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Theory: Investiture Resonance in Metal

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(Note: This post was originally titled "Investiture-Attunement in Metal", but I have since decided, due to the discussion below with Tempus, that "Investiture Resonance" sounds much cooler and can be tied with the scientific concept of a resonator.)

 

 

This little idea came to me while I was reading Tempus' Focus Pattern theory. Tempus' main idea is that a Focus of Investiture contains a pattern through which Invested Power can be modified. One of his examples is the Stormlight pattern found in fabrials. Each Stormlight pattern corresponds to a particular fabrial effect.

Several weeks ago, I posted a theory in the Words of Radiance sub-forum stating that a fabrial's Stormlight pattern is imprinted on its metal setting. That theory was meant to explain why fabrial gemstones always have some sort of metal setting attached to them. After reading Tempus' pattern thread, I realized that it could be the key to generalize my fabrial metal setting theory into a Cosmere-wide theory.

Basically, I would like to propose that metal (or at least, certain types of metal) is Realmatically special in that it is possible to either imprint an Investiture pattern on a piece of metal or map an Intent of Investiture to a metal, making the piece of metal attuned to that particular Investiture. And this can be done anywhere in the Cosmere.

 

Fabrials are the manifestations of this metallic Investiture-attunement phenomenon on Roshar. On Scadrial, it is of course manifested by the Metallic Arts. Metalminds and Hemalurgic spikes are attuned to specific Invested attributes taken from humans. Regular metals (while not necessarily Invested themselves), are attuned to specific Allomantic powers. The God Metals lerasium and atium (and any other God Metals that might exist) are attuned to their specific Shard.
 
Note that the specific types of metal that can be used in this way may differ across the Shardworlds. On Threnody, for example, silver (which doesn't seem to have an Allomantic use) seems to be the only metal attuned to Hell-type Investiture, although there may be others we haven't seen.

But is that all? What about the other Shardworlds? Am I once again committing the sin of taking a specific form of Investiture on one Shardworld and applying it to the Cosmere with little basis?

Well, not this time. :)

 

Here is a WoB about aluminum:
 

Aluminum has some weird properties on all of the magic systems, not just allomancy. It does not have the same effect, but aluminum has some bizarre effects.

 

And that's not all.

 

From Elantris:

Throughout the city stood large metal plates carved with Aon Tia, and occasionally an Elantrian would approach and place his or her hand in the center of the character. The Elantrian's body would flash, and then disappear in a circular burst of light, his body instantly transported to another section of the city.

Raoden turned. There was a metal plate hanging on the wall beside him. Though it was tarnished with time, Raoden could still make out the shape etched into its surface—Aon Ashe, the character he had drawn just a few moments ago.
"Those plates used to glow more brightly and steadily than any lamp, sule," Galladon explained. "The Elantrians could shut them off with a bare brush of their fingers. Elantris didn't need oil—it had a far more reliable source of light.

 

From the Emperor's Soul:

Shai reached to the side, taking out her book of notes, including initial sketches of the final stamps. “I’ll take these and stamp them onto a metal plate, then link that to the stamp you will place on Ashravan each day. He’ll need to keep the plate close at all times.
...
You will make it work. It’s customary for the plate to be designed as a piece of adornment. A large medallion, perhaps, or an upper arm bracer with square sides. If you look at my own Essence Marks, you’ll notice they were done in the same way, and that the box contains a plate for each one.

 
That leaves us with Nalthis and BioChroma. In Warbreaker, we find that metal can only be Awakened by people with the Ninth Heightening. This is because things that were never alive are extremely resistant to Awakening. Can this fact be used as proof that my theory on metals isn't universal after all?

Not really. For one thing, the Scadrian Metallic Arts show that a certain metal might only be attuned to a specific subset of a particular form of Investiture. We don't know what specific metal is attuned to Awakening, or if each type of Awakening Command has a specific metal on which it can be used.

