v0.31: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: "Elephant stockpile marmot cat refuse" "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 Dwarf.png 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. Even this formula is sometimes interpreted differently: "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 if 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 be over nine 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.

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.

Like entropy, the more time that goes by, the more Dwarves there are, the more chaotic it all gets.

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 humans are yet to learn from Dwarves how to build them in our own world.

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 waterwheel 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.

  • However, many dwarven physicists theorize that matter is not truly destroyed when the bridge is lowered, but rather, an inter-dimensional portal is formed, transmitting the items into a separate parallel universe. While the exact details are not known, dwarven physicists state that in this universe, items are randomly spawned whenever drawbridges are raised, cats pose no threat to fortress frame rate, and water pressure travels only diagonally.

Dwarves also currently appear to run on a metabolism that annihilates matter, as they are capable of consuming large quantities of alcohol and food without producing any sort of waste product, aside from an infrequent, but seemingly inexhaustible supply of vomit. The mass of food and booze, once consumed, simply ceases to exist.

Another interesting case of matter annihilation occurs in the seemingly ordinary craftdwarf's workshop, where a chunk of diorite which weighs 186 kilograms is somehow compressed into three diorite figurines, each weighing less than one kilogram.

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
  • Obtaining an infinite amount of food from a farm tile in spite of never having any soil replenished, no sunlight or other energy source, and only having needed to have the soil made wet and muddy only at one point in the entire history of the fortress. This goes hand-in-hand with the dwarven annihilation metabolism system.

Special 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.

Quantum Entanglement[edit]

Dwarven mechanics have apparently discovered a means of transmitting signals across arbitrary distances without requiring any physical connection between them - for example, a single lever can be linked to a door thousands of feet away using only one mechanism on the door and another on the lever, and pulling the lever will instantly cause the door to open or close. Some have speculated that the Dwarves have discovered a means of utilizing quantum teleportation to transmit both information and energy.

Urist's First Law of Relativity[edit]

As featured here.[1]

Urist's Law of Relativity #1

The higher the Z-level, the larger the Z-level. eg. At Z-level 0 (Yes 140 from where your wagon drops) 7/7 is slightly above a human's head. At Z-level 100, 7/7 water is about at the shoulders of a adolescent Bronze Colossus.

If you follow the formula put forth by Dwarves, a child is 1/4 of a normal creature. So an adolescent would be around 1/2, or 1/3 for a small one, of the size of a normal creature. A normal BC is 20,000,000 size. That puts an adolescent between 6,666,667 size and 10,000,000 size. A full grown human is 70,000. Plenty of padding in that law to make a 2000 Z-level tower go to Pluto and back.

Indestructible 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 wood or 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 inelvane.) 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 hurtles 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 particle cannot occupy the same quantum state simultaneously. This prevents you from placing two object at the exact 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 the exact 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. As long as the two beds are not assembled though, then said beds can occupy the same space easily. 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 bed, 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 remain 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 wont 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 nuclear fissions, 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 reaction of Chertnobyl which scattered deadly Elf settlements over a wide area (cleanup operations in progress).