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40d:Dwarven physics

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Dwarven physics is the study of how matter interacts with other matter within the world of Dwarf Fortress. Scholars of traditional Newtonian physics should note that Dwarven physics may or may not correspond with traditional Physics.

It is also worthy of mention that Dwarven physics is a highly complex subject, and thus only be approached by extremely intelligent, extremely curious, or extremely insane individuals.


Those familiar with traditional physics will recognize the following equation:

E = mc2

This equation, read from left to right, says: "Energy is equal to mass times the speed of light squared."

The following equation is known as the Dwarven Equation of Life, the Universe, and Everything, and is the Dwarven adaption of the above:

E mc2

From left to right, it says: "Energy may or may not equal mass times the speed of light squared." Needless to say, there is a small amount of ambiguity when dealing with Dwarven physics. It should also be noted that this can also be read as "Elephant dwarf marmot cat remains."

The Dwarven method[edit]

The Dwarven method is a rubric by which experiments in Dwarf Fortress are conducted, but should not be confused with the Scientific method. Although the rigidity of the Dwarven method is disputed, the majority of important Dwarven experiments follow the Method. The Dwarven method consists of the following general guidelines:

Sample size[edit]

Again, those familiar with traditional science may recognize the phrase, where it normally means, "The more the better." However, in Dwarven experiments, it means, "The bigger the better. For instance, a 500-meter magma fall is preferable to a 50-meter one. Now, if you had two 500-meter magma falls...


This is whether or not the experiment can be repeated, and if so, under what conditions. If there are few or no restrictions on repeatability, and your experiment receives the same results every time, it will likely be accepted as Dwarven fact. On the other hand, if said experiment can only be reproduced at infrequent or unpredictable intervals, and you were the only one to witness it, and you forgot to take a screenshot, and the experiment can only take place on your computer, and you mysteriously misplaced the savegame, your experiment will likely be dismissed as pointless drivel.

Dwarven factor[edit]

This factor is the approximate relative value of the prodigiousness of an experiment. Values must be real numbers, more specifically subsets of the Integer family. In layman's terms, the Dwarven factor is how awesome an experiment is. Keep in mind that the D-factor is relative, and thus intended to be compared with other values.

For instance, a cannon that shoots water may have a D-factor value of 100. However, if this cannon was constructed completely out of Adamantine, or if it was modified to shoot Magma instead, the D-factor may increase to several thousand, depending on the amount of magma used.

Note that a graph of the Dwarven factor may, and often will, asymptote. Vertical asymptotes are often seen when the D-factor of one experiment is just greater than that of another experiment.

Let us say that a hypothetical Player A constructed a catapult that hurls legendary Hammerdwarves at invaders, but Player B constructed a nearly identical catapult, except that it throws Zombie carp at invaders. Let us also say that the Zombie carp catapult has an assigned D-factor of 1,500. Both catapults ultimately accomplish the same task, (in this case, the complete annihilation of the invaders) but due to the inherent superiority of Zombie carp to hammerdwarves, (and everything else except Ironblood himself, booze, and magma) the Zombie carp catapult must have a higher D-factor than the other one. In this case, the D-factor graph of Catapult A will likely have an asymptote at 1,500. For those of you who aren't so calculus-savvy, this means that the D-factor of the "A" catapult will be approximately equal to 1,499.999999999, but will never reach 1,500.

Lastly, there is a direct correlation between the Dwarven factor and Sample size. Simply put, the bigger, the more Dwarvenly, ironic because the dwarves themselves are...small.

The Dwarven status quo[edit]

The Dwarven index is strikingly similar to the concept of entropy. Although it involves chaos, the Index is more related with the innate stupidity of dwarves. A rough example of entropy is if a dwarf is given two decisions, and it is completely uncertain which one he will choose. (The concept of entropy relates loosely to the Dwarven Equation of Everything.)

