Theories Of The Shroud [GiTO]

Magic is largely a mystery. The Emergence is only 14 years old, and no Earther has the time or experience to have learned any more than the basics of magical lore. Even the Beyonders, with over 10,000 years of experience with the five Talents, can’t explain the vortexes, much less Black Skies.

As for the telecom shroud that hampers all telecommunication, Beyonders barely understand the theories behind electronics, much less what would cause them to go haywire. They simply have no explanations to offer.

So what theories have been cobbled together to explain the effects of the Emergence are unproven, tentative, and conflicting. Even so, they are the best that can be managed, for now.

The Shroud

After the Black Skies, conventional radio stations could operate, and could be clearly received, but only within 25 to 30 miles. Increasing the power of the broadcast does increase this range, but with decreasing efficacy: it takes larger and larger amounts of power to get smaller and smaller increases in range.

This dampening effect extends from mid-frequency radio waves, all the way through microwaves. It doesn’t seem to affect infrared radiation or higher frequencies, or mid to low frequency radio. Shortwave radio (and lower frequencies) are not noticeably affected.

(Careful measurement by researchers revealed the same dampening effect does affect shortwave, but the range decreases are on the order of a few feet.)

[Note: The following theories are an attempt to take known or suspected physical and metaphysical facts, and extrapolate from those an explanation for the telecom shroud. No one in-world knows this, but that approach is problematic when discussing magic. At some point, I hope get back around to explaining why.]

Theory One: Photon Wake

Electricity moving along a wire causes currents in magic. (This is the basis of technomagic.) Similarly, magical energies can interfere with, or enhance, electrical phenomena and other forms of energy.

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation, carried by photons. Certain frequencies of radio waves are believed to cause a wake in the magical field, a buildup of magical energy that is carried along with the photon.

This magical energy acts to disperse the energy of the photon, dampening the radio wave, causing it fade out far, far earlier than would otherwise be the case. An FM broadcast that might easily reach for hundreds of miles, is instead restricted to a range of only 25 or so.

(Different frequencies of EM energies interact with matter differently. Light and radio, for example, are the same thing, but one passes through walls and one does not. Thaumophysicists theorize that different frequencies of EM interact with magic differently, hence why light and shortwave isn’t dampened, but high frequency broadcasts are. There has been no systematic study of the ways that other frequencies of EM radiation might interact with magic.)

Theory Two: Contra-Light

It is known that dark is an active force in the Beyond (called “contra-light” by thaumophysicists), an energy that affects the world by canceling light. (Hence darklamps, which radiate darkness around them.) It’s also suspected that one of the fundamental laws of Beyonder physics is “Opposite energies are drawn to one another.”

Light is one example of EM radiation. Darkness, it is theorized, might be just one example of contra-EM energies, possibly including contra-radio. If so, then contra-radio would be drawn to radio waves, and act to dampen them out. Under this model, the problems with radio broadcasts are not due to a “magical wake”, but to contra-EM energy, of which dark is one example.

(This — posited but unproven — mutual attraction of opposite energies would also explain the dampening that afflicts fiber optic lines longer than 25 or 30 miles. Focused light would draw darkness to it, and that darkness would act to dampen it out.)

Empirical Problems

Direct observation of magical effects (to verify the photon wake or the attraction of opposite energies) is only possible through divining the shadow world (or by using one of the few spells and devisements that replicate applicable forms of divination). This is an inherently subjective and intuitive endeavor, subject to personal interpretation.

It is doubtful that observation of magic and magical energies could ever be mechanized, and thus the phenomenon never be precisely and specifically measured. Even if it could some day, it can’t right now.

There is thus no direct confirmation of the photon wake, broad-spectrum contra-EM energy, or the attraction of opposite energies. Both theories rest on speculation and extrapolation.

There is one more wrinkle. Reports from a single team of Guns in the Beyond claimed that there was no telecom shroud there: their radio broadcasts functioned normally. This report is unconfirmed, and likely to remain unconfirmed for some time.

It is difficult to access the Beyond, and even more difficult to carry out experimentations there. It would require crossing over, separating a party by more than 30 miles, and carrying out controlled experiments on multiple radio bands. Such expeditions have been proposed in thaumophysics journals, but no action has yet been taken.

In the meantime, technomages and spellcasters continue trying to identify a cause for the planetary blackout, so a means to counteract it can be devised. Others ignore the cause, and just seek to find a way to skirt the limitations of the shroud, so the slow and flaky Mesh might be replaced with something speedy and reliable.

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