police shows might also be popular because people identify with the police-- it would be fun to be right all the time and able to enforce it.
Not in most cases, but in some [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703628204575618573846693534.html].
Increasing the severity of punishments generally does not result in a reduction in the rate of crimes [http://www.jstor.org/pss/1142449], whereas increasing the certainty of punishment produces a reliable if weak reduction. Trying to overcome criminals' overconfidence bias by means of draconian punishments appears to simply not work. Re-Edit: Thanks, I thought that I did that the first time around, but it just caused the text to vanish. I must have mistyped.
Markup here is the same for all links; just put the link in the second set of brackets and the text you want it to linkify in the first set. LessWrong is just an example, they could have easily used Google. Of course, it might help foster the interlinking.

I'm inclined to wonder if Harry's ability to block the killing curse with his patronus might be enough to clue Quirrelmort in to how it works. Possibly any collision of their magics would have produced a similar effect, but if not, it still makes thematic sense that the patronus would be able to block a killing curse, since it represents defiance of death. Given that Harry has already told him that he made the patronus by thinking about the eradication of death, I wonder if Quirrelmort might have enough information to piece together the nature of Harry's revelation.

I believe that Quirrel, being the overeducated ruthless genius that he is, has already understood Harry's revelation, but has his own obstacles to casting human patronus, some that are not so easily overcome. For one, he may already be a bit too dead.
Hmm. Also, it's another big coincidence that the Boy Who Lived grows up a transhumanist (at least, his light side does). Explanations for events in MoR may differ from explanations in canon...
He should be able to deduce the nature of the dementors from Harry's invisibility cloak being able to hide the wearer from them (which should be readily apparent from Harry's summary of events and the fact that Bella was wearing it). Other things like what you point out or Harry's parselmouth description as life-eaters could help, but the cloak thing by itself should be quite sufficient given Quirrel's previously displayed deductive abilities. I don't think he will be able to cast a true patronus, though.
The fact that the true invisibility cloak effectively hides one from dementors doesn't necessarily mean that dementors personify death, only that whatever mechanism they use to detect people is also blocked by it. The cloak is said to be able to hide one from the gaze of death itself, but that doesn't mean that if the cloak hides you from something's gaze, that thing must be death. The hint Harry used doesn't really carry in the opposite direction. The life-eaters part does sound like a clue though. Would a person have to think about universally conquering death to cast a true patronus, or is it enough to imagine personally conquering it? If all it requires is the latter, I can certainly see Quirrelmort managing it.
Not as a logical deduction in the strict sense, but its so obvious that he would consider it, and since Dementors = death also fits well otherwise that answer is much more probable than that dementors are something else, coincidentally also blocked by the cloak (which Harry somehow figured out in another unrelated way), and hiding one from the gaze of death itself refers to yet something else that is so far inexplicable. Even if personally conquering it were enough it has to be a positive thought and Quirrel doesn't seem to think about life in particularly positive terms, merely preferring it over the alternative.
Considering that the true invisibility cloak is said to have a general ability to keep one hidden, rather than merely invisible, I don't see how the fact that it hides one from dementors counts as evidence for the idea that dementors are personifications of death. It's evidence that it's a really kickass invisibility cloak.
Since no one (neither Harry before remembering the gaze of death line, nor the aurors confronted with Bellatix' inexplicable disappearance, nor the designers of Askaban) expected it to hide you from dementors being "a kickass invisibility cloak" is evidently not enough to make the fact that it does completely unsurprising, so naturally that fact is evidence for any hypothesis that does an even better job of explaining it.
There's only one true invisibility cloak, and it's not enough to get someone out on its own. What reason to we have to suppose that the aurors or the designers of Azkaban ever bothered to consider the question of whether it would hide someone from dementors? The aurors were surprised that Bellatrix had vanished from the senses of the dementors, but this is clearly an unusual occurrence that should not arise within ordinary experience, so we should not be surprised at their surprise. They do not have "someone sneaked in with the true invisibility cloak" as a cached explanation to check for plausibility in this situation. Given that we don't even know the approximate ages of either, Azkaban may even predate the true invisibility cloak's creation.
Everything else needed to escape is readily available, given that people sneaking in with patronuses is a regular occurance. The owner of the cloak could easily have been sneaking someone out every few months. The fact that no one in the story is supposed to be holding an idiot ball. The fact that no one is supposed to be able to escape the dementors notice is the central element of Askaban's security, so much so that they barely put up a token effort of guarding against break-ins. If they considered this merely a hiding problem then to never ever have considered whether it might be possible to hide from them after all, or to not have considered a legendary item of hiding in that context would be pretty incompetent. There were dozens of them and they had about two hours to think about it. If they considered it merely a hiding problem at least one of them should have raised the possibility. When confronted with something apparently impossible powerful magic is a rather obvious answer. Seems unlikely since ancient powerful magic keeps getting lost, the cloak looks like ancient powerful magic, but Askaban doesn't seem to incorporate anything unreproducible. Even if Askaban predated the cloak that would still mean no one between the time the cloak became public knowledge and the current day made the necessary adjustments to Askaban security.
My impression was that it was legendary in the sense of "yeah, we tell those stories to our children" instead of "look, every student's sat under the Sorting Hat, it exists and there are thousands of witnesses." That's an unfortunate part of magical stories- it's hard to avoid the Every Rumor Is Completely Correct trope without inundating the reader with worthless information, and so when you say something is legendary it's not clear whether you mean it's +6 or it probably doesn't exist.
Regular patronuses do not hide a person from dementors, so if a person came in with the true invisibility cloak, but not a true patronus, they would be noticed by the dementors as soon as they gave it to the escapee. On further consideration, I suppose that it might work if you could slip them into a bag of holding and conceal them on your person, but the implications of readily available bags of holding that can contain untransformed people without harming them are so broad and incredibly broken that I'm inclined to suspect that you simply can't do that, first because it would be a story breaker, and second because people would do it on a regular basis and it would have come up before. The fact that nobody is supposed to be holding the idiot ball doesn't mean that everyone is particularly intelligent or rational (in the wizarding world, this is clearly more the exception than the rule) or that they have access to the same information we do. Remember that the Deathly Hallows, in canon, were widely believed to be mythical. It's hardly fair to expect these people to even keep in mind that they exist, let alone contemplate exactly how powerful they might be and account for them in their plans. Keep in mind that when we, the readers, are encouraged to think of artifacts of great power in this setting, the Deathly Hallows immediately come to mind, but to a person who's grown up in the wizarding world, they're just three out of perhaps thousands of possibly-real objects out of myth and story. From their perspective, it could be equally plausible that someone dominated the will of the dementors using the hand of Vecna or something.
They would be in the same situation as a regular intruder, which are not all that rare, and whom the Dementors usually don't seem to immediately report about (otherwise the aurors would have wondered why that hadn't happened and have been much more alarmed). In canon, but apparently not MoR. Santa Claus, Dumbledore and Snape all mentioned the true cloak to Harry right away. Very likely not. If there were supposed to be thousands of comparable items in MoR rather than the dozen or so we know of the odds of most of the ones from canon being mentioned, but none of those extras would be pretty short even considering overlapping reasons for being mentioned. In relation to population size true cloaks of invisibility are more common that jetpacks for us. If 20 FBI agents had two hours to think about an apparently impossible mystery that would be obviously solved if you assume a jet-pack I'd expect at least one of them to raise the possibility.
Although it's possible that the dementors would not quickly report an intruder who gave the true invisibility cloak to a prisoner, if they have that degree of reasoning ability, I suspect they would take more notice of a person leaving one of the cells who they hadn't seen coming in than someone entering. Santa Claus gave him the true invisibility cloak knowing what it was, and Dumbledore had been searching for the deathly hallows for much of his life, and had good reason to suspect one was in Harry's possession. Snape is the odd one out, being the only one whose awareness of it does not have a clear explanation other than chance. He might have heard about James's possession of it through Dumbledore at some point, but he's also a professor who has conducted considerable research in various areas of magic, so his knowledge is probably well above average, and a single such mention could probably be marked down to chance. I don't recall Snape mentioning it at all though. Are you sure you aren't thinking of Quirrel? For true cloaks of invisibility to be more common to wizards per capita than jetpacks are to us, there would have to be fewer than three thousand jetpacks in the world. I can't find any numbers on this online, but given that you can buy one for about $150,000 dollars, I'm inclined to doubt they're anywhere near that rare. They're still rare enough that I would not expect any number of FBI agents given a few hours to suggest one as a possibility in an apparently intractable but otherwise mundane mystery. All sorts of mysteries could be solved by applications of really rare and expensive technology, but much more often it comes down to a clever trick the detectives simply haven't thought of. Try reading reports of unsolved crimes, and imagine how you might have carried them out given an unlimited materials budget. I think you'll find that the solutions you come up with are generally not ones put forward by the police.
Why on earth would you expect them to wear it on the way in? It's in the chapter with Lesath. And it's not just that they know, but that they so casually mention it to Harry. Let me rephrase that: In a work of fiction where jet-pack use was dramatically appropriate I would be disappointed with the smarts of 20 FBI men who never considered jet-packs when they were the only to their knowledge even slightly possible solution to a mystery, and in fact the correct solution. I don't think we'll get much further in this particular sub-thread. It doesn't seem all that much anyway. Even if the cloak does not add all that much evidence to dementors = death it should at least cause Quirrel to generate that hypothesis, and we already know that even the commonly available knowledge was enough for Harry to correctly reach that conclusion. Considering that Quirrel has even more evidence beyond that he should as well, unless he has a mental blind spot.


Upon reflection, I still think Quirrell held the Idiot Ball in Chapter 54, by misjudging Harry's probable reaction to an AK attempt.

A Patronus (incorporeal!) intercepting an Avada Kedavra spell is bizarre and ridiculous. Anything less ridiculous would not have been able to interfere. With hindsight, sure, he should have known, but he doesn't have hindsight, we do. Before the event, he couldn't have possibly planned for Harry interfering like this, and we can see he already planned for any more probable level of interference - making Harry lie down on the steps far away, ordering him not to get involved, etc. If you really honestly think he should have expected a smart eleven-year-old boy possessed of a stronger-than-usual Patronus charm to be able to deflect the undeflectable curse, then he also should have planned for some equally bizarre event such as Dumbledore breaking the Apparation wards on Azkaban in order to teleport in front of the Avada Kedavra spell, and just taking it on chin because he's invincible.

Honestly. Quirrell would have to be holding either the Idiot Ball or Batman's belt in order to prepare for this.

