Savage Worlds: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
Introduction to Sir Harris Guffingford - Principia Technologica
The following is excerpted from the Principia Technologica, re-printed here with permission of the publisher, Tarant University Press, and the author. © 1876 all rights reserved.
being the collected lectures of
Sir Harris Guffingford
A Helpful Illustration of the Principles of Science
Chapter the Fourth: On the Eternal Conflict Between Natural and Supernatural Forces
Up to this point, our experiments have served only to illustrate the principles of Natural Law. The purpose of the exercises in this chapter, however, is to demonstrate the fundamental conflict between Natural Law and its nemesis, Supernatural Law—Natural La w being represented by a variety of simple Technological Devices, while Supernatural La w is embodied by an equally simple Magickal Device. Like a ll our experiments, these exercises were chosen for their lucid design and straightforward execution; they should prove suitable for students of all ages.
Laboratorie #1: The Inclined Plane
As you may recall, we have demonstrated the Inclined Plane and explained its uses in a previous lesson. This is a simple machine, the purpose of which is to reduce the difficulty of moving objects from place to place. Even the simplest country farmer understands the uses of this device: it is always easier to push a heavy load down a ramp than it is to push the same load a cross even ground! There a re two principles of Natural Law at work, but the one that concerns us most in this experiment is known as “the Coefficient of Friction”.
Here we place an object upon the Inclined Plane: for purposes of this experiment, we have chosen a simple block of stone. Note that when the Inclined Plane C is placed at a sharp angle, Block A will automatically begin to slide down the Plane, without any extra Force being applied. Remember the farmer’s load upon the ramp; if the ramp is steep, he does not need to push the cart at all. It will roll down of its own accord.
On the other hand, Block A will not slide of its own accord if our Inclined Plane is given a lesser angle. There is some innate resistance to its motion down the Plane; this resistance to motion is what we call the Coefficient of Friction. The lower this Coefficient, the smaller the angle of the Plane must be, in order to make the Block slide. Begin the experiment with your Inclined Plane at its most a cute angle, nearly flat upon the table. Take Block A, and place it on Inclined Plane C: note that the Block does not slide. Having observed this high Coefficient of Friction, tilt Inclined Plane C slowly, a few degrees a t a time, until that Friction is overcome, and your Block does begin to slide. Having now found the precise angle necessary for the Block to slide of its own accord, lower the angle of the Plane by a degree or two. We have now established a precarious balance, in which the Coefficient of Friction is only just high enough to overcome the angle of the Plane. The aforementioned Coefficient is almost, but not quite, low enough to allow Block A to slide.
Introduce a Magickal Artifacte into the system. Slowly bring it into the vicinity of Inclined Plane C. Notice that Block A begins to slide haltingly downward! The angle of the Plane has not changed, nor has the nature of the block… but the Magickal Artifacte slightly alters the Coefficient of Friction in its immediate proximity.
This alteration is unstable and unpredictable, causing the Block to slide in a variable manner. It is this same unpredictability and instability in all Magickal Effects which makes compensation for these Effects on a ma chine impossible. Even a small change in the Coefficient of Friction can and will cause gears to grind, belts to break, and cogs to catch and stick— with disastrous consequences!
Laboratorie #2: The Swinging Pendulum
The principle of the Pendulum was discovered by early Technologists, as you may recall. It was early established that the period for the back-and-forth Oscillation of any Pendulum of a given Length is always the same, no matter how large its arc or how heavy its bob may be. For this reason, Pendulums
make excellent time-keeping devices, as they a re less dependent on Temperature Variations than spring-based clocks.
Let us start our second experiment, then, with three pendulums. Begin by setting your three Pendulums a -swing: while they are swinging, measure their periods with a Pocket Watch or Water Clock. Our first superficial observation is that the Pendulums with longer rods swing more slowly than those with shorter rods: in fact, the period of any pendulum is ma thematically exact, and it ca n be expressed as a mathematical formula. To find the period, we have only to extra ct the square root of the rod’s length.
Now introduce the Magickal Artifacte while the Pendulums a re still swinging. Note how the swinging becomes erratic! Some Pendulums swing more slowly, while others swing faster than we would predict by use of our previously reliable mathematical formula. The variance in the new periods of these pendulums is no longer proportional to the length, mass or arc of the rod: the only factor is the proximity of the offending Artifacte, and even this is not reliable enough to be predicted.
As in our first experiment, the variance is wild. The consequences for any machine which depends upon regular oscillations for its function are immediate and catastrophic. In the presence of Supernatural Force, clocks will go a wry, engines throw their rods, and metronomes dance a tarantella; it is an unavoidable side effect of disrupting the Natural Laws associated with oscillation.
Laboratorie #3: The Electric Circuit
In our final demonstration, we will use the self-same Electric Circuit which we built in last week’s lesson. As you will recall, this is a machine of very simple design: a small battery serves as our source of Electromotive Force, driving its current a cross a Resistance— here, that Resistance is evinced by a small filamentary Bulb. For the purpose of this experiment, the wires used to form the Circuit can be assumed to be of negligible resistance. Recall now that when the Circuit is closed, using switch B, a potential difference is created between the battery and the Bulb. According to Natural La w, Electricity flows from highest potential to lowest, following a long the path of least resistance— and that path, in this case, is the wire. As a result, the filament with- in the Bulb glows, because Electricity is passing through it. However, when the Circuit is opened a gain, no path is available for the Electricity to follow… and the Bulb goes dark.
Close the circuit to light the Bulb a gain: observe how the filament glows bright and steady. Now, introduce a Magickal Artifacte into close No insulative substance has yet been discovered to shield a machine from this effect proximity. Take notice that the Bulb immediately begins to flicker! The Artifacte appears to sporadically disrupt the Electric Potentialities inherent in the Circuit, and the Electricity, which would normally flow from highest potential to lowest in a predictable fashion, now flows back and forth a long the wires in haphazard confusion.
No insulative substance has yet been discovered to shield a ma chine from this effect. Accordingly, the presence of Supernatural Force continues to wreak havoc on any machine which requires a steady flow of Electricity for proper functioning. Please take special note: because our Electrical Circuit is a very small machine, and our battery is not possessed of any great power, we a re not in any particular danger as we perform this experiment. The same cannot be said of exposing larger and more complex machines, which marshal far more powerful energies, to the disruptive influence of Supernatural Forces! The result of disrupting Electrical Potentials within a ma chine which harbors a great deal of Electromotive Force ca n be not only inconvenient and nettlesome, but downright explosive: Technologists have been known to lose their lives to engines and genera tors gone ma d. The utmost caution is urgently advised.