More importantly, the limitation of metal Awakening is not necessarily a limitation of Investiture-attuning, because being attuned to Investiture does not necessarily mean being targeted by it. A fabrial's metal setting is not the target of the fabrial's effect. The metal plate linked to an Essence Mark is not the target of the Essence Mark. The problem is that all attempts to use metal objects in Awakening so far have been targeting the metal objects themselves. The sad reality is that unlike Sel, Roshar, and Scadrial, we haven't seen anybody try to use metal as a mere Investiture pattern-holder on Nalthis.

 

(Edit: Come to think of it, Nightblood's silver sheath is capable of keeping his destructive impulses in check. Perhaps it's a pattern-holder for anti-destruction Investiture.)

 

What if an Awakener could store a relatively complex Command, say, "Upon call, become my fingers and grip that which I must" on a metal plate, but without intending to Awaken the plate? The metal plate then becomes a pattern-holder for the Command. Now, if there is a simple Command (preferrably requiring very little Breath) to link other objects to a Command pattern-holder, then that metal plate suddenly becomes something that other Awakeners can use to create a specific type of BioChromatic entity (in this case, one that acts as an extra hand) with less Breath.

I'll leave it to you guys to imagine what types of BioChromatic technology can be created using that technique. :)
 

 

Edit: Here's an idea I got from the discussion below: A metal attuned to a specific Investiture pattern can be seen as the Realmatic version of a resonant circuit, or at least an Investiture resonator. If you don't like to think about electronics terms, you could instead visualize an Investiture-attuned metal as something like an Investiture tuning fork, resonating only a particular Investiture Intent/pattern/frequency when hit by raw Investiture.

Edited by skaa
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I like this theory! Everything up until the BioChroma explanation makes a good amount of sense. Metal is important in the Cosmere.

 

As to Awakening, I doubt that would work. To use Tempus' sliding scale of implicit vs explicit magic, Awakening is the most implicit magic (controlled by the will of the magic user) that we've seen. I think it requires too much of a mental picture/intent for there to be actual "fabrials" made of it, and if there was a way, it wouldn't be as easy as the one you've proposed here.

 

Also, in regards to the metal: it's the pattern on gems for fabrials that are important. I'm not convinced the metal has a pattern imprinted on it at all. I see the metal more as 'wires' for some reason. I'm not really sure. Old style Surgebinding fabrials probably do have a specific resonance/pattern in them, though.

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The examples from Elantris don't really prove anything. We know that the material an Aon is written in or on doesn't matter, be it metal, stone, wood or dirt. The Elantrians just happened to use metal for their light fixtures, probably for aesthetic reasons, or because it reflected the light better. I think you're reading too much into it. As for the plates for human soul forging, we only have a very limited sample set, and no indication that nonmetalic objects are possible. It's a big step to draw your conclusion. Metal is light weight, durable and unobtrusive as ornamentation.

As for the fabrials all being metal, well, what are they going to use? They don't have wood, crem pottery is too flimsy, and shell would be gross. They have plenty of stone, but metal is lighteer and easier to work with. Look at the real world how often to you see jewelry with a gemstone set in something other than metal.

No offense, but it seems to me that you're trying to apply the specialness of metal on Scadrial to the entire cosmere with little basis.

Except for Aluminium. We have WoB that Aluminium has unusual effects on every magic system.

Draw from that what you will.

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I'm certainly onboard with metal being important in the Cosmere, and at least one known metal (Aluminium) has a confirmed unique Realmatic property. That said, I'm not sure if all metals have properties as a class of material, or if metal in specific is better at holding patterns and not some other property that we haven't deduced.

 

As NutiketAiel mentions, the material an Aon is written on is irrelevant - we even have a multi-material Aon in the form of the City of Elantris. That Aon also has subset Aons on it! Like the Aons on the stone walls of Elantris. In addition, I'll note that Soulstamps also can be carved into anything, with the only apparent quality difference being a purely physical one (how easy it is to carve and hold its shape). The ink for Soulstamps does have a realmatic property, though. It works best with organic inks over inorganic, animal matter over plant, and complex life form inks over simple life forms. Which has a nice parallel with Awakening materials.