You're right- here's the Idiot Ball, in my pocket all along.
I don't think the relevant category here is an incorporeal Patronus intercepting an Avada Kedavra spell, so much as it is Harry's magic coming into contact with Quirrell's. Which does seem like a possibility plausible enough to be worth considering. Also, Harry has a history of interacting unusually with Avada Kedavra spells, which might lead one to predict an unusual interaction in this case as well. That said, I expect a lot of that is hindsight bias.
Quirrell put Harry on the steps, out of direct line of fire, so that Harry wouldn't try any magic to interfere with the duel or be hit by magic accidentally, and at this point he (rightfully) didn't know the Avada Kedavra could be intercepted or deflected by any magic, so he shouldn't have expected that Harry would be able to send any magic at all out into the line of fire of the spell. I think it is mostly hindsight bias: before this particular event, nobody knew you could put magic in the way of an Avada Kedavra. Therefore, Quirrell should not have expected that Harry could put magic in the way of his Avada Kedavra, causing the reaction.
I think orthonormal was referring to Harry becoming royally pissed off and quite a bit more suspicious, more than (or rather than) Harry blocking the Killing Curse.
Ch. 58 shows that Quirrell expected the Auror to dodge, and had plans in case he wouldn't be able to dodge. Harry would have been royally pissed that Quirrell tried, right up until Quirrell says exactly what he said to Harry when confronted about it later. And hell, if his explanation worked when Harry was that far into believing Quirrell was evil, it would have definitely worked immediately after the fact.
No it doesn't. It shows that Quirrel knows what to say in response to being accused of trying to kill someone to make it look like that wasn't actually his intention. Given that AK is an Unforgivable, and according to canon the caster must 'mean it' to cast such a spell, I'm fairly confident that Quirrel's explanation is a lie, though I will admit that I haven't checked the exact mechanism for that kind of spell failure - if a not-meaning-it casting of AK would produce a similar visual effect, he could be telling the truth, and it could have been significantly safer than it looked - but in that case, why would he claim that he was intending to move the auror, rather than explaining that the spell was actually harmless?
According to canon, the spell must be cast with hatred. I'm not sure it has to be cast with the intent to be lethal.
Also, I doubt that when Voldemort kills some random mook he's feeling personal hate towards him. And IIRC in canon Quirrelmort (ETA: no, not him, another Evil Teacher) kills some lab animals in class to demonstrate the killing curse; I'm sure he didn't hate them. The requirement for hatred is a sort of "Negative Emotions == Dark Side" thing.
You're thinking of Barty Crouch Jr. masquerading as Alastor Moody in Goblet of Fire. EDIT: typo
Right, thanks!
That's interesting. Rational!Harry might not be well-versed in subtleties of casting unforgivables, so Quirrel's explanation might look more plausible to him.
So him having an excuse prepared for when he casts AK and doesn't end up killing an Auror is evidence that he was intending to kill the Auror? Then him not having an excuse for when he fails to kill the Auror would have been evidence that he wasn't intending to kill the Auror. [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ih/absence_of_evidence_is_evidence_of_absence/elw?c=1]. That he had an excuse ought to be evidence that he was intending to cast the Avada Kedavra and miss. The story makes more sense that way, too: Consider what would have happened if Quirrell had actually killed the Auror, without some crazy reaction from Harry's magic. Now consider what would have happened if Quirrell had just barely missed. The first option has Quirrell and Harry in an emotional, full-blown argument in the middle of Azkaban with Bellatrix watching the Dark Lord berating a henchman for killing someone, and they haven't escaped yet. The second option has protestations from Harry quickly squashed and a ready escape, with Bellatrix seeing the Dark Lord mock his henchman for failing to kill, leaving behind an Auror who will tell everyone they are looking for a phenomenally powerful sallow-faced wizard all by himself, not a professor and a student.
You're misinterpretating the parent comment's argument. It didn't say Quirrel's excuse was evidence he was intending to kill the Auror. It said it didn't SHOW he wasn't intending to kill him. There's a difference between 'shows' and 'is evidence for'. I'd say that "shows" typically means "is CONCLUSIVE evidence for". That Quirrel had an excuse IS evidence he was not intending to kill the Auror -- of course it's evidence for that. It's just not CONCLUSIVE evidence for that.
Leaving behind a memory-wiped Auror who has no idea what happened.
Harry is masterful at interfering. Personally if I was Quirrell I would have expected a smart eleven-year-old boy with a strong desire to help people to very easily muck up a prison break in Azkaban. He almost did it when he almost killed himself with his strong patronus thinking about killing all the dementors. No doubt there are other things that could have gone wrong. No Plans survive first contact with the 11 year-old Harry. Edit: Also: Why did Quirrell need the guy to dodge from an AK spell, if he could get through his shields to move him magically? Why not just place him wherever he wanted him.
And I maintain that Quirrell planned out all the reasonable methods for Harry to interfere, and took steps he felt were enough to combat these methods. That they weren't enough is not something he could have known ahead of time; he was reasoning under uncertainty. We aren't reasoning under uncertainty: we are reasoning with the certain fact that he did not prepare for enough ridiculousness. He doesn't have that fact! If you want to claim that Quirrell should not have been surprised, should have been prepared for anything Harry could do because he is that much better than Harry and that if he isn't that much better, he is holding the Idiot Ball, well... this is where the needs of the story comes in. If Harry is to be masterful at interfering and creating dramatic tension, he needs to be surprisingly good at interfering: if he can't surprise Quirrell, he can't interfere, because it will already be planned for. I maintain that EY is doing a believable job of keeping Harry surprising, because even if a perfect rationalist had updated on all the evidence available to Quirrell so far, it could not have predicted that Harry would be able to interfere, under the restrictions Quirrell had placed on Harry. By the way, that is where all these rationalisations for Quirrell holding the Idiot Ball are coming from. Quirrell is updating on all evidence prior to his decision and making the right decision. We're updating on evidence that comes after his decision: namely, that his decision was wrong. It is, of course, very tempting to say that Quirrell did something wrong, and that is why his decision was always wrong. But it was right when he made it! That later evidence makes him wrong does not mean he was always wrong; we are not talking facts here, but decisions.
I'm not so much concerned with the reasoning around the duel (apart from why AK was needed to make someone dodge). I'm mainly against Quirrell taking the boy to Azkaban in the first place. General common sense says that is not a good idea unless it is a desperate situation. Especially since Quirrell can't cast magic on Harry if he decides to do something rash. What is the expected utility of taking Harry to Azkaban in total, from Quirrells point of view?
How many more months could Bellatrix last in there?
I don't know his numbers, but something like (Bellatrix's life - risk of failing and both dying). Given that he had the perfect plan, is maybe the most powerful wizard around, and had Harry along to beat the Dementors, the risk of failing was probably lower than half, which means the expected utility is positive.
We have very different views on how Quirrell reasons... the stakes are a lot higher from my perspective. Taking him at face value I would expect him to be concerned with the outcome of the wizarding world's fight against the human, thus him and Harry dieing would jeopardize that fight (there is no one else that seems concerned, no lieutenants to carry on the fight). So we are talking thousands of lives, from this perspective. Bellatrix might be able to help the fight, whether she would save half as many lives than Harry and Quirrell, I'd guess not.
Surely Quirrell should have considered the possibility that Harry would come up with a surprisingly powerful move. It's at least plausible that Quirrell's plan was too brittle.
Actually, judging from his rant upon being awoken, his error was that he overestimated Harry. He thinks that someone as smart as Harry should have realized it would make no sense to kill the auror. Essentially Q's error was simply the Usual Error, i.e., assuming that others think in a way similar to ourselves, and especially, that they will find our intentions or conclusions equally obvious. To Q, it was obvious that nobody would be dumb enough to kill the auror under those circumstances.
That's assuming Quirrel is telling the truth, though. If he didn't intend to kill him, why use the Killing Curse? If the goal really was to subdue, to dominate, this doesn't seem to be the logical approach: The battle was almost won at that point, surely using other attacking spells would have been almost as successful. I think real-life fights could be used as analogy: If you intend to subdue, not kill, in real life, you use a taser/pepper spray/whatever, not a gun.

If you intend to subdue, not kill, in real life, you use a taser/pepper spray/whatever, not a gun.

Ever heard of a "warning shot"? ;-)

Seriously, though, you're not noticing that you're confused, here. For at least a week, a whole bunch of people here and on Fanfiction were going, "Wtf? Why is Quirrel holding the idiot ball?", precisely because it would be idiotic to kill the auror, unless Q's plan is considerably more complex than the story lets on.

In a way, we were suffering from Harry's Intent To Kill bias, and thereby overlooking the non-lethal strategic potential of having a spell that must be dodged, and thus can be used to put an opponent on the psychological defensive.

Bahry took all the non-lethal damage Q could dish out, and spat at the offered terms - but he took the AK threat seriously, and might have negotiated in preference to having to dodge a second AK -- especially if Q told him the first was just a warning shot.