Even though it is similar to the concept of Entropy, the Dwarven index may produce different results, hence the differentiation between the two. The Dwarven index states, in a nutshell, that when a dwarf is faced with a decision he or she will make the wrong decision approximately 99.7% of the time. This could range from something minor like taking the long route to the kitchen, or to something like building a wall from the wrong side, getting stuck alone with a siege, dying a gory death, and sending the entirety of your fort into a massive tantrum spiral as the invaders split their sides laughing. While entropy will produce the wrong decision roughly 50% of the time, the Dwarven index will produce the wrong decision 99.7% of the time.

Summary of the Dwarven status quo[edit]

Dwarves are stupid.

Discrepancies between Dwarven and traditional physics[edit]

The following items are possible in Dwarf Fortress, but impossible otherwise.

Dwarven perpetual motion device[edit]

As the name implies, this is a device that continuously generates power. Specifically, it generates power by building a water wheel in a waterfall, then using said waterfall to power a screw pump. The screw pump is used to pump water back to its original Z-level and recycle it through the waterfall. Somehow, the device consistently generates a surplus of rotational energy.

Quantum garbage dumps[edit]

Perhaps the most common Dwarven anomaly, this is simply a 1x1 garbage dump zone, with massive amounts of items (usually stone) all contained in a single tile. The practicality is obvious—where else are you going to put all that stone?

Matter annihilation[edit]

Another common method of garbage disposal. Items and creatures in DF can be "annihilated" by placing them under a drawbridge, and lowering the bridge. This is an example where the Dwarven Equation of Everything states that energy is not equal to mass times the speed of light squared. If the opposite was true, players would witness a massive explosion and a corresponding drop in FPS rate whenever an item was annihilated.

Indestructible Ultra-fearsome-Vehicle[edit]

One special case of the Matter annihilation: annihilating the Matter of a wagon is simply not possible, which not only could be seen as further argument, that Dwarven physics have no relations between Matter and energy, but also it means that there must be kind of "God-Matter". But the latter is concern of the philosopher and his Dwarven philosophy.

Others point out that this is simply because wagons are too large to crush - observant individuals have noted that other large creatures such as dragons, giants, and even elephants and hippos are similarly immune to the matter-annihilating power of the drawbridge.

Matter creation[edit]

The reverse of matter annihilation is creating something from nothing. Examples include:

  • Obtaining enough sand from one tile to build a giant fortress out of glass
  • Obtaining an infinite amount of water from a single aquifer wall, isolated from the rest of the aquifer
  • Forging metal bars into blocks, increasing their mass by 25% in the process
  • Melting 25 individual metal bolts (which consumed 1 bar to make), and retrieving 2.5 metal bars from those.

General Relativity[edit]

It is also important to note that while relativity is indeed a proven phenomenon in Dwarven Physics, the catalyst for time dilation is not the speed an object moves at (as in traditional physics) but instead the population of its region. For decades, Dwarven Scientists have observed that, as local populations increase (dwarf, animal, or otherwise), the relative passage of time slows. To combat this, mayors have been known to enact ordinances ranging from the simple and logical to the ethically dubious.

In a recent study by the Center for Dwarven Advancement, it was found that 40% of pioneer dwarves left the Mountainhome due to "framerate issues," with a margin of error of ±Booze.

Box of Everlasting Fire[edit]

Throughout man's history, fire has been used a super-weapon (Greek fire, flamethrowers, napalm). For the dwarves, this has manifested itself most notably with magma, and though fire typically consumes oxygen, if contained within a magma-safe bin, combustible materials immersed in magma become an infinitely-fueled source of fun.