 

I don't agree with Nutiket that fabrials are metal because metal is useful - metal is scarce on Roshar, and not used as often as it is here. They could easily use shell, wood, bone, stone, or other carving materials, or cast or molded materials such as clay. Metal would work better, and it may just be that Fabrials are rare enough and useful enough to justify the expense of Soulcasting some metal for them, but it's suggestive.

 

One other notable thing is that the metal on Scadrial is the only instance we know of where the manifestation of a pattern (the metal) is consumed when Investiture passes through it. Carved Aons don't disappear, nor do Soulstamps, or Fabrials, or anything we can see the Surgebinders using as a Focus. The sound from Commands does disperse, I suppose, but it doesn't seem related to the Investiture, just normal sound stuff.

 

So maybe the opposite is true. Maybe metal resists patterns, or some aspect of Investiture. And Aluminium best of all? Metal is used in Fabrials not because it holds the pattern, but because it contains it and shapes it, like a resistor in a circuit, or negative space in art. Metal on Scadrial thus reacts poorly when it tries to pass power through it, leading to it being dissolved. Metal inks and metal Awakening are difficult and tie into the resistance aspect directly.

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The "metal as an Investiture resistor" idea is one that I actually like quite a bit.  You have different levels or resistance based on the specific atomic pattern of the metal, much how you'd create different resistors (though that's with different amounts of windings in the resistor).

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A question, Tempus- what makes you think metal is rare on Roshar? I never got that impression. I know it is especially valuable to the Shin, but that is because they have a religious prohibition against mining (i.e. getting metal by breaking stone), not because metal is especially rare or difficult to find. I know that the Heralds soulcast iron for the people they were going to train when a desolation came, but that was a time issue- they didn't have time to wait for the metal to be mined; they needed weapons to fight the voidbringers.

I don't remember anything indicating that metal is particularly rare on Roshar, though.

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As for the fabrials all being metal, well, what are they going to use? They don't have wood, crem pottery is too flimsy, and shell would be gross. They have plenty of stone, but metal is lighteer and easier to work with. Look at the real world how often to you see jewelry with a gemstone set in something other than metal.

You're going to have to read my thread on fabrial metal settings, NutiketAiel, because I've already addressed that exact issue there.

 

The examples from Elantris don't really prove anything. We know that the material an Aon is written in or on doesn't matter, be it metal, stone, wood or dirt. The Elantrians just happened to use metal for their light fixtures, probably for aesthetic reasons, or because it reflected the light better. I think you're reading too much into it. As for the plates for human soul forging, we only have a very limited sample set, and no indication that nonmetalic objects are possible. It's a big step to draw your conclusion. Metal is light weight, durable and unobtrusive as ornamentation.

As NutiketAiel mentions, the material an Aon is written on is irrelevant - we even have a multi-material Aon in the form of the City of Elantris. That Aon also has subset Aons on it! Like the Aons on the stone walls of Elantris. In addition, I'll note that Soulstamps also can be carved into anything, with the only apparent quality difference being a purely physical one (how easy it is to carve and hold its shape). The ink for Soulstamps does have a realmatic property, though. It works best with organic inks over inorganic, animal matter over plant, and complex life form inks over simple life forms. Which has a nice parallel with Awakening materials.

I think you guys missed the point of the Essence Mark metal plate quotes I included above, because that's the same issue we have here, the issue of Investiture patterns on metal not acting like Investiture patterns on other objects. Most Soulstamps transform something as soon as they are used, but stamping a metal plate for the purpose of linking it to an Essence Mark does not transform the metal plate. The metal plate simply holds the pattern, the Intent, of the Soulstamps stamped on it, which will later be coupled with an Essence Mark that is stamped on the actual targeted person.

