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Surgebinding explained through L-Theory


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NOTE: With the writing of the Theory of Identity, this theory needs to be updated, though some basics are covered in the second post of this thread.

Some of you may have read skaa's L-Theory of Realmatic Strings. If you haven't, I would advice you to read that first, as this theory is an application of L-Theory. I will, however, give a short recap. The theory is based on string theory, and uses it as well as a hypothetical "strange loop", that has been proposed as the reason consciousness exists, as the base of the Cosmere, together with one extra addition: L bosons (the 'magic particle', which are, when they have null Intent, the photons of our universe) can shape strange loops, and strange loops, once existing, can direct L bosons. Additionally, everything has at least some kind of strange loop, which is why, in the Cognitive Realm, even sticks turn out to have Identities.

So I figured, after having read it myself, that this theory had quite a good shot at being correct. Thus, it should be possible to derive the magic systems in the Cosmere from it. This is the first part of that - Surgebinding, the magic of the Stormlight Archive. I will create a seperate post for either each Metallic Art or all Metallic Arts together (depending on how extensive it will be) once I am finished with them, and I'll also write a seperate post somewhere in between on what exactly Hemalurgic spikes can steal, as five of the metals, according to Coppermind, have an unknown effect; however, from what I've figured out so far, it appears that they can be derived from the workings of Allomancy and Feruchemy.

But let's get into it. Surgebinding. All Surges are fueled by Stormlight. Stormlight, of course, is light, or photons. And as L-Theory posits, photons with Intent are L bosons, or, in other words, the quantum of Investiture (aka magic). Therefore, Stormlight is actually just pure magic. No need to do anything with it anymore, it's ready to be applied. That's why there's no "burning", like there is in Mistborn, or drawing figures, like in Elantris. So, we got our magic ready to be used. How do we now use it? Well, Tanavast most likely did do something to Stormlight that locked it away from humans, except if a certain requirement was met: They were to have a Nahel bond (or an Honorblade; are those officialy Nahel bonds?), and the type of bond would determine which two Surges someone could use out of the ten: Adhesion, Gravitation, Division, Abrasion, Progression, Illumination, Transformation, Transportation, Cohesion, Tension. So, let's work through all the Surges, see what they do and how they accomplish it.

Two minor notes:
1. With some Surges we haven't seen yet I also have to make some assumptions as to what they can do.
2. With some of the Surges (most notably Gravitation) I have left some arguments or explanation out because it would become too long-winded otherwise (even by my liberal standards). This post is here primarily to explain the connection between L-Theory and the Surges; if there's stuff you disagree with or don't understand, feel free to ask away.


Basically just sticking stuff together. This is done, on a particle level, by creating molecular bonds (this is the only form of adhesion that is not in any way related to friction, and friction is covered by the Abrasion Surge). Knowing the average demographic of people on this kind of site, most people who read this probably have some understanding of molecular bonds, but what is important to realize is that, even though it is often said that atoms have a fixed maximum number of bonds (4 for Carbon, 3 for Nitrogen, 2 for Oxygen, etc), this is actually not exactly true. This 'maximum' is the preferred state (which means it has optimal energy storage), but they can have more bonds. By forming these additional bonds, which is what the Adhesion Surge does, two surfaces that aren't supposed to stick together now actually do stick together. Now, this does of course mean that you have more bonds than the preferred state, and this costs energy. The pool of Stormlight that keeps the Adhesion going, however, is this energy; the L bosons in this pool excite (= give their energy to and are absorbed by) the electrons, and this energy allows the adhesion to continue a little while longer. Once there are no L bosons leftover anymore, the fun is over and the sticked person/thing falls to the ground.


This one is for most people probably the most interesting one, as I am actually going to propose something totally new: the Gravitation Surge is not actually about manipulating gravity. Think about it for a moment. We've just established that, most likely, L bosons (photons) are the quantum of Investiture. But that's not all - photons are also the quantum of the electromagnetic force, according to particle physics. What Gravitation actually does, is create an electromagnetic field directly from the L bosons, which can have a variety of effects. The Basic Lashing is contained within a single Identity, and therefore only works on that object or person. In this case, it has an electromagnetic force into the direction the Lashing is aimed. The Reverse Lashing, on the other hand, works in an area, and pulls everything in an area around it towards it. Now, an obvious consequence of this theory, is that it is also possible to use a Reverse Lashing to push things away from a person or object; you simply reverse the force. It's not mentioned on the Coppermind at all, so one might think we haven't seen it. But have we really not? What to think about Kaladin's bridge runs? He never got hit. A pull from a Reverse Lasing cannot accomplish that. It has to have been a push.