It was clearly within Quirrelmort's power to subdue Bahry without escalating to the use of the killing curse. He wasn't even exerting himself during the duel; if he needed to position Bahry for some reason, he could simply have started to pursue and maneuver. Bahry was clearly already on the psychological defensive, and was being forced to dodge his attacks, so using the killing curse is redundant for those purposes. Bahry's own monologue notes that his magic was almost completely exhausted. He wouldn't have been able to hold out much longer anyway. If Quirrelmort had been forced to maneuver Bahry out of the way of his own curse, it would show Bahry that he was not actually trying to kill him, which stands to lower Bahry's threat estimate of him and further galvanize his resistance, because Bahry will know Quirrelmort is committed to taking him alive. Bahry is certainly not going to decide to surrender because of Quirrelmort's willingness to kill him, since he's already been using potentially lethal spells, and he's already aware that he's outclassed. He's implicitly prepared to go down fighting. It's simply not clear how using the killing curse is useful in this situation. When Quirrelmort used the killing curse, I noticed that I was confused, and after his explanation, I noticed that I was still confused. Quirrelmort's explanation simply doesn't add up.
On the other side, one doesn't usually say "So be it" before firing a warning shot.
True - Q's use is more akin to walking away from the bargaining table in a marketplace or a business negotiation. That is, it's intended to make the other side go, "no, wait, let's work something out". ;-)
I don't know what you think I'm confused about, if you elaborated on that, it would be helpful. I do know that I'm confused about the current events in the story. I don't know wether Quirrel lies, I just noted that your explanation doesn't make sense to me because it relies on Quirrel telling the truth, something we shouldn't take for granted, in my opinion. I can't offer a better explanation, though.
It doesn't rely on Quirrel telling the truth, it concludes that something (which Quirrel happened to say) is true. This turns out to be an important distinction, at least in my own life. Trying to decide a priori whether someone is lying almost never works for me. (Paul Ekman, I'm not.) The answer always turns out to be "maybe," and I frequently end up biased by whether I like the person, whether I've caught them lying in the past, etc. It works better for me to decide what I think is or might be true, regardless of who said it. Q1: Did Quirrel try to kill Bahry? It seems dumb for him to do so... it achieves no goals I can think of that couldn't be achieved more easily, and it makes his stated goal of not being noticed far more difficult. So either (A) he was being dumb, (B) his actual goals are entirely opaque to me, or (C) he didn't try to kill Bahry. Q2: Did Quirrel try to achieve some nonlethal goal using an AK, as he claimed? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me... like you, my intuition is there have to be better weapons for that purpose. So either (A) he was being dumb, (B) my intuition about Battle Magic is wrong and AK really is a sensible spell to feint with, or (C) he was trying to kill Bahry, see Q1. I'm prepared to eliminate both A's on narrative grounds... the author seems committed to not having Quirrel do dumb things. Both B's are plausible, so my jury is still out... but I have more confidence in my intuitions about human goals than about Battle Magic, so if I have to choose I choose (Q1-False, Q2-True). But there's a lot of uncertainty there. If this were reality, I could (eventually) reduce the uncertainty by researching Battle Magic -- is it ever tactically plausible to use an intentionally nonlethal AK as a forcing move? If not, then my tentative decision changes; if so, I hold it more strongly. Of course, Harry does not have the time right now to consider that (or maybe he already knows enough to make it seem plausible, and the audienc
Interestingly, my intuition tells me that AK is perfectly sensible to feint with. It's like putting someone in check in chess - they have to get out of it by one of a very few limited ways. To not do so would be checkmate and the end of the game, much like dying is the end of the duel. (And there are plenty of analogues in existing martial arts. In a taekwondo sparring match, I might execute a very strong roundhouse kick to the head, knowing that the other fellow will see it coming well in advance and that their only sensible reaction is to dodge it by stepping backwards and loosening their guard - giving me room to instantly follow up upon landing with a front snap kick.)
My first thought when reading that was rather skeptical. Stepping back and loosening one's guard in response to an attempted roundhouse kick to the head is far from the only sensible reaction and the defender is not the one left in the vulnerable position. That said, you did say taekwondo match, and not actual combat. Most of the most effective responses to that move are forbidden in that game. Grappling to exploit the complete lack of stable balance is kind of a no no and incapacitating blows in the areas you leave wide open don't get you points because they aren't on the red dot. Your point stands even though I prefer your chess analogy. Wizard duels with AK are not a game. Chess is, but at least it is up front about it. On the other hand the thing that allows the use of a strategic 'very strong roundhouse to the head' is the very thing that makes it different to a duel to the death with AK. Or AKs, for that matter - laying down 'covering fire' is another obvious illustration of the principle that relevant. *cough* Oxymoronic! Roundhouses to the head are fun and they make you feel (and look!) badass but they are definitely not very strong.
It's the most sensible one. Assume closed cover and I'm kicking with the right leg. There are 4 directions to move. If he moves to my left, then I simply continue my kick and hit him. If he moves right, then he still gets hit but the kick might be a little weaker. If he moves back, then it'll be a clean miss. If he moves forward, then he's jamming himself as well as me and moving into a punch. If he blocks high, then he's exposed a good chunk of his chest. And so on. Of these moves, the best one is to move backwards and try to hit me with something when I land. Yes, that is a very important point and why I specified taekwondo! In a match with grappling, assuming we're in closed cover, the best move would then be to block high, step forward between my legs, and simply sweep me backwards. (Alternately, block high and then do a push kick to knock me down even more spectacularly; but there might not be enough room to chamber your leg.) There would be more than enough time to do that before I could bring my leg back down. I tried to offer multiple analogies so people could pick the one they like best. The idea of forcing via feints is a general one and so we should expect to see it frequently. I disagree. In one tournament, I ran out of wind (aerobic endurance is my weakest point), my guard fell apart, my opponent won with 1 roundhouse to my head, and I walked away with a concussion. At least, I think that's what happened; my memory of the match is very hazy.
Being a relatively weak move doesn't preclude it being effective against an opponent incapacitated by both fatigue and rules that preclude all the most appropriate responses. In the same way it would work against an untrained opponent, a baby that you were trying to steal candy from or someone who was kneeling down and bound hand and foot. It remains trivially true that trying to kick that far above the waist sacrifices much of your power. The one feature avada kedavra has could be seen as analogous to a roundhouse to the head is a high syllable count; it is vulnerable to a stupify interrupt..
Syllable count should be an important principle of Battle Magic.
Definitely. Can you think of something better than stupify for a crippling strike that could interrupt an avada kedavra, or even the stunner itself? I don't recall too many of the names.
I think you're equivocating on 'weak' and 'strong'. Your first comment clearly was using it in a sense of physical or mechanical force measure, which struck me as deeply implausible given the length of the leg-lever and the long time period in which one can power up a roundhouse kick, and given my own personal experiences with being kicked in the head. But now you seem to be using it in some sort of strategic or game-theoretic sense and claiming a roundhouse to the head is dominated by other moves in most situations.
On that you are mistaken (and there is nothing that I have said that implies such meaning). Of course, I did also discuss strategic relevance - because that was the whole point of the analogy. You appear to be leaving off the to the head part, which is precisely what ensures that the move is not a strong one. I am surprised that this is even remotely controversial, particularly among those who profess personal expertise. Every instructor I have trained under has taken care to point out how much power is lost when trying to kick so high and I have no particular qualms in suggesting that if you have been advised to the contrary you need a better instructor. I refrained from mentioning my own experience being kicked in the head because I didn't consider it particularly strong evidence. I had a saw jaw for days after I won that bout. I'm lucky he didn't hit me in the head with a solid punch instead, I would quite probably have been hospitalised or worse!
I think we have gone as far as we can here, and there's no point discussing it further without citations.
That had been my conclusion. But now that you mention it, I took a glance at the old faithful reference [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kick#Practicality_of_kicks]. Brief, but it seems well balanced. This part in particular seemed spot on: Buyer beware.
I think the general term here is "offensive pressure".
Reasoning by analogy is great, but at some point you have to be able to demonstrate sufficient isomorphism to justify the analogy. What I'd be trying to determine by researching Battle Magic is precisely whether your analogies to chess and TKD hold. As opposed to, for example, the analogy Aharon used in the first place of taser vs. revolver. Trivial example: if it's just as easy for a shield to block a "kill" spell as a "sleep" spell, then you can feint with a sleep spell just as effectively... whichever one hits me, I lose, so I have to dodge them both. In that world, your TKD analogy doesn't hold, and Quirrel's claim is unconvincing. I don't know enough about the HPverse to know if the analogy holds there, nor am I sure Harry does, which is why I'm uncertain. (By contrast, I still have no firm idea what Quirrel is doing with the flask in Bella's cell, but I'm fairly sure that Harry has a firm idea that the audience simply hasn't been informed of.)
Right, not the case in HPverse - the killing curse is special because it's the only one that can't be blocked (though it's pretty vague what "can't be blocked" means)
Ah! If that's true, then Quirrel's explanation is a lot more convincing... in fact, I think that tips me well over the edge of uncertainty into believing Quirrel's account is correct. Thanks! (As may be obvious, I'm not actually that much of an HP fan. I've read a few of the books and have some grasp of the world, and have browsed some online sources while thinking about the various puzzles in MOR, but I'm woefully ignorant. In fact, I got through most of MOR before realizing that Quirrel had been Quirrelmorted in the original.)
What makes me doubt is this: Under what magic system can you push someone out of the way with magic that you can't also just cast sleep on them? He could always cast ghetto sleep, i.e. quickly accelerating the guys head into a solid object. Is there some reason I'm not seeing that Quirrell needs to make him submit in a non-magical way?
Nope, Quirrell is obviously lying to Harry; he really did intent to kill the guy. Seriously, cast a spell at close range and then push the target out of the way? That's absurd; not only is telekinesis almost certainly much too slow for that, it would be a stupid thing to do even if it worked.
3Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
Quirrell's stated reason is that he wants Bahry to take down his Occlumency barrier.
Okay that makes a bit more sense. Occlumency seems odd (like animagus) in that it still works when you are unconscious, I was assuming other more active types of mental defence, It still strikes me as an odd tactic, though. If I was trying to dominate someone I would knock them out, strip them, restrain them, gag them. Then wake them up. Make them powerless, not engage in an elaborate duel where they still have the agency to dodge and defend and may nurture the flame of hope of a lucky strike.
I...imagine you can't read the mind of any sleeping person.
One where the defenses have to be matched to the attacks -- i.e., the one that is clearly in effect at the time of the duel. ;-) If wizard duels were strictly about relative power rather than strategy, nobody would ever duel someone at or above their own power level. Ergo, strategy and skill are involved, and as illustrated part of that skill is reaction time and choice of blocking spells. While Bahry is dodging the AK, he may not be shielding against something that gives him a little nudge or increases his speed, or changes his relative time perception, or something else that gives him an edge at dodging. IOW, it's unlikely he has any shields up against people helping him. That may actually be quite important in a magical world where intent actually matters. ;-)
But Quirrell specifies pushing. Pushing is something that should always be guarded against else it can muck up your spell casting gestures. Eta: Shields against nudges/telekinesis is the only kind of shield useful for AK, so you can't be held in place, so I would expect him to have them up then, if he ever has them up. Shields that can tell whether something is helpful or harmful (telekinesis can be either)? Blegh. I don't like those types of systems. I don't remember other things that can tell intent apart from artifact level spells. I'd expect shields to be like firewalls and allow allies to cast spells through or certain classes of spells (such as healing) to solve that problem. Otherwise it is getting close to being intelligent! Harry will have to start worrying about stopping casting some shields in case they are sentient.
My opinion is that this is exactly where the story is going. Harry will eventually conclude that magic must be intelligent to do what it's doing. (The best outcome, from Harry's perspective, would be a single AI consciousness that merely fakes the sapience of snakes, the Sorting Hat, etc, so no harm done. A better outcome, for us readers, would be Harry's sudden realisation, almost too late, that his research into the fundamentals magic is causing an exponential explosion in the number of tortured sophonts.)
This is probably a place where Q's original lesson on the curse in MOR (the one where he keeps saying, "One killing curse will bring it down!") might have been usefully supplemented by it being mentioned that it's the only unblockable spell -- as opposed to just saying that nobody can block it. However, there's plenty of places in MOR where shock and awe are expressed over Harry's surviving a (presumed) direct hit from the killing curse. IOW, it's shown in MOR that the killing curse is unblockable and that this is an important fact about it. But perhaps for this particular plot point, it isn't emphasized enough that it's the only fighting spell that can't be blocked by something.
Well, yeah, Quirrell could have considered the possibility that Harry would do something he couldn't have possibly planned for. But considering the possibility isn't the same as planning for it, and almost by definition he couldn't have planned for it. If you look at the passage just before the fight with Bahry, he did maneuver Harry into a position where even if he did have some spell that could block an Avada, he wouldn't have been able to direct it into the fight in time. He was expecting some interference, and he planned for it so that Harry wouldn't be able or would feel inclined not to interfere.
A big weakness in Quirrell's plan (assuming he wanted a successful prison break) was counting on Harry to maintain a stable Patronus. Harry is young, inexperienced at casting Patronus, and in a place liable to cause extreme emotional reactions, and he must maintain a Patronus strong enough to keep them hidden from Dementors but not so strong that it starts destroying Dementors or attracting attention. The trouble started when Harry's escalating Patronus attracted the Aurors' attention, which was a foreseeable (and foreseen) risk. And it doesn't seem all that surprising that Harry's Patronus would go out when he saw Quirrell cast Avada Kedavra (although it is very surprising that it would block the spell).
Quirrell may not understand in detail how Harry's Patronus works. So from his perspective, it just indicates that Harry understands and controls the charm really well. So this isn't an unreasonable assumption on his part. Still, it would make sense to try to get more information before trying.


I'm a little doubtful. Harry suddenly gained super emotional powers, an area in which he's been shown to be lacking, and yet he hasn't thought to also hide himself under the cloak.

Unless he's giving himself away because he wants to. In which case it's still a problem, because that would be dumb. "Father had told Draco about the Rule of Three, which was that any plot which required more than three different things to happen would never work in real life. Father had further explained that since only a fool would attempt a plot that was as complicated as possible, the real limit was two."

So I'm curious to see what will happen for more than one reason.

Hiding under the cloak would put him in physical contact, or nearly so, with Quirrell. Though I guess he could also have had Bellatrix put him in his pouch.

Chapter 61: I don't get what the laws of time are supposed to be. At one point, it seems that it's impossible for information to get back more than 6 hours, by any method. At another (and for the test they plan to do on Harry), it's impossible for a single person (or time-turner?) to go back more than 6 hours over the course of a day(/24 hour period?). Or both (with a strange coincidence between the absolute limit and the personal daily limit).

In any case, Harry can pass the test without breaking any laws of Time if he can find someone else with a time-turner.

Dumbledore has one. :) My theory is that the message from McGonagall to Flitwick is going to pass through many hands (or pockets), including Dumbledore, Snape, Quirrell, several versions of Harry, and at least one use of Harry's patronus. You gotta understand, this is Eliezer doing the plotting here. Of course, a different trick that could be used, if necessary, would be to bring a fresh time-turner (or several) back from the next day. I'm sure Harry has already experimented with what happens when you carry a time-turner back from just after midnight, and then hand that freshly recharged time-turner to an earlier version of yourself. Can a time-turner be transfered back in time? I'll bet Harry knows. Harry is already familiar with puzzles involving trucks leaving caches of gasoline cans in the desert. The Ministry of Magic is not.
Harry has likely not yet experimented with taking time-turners back in time. He stopped all time travel experiments after he got the warning about not messing with time.
I expect he may bypass the test a different way. I could be wrong about the timeline, but it seems to me that McGonagall's patronus is about to show up in the warehouse where Harry and Quirrell are having their little chat...
Could be. But another possibility is the McGonagall's patronus passes the message to the Harry that she expects to reach, but then, after visiting McGonagall and receiving her message, Harry dispatches his own patronus to pass a message to the warehouse. From there the message passes to Mary's room, and from there to Flitwick as an errand run on the on the way to Azkaban. Need send a message to the past? Don't have enough charge in your time-turner? No problem. Just find someone who has already traveled back (using a fresh time-turner) and ask them to carry the message for you.
But in this case, his patronus will still have to show up at the warehouse. IOW, it doesn't alter the prediction that a patronus will show up at the warehouse to give them the message. They already went to Azkaban, so they can't undo that to run an errand. The message would have to be sent on their return trip from the warehouse, i.e., before Harry's "rescue" from the washroom. These are the only currently-blind spots in the story where a change can occur now. What's still not clear to me is whether this is even remotely possible within the story's current timeline. Aside from it being not at all clear what the current clock time is throughout the story, the mere fact that the time turner was used in an overlapped way (first turning back to before lunch, then again back to the same point after the prison break), may mean that their total travel may not span the full six hours.
I'm guessing that Eliezer forgot to tells us about the errand in the earlier narrative.
If it turns out they did it before they left, there will be a clue in the narrative now, as Eliezer will already have used his timer turner to update the text by now. ;-) [Edit: ...and, it turns out I'm wrong. Also, disappointed in Eliezer. This does indeed lower my credence for future cliffhangers turning out awesomely, as it's way too much of a deus ex machina here.]
I disagree. The existence of a Slytherin girl's time-turner was all but spelled out before, which qualifies it as not-DeM. It was difficult to remember (I didn't, until Eliezer pointed it out) because it was a minor passage from many, many chapters in advance, but that only makes it even less of an Ass Pull. If anything is wrong with that resolution, I think it's that Snape didn't think of that possibility despite being Head of House Slytherin and a master schemer.
It's not that, it's that the entire timeline of events is inadequately spelled out (we're NEVER told what time it is, throughout the TSPE arc), and no mention was made of advance preparations to defeat time turner tests, or even that HP had to go run an errand that Q thought would be important later. (So that we would remember it and be curious what it was for.) IOW, I was fine with him using someone else's time turner; it's the order of revelation of events that's problematic.
I thought that would be impossible. Otherwise you can just chain them, and travel further than 6 hours, or more than 6hours over a day. The Test McGonagall administers seems ridiculously stupid. She should be aware of ways to counter act it. It seems odd that there is no way to simple find out how much a time turner has left or even where/when it was used by looking at it, or using the spell.
I expect that you can chain them, but you still can't travel (or even send information) more than 6 hours back in time. That restriction is part of the nature of time, not a limitation of time turners, and a chain of time turners can't break it any more than an individual time turner can, even if you were to turn it 7 times. That's my interpretation, anyway.
A minor flaw: The Slytherin girl who likes to get there first with gossip (in chapters 41 & 46) is named Millicent Bulstrode. But in Chapter 62, her name is Margaret Bulstrode.
Millicent is a 1st year girl, normally there is no reason to hand out time-turners to 1st years (no conflicting elective classes) and it would probably have been more difficult to directly include a 3rd or higher year in the foreshadowing. Presumably Margaret (4th year) is Millicent's elder sister and told her the gossip in secret.
What was the passage?
The bit with the Slitherin girls in chapter 46.
Ah. From http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/46/Harry_Potter_and_the_Methods_of_Rationality [http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/46/Harry_Potter_and_the_Methods_of_Rationality] : ...
It certainly does seem to be both. However it's possible that the personal limit per time turner is specific to the construction of the time turners and is not an iron law of time travel. If they were constructed to have personal daily limit equal to the absolute limit ("Who would ever need to go back in time more than 6 hours in a single day?") that would explain it. Alternatively, the characters are just very confused, but I would expect they have enough experience with time turners that they are familiar with their operating limits (in "ordinary" situations, anyway).