The same goes for AonDor. Most Aons we've seen used in the story of Elantris produced an effect on a target upon completion (e.g. when the chasm line was added to them post-Reod). The gigantic Aon Rao that is the city of Elantris, for example, actively targets the Regional Investiture of Arelon, amplifying the said Regional Investiture. In most of these cases, the Power of the Dor flows constantly through the completed Aon, affecting its target (which is oftentimes the Aon itself) as long as the Aon exists. The reason why solid material is sometimes used to create Aons is to allow for a more long-lasting and constant flow of the Dor's Investiture.

But this is not the case with the special metal plates scattered throughout Elantris. The flow of the Dor through the Aon Ashe metal plates, for example, is not constant, for it can be stopped or started by an Elantrian touching the plate. The Dor won't even affect an Aon Tia metal plate unless an Elantrian is activating it, again via touch. It is apparent that these metal plates are simply holding the pattern for a particular Investiture; they are simply attuned to that form of Investiture, the activation of which must first come from an outside trigger.

There is no non-metallic solid Aon that behaves like this. You can't just go to the center of Elantris and touch the ground to deactivate Elantrian powers, for example. If you want to deactivate the Aon that is the city of Elantris, you have to render that Aon wrong somehow (e.g. start another Reod-like event).

So, unfortunately, I will still maintain my position that metal is special in this way.

 

So maybe the opposite is true. Maybe metal resists patterns, or some aspect of Investiture. And Aluminium best of all? Metal is used in Fabrials not because it holds the pattern, but because it contains it and shapes it, like a resistor in a circuit, or negative space in art. Metal on Scadrial thus reacts poorly when it tries to pass power through it, leading to it being dissolved. Metal inks and metal Awakening are difficult and tie into the resistance aspect directly.

I'm sadly finding it difficult to grasp the difference between "holding a pattern" and "containing a pattern". They seem to be synonymous phrases to me. Perhaps you might want to clarify that, Tempus. Anyway, I think it might be more conceptually appropriate to think of metals as having a high Investiture conductivity, not resistivity. Metal is an excellent conductor of electrical and thermal power IRL. I think it might be the same with Invested power.

First, please note that the Allomantic inertness of aluminum is not an indicator of resistance to Investiture in general; otherwise aluminum can't be burned by an Allomancer at all (nor be used in Feruchemy or Hemalurgy). The Allomantic inertness of aluminum is therefore more accurately described as a quirk of the Intent of Allomantic Investiture mapped on aluminum, just like the difficulty of metal Awakening is a quirk of the Intent of BioChromatic Investiture (which prefers targets that were once alive). The Aluminum Allomantic Intent does not allow other Allomantic powers to affect aluminum, but allows aluminum to be used in Allomancy by Mistborn and Aluminum Gnats (albeit with a lame effect). This quirk obviously does not affect how aluminum is used in Feruchemy and Hemalurgy.

Next, the fact that metals can be burned by Allomancers is not an evidence of Investiture resistence, but is in fact the exact opposite. The easier it is for a form of energy to affect something, the less resistance it has to that form of energy. For example, when you pass enough electric current through a metal wire to make it melt, you don't attribute that melting to electrical resistivity, but rather to electrical conductivity, of which metal wires are known for having a high amount.(Edit: Wrong, as Tempus so kindly pointed out below.)

On the other hand, the theory I'm trying to put forth in this thread is only tangentially related to the Investiture conductance of metals. I'm more interested in the Realmatic malleability of metals. I think the "imprinting" effect I've described is due to how Investiture can mold the soul of a metal without necessarily changing it physically, allowing it to hold a certain Investiture pattern. Of course, this does not mean that non-metallic objects do not exhibit Realmatic malleability; metals are just the best when it comes to this specific aspect.

Edited by skaa
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So, unfortunately, I will still maintain my position that metal is special in this way.

 

Yes, I did miss that the first time, and I see what you mean. It's a good point, but I'm not sure it holds - we see a multistamp Forgery on the mural in TES, and the multiple stamps are not placed in metal but simply on the stone. It's unclear whether this is the same thing happening as with the Essence Stamps (a series of linked stamps) or whether they are three separate stamps each doing a certain thing, or if they are linked and stone can also achieve this property, and stone just doesn't do it as well as metal does.