It gets a bit harder here, as we haven't yet seen Division. We do have a WoB, however, that tells us that Division has something to do with breaking molecular bonds. Sadly, I cannot link to it as I only know of it's existence because someone happened to quote it earlier today, and he did not link to it either. However, breaking molecular bonds is quite easy to explain; just like with Adhesion, you hit the electrons with the photons to excite them and give them more energy. In this case, however, the bond is the preferred state, and exciting the electrons actually gives the energy for the bond to disappear (a bond is a way to save energy). Next thing you know, you're not dealing with a living organism, but instead a cloud of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon mono- and dioxide with a dirty puddle of water and carbon on the ground. And some trace elements.


Fair warning, I haven't read Edgedancer yet, so I only have the interlude and Coppermind to go on. However, it appears to me that Abrasion requires physical contact (and then goes on to manipulate it). The easiest way to do this manipulation, is to create very small electromagnetic fields at the edge of your skin, which differs from Gravitation in that Abrasion only affects the sub-Identity of your skin, or even just a part of it. It then either pushes, which means that the surfaces cannot actually touch each other, or pulls, which forces the surfaces to touch each other strongly. Note that, actually, it doesn't even manipulate friction; it simply changes the circumstances where friction does or does not play a role.


Progression, also called Regrowth, can be used to heal people or grow plants. Additionally, it appears that it works the same as the natural healing ability that all Surgebinders have as long as they have access to Stormlight. Most likely, when Progression is used, L bosons directly interact with the Identity of the person or organism it is used on, after which they are targeted (as theorized in L-Theory) by the Intent of of the user to "repair" those places where Identity does not match reality. Remember that this is how Stormlight healing also works - Kaladin's brands won't heal, because he consider them a part of him; it's part of his Identity.


Viewed from L-Theory, Illumination, or Lightweaving, is without doubt the purest of the Surges. You directly influence L bosons to do stuff, and you get illusions - the base of L-Theory itself. Of course, the illusions that can be created by Lightweaving can also include sound. So, how's that work? Simple. You make particle strings vibrate by hitting them with L bosons, and then the endpoints in the Physical Realm move as well - and that's precisely what sound is.


Changing something into something else. This one, as well, has been touched upon by L-Theory itself, as Identity can be shaped by L bosons, and a sufficient number of L bosons can override resistance from Identity. This overriding is what Transformation starts with, and after the Identity has been changed (this is the "convincing" part with the famous stick) the L bosons that were doing the convincing now perform the same trick as with Progression to have the object match the new Identity. Note that Transformation is intristically related to singular objects with boundaries, as it is related directly to Identity - no changing a little part of something unless that little part has it's own sub-Identity (which, by the way, does exist according to L-Theory).


Also called Elsecalling. This is my personal favorite, as I believe that this Surge is very intristically related to L-Theory, and the ability to explain Transportation so well using the theory may very well be the strongest argument in favour of it. As discussed at greater length in L-Theory itself (and of couse snare theory), every particle is actually the endpoint of a snare. L-Theory posits two additional theorems. First, the Cognitive Realm is where the snare passes through (with the Spiritual Realm being the other endpoint). Second, strange loops literally forming a loop, as Connection connects Identity to itself. Now, what I believe Transportation does, is that it takes the strings of the particles that form one's body and form literal loops out of those particle strings (which can be done by L bosons as they can influence strings, remember), meaning that they have no more endpoints, and are therefore fully in the Cognitive Realm, instead of having endpoints in the Spiritual and Physical Realms. Later on, these loops can be unlocked again, and the endpoints return to the Spiritual and Physical Realms. This also explains why, as Jasnah says, it is so dangerous - not because the Cognitive Realm itself is dangerous, but rather because you're actually ceasing from existence in the Spiritual and Physical Realm while you're in the Cognitive Realm. There's quite clearly a lot that can go wrong there.


We have not seen Cohesion being used in-universe, and on top of that we do not, at least to my knowledge, have a useful WoB on it, like we do with Division. However, cohesion is very much something that exists and is well-understood in daily life. Now, I'll just go straight to the point, a very interesting thing about cohesion, is that it works through electrical attraction. What cohesion does, basically, is that it holds together identical atoms or molecules that have the freedom to move independently from one another (read: solids don't have cohesion, gases and liquids do), which mostly creates surface tension, but it stands to reason (and this is a truly interesting quality for a Cohesion Surgebinder) that if you increase the cohesion of a gas enough... it becomes a liquid. Or, the other way around, cohesion is reduced, and a liquid turns into a gas. Now, to return to the topic of "how does a Surgebinder achieve this from L-Theory", it's simple. Electric attraction, we got our L bosons to carry electric force, job done.