Ch. 57-58: I'm finally forced to abandon my original misplaced expectations about the fic. I thought it was trying to be realistic in the Watt-Evans sense, but now I see that awesomeness is more important to Eliezer than plausibility. (Scaring away twelve Dementors who approach close while the Patronus is down? Building a rocket from memory?) Okay, this kind of fiction makes for an enjoyable read too.

Now that I think of it, the plan has been doomed since Ch. 56, and possibly earlier. Harry's idea of dealing with McGonagall involves using the Time-Turner ag... (read more)

Harry's response is correct, assuming McGonagall's Patronus visited after they activated Time-Turner the first time. It means that they can Time-Turn again (somewhere hidden), enter the room before it's sealed by their first versions, wait hidden in the room for first versions to travel in the past (disappear from timeline), then open the room and let Harry meet McGonagall.
Right. Given the Cloak of Invisibility, "must leave Mary's Place" does not imply "must be seen leaving Mary's Place".
Why not do that as well?
That's the problem. McGonagall's Patronus visited before they activated the Time-Turner the first time, because according to Quirrell's plan, all the events of Ch. 52-58 are taking place within one time-turn. ETA: oh, sorry, I see what you mean. Maybe you're right. Maybe the allotted time ran out during Ch. 55, thus saving them by pure chance. Then Eliezer only needs to change Quirrell's phrase in Ch. 58 saying "original plan carries on undisturbed". On further reflection, this would've been be a smart plan from the start: if you have an unrestricted Time-Turner, you can carry out complicated plots in the future. Go back by 2 hours, escape the room, wait 3 hours unseen, do your job, go back by arbitrary amount. Like Ocean's Eleven in reverse.
Why do you believe that was the plan? Committing the crime simultaneously with being in Mary's room makes perfect sense.
As long as an object exists you can transfigure something to it. You don't need to know everything about a device to transfigure a duplicate.
To be fair, building a solid-fuel rocket from memory wouldn't be too hard as it's all of 2 materials and rather simple in shape. Depending on how much knowledge of the subject free transfiguration takes he won't need anything more than his making of buckystring.
Two materials is true for a solid rocket motor, casing/nozzle + propellant. However, instead of a bare motor lit with a simple Incendio, this muggle tech seems to be a fully tricked out Berserker PFRC [http://www.flickr.com/photos/mhsenkow/3968248148/] rocket complete with an electronic ignition.

The more I think about 55-56, the more potential holes I find.

McGonagall (or people from the Ministry) successfully detected the use of a Time-Turner before, in Ch. 18. So they will detect it now and all clues will point to Harry. It can be patched over by saying Mary's Room (or Quirrell's wards) makes the event undetectable.

I don't understand the rules regarding Patronuses. Can't McGonagall ask her Patronus where it found Harry, if Dumbledore can ask his Patronus similar questions? Or, alternatively, can Dumbledore send his Patronus to Harry, like McGonag... (read more)

Did they? IIRC, it was all indirect evidence.
Then there would have been no reason for that evidence to ever leave Hogwarts.
Not helping, as I don't remember the details.
I've been thinking of Patronuses as only being able to bring back one bit of information: "delivered message" vs "couldn't deliver message". Though I'm sure there are counterexamples in both canon and MoR.

New thread after 500 comments, now in the discussion section.

Ch. 61: more disappointment. End of chapter tries to create suspense by setting up a hard problem for Harry to solve in the next one. Again. I don't believe you, Eliezer, not after you made Harry blink away twelve Dementors. I still feel that the turning point of the fic was Ch. 55; after the events of 54 Harry should have woken up in a holding cell.

I sort of agree, but I think 61 was better than recent chapters. It's entertaining to see smart people reason and make clever true deductions, but get some things wrong.

A note about the fic in general.

Harry gets frustrated when Dumbledore claims to not know what to do with immortality and immediately claims to have an immortal soul. It means Dumbledore compartmentalizes and does not "truly believe as he speaks". But Harry exhibits the same compartmentalization when he defends democracy to Quirrell and simultaneously wants to become a "Light Lord". And belief in democracy doesn't mesh very well with establishing scientific conspiracies, either.

I see a few flaws in the fic myself, but: 1- Harry is not portrayed as totally rational. 2- He probably sees a "Light Lord" as not interfering with democracy. Agreed that it doesn't mesh well with establishing scientific conspiracies.
Knowing better than (most) everyone and forcing his will onto others clearly don't mesh with democracy.
It might given he approves not of the general ideology of democracy but it's role (according to him) in preventing the problems of dictators- see his conversation with Professor Quirrel post his speech post the War of the Three Armies.

Rocket broomstick is epic. I wonder what happens when the Transfiguration wears off in however long it does? Very small hail over Azkaban?

Mm, good question. Will it be ice or water that falls from the sky? To put it another way, to what extend do thermodynamic changes whilst an object is Transfigured persist after the spell wears off? We know that the 2nd Law can be violated, for example, but we don't know if it is as a matter of course.

They're finally out of there. Let us never speak of these chapters again!

The reason being?
Chapters 55-58 seemed to me to contained very little content. At least not much that was fun/interesting. What content they had was superfluous and repetitive. The only real obstacle for Harry were the Dementors*, and he seemed to defeat them trivially. At the end of Ch. 54, suspense was high, but (at least from my perspective) it really fizzled out.

MoR is now the seventh Google autocomplete result for "methods" and the first for "harry potter and the m".

Edit: And, per JoshuaZ, "harry james p" brings up "harry james potter evans-verres" as the fifth option. (That was the post that originally led me to post this.)

Make sure you're logged out first, otherwise your search results are tuned according to your search history.
Even logged out, search results are personalized. This can be avoided somewhat by appending &pws=0 to the search string, but they will still use your IP address to customize your search by locale.
I assume you don't know of a way to get non-personalized autocomplete results?
Proxy server and a clean browser? I recommend TOR.
It's also among the first-page results for "rationality".
It's also the ninth Google search result for "rationality" (and yudkowsky.net/rational is #4). Cool.
On that note, "virtues of r" brings up "virtues of rationality" as the second autocomplete result; although that string seems be a bit narrower to begin with.

Chapter 43: I think "nocebo" would be clearer than "placebo".

Most people know what the placebo effect is, but have never heard the word "nocebo". The current version is strictly wrong, but probably better for most readers. If we're going to pick these kinds of nits, I'd assign a rather higher priority to replacing "sentient" with "sapient".
How about "suggestion" instead of "placebo"?
"The power of suggestion" sounds less sciencey [http://lesswrong.com/lw/ir/science_as_attire/] than "the placebo effect". Call it something like, oh, "priming [http://lesswrong.com/lw/k3/priming_and_contamination/]", and you're home free. (Cynicism is in fashion nowadays, doncha know. Also, self-aware meta-snark.)
This is true, even though popular understanding of 'the placebo effect' , including what purpose placebos serve, is largely nonsense.
1Paul Crowley13y
What errors do you have in mind? Everything I know about this I've got from reading Ben Goldacre.
I was thinking "suggestion" not "the power of suggestion". How does that affect clarity? Respectability?
I'm not sure, I haven't read the relevant chapter of MoR and was exploring a tangent (and pet peeve) that elaborates on Pavitra's comment specifically. For what it is worth even from Pavitra's reply I had inferred that you were almost certainly intending to convey a meaning distinct from "the power of suggestion". Unfortunately Pavitra also has a point that cultural factors may ensure that many people misinterpret your word in that fashion. My suspicion is that "suggestion" would be more accurate but may require an extra sentence or even an extra paragraph or two to fully make the meaning come across. This may actually be a good thing.

Chapter 61: Proofreading (I think)

Albus looked at her, his face as expressionless as Severus's, now; and she remembered, with a shock, that Albus's **own** - "It is the best reason I can possibly imagine for removing Bellatrix from Azkaban,"

Albus's own what, exactly?

I'm guessing it's that Albus's own father was committed to and died in Azkaban.
Hmm. That makes sense, and I can understand why you might leave the sentence truncated like that... but honestly it doesn't come across to me as clever writing, it just looks like a mistake. If there's a way to write it so that it's clearly a truncated thought instead of a writing error, that'd be better. Possibly wording it 'Albus' own fa- "It is the best..." Cutting it off in mid-word makes it a little more clear what is happening, and "fa" has the benefit of looking a bit like "face" so that it still takes some effort to process what the actual thought is.
It should be done with no space and an em-dash: If em dashes aren't possible on ff.net, then use two hyphens in a row.
Honestly I don't think this is a case where making the audience work for it is really useful. The actual answer is revealed in the next chapter, so it's not like you're keeping it a secret for any length of time, but most people probably won't connect Albus' "my own father was in Azkaban statement" with Minerva's truncated though. The people wanting to solve the mystery don't have much payoff, the people who assume it's writer-error will just be confused. Honestly I think "Albus' own father --" would works better. There are places for clever, mysterious writing but this isn't it.
FWIW, I like the more elliptical version. I thought it was fairly transparent iff you read the chapters relatively quickly (much more so than the release schedule) -- there are references to his father in earlier chapters.
It wasn't a matter of I forgot about his father (although no, I wasn't thinking about it at that particular time). It was that I didn't even perceive it as a sentence that needed completing.
Yes, you're probably right. I wanted to comment only on what could be done with the grammar while keeping the same basic text.
If he did want to preserve that, yeah, I think your take on it's the best bet.

Come to think of it, the earlier reference to the Confounding of Neville Chaimberlain doesn't make sense. Historically, Chaimberlain's motives are easily explainable- nationalist sentiments (most of the lands were still seen as German), learning to negotiate through trade-union negotiations (where concessions can be compensated for as inflation erodes wages), and post-overrun of Chekoslovakia getting his head out of the sand (he referred to a "general conflagration" if I remember right) and starting buildup necessary for war.

Yes, despite his famous speech, Chamberlain knew that he had only delayed war while Britain rearmed, leaving only the hope of averting it entirely later. He may not have acted wisely, but he wasn't as Confunded as all that. I take the reference to Chamberlain as a joke and don't worry too much about it.
Rationalist fiction should at least be plausible within it's premises- the story may be an alternate universe, but unless Chaimberlain was super-wise to begin with a Confounding would not be necessary.
Yes, but one of the premises that I accept is that there are jokes. For example, all of the references to real wizards named after characters in works of fiction ought to blow Harry's mind, but they don't; they're just jokes. It's TvTropes' Rule of Funny [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfFunny].
So you just accept jokes as Dis Continuity when asessing the story?
I'd like to be able to think up an explanation for them, but it's OK if they stretch the bounds of rationality for the joke. Chamberlain didn't really need to be Confunded (proof: in real life, he wasn't), but Grindelwald (or his minion named after a fan artist, I forget) did it anyway. And if a fictional Wizard is now real, then that work of fiction must have been based on rumour and legend of the real Wizard (even though that also isn't necessary, by the same proof as before). Etc. I agree that all of this does stretch the rationality and make that aspect of the story weaker. But in my opinion, it's worth it. Your Mileage May Vary.
The passage (from ch. 49 [http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/49/Harry_Potter_and_the_Methods_of_Rationality]): For explanation, see the Author's Notes for that chapter [http://www.evernote.com/pub/adelenedawner/Eliezer#v=t&n=ee95701e-065e-43b1-ad6e-2c3f2d5226d7&b=0]. :-)
Thanks, I had a vague memory that Amanda Knox was in there, but I rejected it since the whole point is that she's innocent. So actually, we never did know who (Grindelwald or a minion) did the Confunding (not that it really matters).
If he were Confounded, his actions wouldn't a rational explanation for his motives and he wouldn't be building up for war. Either things in MOR diverge from Harry Potter significantly earlier, or this is a plot hole.
OK, that one I agree with. Although one might still find a way around it (he was unConfunded? but he never repudiated the Munich Agreement).

