5

Background:
In the book Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, the descriptions of both

the destruction and poisoning of Vroengard and of Uru'baen

are very similar to nuclear explosions in scope and physics. If you need I can add references here. I consider it plain in the text and not needing defense.

It is suggested that a wizard can say words for magic much greater than the energy they have, and it will kill them.

Question:

  1. Can any wizard who knows the unmaking words cause a nuclear explosion?
  2. Does the nuclear explosion they create have to be their own body converting from matter to energy, or can they cause something at a distance (mile or more) to convert?

Implications:
If every mage is really a walking nuclear weapons factory then the words of unmaking are potentially much more dangerous than "the word" in that a novice magician could be turned into a nuclear kamikaze. They could get into a decent body of water like a lake and turn it into an amazingly destructive pressure wave like "Helen of Bikini". In the dwarven mountains, they could make shock waves in stone that would "kill" the structural integrity of mountains and make them collapse.

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    They might need a decent amount of energy to get the process started (Galbatorix had plenty of Elduanari). And it's a fairly small nuke. But yes. – Adamant Jan 24 '18 at 1:59
  • The dragon rider on Vroengard was able to "ignite", it was implied, without Elduanari. He might have had some that he didn't know about. I'd imagine they might be able to make a core, such as a gem, to "cease being" after a timer, and using stored-up energy. It is an excellent question to say "how much matter converted to energy". The whole body might decimate a continent. link – EngrStudent Jan 24 '18 at 2:03
  • I've never heard of this series before, but seeing a question about a "magic-driven nuke" makes me want to go out and read it! – Thunderforge Jan 24 '18 at 4:55
8

Yes

Here’s how it works, so far as I can tell.

  • Was it a magic-driven nuke?

    Kind of, yes. It clearly operated on nuclear principles, causing radiation poisoning and an explosion of light and heat. The words used for it (roughly translated as “be not”) clearly imply a conversion of matter (which “is”) to energy (which “is not”).

  • Can you target something other than yourself? Unknown, but I’d say probably not. It’s very clearly a suicide spell—Angela implies that to use it would certainly kill her. None of the people who knew it (Angela, Galbatorix, and its originator) considered using it in a non-suicidal manner.

    This might seem surprising, but given that using magic becomes harder over distance, it seems entirely possible that targeting anything much further than one’s own self with this spell is entirely impossible. Further, for living creatures, magic is linked with their own biological energy stores…so there’s another potential connection there.

    The spell is clearly not targeting the caster’s entire body, judging from the energy produced—my guess is that it simply can’t. That would take too much energy from the caster, and the spell would fail. It’s a much smaller portion of matters that’s being converted to energy. But probably the caster’s own body or something very close by.

  • Could anyone use it who knew the words? No. Those are very basic words in the Ancient Language, and undoubtedly many magicians have used them before. Words aren’t enough—most spells require you to have some idea of what you’re trying to do. You can twist words around to do unexpected things, cast spells by intent alone, and even very occasionally get things wrong when you have a certain intent but the grammar is “stronger,” but to get this effect you very clearly need to understand what you’re doing.

    To use the phrase this way, you’d have to understand mass-energy equivalence at at least a basic level, and understand enough about the grammar of the ancient language to understand what it defines as “being.” That’s why the spell’s not in common currency among anyone with a modicum of understanding of the grammar of the Ancient Language.

    You wouldn’t need the words, though for a silent spell, just the understanding of what you were trying to do.

    Finally, there is clearly a minimum energy input for a given output. Galbatorix was a Rider with multiple Eldunari. The other user was an elf, and we don’t know what kind of tricks they might have been using. Angela is Angela, and we don’t know how large an explosion she could produce anyway. It’s quite unclear how big an explosion the average magician could produce. What we can say is that it would be big on the scale of the sort of warfare they’re engaged in.

Yes, this does make magicians more dangerous than commonly realized. And it definitely makes Nasuada’s position on the regulation of magic, which might have seemed unnecessarily harsh, seem a little more sensible. She was very much aware of this capability.

However, magicians are rare and magicians of any competence of even rarer. We’ve seen, what? Various elves (highly limited in numbers), Trianna, the Twins, Angela…and a bunch of incompetents, who likely wouldn’t be capable of this sort of magic in the first place (it’s very much not just about the complexity of the words). And then add in how many of these individuals would be willing to commit suicide for their cause, and the viability of this strategy becomes relatively low. But that said, not impossibly so.

It would only likely be a nuclear-powered suicide bomb in the hands of a few very powerful individuals, though—in all likelihood even those few who could work up the power to cast the spell at all could produce only relatively modest explosions. The main protection would be similar to that against modern suicide bombers and nuclear weapons—keep an eye on the few people who can do it, don’t let them near you unless they’re on your side, check everyone at the gate and at the door.

And no, this still isn’t as dangerous as the Name of Names. The latter allows one to control magic and spellcasters to an unprecedented extent, including the nuclear spells…making it much more dangerous.

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    Sorry for the premature post. I’ll fix it. – Adamant Jan 24 '18 at 6:18
  • From what I remember It's not as much that " grammar is “stronger,”" but that using magic without grammar is very risky (as any thought could redirect the spell in an unexpected manner). Great answer nontheless – Edelk Jan 24 '18 at 9:04
  • Would you consider how the magician "Carn" died to be a version of this, but because of much less power it was like a 500 lb bomb instead of a megaton nuke? – EngrStudent Jan 29 '18 at 0:48
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    @EngrStudent I don't think so. First, Carn killed his opponent with a spell that drained their moisture. Very different. Second, no way does some random Varden spellcaster know a physical or magical principle that only Galbatorix, some specific elf, and Angela seem to know about. This isn't common knowledge, and perhaps only Angela really understands what's going on. – Adamant Jan 29 '18 at 1:24
  • @Edelk Grammar can override intent in certain situations, particularly the case of Elva's blessing/curse. There was a scene where Oromis wanted to make absolutely sure whether or not Eragon had said -o after skolir for that reason. – Nolimon Mar 8 '18 at 14:28
2

Yes

That blast on vroengard... That was nuclear, wasn't it?

Yup.

But the science says that the elements created by splitting organic elements wouldn't be radioactive for long at all, was this intentional or just a mistake?

You're absolutely right. However, the short-lived radiation released from the explosion would induce neutron activation in the surrounding materials. Plus, you know, magic. ;-)

Reddit AMA

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