Tension is cohesion, except it's the solid variant. The strength of the molecular bonds in the solid, to be precise. So what Tension probably does is increase or decrease the strength of molecular bonds. In doing so, however, it will likely not be similar to Division, even if it is used to decrease the strength of the bonds. Division simply increases the energy of specific bonds so that they have enough energy to not hold anymore, while Tension affects the strength of a material as a whole and makes the whole stronger or weaker. As solids have free electrons (they're not bound to one singular atom, but are rather to be found all through the material), increasing the energy of the electrons (by hitting them with photons) will mean that less additional energy input (from, say, a powerful strike with a sword) is required to break the material, wheras decreasing the energy of the electrons (by having them emit photons) will mean that more additional energy input is required to break the material.

Well, that's it. Go ahead, rip it apart. I know you want to.

Edited by Leyrann
Minor edits to fix minor stuff
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You're all too late. I'm gonna rip it apart myself. Kind of.

On the Oathbringer spoiler board (note: no actual spoilers in this post, but you have been warned when clicking the link) someone proposed that the Knights Radiant can be divided into three different triplets of Orders, with the Bondsmiths not part of a single Order (though I believe each of the Bondsmiths leads three Orders). Now, I already noticed that, in Feruchemy, three of the quadrants of metals are called "Physical", "Cognitive" and "Spiritual" (Allomancy is similar but has different names and is therefore less clear; this will however play a part when I get around to explaining the Metallic Arts through L-Theory). I now think that both the Surges and, consequently, the Orders can be sorted into the same three groups, with the Surges as well having an odd one out. Now, the base of this is actually a quote from the Way of Kings Ars Arcanum that was already itching me (also because it's mentioned in L-Theory):

"A Basic Lashing involved revoking a being's or object's spiritual gravitational bond to the planet below, instead temporarily linking that being or object to a different object or direction." (no, I don't do fancy quote tags)

Now, I originally proposed that the Gravitation Surge was related to the electromagnetic force. It may still be, but let's for a moment just leave that. Let's also assume that the Surges that fall under one category are next to one another in the standard order.
The Physical Surges are very easy to find: There are exactly three Surges that are directly related to chemistry, namely Cohesion, Tension and Adhesion. This also shows in my explanations above, where these manipulate things molecules do. Note that, though Division seems similar, it actually isn't: Division can only break bonds, wihle the Physical Surges can all weaken or strengthen bonds (at least I assume that Adhesion can be ended prematurely).
The Cognitive Surges aren't that hard either: Illumination is, according to L-Theory, intristically related to Identity, Intent and all that kind of stuff. Transformation and Transportation actively require the Cognitive Realm.
As for the Spiritual Surges, we have a mention in the Ars Arcanum that implies Gravitation is Spiritual in nature... but we had an electromagnetic nature! Or may that be correct after all? After all, we also have Division and Abrasion, and for Abrasion I also proposed an electromagnetic nature. Now, for Division I did not - but what I was just totally off on Division? What if, in fact, you're not directly putting energy in bonds, but rather, Division is related to electrochemistry, and it uses similar concepts in order to break the molecular bonds? This would give it a very clear connection to electromagnetic (or just electric, which is part of it) effects, while indeed having the clear application of 'breaking molecular bonds'; that's just what electrochemistry does. Additionally, whenever spirits and the like are explained in a semi-scientific way, people always grab electromagnetic stuff for it, and in a weird way that I can't really explain, it just makes sense.
Of course, we still have a single Surge left over: Progression. I think this is the odd one out between the Surges, as it is a power that, for the most part, all of the Orders can actually access, it is simply that only those who have Progression as a Surge can also use it on others or on plants. So, to summarize:

Physical: Cohesion, Adhesion, Tension.
Cognitive: Illumination, Transformation, Transportation.
Spiritual: Gravitation, Divsion, Abrasion.
Odd one out: Progression.

Lastly, this can be translated to the three groups of Orders. First of all, the Bondsmiths are 'out', as they are a special Order. This means that there are only three other Orders which have at least one of the Physical Surges, and these are the Stonewards, Willshapers and Windrunners. Furthermore, the Cognitive Orders are then the Truthwatchers, Lightweavers and Elsecallers, and the Spiritual Orders are the Skybreakers, Dustbringers and Edgedancers. Additionally, we see that the border between the Spiritual and the Cognitive Orders lies at Progression.


So, as for "Surgebinding explained through L-Theory" as a whole, I very much stand behind it still - maybe even more now - and I'll probably work on a revisited version that includes these new ideas so that I can explain everything better. I do believe that it may be even more intristically related to the Three Realms than I previously thought, and I also believe that something similar holds for the Metallic Arts, so I might actually look at both at once. Until I post that, however, consider this post an addition of the original theory.

And feel free to challenge stuff and propose other things! I don't doubt that there's stuff still missing.

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