Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The Mechanics of Curses

  1. Oct 13, 2011 #1

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    So, Uther Pendragon declares "None shall wield Excalibur but me!" and embeds the sword in the stone, where it remains despite the best efforts of the mightiest of Knights. How can this be?

    Well, Uther put a curse on it. He called upon the gods. "Hey gods, I've been good to you. I want this thing to happen." That's what a curse is. The gods said "mmmmm sounds reasonable, OK. We will keep a grip on that sword for you."

    I can get behind this. The only required premise of the story is that gods exist. From that everything else works tickety-boo. It is simple to picture some god devoting a molecule of his will to reach down from heaven and place an invisible finger on the sword, such that it cannot moved by man.



    Now, Thor.

    Odin declares "Only he who is worthy shall wield Mjölnir!" and embeds the hammer in the ground, where it remains despite the mightiest efforts of humans and fallen gods.

    Who enforces it? What higher power does Odin, the King of Gods call upon to grant him his request?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 13, 2011 #2

    FlexGunship

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    yhwh?
     
  4. Oct 13, 2011 #3

    FlexGunship

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Joking aside (let's get serious now), perhaps a curse could be implicit to the object. Maybe the mechanics of a curse don't rely on a super-being for enforcement. This might work if you believe that a certain set of words or perhaps an ineffable quality of the person lends special exception to the laws of physics.

    By these rules even a god could be cursed.
     
  5. Oct 13, 2011 #4

    Ryan_m_b

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I've always taken it that most mythologies (including the Judeo-Christian one which starts with a God ordering another entity) such as Greek, Roman and Norse have the universe as a separate supplicant entity under the Gods. I.e. God's are those who have the power to order the universe around and it will oblige. Odin, as king of the Gods, fulfils the role of God King in Norse mythology and thus his orders would have more of an effect than those of Thor and others.
     
  6. Oct 13, 2011 #5
    Excalibur was pulled from the stone by Arthur. So much for Uther Pendragon and his bargain basement curses. Odin is the man (can you say that?) as no one ever pulled mjölnir out of the ground. This fact was immortalized in song by Peter, Paul, and Mary.
     
  7. Oct 13, 2011 #6

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I would assume the physics of both curses actually work very similar to how a Chinese finger trap works.

    For excalibur, brute force of the strongest men wouldn't work, but a weak boy was able to remove the sword because he didn't rely on brute force.

    Similarly, stomping on the gas when your car won't go up an icy hill seldom works. One would probably have better results by lightly holding in the brakes with only a slightly less light touch on the gas. The slight pressure on the brakes simulates a limited slip differential and forces at least some of the engine's power to go the wheel that's spinning slower (or not spinning at all in the case of no traction at all for the spinning tire).

    Finesse can sometimes beat brute strength.
     
  8. Oct 13, 2011 #7

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    So, your model is that even the gods are lesser gods to the One God.
     
  9. Oct 13, 2011 #8

    FlexGunship

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yeah... and YHWH reports to Neo from the Matrix who, in turn, reports to Catbert, the evil head of human resources.
     
  10. Oct 13, 2011 #9

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yes, I follow your logic. That there isn't a nigh-omnipotent being managing the curse, the curse is a mechanism that has been set up and executed.

    The trouble I have with this is that the mechanics of the curse are dependent on a judgment call. How can you imbue the object with the ability to judge that Thor has become worthy by an act of selflessness? No matter how much you simplify it, something or someone is
    a] watching Thor's actions and
    b] deciding they qualify.
     
  11. Oct 13, 2011 #10

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    But you haven't addressed how the curse is dispelled. What changed such that Arthur could lift the sword? Well, some sentient being watching over the sword approved of him. We're OK with this because Gods do exist and control things.

    But what changed such that Thor could wield the hammer? Who made the judgment call and released it?
     
  12. Oct 13, 2011 #11

    FlexGunship

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Hmm, I can see what you're saying. The curse, itself, would have to have an innate moral sense if there's no custodial curse curator. Perhaps these types of things are overseen by some Bureau of Curses which makes the decision but doesn't have the ability to carry out the act itself; it would be like the court issuing a ruling which is upheld by the police. In this case, the court is a Bureau of Curses and the police is the mechanism implicit to the curse.

    EDIT: All offices are elected... none are appointed.
    DOUBLE EDIT: Except in the case of abdication, retirement, or forced expulsion in which case a replacement can be appointed directly by the chairman of the bureau itself.
    TRIPLE EDIT: The chairman's choice must be vetted by the bureau and the appointment must be approved by a simple majority of members in a vote held on the second Tuesday of each month.
    QUADRUPLE EDIT: If the second Tuesday is a holiday, then the vote may take place on the subsequent Wednesday.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2011
  13. Oct 13, 2011 #12

    Ben Niehoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Couldn't Odin himself watch over Mjollnir? Maybe his "curse" was more an announcement of his intentions.
     
  14. Oct 13, 2011 #13

    FlexGunship

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Don't be ridiculous! People don't just announce what they're going to do and then do it!

    Grr... now I'm going to hit the "Submit Reply" button.
     
  15. Oct 13, 2011 #14

    BobG

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Nothing had to change in order for Arthur to remove the sword. The only criteria was to avoid pulling so hard that they created a vacuum that sucked the underlying material in the rock ever tighter on the sword.

    The method used to remove the sword was indicative of the type of methods the remover would apply to ruling England. Whoever happened along and was of a personality type that didn't first resort to brute force or violence could have removed the sword and been the true king of England. England being a brutish place at that time, it was just rare to find someone who might rule with wisdom and creativity rather than by brute force alone. (In other words, everyone else in England at that time was simply too stupid to figure out how to remove the sword.)

    I don't know anything about Thor Hammer. Is he related to MC Hammer?
     
  16. Oct 13, 2011 #15

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    He promptly fell into a coma.

    Also, it seems pretty plain that is is not omniscient.
     
  17. Oct 13, 2011 #16

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Oh I see. It was a mundane (i.e. non-monitored) effect. Like climbing the pole with weights on your arms (in Mulan? or was that Pocahontas?) - turning a liability into an asset.
     
  18. Oct 13, 2011 #17

    Ben Niehoff

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Maybe he transferred his consciousness to the hammer, then.

    Although I think the real answer was already given. In Norse and Greek mythologies, the gods are not all-powerful, but there are still universal laws that apply to them. So even Odin must call out to the universe, or the world-tree, or something like that to enforce his curse.
     
  19. Oct 13, 2011 #18

    FlexGunship

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    What we really need is a Hogwarts teacher.

    And, hey, was Excalibur really cursed? Or was it just enchanted? Same with Mjolnir. A curse, to me, implies something actively negative.
     
  20. Oct 13, 2011 #19

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Again, magic explains Excalibur, where gods (or demons) operate invisibly as they choose.

    Still does not explain Mjollnir.

    Semantics. Curse and enchantment can be subjective. I can simply define a curse as any enchantment that acts as a liability rather than an asset to the user.
     
  21. Oct 13, 2011 #20

    DaveC426913

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yep. This is variation on the 'lesser gods with a Greater Power'. Greater even than the king of the gods of Asgard.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: The Mechanics of Curses
  1. Curse You Clear Channel (Replies: 18)

  2. Curse my good looks (Replies: 24)

  3. Spooky Madden Curse (Replies: 6)

  4. Cursed numbers? (Replies: 34)

Loading...