(This is the fourth part of an ongoing series of skientific infestigations into the physics, chemistry and biology of Azeroth, the world known as ‘of Warcraft’. This will probably be gibberish unless you have read part 1, part 2 and part 3 first.)
The ecology of Azeroth, part 2
The strangest aspect of the animal life (and some parts of the plant life) of Azeroth is its physical nature. This section is based on the following observable phenomena:
- Fauna (and mobile flora) cannot pass through physical objects such as rocks, walls, etc.
- Fauna (including members of the PC races) can pass through other creatures and certain plants as if they were not there.
- Carried objects including weapons can pass through creatures without effect except during specific moments when the item’s carrier is in combat with the creature in question. These objects include a combatant’s native weapons such as fangs, claws or fists. Objects fired from a bow or gun can pass through a creature not in combat with the firer, to then strike and wound the intended combatant.
- Spirit creatures including ghosts cannot pass through walls, rocks, etc. but can be hit with any weapon, and can carry solid objects including coins and cloth. In other words spirit creatures are as corporeal as any other creature on the World of Warcraft, except for their partial transparency (though they still cast shadows—see below). This is not true of the spirit-forms of the PC races, who cannot harm or be harmed in the time between the death of their corporeal body and their resurrection, but which are also blocked by physical objects.
- All animate creatures can recover from life-threatening wounds to full health in minutes, and return to their regular activities as if nothing had happened.
- All animate creatures including spirits cast a shadow that is not influenced by the position of the sun or moon, other light-sources or other observable phenomena. Instead it always lies at their feet, as if they were being illuminated by a single point-source a short distance above their centre of gravity.
Based on these observations, we might hypothesise that there are two forms of matter on Azeroth. The first is ‘physical matter’, comprising almost all inanimate objects from mountains to fenceposts, major plant-life, and weapons. It is non-reactive, cannot be destroyed, and is essentially inert. The second is ‘animate matter’: if something on Azeroth moves or can be moved then it is made of animate matter, and conversely if it is not made of animate matter then it cannot move. Thus all living creatures, ambulatory plants, small vegetation, some small objects, ghosts and other spirit-based beings are all comprised of animate matter. Animate matter has a much lower molecular density than inanimate matter, and so any two objects made of animate matter can occupy the same physical space or pass through each other without interference or displacement.
However, this theory requires too many special cases and exceptions to be plausible. For example, it does not explain how weapons normally can pass through living beings without harming them outside a combat situation, but immediately combat starts will cause injury and death. Nor does it explain the movement of large pieces of Goblin engineering seen in Gadgetzan and Everlook, or zeppelins and ships which all move but appear to be made of physical matter. Besides, it does not fit any known theory of the way that the universe works, and there is another hypothesis that does, for a certain select value of ‘theory’.
Azeroth is a world in which all living creatures repeatedly retread the same paths to perform a small set of the same actions, often fighting and killing (or being killed by) adversaries that they have killed (or been killed by) many times before. Some have a wider range of actions than others, but none are able to break free and do what we would think of as ‘normal’ actions, either for animals—eating, breeding, dying of old age—or for intelligent humanoids—having a meal with friends, spending time with family, finding a partner, raising children, or retiring. We do not know why the animals do this; but the intelligent humanoids do it because they believe there is some kind of goal they are heading for, some kind of nebulous reward: power, reknown, perhaps an escape of some kind, a need not to participate in these actions any more.
When one combines these observations with the above notes on the fluid nature of living beings on Azeroth (their abilities to pass through some solid objects, for example) it becomes clear that there are parallels for this kind of existence in our universe, though one not properly understood or even recognised by most scientists. Nonetheless, in most cultures this state of being would be called an ‘afterlife’, and the people inhabiting it ‘ghosts’, trapped in a purgatorial netherworld where they must endlessly repeat the same actions, even if those actions include repeatedly dying.
This hypothesis fits well with many of the observable phenomena on Azeroth. It explains, for example, how in combat a sword can clearly be seen to bisect an opponent’s torso without cutting them in half or even leaving a visible wound. The only plausible explanation is that these beings are trapped in a spirit-based half-life of performing actions and missions that have been done a million times before, endless repetitions of violence and endless, meaningless deaths. Some conventional theories of such things would classify this as ‘Hell’.
We cannot hypothesise why this should be, or if there is any way for the inhabitants of Azeroth to escape from their situation.
(To be concluded, eventually in part 5)