61: So they plan to ward Askaban against "opposite reaction". What would that even mean? Are they all going to fall down through the floor for lack of an opposite reaction pushing them up?

Hogwarts interferes with electrical devices, but brains still work. There certainly seems to be a common thread in many magic worlds that "physics doesn't work, but all the stuff physics causes that most people intuitively EXPECT to happen, still happen"
And it doesn't simply degrade into bullshit because you think that you can explain why things work as expected for some physical reasons. You may have a certain level of reductionistic insight, you may expect things to stop behaving as usual, but magic is lawful, and so it continues working according to naïve physics, according to expectations of somebody who does not even pretend to understand world in physical terms. Technology is (bastardized ancient) Greek for trickery. Electricity works, gravity works, macroscopic thermodynamic works. Counterintuitive trickery without Atlantis-issued license doesn't.
They'll probably just put in a ward preventing large objects from moving faster than a broomstick. That's what they're actually worried about, and it's probably easier.
That's what they plan to do, based on what little information they have, but that doesn't mean such a thing is actually doable.
Heh, I just thought they'd find themselves unable to walk but that's just horrific. Then I realised that they wouldn't fall as gravity is just the opposite reaction of their pull on the earth, so it's okay. Then I realised that the electromagnetic forces of the chemical bonds within their bodies all rely on opposite reaction, and it went back to horrific. Still, despite the tragic deaths that would result hopefully it would be made up for by all the prisoners who presumably would get somewhat better treatment after Azkaban mysteriously disappeared.
Another thought: Newton's third law is equivalent to conservation of momentum. If you can magically counteract the former you could potentially use this to make a magical reactionless drive! Not what the Aurors are going for.
If it were that easy to create spells of mass destruction simply by tampering with little understood physical principles, I'd think people would have done it before. Of course, in the wizarding world, I suppose that if people have done it before, there isn't a strong expectation of evidence that the knowledge would be publicly available.
They'll just check with somebody who knows what they're talking about (such as Dumbledore, or whoever he recommends) when they get around to the real work. I loved the Weasleyisms in this chapter.
I suppose it triggers off your brain to see if you learnt that trick in a Muggle physics or chemistry class. Same way "it" triggers off your brain to see if you have at least a vague idea of what a spell does before making the magical bats appear. I'm reminded of the Mage: The Ascension tabletop RPG. In that setting, Paradox forces [http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wiki/Paradox_%28MTAs%29] inflicted very painful backlash on mages who performed magic that a watching "muggle" would find hard or impossible to believe in - so a lot of the game revolved around finding a way for your spells to look like plausible accidents. Cast fireballs near something that could have exploded on its own, give heart attacks preferrably to elderly or overweight targets, and so on. The Hogwarts anti-tech jinx could be the inverted, less vicious version of it. If Harry gets around to seriously tackle it, perhaps he'll find the solution to be as simple as passing his tricks off as magical artifacts or Charms.
My guess is that the aurors working on it are all as clueless as Arthur and that the project will be a complete wash.
They're idiots.

I'm a little baffled about how Dumbledore and Co. aren't at least CONSIDERING the possibility that Quirrel is involved, especially since Dumbledore was already suspicious of him.

1Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
He doesn't have a Time-Turner. The thought that he could turn into a snake Animagus in Harry's pouch is not in their hypothesis space.
They don't need to assume he actually went to Azkaban, just that he was involved somehow. One of them mentioned "the obvious choice as to who was pulling Harry's strings." I'm not sure whether that's intended to be Quirrel or not.
I took it as a Quirrel reference. Who else (besides Voldemort) does any of Severus, Dumbledore, or McGonagall think has manipulated Harry in the past?

Chapter 60.

A very interesting chapter containing much food for thought. I read this HPMOR chapter just after posting this LW comment. If I am to believe my own comment, I suppose I have to consider much of that food for thought completely un-nourishing.

But potentially rent-paying puzzles may remain. For example, how does the anti-paradox machinery of the time-turner work? My intuition is that the answer to this fictional question pays only fictional rent, but, well, ... You never know.

Without having given it too much thought, I like to think that it's just the anthropic principle on really good crack. Any Everett branch containing a paradox simply ceases to exist / ceased to exist / has never existed (I think time-travel science fiction should adopt as its official idiom one of those East Asian languages that do not employ verb tenses).
I think that branch "never existed in the first place". It is something like a triangle with four sides. I agree with your assessment, but the question that puzzles me is unitarity. How do we maintain the idea that the sum of the probabilities of all things that can happen add up to 1 at every point in spacetime? Or, to put it in macroscopic terms, just before Dumbledore read the parchment, how should an observer estimate the probability that the message will be "No" rather than "Don't count on it" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_8-Ball].
There's been work specifically on this question about expectations for simplified cases when one has a 2D Newtonian system with wormholes violating causality. Kip Thorne discusses this in some of his books although I don't remember if the results are due to him or to someone else. The upshot is that at least in limited circumstances, one can make meaningful statements.

"Charms of Unbreakability and flawless function had been cast upon the Muggle device." - chapter 58

Quirrelmort should have cast Flawless Function on his plan to rescue Bella.

(And on his body, so he doesn't get ill, age or die).

Any chance we can get links to the latest thread in the original MoR post? I can never find this without expending a fair amount of mental effort wading through search results, and the first thread is the one that comes up when I search.

Done. Clicking on the harry_potter tag is the easiest way to find the latest thread, since it auto-updates as long as the new post includes the tag.
Thanks. Oh, ok, awesome.

(chapter 57)

Did Harry just Transfigure a shotgun?

Perhaps, "This is my (rocket powered) broomstick"?

Might be a plain old paraplane.

I wonder if Harry is planning on getting the Aurors and Dementors to fight each other?

Don't the Dementors obey the Aurors' orders?

First Law of Dementors: A Dementor shall prevent Aurors from coming to harm.

Second Law of Dementors: A Dementor shall obey Aurors, except in cases where that would conflict with the First Law.

Third Law of Dementors: A Dementor shall behave all creepy and stuff, except in cases where that would conflict with the first two Laws.

Zeroth Law of Dementors: A Dementor shall secretly support Dark Lords, to ensure that the need for the Order of Aurors continues.

Not only is that a scary thought... it is exactly the sort of outcome a naive 'F'AI would result in!

Chapter 62

Dumbledore's comments on The Lord of the Rings and his keeping Harry at Hogwarts seem significantly more rational than usual. Any chance Dumbledore is secretly awesome?

MoR!Dumbledore is clearly set up as Genre Savvy [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GenreSavvy] rather than rational- part of the interest of this work is the way it distinguishes the two.
I've got to say, I think the wizardly mentor character pointing out the mistakes of Gandalf is about as far from Genre Savvy as one can get!
I don't understand your comment. He's casting himself as the Gandalf of this story, and trying to avoid one of Gandalf's grave mistakes. That is exactly what is meant by Genre Savvy.
Well, that's exactly what is meant by Genre Savvy if he is correct in his casting. I worry that he's really Wrong Genre Savvy.
Hm, I guess you are right. However, it still seems to me that Dumbledore is acting significantly more sane than he has in previous chapters. So far he has attempted to fill the role of Wise Old Wizard exactly.
Harry attempted to fill the role of Brave Young Hero and succeeded at that, but in the process, committed to something incredibly dangerous with less consideration than he would have given it under other circumstances. Role-filling =/= sanity.
I'd say rather that role-filling isn't necessarily a smart thing. Much of how humans interact is little more than negotiated role-filling. In fact, choosing to fill-roles can be quite useful and adaptive. I don't think it's useful meaning of the word to consider 95% of the human race to be insane. Jumping into such choices without sufficient introspection, thought and intent is likely to lead to poorer outcomes, of course.
A degree of realism is selected for by the process of wizarding wars against dark lords. He's not awesome on purpose, as far as we know.

This is unrelated to the current plot, but rather a more general thought: We know Severus is the most accomplished occlumens in the world. Might he also be the most accomplished legilimens as well? It seems that Severus, being Voldemort's spy who spends inordinate amounts of time under Dumbledore's command, would natually come under the Dark Lord's suspicions, prompting plenty of sessions of eye-staring where Voldemort verifies his allegience. Severus, of course, passes all these checks, but could he not also be legilimensing Voldemort at the same time? If... (read more)

I don't recall Snape being said to be the most accomplished occlumens in the world. He's good enough to prevent Voldemort from reading his mind, but unless there's some indication otherwise that I've forgotten about, I think there's supposed to be a number of perfect occlumens, who are good enough that nobody is capable of performing leglimency on them. I highly doubt that Snape is capable of performing leglimency on Voldemort. Not only does Voldemort have tremendous incentive to become a perfect occlumens, but if Snape could read his mind and not have his mind read in turn, he could probably have ended the war himself.
But training to become an occlumens seems to involve letting people perform legilimency on you. Voldemort seems to have an incentive to avoid that.
Imperius a Legilimens, or have him Imperiused; use him; kill him. We already know from canon that someone under the Imperius curse can in turn Imperius another, so it seems likely that being under the curse doesn't affect one's magical ability too much.
That was my first thought. Possibly add in some obliviate-and-confine based recycling of the legilimens just as a practical consideration.

Tom Riddle got a Time-Turner in his third year and Legilimized himself.

Then why all the brouhaha about not seeing yourself while messing with time, if this is doable? (To be fair, though, the canon justifications - "you wouldn't know what was going on, you might even attack yourself!" - do not make sense if both the past and future selves are aware of the presence of the Time-Turner.)
Why, to ensure that nobody else does it! The brouhaha could easily have been stirred up by Voldemort himself through any number of means in order to further restrict the Good Guys' options. Of course, it could have been stirred up by the first wizard to discover the power of working with yourself, and it's been passed down for so long that it's accepted without question, and Voldemort was either mad or foolhardy to have ignored the dire warnings. It just so happened that the dire warnings were wrong - Voldemort is incentivised not to correct them.
That's one of those hyped up rule for do gooders. It even makes kind of sense for people before they know what they are doing. But you get to ignore it when you are evil (and hence practical!)
Canon itself agrees that the canon risk is exaggerated; Harry and Herminone did see their past selves, and Harry even saw his future self (but thought that it was his father). Nothing bad happened. However, the canon warning can be justified: If you attempt to change what you remember from your past, then the time-consistency force will stop your contradiction, and that can be dangerous. If the easiest way to enforce consistency is to mess with your memories, it just might drive you mad!
All this is trivially circumvented. Remember those instruments Dumbledore regretted inspecting? Well, just build a backdoor into them to modify their readings, and make sure that you're the only one that the backdoor lets through. Messing with sensory input is less dangerous than messing with the mind. Can't use rely on some vague instruments when you are an active participant of events? What about plain old glasses or a mask? Can't unsee your future self? Well, as long as your previous self knows that your future self is able to make glasses show you anything they wish, you're free not to believe your eyes. Might throw an extra hallucination once in a while just to make sure. Plausible deniability FTW!
The force isn't so simple. While the time turner use will increase the prevalence of a stable loop involving distorted memories this is far from the easiest way for a stable loop to result. It is far more likely to ensure that the world of which you are a part to not to have ever existed, with the measure diverted to the possible stable loop that is the result of iterating from the effects of your new interference.
The way I use the word ‘exist’, the world that I'm a part of necessarily exists. In any case, it's the only world that I care about. All this stuff about iterating unstable loops to a stable limit (assuming that one even exists) can be a good way to think about time travel from the outside, but that can't be how it appears to the people on the inside. (The world isn't going to notice that I'm a mind with a right to existence and change around me while preserving my unusual memories, despite what Doc Brown told Marty would happen to Jennifer in Back to the Future II.)

but that can't be how it appears to the people on the inside.

Potential nightmare fuel ahead. ROT13'd for your sanity.

Jung vg ybbxf yvxr sebz vafvqr: Uneel jvyy bcra gur cncre, svaq gjb ahzoref gung qba'g zhygvcyl gb gur cevzr, naq nggrzcg gb pnhfr n cnenqbk ol fraqvat onpx n qvssrerag cvrpr bs vasbezngvba.

