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In the Doctor Who episodes with Weeping Angels, the Angels turn into statues when they are observed. In "The Time of Angels" and "Flesh and Stone", the Angel statues become deteriorated as the actual Angels die, which means that the state of the Angel's statue is connected to the state of its actual body.

Also in those episodes, the protagonists have weapons with the capability of destroying or at least severely damaging the statues, but they never use their weapons for that purpose, even when it would have been tactically useful to kill or injure a single Angel. This implies that they knew that destroying the statues would be useless or a waste of ammunition.

The Doctor says multiple times that when the Angels are quantum locked they turn into statues and that this is the ultimate defense mechanism. So, is there any explanation for what exactly happens when the Weeping Angels are quantum locked that resolves the apparent contradiction between the statues being the Angels' bodies and that harming the statues would not harm the Angels?

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    The angels are solid stone. We only really see the clerics with firearms, and ones that appear to be using conventional ammunition, at that. They just wouldn't be able to do a great deal of damage to a stone statue, especially while keeping other lines of approach under observation so as to prevent the approach of other Angels. – Darael Jan 30 '13 at 3:27
  • Also note that it's in Blink that we hear that the Angels turn to stone when observed, but in Flesh and Stone we see apparently-stone Angels move, and Amy is told that she must convince them that they can see, where in Blink their state has nothing to do with their instincts - whether they think they are observed - and everything to do with whether they actually are observed. In short, the Angels just aren't treated consistently enough to give a reliable answer to this question. – Darael Jan 30 '13 at 3:31
  • A more recent question dealt specifically with the question of why Angels can't just be destroyed in statue form: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/39924/… – Hypnosifl Jun 30 '14 at 19:07
  • How was that question not a duplicate of this one? – murgatroid99 Jun 30 '14 at 19:10
  • @murgatroid99 - maybe no one noticed at the time. – Hypnosifl Jun 30 '14 at 19:17
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There's no explanation offered in Doctor Who; it's plot-science, and the only things we know are what is said in the episode.

Quantum locking is a real phenomenon, most often shown in flux pinning which occurs when certain superconductors are exposed to magnetic fields. Videos of it circulate the Internet pretty often because it creates some astounding stable levitation effects.

Flux pinning is the phenomenon that magnetic flux lines do not move (become trapped, or "pinned") in spite of the Lorentz force acting on them inside a current-carrying Type II superconductor.

It is called quantum locking because each of the locked flux lines contains only a single flux quantum. It has nothing to do with the observer effect and nothing more to do with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle than anything else occurring at that physical scale. It cannot cause the nuclear reactions that would be necessary to transmute matter (e.g. stone to flesh). For more information, you can start at the physics.se question What is quantum locking?

  • Please tell us exactly HOW your explanation in ANY WAY describes the Weeping Angels, of which you did not mention even once? Nor did you even remotely address the Actual Question. Best to read your own words before you bash what is an answer designed to inform non-physicists. – AJotr May 21 '12 at 19:38
  • And for the record, what exactly ARE your qualifications to bash any answer besides your own? – AJotr May 21 '12 at 19:46
  • My qualifications are that I've been participating in a giant physics interaction for decades now. – user1030 May 21 '12 at 19:57
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    This answer is pretty interesting and I wouldn't be surprised if the relevant part is right, but I feel a little weird accepting an answer that's mostly irrelevant QM info. – murgatroid99 May 22 '12 at 15:11
  • I don't think that "quantum locking" is any sort of official technical term, probably just a name chosen for the youtube video because it was catchier than "flux pinning". A search of google books for the phrase "quantum locking" turns up only a few scientific references, and they use it in a completely different context that has nothing to do with magnetic flux (see books.google.com/… for example). For a real quantum effect more similar to what happens w/ the angels, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_Zeno_effect – Hypnosifl Jun 30 '14 at 18:50
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I realize this is an old question, but there's no good answer yet and I have a theory on this particular topic - one I haven't seen elsewhere. Obviously, this answer involves a bit of speculation.


It's important to note that the terms "flesh" and "stone" used by the Doctor may not be direct translations to what we think of as skin and stone. The angels are likely made of a highly-durable stone-like material that then hardens when observed. So, essentially, damaging an Angel while in statue form IS damaging the angel itself.

In theory, if you were able to smash an angel statue's arm off, once you left the room that Angel would no longer have an attached arm. That said, it's not ACTUAL stone and may be much more difficult to break than your average granite or marble. And there's nothing to say that they couldn't just put themselves back together once you leave the room.

As for the effect itself, the idea of Angels instantly hardening into stone when observed is probably similar in nature to the myotonia congenita of Fainting Goats. These goats immediately stiffen & contract when the goat feels threatened, making them fall over like they're dead. It's a physiological reaction with no direct mental control, and it doesn't matter if the goat is actually threatened or not.

We just don't know enough about Angel physiology to say for sure.

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The only explanation that gels with lore and answers your question is this:

  1. Turning into a statue is a defense mechanism that the angels cannot consciously control
  2. In their stone form, they are "locked" - that is, the matter of their body is not affected by anything outside of it. (They may appear to be stone, but anything short of a black hole likely won't have any significant effect on them in a fully locked state. They are harmed by conventional weapons only when they are NOT locked. EG: By a bullet fired blindly.)
  3. While they are not affected by the outside world in their locked state, they are still "alive" and consuming some amount of energy to stay that way.
  4. Just as any life form, as they run out of energy ("starve"), their bodies will deteriorate. Even in a locked state, this will take effect. Furthermore, without energy to remain entirely (with every atom) in their defensive state, some sections will degrade.

It's likely that when they completely run out of energy, they can no longer hold a shape at all and crumble into lifeless dust.

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