 

It's also not clear that the metal in Fabrials does this. Some Fabrials seem to be always active (with available Stormlight), others activate on command. There could be a scale, but you'd have the superior list of Fabrials - I've taken relatively few notes on them.

 

 

 

I'm sadly finding it difficult to grasp the difference between "holding a pattern" and "containing a pattern". They seem to be synonymous phrases to me. Perhaps you might want to clarify that, Tempus.

 

Sorry, that was an error in phrasing. What I meant by 'contains it and shapes it' was simply 'the metal casing that contains the gem blocks the Stormlight emissions, the shadows and highlights of which are what Navani depicts in her notes and calls the Stormlight Pattern'. Basically, when you look at the picture, it looks like the metal frame is blocking the Stormlight the way a stick would block a flashlight beam. So the metal containing the gem (holding it) is generating the pattern similar to a shadow pattern (shaping it).

 

 

 

 

Anyway, I think it might be more conceptually appropriate to think of metals as having a high Investiture conductivity, not resistivity. Metal is an excellent conductor of electrical and thermal power IRL. I think the same goes with Invested power.

 

Next, the fact that metals can be burned by Allomancers is not an evidence of Investiture resistence, but is in fact the exact opposite. The easier it is for a form of energy to affect something, the less resistance it has to that form of energy. For example, when you pass enough electric current through a metal wire to make it melt, you don't attribute that melting to electrical resistivity, but rather to electrical conductivity, of which metal wires are known for having a high amount.

 

You are mistaken, all your science there is incorrect. Passing electricity through a perfect conductor has minimal loss. Passing it through a resistant material emits the energy as heat. It's called Joule heating, and the amount of energy emitted is directly related to the amount of resistance. The best substances for practical applications of this are resistant metals - strong resistors take too much power to heat, and weak resistors have too low an efficiency to produce enough heat. Incidentally, other energy can be produced than heat - this is also how incandescent lightbulbs work. Superconductor (zero resistance) have no Joule heating effect, and you can pass as much electricity through them as you like and they won't heat at all.

 

 

 

 

 

First, please note that the Allomantic inertness of aluminum is not an indicator of resistance to Investiture in general; otherwise aluminum can't be burned by an Allomancer at all (nor be used in Feruchemy or Hemalurgy). The Allomantic inertness of aluminum is therefore more accurately described as a quirk of the Intent of Allomantic Investiture mapped on aluminum. This Intent does not allow other Allomantic powers to affect aluminum, but allows aluminum to be used in Allomancy by Mistborn and Aluminum Gnats (albeit with a lame effect). This quirk obviously does not affect how aluminum is used in Feruchemy and Hemalurgy.

 

Aluminium is quirky, and it is not specific to Allomancy. It is noted by Brandon to have bizarre effects on every magic system, though not always the same effect as with Scadrial magic. It's also quite possible that Ralkalest in TES may be Aluminium. I don't have any more to say here, actually - aluminium is weird, we don't know nearly enough, and it probably shouldn't be brought up.

 

 

 

On the other hand, the theory I'm trying to put forth in this thread is only tangentially related to the Investiture conductance of metals. I'm more interested in the Realmatic malleability of metals. I think the "imprinting" effect I've described is due to how Investiture can mold the soul of a metal without necessarily changing it physically, allowing it to hold a certain Investiture pattern. Of course, this does not mean that non-metallic objects do not exhibit Realmatic malleability; metals are just the best when it comes to this specific aspect.

 

Right. I'm just noting here that 'Realmatic maelleability' as you term it isn't necessarily clear cut when it comes to patterns. If it were, metal inks should be great for Soulcasting, and metal should accept Commands very easily. It could also be a combination of things - why not? Perhaps the reason why metal can be used for on/off Aons is because it's resistant, so it blocks the flow of Investiture until it's short circuited and the pattern can be expressed. Or maybe it holds patterns well, but resists Investiture. Some possibilities to chew.

 

 

 


 

 

 
I don't remember anything indicating that metal is particularly rare on Roshar, though. 
 
