PETER HIGGS: I’d like to again thank Scranton Community College and the New Jersey Youth Physics Foundation for extending this invitation to speak about my work. Their dedication to both training tomorrow’s scientists and paying my speaker’s fees in a timely manner is truly an inspiration to us all. But enough of my rambling on! Now that we’ve finished the presentation, I’d like to open the floor and encourage the inquisitive young minds here to spur some discussion about subatomic particles. Who’d like to begin? Yes, you there in the Lord of the Rings shirt. No, the other one. The other other one. Of Gandalf. Could you step up to the microphone, please?
STUDENT ONE: If my half-elf wizard fell off a castle parapet high enough to kill him, could he cast the Dimension Door spell to teleport safely onto a lower surface before landing? My Dungeon Master said the impact would be fatal but I don’t think so.
HIGGS: Hmm. Well, this wasn’t what I had in mind when I opened the floor, but in the spirit of education, let’s entertain the idea. This basically asks if the momentum is conserved after your wizard relocates, yes? It’s been years since I role-played a spellcaster, but even in quantum experiments teleportation appears to conserve momentum. Fatality depends primarily on how long he’s been falling and secondarily on how heavy he is. For humans in earth gravity, most falls above 46 meters are deadly, but I can’t speak for half-elves living in whatever escapist fantasy you’ve constructed for yourself. So, yes. Your Dungeon Master is most likely correct. What an enjoyable diversion! Thank you for that thought experiment. Now, who has a question specifically over the concepts we’ve covered in today’s lecture?
STUDENT TWO: If my sorceress wants to cast a fireball spell to follow a mortar-like parabolic arc, rather than a straight line and exploding on impact, could she do that? Isn’t that how gravity works?
HIGGS: Oh dear. Students, I admire the inquisitive nature required to come up with these unorthodox applications of physics, but I really had hoped to speak about my work. That said, if we assume that the fireball isn’t pure energy and does have mass, it would follow a parabolic arc after leaving your sorceress. I’ll leave the angle and velocity calculations to you and your Dungeon Master. Now, let’s return to subatomic particles, shall we? Who’s next?
STUDENT THREE: I’m a Dungeon Master for a group of fairly high level rogues. All of them picked the Deft Dodger feat, and now when fighting my army of liches, high dice rolls let them dodge almost anything, including fire and lightning. That’s absurd, right? No one can dodge lightning.
HIGGS: This is most upsetting. I’m very honored to be here speaking to you all today — truly, I am — but I did not earn my PhD as a tool to spelunk the semantics of graph paper dungeons. This is an intellectual discussion on the frontiers of science, not a Mountain Dew fueled Saturday at the back of the student center. And while it pains me to give legitimacy to this nonsense, you’re right. Energy emitted by radiation or electric current moves too quickly and chaotically to be dodged. But rules are rules, and you and your army of liches must abide by them. OK now, students, I beg you. Let’s return to the research I came here to present. Next question?
STUDENT FOUR: My friend’s gnome monk successfully performed a bull rush against my half-orc barbarian during a tavern brawl, which is impossible. There’s no way a 45-pound gnome can knock over 200 pounds of orc fury, right?
HIGGS: God in heaven — have you even read my work? Or more relevant to the question, your player’s manual? It explicitly states that a bull rush depends on the attacker’s roll and not a weight ratio. Dungeons and Dragons isn’t a physics simulator for the same reason that my Nobel Prize winning research isn’t a flannelgraph for your fantasy bullshittery. Next question!
STUDENT FIVE: My level 12 paladin was running full sprint before casting Circle of Power, and —
HIGGS: No, stop right there. This is absurd. Your paladin won’t learn Circle of Power until level 17. Does no one care about the mysteries of our universe? Or my work? Yes! Finally! You there with the purple highlights and your arm raised.
STUDENT SIX: If my wizard casts the Magic Missile spell while falling, is the range of the spell limited by the distance she’s already fallen?
HIGGS: The question and answer portion of the evening is now over. Goodnight and best of luck to all of you in your studies.