Abj, Uneel vf qrafr ng gvzrf. Ur xarj guvf jnf 'hafgnoyr' nppbeqvat gb ZpTbantnyy, gung vg jnf nyy cerpnyphyngrq naq gung lbh pna'g punatr nal vasbezngvba. Ur fghqvrq sbe bar ubhe naq gura sbyybjrq guebhtu jvgu uvf pbhefr bs npgvba, naq bapr ur unf zvffrq uvf nofbyhgr ynfg punapr ng punatvat gur cncre, Uneel naq guvf cnegvphyne ybbc bs gur havirefr oyvffshyyl prnfr gb unir rire rkvfgrq, qhr gb pbagnvavat n cnenqbk.

Abj, Uneel vf n fzneg xvq. Ur cebonoyl unf fbzr vqrn bs ubj dhnaghz vzzbegnyvgl jbexf, fb ur rkcrpgf gb or va gur fgnoyr ybbc gunaxf gb "cnenqbk vzzbegnyvgl". Qhevat uvf fghqlvat, ur nofrag-zvaqrqyl erzrzoref naq zhygvcyvrf gur gjb arj ahzoref ur jebgr qbja, naq frrf gung gurl, gbb, nera'g gur snpgbef bs gur cevzr. Ur ortvaf gb jbeel. Vs, rira jvgu gur cbjre bs vzzbegnyvgl ba uvf fvqr, ur vf fgvyy va na hafgnoyr ybbc, gung zhfg zrna gurer ner bayl hafgnoyr ... (read more)

That's a great description, but it's not from the inside of reality. I mean, if I experience something (such as multiplying two numbers and getting the wrong answer), then it exists, pretty much by definition. (Even if I'm hallucinating, the hallucination exists.) To some extent, this is a matter of semantics, but if my usage of ‘exists’, ‘real’, etc are to match ordinary language, then they have to come out this way. Within the fictional story, I use the viewpoint character instead of myself, so if Harry experiences something (while he's the viewpoint character), then it's real within the story. However, I catch your reference to Greg Egan's Permutation City. (If you made a reference to anything else, then I missed it.) So there is a flaw in my reasoning here: I'm assuming that everything that we see in MoR is from within a single consistent (albeit fictional) history, just as in the canonical books. But that might not be so! We could be seeing things from within various unstable loops (somewhat as in PC, although there the instability wasn't a matter of looping), even though the canonical books only showed us stable loops. Since EY (like Egan) accepts the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (even though not of probability), it's only more likely that he would do something like this. On the other hand, we haven't so far seen anything that directly suggests this.
Omake files? :P
I agree with this assumption: that's why MoR only shows you the consistent history of the usage of Timeturners. The Timeturner itself is the only point of possible divergence from consistent history (assuming no magic lets us mess with causality, although it seems like Weasley's "opposite reaction wards" at least have a chance), and EY is writing a story about a rationalist Harry Potter, not a story about wizards using Timeturners, so he won't bother to show all the inconsistent histories. And "inconsistent histories" from the perspective of a consistent history is a contradiction in terms; it is no wonder it clashes with the meanings of real, exists, and so forth.
Oh boy.
Harry, for example, already sees 'reality' as a quantum waveform. He is not limited to naive models of the world. "Iteration to stable loops" isn't a concept that is particularly important when considering time travel of the kind in evidence in HP and in the presence of a complete physics that does include quantum mechanics. "My brain will be hacked" is not actually the most simple or likely outcome except in the sense of "narrative simplicity given naive author".
Tom wins.
Enough times to train himself in Occlumency? By the book? There are sooo many ways this should have fail, even not counting the Interdict. By the way, do you have any canon evens in mind that tie in with the Interdict of Merlin, or is it fully specific to your 'verse?
Occlumency is a mental skill, not a powerful spell, so there's no reason the Interdict of Merlin should apply to it. And there's no reason he shouldn't have been able to do this every day once he got the time turner.

61: After a Thanksgiving dinner frequently interrupted by songs and guitar solos, this came out of my brain while reading.

  • A foolishly human malfunction,
  • lacking a rationalist's compunction,
  • has led Dumbledore
  • to the dark side of 'or'
  • instead of inclusive disjunction.

Edit: bulleted for line breaks.

Voldemort's resurrection spell calls for the blood of an enemy, and everyone is assuming that means Harry Potter. But Voldemort and Harry aren't enemies! He should try to take Dumbledore's blood, not Harry's.

I admit, I've been wondering whether Harry is actually the servant, not the enemy
I'd go ahead and make him both, just in case.
Are you sure? What if in MOR, Harry's scar is from where Voldemort already took his blood? ;-)
This has already been brought up in this discussion thread, but remember that Dumbledore, at least, has no reason to suspect that Voldemort and Harry have any relationship other than prophesied adversaries.

I'm not sure if this has been mentioned before, did anyone else catch the Gurren Lagann reference? Very subtle Eliezer, I almost missed it.

7Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
Having a spiral of green energy is subtle. Calling it the Breaking Drill Hex is less subtle. Having the incantation being "Lagann!" is not subtle at all. There are subtle references in there, but that ain't one of them.
I look forward to your GL fanfic where Simon pierces the heavens with his unrivalled knowledge of AI and Robotic systems.

I think I figured out how Fred and George duped Rita Skeeter in Ch. 26. The evidence came from Rowling's original universe. Maybe someone created MoR universe by going back in time to do things differently (most likely Voldemort), maybe something more complex happened. Same explanation for the story of the Weasley family rat in Ch. 29 and other "anachronisms" sprinkled throughout the fic, e.g. Dumbledore thinking Harry's stepparents treat him badly.

I'm enjoying the story; but am bothered by this passage:

The Dementors were coming.

"My Lord, you - you should not risk yourself for me - take back your Cloak -"

"Be silent, fool," hissed an angry voice. "When I decide to sacrifice you I will tell you so."

She's got a valid point, said Slytherin. You shouldn't risk yourself for her, there's no way her life is as valuable as yours.

For an instant Harry considered sacrificing Bellatrix to save himself -

Bella's life isn't just less valuable than Harry's. Her life has a large nega... (read more)

If she kills again, then yes, she shouldn't be saved. But this is a claim about consequences unrelated to the value of her life itself. If she can be saved and prevented from killing others, she should be.
By TDT, the fact that she did a lot of evil things in the past is reason enough to assign her life less value.
For game-theoretic reasons? (If so, even though this isn't about consequences, it still seems very worth separating from the terminal value of her life.)
It's still about consequences, just not causal consequences. It might be that saving the murderer has an acausal consequence of leading to more murders in the past. This should of course be taken into account, and is harder to guarantee.
If you buy the acausal "reality is not turing-computable" view of the HPMOR universe, then none of our usual reasoning methods work all that well. I'm surprised Harry hasn't been making a bigger deal of this fact.
"It might be that saving the murderer has an acausal consequence of leading to more murders in the past." ... This sentence makes no sense to me at all as a statement in conventional English. What are the meanings of the words in this sentence, what are the beliefs that I would need to hold for this sentence to make sense, and how would they pay their rent? (I am not asking for a list of sequences to be directed to. I am asking for the translation from deep LessWrong jargon into conventional English.)

I'll try my hand at the translation, although the rent-paying thing is above my pay grade.

Something like: "If you save a murderer, that means you are the sort of person disposed to save a murderer. That means that in the past, murderers, insofar as they had accurate beliefs about your dispositions, will have been less disincentivized to murder."

what are the beliefs that I would need to hold for this sentence [about acausal consequences] to make sense, and how would they pay their rent?

the rent-paying thing is above my pay grade.

Above my pay grade too, but as I am an amateur, I won't let that deter me.

First, you would need to believe that free will is an oversimplification. More specifically, that what may appear to be a free-will moral decision made today (about saving a murderer, say) is actually a decision the making of which is spread over your entire past life (for example, the point in your life where you formed moral opinions about murder, revenge, and so on). And not just spread over your life, but actually spread over the entire history of our species, in the course of which the genes and cultural traditions that contribute to your own moral intuitions were formed.

Second, you would have to believe that your moral decision today is so correlated to those aspects of the past, and those aspects are so correlated in a causal and deterrent way to the past behavior of potential murderers, that your decision nominally made today about punishing a murderer is correlated "kinda-sorta-causally" with the nu... (read more)

Um? OK, I would say that your first belief implies that what appears to be a decision in this case is in fact not a decision, but rather a working out of the inevitable consequences of an earlier state. The only reason it seems like a decision is because I'm ignorant of the real possibilities. The situation, on this account, is analogous to my "deciding" not to fly away when dropped off the top of a building. I can imagine being in a delusional state where it does not seem inevitable to me that I will fall to the ground, and I can further imagine being in a state where I believe I have decided to fall, but In both cases I would simply be wrong. Similarly, on this account, my belief that I choose whether to save a murderer or not is simply wrong. There's no actual decision to be made; that there seems to be a decision is simply a delusion shared by approximately everyone. It's like having an electrical switch connected to both a buzzer and a lightbulb, with a 3-second delay between the switch being flipped and the lightbulb going on. Clearly any intuition that the buzzer caused the light to turn on is just post hoc ergo prompter hoc run amok, but to start talking about the lightbulb having an acausal consequence of the buzzer going off seems downright unjustified. It is not clear to me why that situation changes if the buzzer is a murder and the lightbulb is me saving the murderer, or if the buzzer is Omega putting money into boxes and the lightbulb is me opening the box. Sure, the underlying mechanisms are way more complex, but I don't see how any of that complexity affects any of what we're talking about, if we start from the assumption that free will is an illusion. (shrug) Maybe the whole point here is to resurrect some notion of free will worth considering, or something... I dunno. I am still working my way fairly linearly through the old OB posts, and have not actually read any of the more recent TDT stuff, so probably I shouldn't be trying to engage in t
In a situation where other people can predict your future decisions, you can reason as if your decisions have backward causality, because they were predicted before you carried them out. It's a generalization of the concept of making credible threats and promises.
But in a situation where other people can predict my future behavior, I can instead reason as if some earlier state causes both my behavior and their prediction. This seems to get me all the same explanatory and predictive power in an entirely straightforward fashion. Making credible threats and promises seems entirely unproblematic when looked at that way. I accept that some awfully smart people who have thought about this a lot have concluded that this sort of backward-causality reasoning really does buy them something, and I'm open to the possibility that it's something worth buying. But at the moment I don't see what it could possibly be.
You can explain and predict decisions as being implied by their antecedents, but you can't use the same reasoning in the act of making a decision, because it leads to contradictions. This post [http://lesswrong.com/lw/164/timeless_decision_theory_and_metacircular/] contains the best explanation I could find.
Do you ever make a decision that is not like this? I think that the official Less Wrong answer to the problem of free will is that you do make a decision, since it is the consequence of your state, but this is just as a computer may make a decision, say to allocate certain CPU cycles to certain processes (which is the sort of decision that modern operating system kernels are designed to make, and one that my computer is not making very wisely at the moment, which is why I thought of it). Given the input, this decision is inevitable, but it's arguably still a decision.
For what it's worth, I'm a compatibilist as well, although I don't think it's a particularly important question. I'd merely meant to point out that if it's possible (as stipulated in this example) to predict accurately at T1 what I'm going to do at T2, then there's no new salient information added to the system after T1, so it's as reasonable to talk about Omega's behavior at T1 being determined by the state of the world at T1 as it is to talk about it as being determined retroactively by the state of the world at T2. (Perplexed has since then pointed out that the second formulation is simpler in some sense, and therefore potentially useful, which I accept.) That being said... as Perplexed articulates well here [http://lesswrong.com/lw/30g/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/2yi3?c=1], it's hard to understand the purpose of decision theory in the first place from a compatibilist or determinist stance.
The second formulation is simpler, but then leads to absurdities such as counterfactual mugging [http://lesswrong.com/lw/3l/counterfactual_mugging/]. This is a failure of the theory. If you don't think so, try a counterfactual mugging on everyday people, and then try it at a LessWrong meeting. Which group do you think will be more likely to come out ahead [http://lesswrong.com/lw/7i/rationality_is_systematized_winning/], in this practical example? As it says on the wiki [http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Rationalists_should_win]:

If you don't think so, try a counterfactual mugging on everyday people, and then try it at a LessWrong meeting. Which group do you think will be more likely to come out ahead, in this practical example?

The Less Wrong meeting, of course. I'm no Omega, but I'm smart enough to predict none of the regular people will take the deal, and most of the Less Wrongers will. That means I won't give any money to any everyday people, but after the coin flip I'll be handing out a whole bunch of suitcases with $10000 to the Less Wrongers (while also collecting a few hundred dollar bills). The average person in the Less Wrong meeting will come out $4950 richer than the person on the street.

If you mean I should do the second part, the part where I take the money, but not the first part, then it's no longer a counterfactual mugging. Then it's just me lying to people in a particularly weird way. The Less Wrongers might do worse on the completely unrelated problem of whether they believe weird lies, but I don't see much evidence for this.