Mining is uncommon on Roshar. In addition, metal seems to be slightly more rare. In Way of Kings, weapons are all metal, but armor is not (though shields seem to have metal bands sometimes). There are a few other odds and ends we see - one metal bar, one metal plate for cymatics, one basket, one metal spoon and two metal pans. One set of metal chains. A few metal buckles. Fabrials have metal casings.
 
Besides armor and protective gear (of which only Shardplate seems to be completely metallic), We see no metal in bridges, we see no metal building materials, though we see many of both. We see no non-fabrial metal fixtures.
 
Anyway, the armor thing, combined with the lack of mining and the WoB that there isn't much Aluminum naturally on Roshar always kind of gave me the impression that Roshar was poor in metals, and that the majority of their metals came from Soulcasting them into existence. I could be quite wrong, though!
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You are mistaken, all your science there is incorrect. Passing electricity through a perfect conductor has minimal loss. Passing it through a resistant material emits the energy as heat. It's called Joule heating, and the amount of energy emitted is directly related to the amount of resistance. The best substances for practical applications of this are resistant metals - strong resistors take too much power to heat, and weak resistors have too low an efficiency to produce enough heat. Incidentally, other energy can be produced than heat - this is also how incandescent lightbulbs work. Superconductor (zero resistance) have no Joule heating effect, and you can pass as much electricity through them as you like and they won't heat at all.

 

Eh, you're right there, Tempus. I remembered too late that resistance is not the same as insulation, and I wasn't able to edit my post since by then I was already on the train going to my workplace (yes, I'm currently multi-tasking between the 17th Shard and the code I'm fixing; I'm a bad code monkey). Anyway, that was an embarrassing mistake, and I apologize.

 

The concept of Investiture "resistance" of metal is a bit more appealing to me now, but I wonder if Investiture "reactance" would be a better fit. According to Wikipedia, electrical resistance and electrical reactance are similar concepts, but differ in that resistance opposes the passage of electric current, while reactance opposes the change in current/voltage. Since we're talking about keeping an Investiture pattern inside metal, opposition to Investiture change seems more fitting. In that case, metals in the Cosmere can either be Investiture capacitors or Investiture inductors. Or they can be both... in other words, they can be Investiture resonant circuits.

 

Now that's more like it! Don't you think this idea, that metals can act as Investiture resonators, making a specific Investiture pattern resonate more strongly, is an elegant way of describing what we've seen so far in terms of metal-based Investiture?

 

I like this theory! Everything up until the BioChroma explanation makes a good amount of sense. Metal is important in the Cosmere.

 

As to Awakening, I doubt that would work. To use Tempus' sliding scale of implicit vs explicit magic, Awakening is the most implicit magic (controlled by the will of the magic user) that we've seen. I think it requires too much of a mental picture/intent for there to be actual "fabrials" made of it, and if there was a way, it wouldn't be as easy as the one you've proposed here.

I almost forgot you there, Moogle! Well, I'm fine with the complaint that my proposal for Awakening technology is too simple. It probably is. I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to speculate on how Investiture patterns on metal could be used with BioChromatic Investiture.

 

About the "implicit vs. explicit magic" thing, I personally wouldn't assume that Awakening is always strictly limited to relying on mental pictures. Lightweaving is shown in the WoR Ars Arcanum as deeply desire-based, but we know that there are fabrials that use the Illumination Surge at least to some extent. Similarly, I wouldn't be surprised if there is at least a subset of Awakening Commands that can be stored as a pattern in metal.

Edited by skaa
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Just a heads-up to the two other people watching this thread. Thanks to Tempus, I've started reading a bit about electronics today, and I've come up with a much better term (in my opinion) for the attunement or imprinting of Investiture patterns: Investiture resonance. I believe that metals are the best Investiture resonators, even though other materials might have this property as well.

 

I have renamed this thread accordingly.

 

Also, I edited the original post to mention the use of silver on Threnody.

 

That is all.

Edited by skaa
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