Super-Deadly Projectiles[edit]

Adventuring Dwarves have frequently noted that many objects can make quite effective projectile weapons. There have, in fact, been several documented cases of Dwarves pitching handfuls of vomit at elves, with deadly results. This is thought to be another manifestation of the Dwarven Equation of Life, the Universe, and Everything. In this case the (kinetic) energy of the thrown vomit increases without bound, often causing the target's torso to explode in gore. However, it is also a distinct possibility that the act of throwing the vomit causes a hiccup in the space-time continuum, and actually causes the constant of light-speed to decrease everywhere except for the thrown vomit, essentially causing the covalent carbon bonds in the impact area to time warp and royally screwing over the unfortunate Elf. This curious anomaly has lead to adventurers winging any random crap that they can find in the general direction of their enemies. Some dwarves complain that this is "unethical fighting," but braining an Elf with a Live beetle is, in most cases, just too tempting to resist.

Indestructibile Constructions[edit]

All modern Dwarvish construction is based upon the principles of making materials indestructible. Dwarvish masons and carpenters are trained to make walls and floors with stone and wood, but are also capable of putting the material into a quantum state where they cannot be moved or destroyed by conventional means. Such technology has allowed incredible feats such as magma reservoirs made of ice, or 1x1 soap pillars that can hold up an entire metropolis without additional support. This phenomenon has also been observed in the other races (but to a much lesser extent.) Humans have a very primitive understanding of it, making little wood huts, but these are dwarfed in comparison to the various megaconstructs built by the dwarves. The Elves have an irrational moral code which prohibits them from altering the quantum state of wood (they say it's inhumane.) Even goblins have utilized this construction method. Ever since the beginning of Dwarven construction, sieging parties have tried to find ways of countering dwarven constructions, with little success. However, through trial and error, it has been found that if the construct does not have a direct physical link to the Earth in its current state, it becomes very unstable and reacts violently with the force of gravity, then it hurdles itself towards the ground with enough force to obliterate anything underneath it.

Urist McPauli's Conditional Inclusion Principle[edit]

The pauli exclusion principle of Normal Quantum Physics (roughly) states that two elementary particles cannot occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. This prevents you from placing two objects at exactly the same place and holds your beer inside the barrel. The McPauli Conditional Inclusion Principle of Dwarven Quantum Physics however states that two particles may occupy exactly the same spot without any interaction, depending on the final object they compose. For instance, it is possible to stack an unlimited amount of Wooden Short Swords in a one-cubic-meter space, but it is impossible to place two assembled wooden beds in that same space, even though they are composed of a small fraction of the same wood. This is an interesting example of Dwarven recursive logic where consequences lead to causes.

What about a workshop that makes beds nobody will haul?

On a more theoretical (and less practical) side, it has been theorized that the workshops, where the wood is transformed into either short swords or beds, are actually quantum transformers where the basic properties of matter are altered : beds are made of standard, Pauli-compliant particles, while short swords are composed of non-fermionic thingies, although their true composition remains uncertain.

Dwarven Physics Mimetism[edit]

Physics Mimetism refers to the ability of dwarves to mimic real-world physical phenomena. The most well-known example of physics mimetism is the tantrum spiraling, which is almost identical in principle to a nuclear chain reaction, with only a slight difference: although the reaction is extremely exothermic, you cannot use this energy to power screw pumps. Yet.

Besides this difference, nuclear chain reactions and tantrum chain reactions behave in a similar way: Dwarves take the role of nuclear fuel nuclei, unhappy thoughts are similar to neutrons (with properties actually close to neutrinos, even lead doors won't stop them) and various devices like awesome rooms, lavish meals and booze serving as neutron moderators. When a dwarf-nucleus undergoes nuclear fission, it sends high-energy unhappy thoughts through the reaction chamber (the fortress). These unhappy thoughts interact with other dwarf-nuclei and may cause more fission events, leading to a chain reaction where more and more dwarves are tantruming. Fortunately, it is possible to moderate the effects of unhappy-thought-carrying-neutrinos by giving good, happy thoughts. The most common moderator is booze, but others exist, although less efficient. Taking joy in slaughter was once a popular unhappy-thought moderator, but is very dangerous to use, as it can accelerate neutrons instead of slowing them when overheated. This was a prime cause of the catastrophic meltdown of Dwarfnobyl which scattered deadly Elf settlements over a wide area (cleanup operations in progress).