You can't "try a counterfactual mugging" unless you are Omega (or some other entity with a lot of money to throw away and some unusually and systematically accurate way of predicting people's behaviour under counterfactual interventions). And if you are... then those who are inclined to pay in counterfactual mugging will win more from it on average. That's the whole point. If you accept the premises of the problem (Onega is honest and flipped a fair coin, etc.), paying really is the winningest thing to do.
The counterfactual mugging requires that the deal be offered by an entity that is known to be both perfectly honest and a perfect predictor. If Omega tries to counterfactually mug you, you should pay him. If I try to counterfactually mug you, paying up would be significantly less wise. A sufficiently good decision theory should get both of those cases right.
No. The entity doesn't have to be perfect.
Nominally, decision theory is all about giving good advice to people who make decisions. Now I am willing to entertain the idea that the free will of the decision maker is an illusion. But my 'willing suspension of disbelief' goes all to hell when I ask myself: "Why does an illusion need good advice?" Decision theory absolutely requires an assumption that the will is free in some sense. However, it does seem reasonable to consider the possibility that free decision making can be spread out in time. Traditional game theory assumes that an agent freely chooses a set of preferences over states-of-the-world well in advance. Then, at decision time, he chooses an action so as to maximize the probability of reaching a desirable state of the world. Classical game theory and decision theory offer advice on that second free decision, but they don't advise on those earlier free decisions which created the preference schedule. Perhaps they should. Or, perhaps we need an additional theory, over and above game theory and decision theory, which will advise agents on how to set their preferences so as to take into account some of the side effects of those preferences. What do we call this new kind of normative theory? 'Moral theory', perhaps?
Um. Let me taboo some words ("free will," "prediction", "decision") here and try again. Let us suppose that at time T1 someone either commits murder (event E1a) or doesn't (E1b), and at T2 I either spare the murderer (E2a) or don't (E2b). (I don't mean to suggest here that all combinations are possible.) The original scenario seemed to presuppose that at T1 there is a fact of the matter about whether, given E1a, T2 contains E2a or E2b, and that some potential murderers are able to use that fact in their reasoning. My understanding is that some people are saying we can therefore understand E2a|b to have some kind of "acausal" influence on E1a|b. (If that's not true, then I've utterly misunderstood either the scenario or the conversation or both, which is entirely plausible.) I agree with you that it's useful to talk about what happens at T1 (or earlier)... that is, to advise about preference schedules. Indeed, as you suggest, it's hard to see what the point of advising about anything else in this scenario would be. But I don't understand why it isn't just as useful, to this end, to say that there exists at T1 some set of facts S describing the state of the world (including my mind), and that E2 a|b and E1 a|b both depend on S, as it is to say that E2a|b exerts an acausal atemporal influence on E1 a|b. What does that second formulation buy us?
You ask me to compare two ways of saying something: * that there exists at T1 some set of facts S describing the state of the world (including my mind), and that E2a|b and E1a|b both depend on S * that E2a|b exerts an acausal atemporal influence on E1a|b What, you ask, does that second formulation buy us? My answer, of course, is that the second is more concise and it avoids mentioning either T1 or S (good, among other reasons, because there might be multiple times T1, T2, and T3, as well as state vectors S1, S2, and S3 at those times). The second formulation is even more economical if you leave off that extraneous word "atemporal". What you pay for this economy is a prior climb up a pretty rugged learning curve. Is it worth it? It is hard to say at this point. However, I should point out the irony that I have cast myself in the role of a defender of all this "acausal" mumbo-jumbo; ironic because I usually play your role - a fierce skeptic of the local zeitgeist and defender of the old-fashioned, orthodox approach.
(nods) Well said; that makes sense. Thank you.
I like this explanation of what "acausal" means.
Wow, I think that I finally understand TDT (assuming that you accurately described it). Thanks!
Cool. Maybe you can explain it to me, then. ;) I'm pretty sure that my sketch doesn't capture all of TDT. Only a rationalization of the "acausal influence" aspect of it.
The only practical application of TDT that I've found is as an anti-procrastination argument. "If this excuse seems good enough to me, it's probably going to seem about as good to me+15 minutes, so if I don't get to work now I'm very unlikely to do so in 15 minutes either". I still find the existence of significant acausal connections between different individuals to be pretty much claptrap.
My short take: your decision algorithm that outputs saving or not saving the murderer is instantiated multiple times. Anyone who tries to predict your output also runs a more or less precise simulation of your algorithm. Suppose a perfect predictor murderer in the past. In this case, no matter what your decision is, the prediction was the same. So, you can reason this way: "although I don't know my final decision yet, I know that it correlates with the prediction perfectly. Therefore I also have to consider the consequences and resulting utilities of the prediction when making the decision. Shouldn't I just act then as if was controlling the output of both my current algorithm and that of the predictor, weighing the utilities together? I should output a decision now such that maximizes utility over present and past, because the past prediction mirrors the current me perfectly." And if there are imperfect predictors involved (or algorithms with imperfectly correlated outputs), you reason as if you had imperfect control over their outputs. As far as I managed to understand it, this is TDT. Note that there is some interesting self-referentiality: the TDT algorithm computes the expected utility of its own "possible" outputs, and then makes output with maximum utility.
I'm not sure what you mean by this. Part of my point is that even if "she can be saved and prevented from killing others", she probably still shouldn't be.
Even if she were completely reformed with no chance of killing more people, the terminal value of her life could still be lower than that of a random person. For example, presumably continuity is valuable (or we wouldn't mind replacing dead people with random newborns), and there's less continuity between evil and good than between good and good; and someone with an evil past will probably experience less happiness during sincere reflection on that past (for some morally relevant value of "sincere") than someone with a good past. It also seems possible that there are components of terminal value that track the game-theoretic reasons you mention: we may terminally value game-theoretically-defined notions of "cooperation" or "justice" on top of their instrumental usefulness.
Only if how much value people like Harry and Quirrel would assign to her life was a significant factor in her decisionmaking. Chances are that at the time the idea that someone might want to save her from azkaban never even crossed her mind.
For game-theoretic reasons?
If she kills again, it's too late. I don't understand how you can divorce the value of her life from the consequences of her life.
Hence the conditional in the last sentence. And it's never "too late", the same reasoning applies no matter how many people she murders.
It is too late to save the person that she murders. Given that she's already murdered many people, why would her murdering one more change your decision? Why? Is this an absolute moral position, without regard for how she is prevented from killing others? I thought you frowned on those. If she can be saved and prevented from killing others by locking her in a cell for the rest of her life, she should be? If that's not the plan, what is?
The plan as stated is to bring her to a magic shrink who will undo the mental torture that made her this way, so she stops being evil.
Of course, that's just killing her and replacing her with someone similar.

So did you just kill me and replace me with a version of me that had read that post? Where do we draw the line?

It's often hard to draw a clear line [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorites_paradox]. It's quite true that there's a continuum of personality modifications between "talking to someone" and "using magic to eradicate emotions and base personality features replacing them with more convenient ones". But even without drawing the line specifically, it's clear that these two examples are on different sides of that line.
Well, cryonics aside, it's actually relatively easy for most people to draw a clear line between "killed" and "not-killed", and both of those examples seem to fall quite squarely on the "not-killed" side, as they don't result in death. You clearly draw your line somewhere very different to most people. You should probably at least attempt to explain what you mean by "kill" if you're going to use it in such a non-standard way.
Of course, if that process is considered a form of killing, one should stop and re-elaborate their opinion of "killing" in light of this expanded definition before passing judgment.
Sure. I never said it wasn't a justified killing. This Bellatrix "needs killing", and if we can come close enough to restoring a previous mentality that doesn't, that's a great bonus. Assuming, of course, that all of this is as Quirrel said.
Sure. But NihilCredo's point is actually broader than that. When I adopt an importantly different new referent for a term, it's really not a good idea for me to carry forward old ideas associated with that term without re-evaluating them. It's a special case of the common problem of confusing the label for the referent. In some cases, the confusion is obvious and easy to avoid. For example, a couple of years ago the U.S. adopted a new referent for the term "current President of the United States" that made previously true statements (e.g., "the current President of the United States is a member of the Republican party") suddenly false. This doesn't really confuse anyone; we understand that the referent for that label changes over time. But "killing" isn't like that for most people. If I adopt an understanding of "killing" congruent with your comment above I ought to stop and ask myself things like "Is killing a bad thing? Why? Is there any reason I shouldn't go around killing everyone I can? What reason? Is there any reason I shouldn't kill myself every opportunity I get?" and so forth. But there's a strong chance I won't. At some point it becomes less confusing to just adopt a new word. In other words, the issue here is not whether magical therapy on Bellatrix is a justified killing or an unjustified killing, but whether it's useful or consistent to refer to it as any kind of killing at all. Completely tangential to this: I have a lot of difficulty reconciling the idea that reliable psychiatric intervention to "heal" people of criminal tendencies exists in the HPverse with the idea that Azkaban exists there. It's as if a fictional world contained the ability to cure any disease, but wealthy and important people in that world were forced to die of diseases without being cured. I don't claim it's impossible -- human societies are perfectly capable of contradictions this absurd -- but it would be awfully difficult to defend.
Azkaban already seems difficult to defend, versus just killing people in the ordinary sense. Sure, killing people is inhumane, but much less inhumane, and much more secure, than imprisoning people for life in a place that destroys all happiness and goodness.
I was raised with fantasy and sci-fi. For me "death" has always meant "death-of-personality". Short of that, who cares? And if that's gone, who cares if the body is still there? Yeah, you should. And you should say "generally, yes". For exactly the same reasons that your current understanding of killing is that it's generally bad -- it's the destruction of a person.
But that just swaps one label out for another, rather than answering the question. That is, Sam asks "Why is killing a bad thing?" and Pat answers "Because it's the destruction of a person" and Sam replies "Well, OK, but why is destroying a person a bad thing?" and they haven't actually gotten anywhere. Just to be clear, my issue here has nothing to do with bodies vs. personalities. I agree with you about that. It has to do with what's worth preserving within a personality. I grant you that this hinges on the presumption that Bella's personality change was the result of trauma, as described, rather than an intentional modification. If Bella's current state is instead something she made an informed choice to enter, then I'd agree that coercing her to revert to her former state is ethically problematic. (And calling it "healing" doesn't automatically make it OK.)
On a related note, It seems the author is flat-out telling us that Harry is deliberately acting irrational, and commends him for it. Curious.
The math does add up, though: Quirrell is at least four times more important than all of Azkaban put together. It's like how, in my mind, at least 10% of the loss caused by the 16-40k guillotine deaths in the French Revolution is from the early death of Lavoisier. It's pretty clear from the times it's come up that Harry's utilitarianism is either mistaken or too unnatural to actually guide his behavior- and so this just seems like more evidence of that.
Are you sure? In this fic, Slytherin isn't always bad.
Perhaps the story will have a "Harry's fall from rationality" arc?
To be fair, that passage was a full chapter before Harry realised (very belatedly) that Quirrell might have been lying about the psychiatric healer and Bellatrix's kernel of goodness.

Am I the only one confused by chapter 58? How were Quirrell and Bellatrix surviving the Dementors while Harry had the invisibility cloak? And did the escape let out the Dementors and spray transfigured engine exhaust all over the countryside?

I'm confused by the entire Azkaban arc. All the fanciful language designed to evoke imagery and emotion is preventing me from figuring out what's actually happening. I promise to upvote anyone who provides a concise, transparent summary of the actual events (and motivations for said events) of this arc. In chronological instead of narrative order.

I'm not sure what was hard to understand, but here goes:

Quirrel, with much secrecy, proposes to Harry that they bust (the supposedly originally good) Bellatrix Black out of Azkaban. They go to Azkaban and break in near the top. Quirrel guides the way down, while invis-cloaked Harry protects them from the Dementors with his Patronus.

They arrive at Bellatrix's cell and free her in a weak state. Harry pretends to be Voldemort so that Bella will obey him (implying that when Voldie "died" he really went into baby Harry). On the way back up, they encounter an Auror after Harry gets so pissed at the dementors/Azkaban that his patronus temporarily flares out of control, alerting the guards. Quirrel fights him while Harry and Bella hide under the cloak. Quirrel tries to AK the auror, but Harry unconsciously moves his patronus in the way. This saves the auror but hurts Harry and knocks out Quirrel (that "sense of doom" is apparently a warning of bad interactions if their magics touch).

Harry gathers up Quirrel (who reverted to snake form) and stuffs him into his bag, gets Bella to obliviate the auror, and heads downward, somewhat panicked. He almost falls to the dementors ... (read more)

This leaves out some important events from the aurors' and Dumbledore's perspectives:

  • Dumbledore and his phoenix are upset about the state of some of the prisoners; it's not clear if this is a matter of police brutality, or...

  • Someone on a low floor in Azkaban is chanting "I'm not serious (Sirius)" -- possibly metamorphagus Peter Pettigrew, stuck in the physical form of Sirius Black and unable to change himself back

  • Whoever it is, Fawkes (D's phoenix) tries to alert Dumbledore to the "not serious" prisoner, for reasons that are not immediately clear.

  • Dumbledore notes to Amelia Bones that there was an item hidden under a piece of cloth in Bellatrix's cell, which he was leaving to the forensic aurors to investigate


  • McGonnagal's patronus appears in cat form, and Harry lies about his location, making a note of the time so that he can time-turn again later and be where he said he'd be, so that McGonnagal will not discover the lie or his involvement in the Azkaban escape

  • Quirrel explains that his plan was not to kill the auror but to convince him to drop shields via credible threat of death, and that his long-term plan is to make Harry the ruler of magi

... (read more)
Fawkes probably wants to help all the prisoners. That's what phoenixes do, they act as anti-Dementors of sorts. Dumbledore probably dismissed it as just the phoenix picking up on the prisoner's distress. We saw Quirrel put this there (and Harry saw him too). What could this item be? Any unexpected item would ruin the death-doll pretense. My guess: a vial with traces of poison to make it look like someone sneaked in poison for Bella and she drank it. ETA: but we don't know why Quirrel would do that; see discussion below.
My guess is that it is Felix Felicis, liquid luck. It's golden, which matches the description, and it provides a reasonable false explanation for how the invaders were able to break Bella out of prison. It throws you on the trail of a master potion maker, instead of the truth.
But wouldn't actually using Felix Felicis be even more effective?
It seems probable that Quirrelmort is himself a master potion maker, in addition to the rest of his skill set. He's able to make the resurrection potion, after all, which is likely a difficult feat.
Poison was my initial theory as well, though I can't really see the point of bothering. That is, suppose the body is simply found with no flask of poison. How is that any worse, for anyone involved? Maybe there's some kind of forensic autopsy they might perform on the body that they wouldn't bother with given an obvious cause of death, but then why hide it? There's another theory over on tvtropes that it's a Harry Polyjuice potion, since it's established in canon that those are gold. That at least makes some sense: even if someone sees Harry, they'll conclude that it was actually someone Polyjuiced into looking like Harry. So I'm going with that.
I have no clear idea, either. That makes no sense. If someone was pretending to be Harry, why would that someone leave the empty potion bottle in Bella's cell? Why hide the bottle under cloth, but hide it poorly?
You're right, of course. Though if I started out with that theory, I might be tempted to start justifying it, and think "Maybe it was going to take the intruder too long to get in and out, so s/he brought a second Polyjuice potion to take in the middle... and maybe s/he left the potion figuring it would give away the game if 'Harry' were caught with a Harry Polyjuice potion on 'him'... and maybe s/he left it in Bellatrix's cell because, um, because s/he couldn't find a better place to hide it... in fact, maybe s/he really thought the cloth would hide it... and didn't crush it because, um, s/he's incredibly stupid... no, um, wait, because... um... give me a minute, I'll come up with something." So, yeah, OK. The only way I would actually consider finding such a flask convincing would be if I were only thinking about the problem very superficially. Perhaps Quirrell is just counting on the investigators not being very careful thinkers. Lord knows the wizarding world is full of those. Alternatively... if the potion were a Bellatrix Polyjuice potion, I might conclude that this is someone else's corpse, and Bellatrix was never arrested in the first place, and whoever it was died shortly after being arrested, and expected the vial not to be noticed. But why that conclusion is worth leading someone to, I don't know. And why not just leave a different body to begin with? So, probably not. So, OK, turn it around. What potion, if found by the Aurors near Bellatrix's corpse, would lead them to a useful-to-Quirrell conclusion? (shrug) Of course, another possibility is that the flask wasn't meant to be found... maybe it was actually well hidden, and Dumbledore is just awesome, and Q didn't expect D to be involved. That would suggest the flask is performing some actual functional role... beats me what it could possibly be, though. Maybe it's meant to explode upon being investigated, destroying "Bella's body."
But why leave the flask at all, then? It must be meant to make them think something else. Couldn't be. Bella's been there for twelve years - and they've been feeding her daily, they'd have noticed if she died "shortly after". And the fake body doesn't look ten years dead. Any potion being found stops the Aurors from thinking Bella just died in her cell in the ordinary way from Dementor exposure. (An event that would be no surprise at all, in her state.) A potion indicates outside involvement. The Aurors would think: someone came from outside, gave Bella this potion-bottle, which is now mostly empty but recently contained something, and now Bella is dead. It certainly looks like poison. The big mystery is that Harry knows it's there, he must know what its part in the plan is, and yet he seems to think that the original plan was to make the Aurors think that Bella died from natural reasons... The description given of Quirrel concealing it makes it clear it wasn't well hidden. In fact it was barely hidden at all - if a wizard is doing the hiding, "covered with a piece of cloth in the corner" isn't that amazing. In fact it's on the bed instead of being under it, so it clearly isn't being hidden. The only way an investigator could believe someone was trying to hide it was if he believed that poor, mad, dying Bella was "hiding" it in her last moments.
I had a thought on this, and the page is closed, so to continue to follow this discussion, go here: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/364/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/3bn6 [http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/364/harry_potter_and_the_methods_of_rationality/3bn6] edit: It occurred to me that making this post might have violated some necroposting rule that I'm unaware of. I'm not certain of the etiquette here; was this impolite? I just thought it made more sense for someone who reads this discussion for the first time to have a link to where it was continued.
In general commenting on old posts in encouraged; for indexed posts like this forward-linking is probably best.
Oh, truly? Thanks for the information, that's significantly different from most of the places I've hung around in before.
A lot of forums have threads sorted by most recent post date, so that commenting on an old thread moves it to the top. That's annoying, but Less Wrong's software doesn't do that, so commenting on old posts is fine.
Misdirection? The scenario would go like this: ideally, Bella is found dead, and chucked out as just another Azkaban victim. In the event anyone is suspicious and does some checking, the easiest thing to do would be to inspect the contents of the cell, immediately uncovering the poison. (If you were suspicious, it would take you a long time to work down the list of suspiciousness to 'a genius wizard used an incredibly advanced spell to create an identical dead body'.) Instantly, the investigating Auror's mind deduces that someone good wanted Bella dead, and unable or unwilling to use the Killing Curse (stealth), used an alternative method (poison). This is even wronger a theory than just being suspicious, and it's completely contradictory to a escape theory (because the investigator has to postulate someone on the level above seeking to manipulate them before the presence of poison has an explanation), so it's even less likely anyone will wonder whether it's the real Bellatrix and check for the dummy.

How were Quirrell and Bellatrix surviving the Dementors while Harry had the invisibility cloak?

First Harry summoned his Patronus, which shielded them all. Then he took the cloak. Quirrel became a resistant snake. Bella drank a hyper-potion. Only then did Harry dispel his Patronus.

And did the escape let out the Dementors and spray transfigured engine exhaust all over the countryside?

I don't know what you mean by "letting out" the Dementors. They're not constrained in Azkaban; they live in a pit beneath the open sky, and no magical defense could stop them from leaving anyway.

The bit about the exhaust is true, but presumably it's transfigured from water, just like Harry's original version. Even if someone breathes a bit of the smoke it shouldn't be too dangerous.

Ah okay. That also explains Dumbledore's reaction. I was under the impression that the Dementors lived inside Azkaban, and so when I read the part about them rising through the air, I thought it must have been through the hole Harry made in the wall. Now that I think about it, it makes sense for them to rise into the air to chase Bellatrix.
Presumably since the fuel/engine was transfigured out of water, it should turn into water vapor when the transfiguration runs out. And I wouldn't expect inhaled engine exhaust to go anywhere water shouldn't, so that shouldn't be much of a problem.
Which reminds me - now that Harry has mastered partial Transfiguration, couldn't he just start transfiguring stuff out of bubbles of air, thus making such stuff safe for any use short of injecting them in your arteries?
6Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
Harry already tried this in Ch. 28, failed, and concluded that it wasn't possible to Transfigure things out of moving molecules. It's safe to assume that he tried it again after (1) figuring out partial Transfiguration and (2) asking McGonagall, and found that it was still impossible; otherwise he wouldn't have bothered touching his wand to the metal stairs to get his mirror.
Good enough as Word of God. (As a reader, I am reluctant to make "he would have thought about it" assumptions about a Harry who after five months still hasn't shown curiosity or even confusion about his unique Quirrell-generated sense of doom).
The moving molecules thing doesn't really make sense. Molecules are always moving. Is it more than a certain amount of average kinetic energy? If so temperature should matter more than state.
0Eliezer Yudkowsky13y
Molecules constantly significantly changing their spatial orientation relative to each other.
Molecules within a hot solid do that too. But rather than a maximum kinetic energy or temperature as JoshuaZ proposed, you can use a maximum relative displacement. Edit: On second thought, maybe that's already in what you said, in the word ‘significantly’. And now I notice that you wrote ‘orientation’ instead of ‘position’, so that actually changes the meaning entirely. Lesson: read carefully!
Since neither of us is McGonaggal the correct answer is "I do not know." :-)

(Chapter 58)

Harry, once again, plays (or is played like) the fool. He places his life in obvious danger by going with Quirrell, and trusts Quirrell. Again. Agh! Here's what a suspicious Harry would think: Harry is the only one who knows that Quirrell is responsible for break in. Harry plans on staying behind. Quirrell can't stop Harry from staying behind with magic, and can't convince Bella to stop either. One choice left for safety -- manipulate Harry into making the vastly more dangerous choice and leaving.

I feel like the Harry of these past 8 chapters i... (read more)

The more trusting Harry may be an artifact of his being terrified. He got played on his dislike of the Dementors to get him in there. Once the shit hit the fan he was running terrified and taking whatever solution appeared to him. In this case Quirrelmort sounding even slightly reasonable (remember he's been talking to himself to keep the dementors off) would be accepted. I'll be interesting to see what happens when he gets back to civilization.
Why not? If it's not a use that harms her directly, just letting her make an appearance from time to time to scare people into voting Harry, why wouldn't Harry agree? After all, even Quirrel's (possibly just pretending) psych healer fixes her, she's not likely to ever become part of civilized society again. She should have some purpose to her life, no? Both helping the Dark-Lord-Harry (if not healed) and helping her rescuer Harry Potter (if healed) would please Bellatrix herself too. I really see no downsides to using her in this way.
Oh, I'm sure you and I can come up with lots of rationalizations to justify using her. Problem is, Harry, in addition to being a rationalist, is also a fictional character. Eliezer, through Harry has, thus far, had a certain sense of poetic justice. Using Bella as bait would go against that. The same drive that leads Harry to see himself as the mesiah of two worlds -- the man who will kill death, that same drive will balk at using Bella. It's too ugly.
I see your point. But becoming a Light Lord by using any sort of politics at all is too ugly in any case. Harry has a contradiction to resolve one day. On the one hand, he disdains politics and "human stuff" and he also sees himself as rationally fighting human biases. On the other hand, he speaks in favor of democracy. I think if he ever tries his hand at actual democracy, he'll soon realize that as Pratchett wrote (paraphrasing from memory), "it's not that you have the wrong kind of government; it's that you have the wrong of electorate".
As I recall, the only time Harry advocated democracy was in chapter 35, in which he seemed to accept its shortcomings. He values democracy because of its practical effect at preventing the brutality possible in dictatorships rather than because he has any illusions or ideals about it. Also, he seems to dislike the idea of becoming a politically powerful leader as his method of being a Light Lord. In the same chapter, he thought the appropriate way to tackle his Voldemort problem with a small party/fellowship rather than with an entire nation. Likewise, I can't imagine him wanting to throw Manhattan Projects at his scientific/magical research interests rather than continuing to do what he is doing now; recruiting a small number of competent and like-minded people, such as Hermione, and getting them to help him. So unless Quirrel can convince or coerce him otherwise, I don't think we will see Harry try his hand at public politics and democracy any time soon.
Looks like we'll see what he thinks of that soon enough :-) Of course, Quirrel probably doesn't plan for Harry to rule the nation before finishing school, thus it's outside the scope of this story.
Harry already intends to become god; this seems like a logical first step. I wonder if he'll see it that way?
In the same sense that learning to fire a rifle is a logical first step to building an atom bomb?
While that's an amusing analogy, I was actually thinking it might be possible to use the resources of this nation (..widespread small city?) to solve the problem. Being able to throw more brains at a problem is qualitatively different from gaining a little personal power.