Data File Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2017

While every healthy Loroi has some telepathic ability, psychokinesis is more rare and unpredictable. Psychokinesis is the manipulation of matter and electromagnetism using mental power. Psychokinetic abilities can move objects at a distance, make them hotter or colder, or interfere with electrical systems. I will refer to psychokinesis with the abbreviation "PK" throughout this article.

PK is rare among Loroi, occurring in less than five percent of the population. There is no known gene for PK; rather, it is an emergent trait that is unpredictable and not very well understood. Offspring of parents with PK are statistically more likely to have PK themselves than children of normal parents, but it's not clear exactly why. PK can appear in either female or male children. As soon as PK use is identified in an individual, he or she is promptly rushed into special testing/training programs. Female psychokinetic children will usually be trained as Teidar (Unsheathed) or Mizol specialists, regardless of what caste the mother came from -- this is one of the few cases in which a civilian child may be permitted to enroll in a military caste. Male psychokinetics are cloistered within a specialized philosopher order, about which little is known.

Usage, Power and Skill

Most psychokinetic abilities such as telekinesis may be used at will, instantly, without cost. Some of the more taxing abilities require careful concentration and may be fatiguing to the user to maintain over extended periods. As with telepathy, the strength of psychokinesis depends on the user's inherent power, which is essentially inborn and once the user has reached her full potential, power can only be improved through the use of mechanical amplifiers. The degree of control that a user has over her abilities is determined by skill, which is learned and may be improved through practice. Most PK abilities are very difficult to master and require a great deal of rigorous training. Fireblade has very high PK power but limited skill; she can shove very heavy objects but not finely manipulate them. Tempo, on the other hand, has low PK power but excellent skill; she can lift less than a kilogram, but can finely manipulate remote switches and rearrange the objects on your desk when you're not looking. Although use of some difficult PK abilities may fatigue the user, the actual kinetic energy that is exerted is not drawn directly from the psi herself. The energy comes from "somewhere else." Also, the user does not experience any "equal and opposite" force to the one she is exerting; when she pushes against an object, she herself is not pushed in the other direction. For more on this see Laws of Physics below.

Range

Except where noted otherwise, there is no explicit range limit for PK abilities, but the user must be able to accurately visualize or touch the object. Visualization may be through artificial or telepathic means, or via some other sensory method, usually at a penalty to effective skill. Relying only on one's own vision, range will be practically limited to that at which you can accurately judge distance, which will probably be 25-50 meters for most people. A living target may give off a telepathic signature that can be used to help in determining range, so attacks against a living target will be subject to telepathic sensory range. Attacks at very long range will be very difficult; looking through a scope will let you see a target at long range, but will not help you judge the distance.

Limitations

Because psychokinetic abilities are mental, psychology can be a significant factor in their use, and a user's personal quirks may limit her power in some circumstances and enhance it in others. Such arbitrary limitations are relatively common Loroi PK's. For example, Teidar Mothwing is able to levitate herself by telekinesis with ease, but she can only lift external objects that are about half her weight. Fireblade's psychokinesis is partially uncontrolled; she experiences a dramatic increase in power when she becomes enraged.

Amplification

When the Loroi first explored Mezan (the innermost planet of Deinar) in 780 CE, among other Soia-era artifacts they discovered remnants of ancient psionic amplifiers. While the Loroi to this day to not fully understand the principle on which these amplifiers work, they were able to reverse-engineer them and duplicate their effect, which is to increase the base power of telepathic or psychokinetic abilities by 50% or more. The nation that conducted the mission (Zaral) used these new amplifiers to devastating effect in the Deinar World War that followed some 50 years later.

Current psychokinetic amplifiers are comparatively small and portable, weighing just a few kilograms, and are worn on the head of the user. PK amplifiers must be tailored to each individual PK user for optimal effect, and increase in power varies by individual. A variety of side effects can result from amplification, again varying by individual, including headaches, fatigue, nausea, temporary impairment of vision, or reduction in effective PK skill. In extreme cases of prolonged amplification, lesions or plaques can form in the brain, resulting in seizures, permanent loss of vision, psychosis, or even death.

Teidar PK's are nearly always outfitted with appliances for both psychokinetic and telepathic amplification, which they tend to wear at all times while on duty. Mizol occasionally use telepathic amplifiers for specific purposes, but rarely wear PK amplification appliances.

Psychokinetic Abilities

The list of abilities below is not exhaustive, but rather consists of those that are available to the Teidar and Mizol characters in the story (chiefly Fireblade and Tempo). Each listed ability represents at least one separately trained skill, but all are based on the same psychokinetic power.

Telekinesis

This is the ability to move objects by mental power. Telekinesis (TK) can be used to move any object, including yourself; if you have power sufficient to lift your own weight, and control such that you don't hurl yourself into the ceiling, you can "levitate" with it. TK power is rated by the maximum amount of kinetic force that a user can exert on an object (see table below); a sufficiently skilled user may affect multiple objects at once, but the total force should not exceed her maximum rating. A user may attempt to strain and exert more than her normal rated force, but this extra effort will rapidly fatigue the user and will usually reduce effective skill level.

A TK can throw objects at a target (or the target itself into a wall), but she can also attack the target directly with pure force. Such attacks bypass armor and can potentially be targeted at vulnerable organs (such as the brain), and so are potentially deadly even at modest power levels. Given more time and the appropriate anatomical knowledge, a less powerful TK can attack by constricting the heart, pinching off blood vessels, etc. The table below lists maximum kinetic force and damage from a brute-force direct TK attack by PK power (the strength and damage values are from the GURPS system; the damage numbers have no relation to those in the Shipboard Weapons Profiles):

Kinetic Force and Damage by Psychokinetic Power Rating
PK Power Kinetic Force ST* Damage**     PK Power Kinetic Force ST* Damage**
1 1/4 oz (0.07 N) 0 0   14 125 lbs (556 N) 5 0-1
2 1/2 oz (0.1 N) 0 0   15 250 lbs (1,112 N) 10 0-4
3 1 oz (0.3 N) 0 0   16 500 lbs (2,224 N) 20 1-11
4 2 oz (0.6 N) 0 0   17 750 lbs (3,336 N) 30 3-18
5 4 oz (1.1 N) 0 0   18 1000 lbs (4,448 N) 40 4-24
6 8 oz (2.2 N) 0 0   19 1250 lbs (5,560 N) 50 5-30
7 1 lb (4.5 N) 0 0   20 1500 lbs (6,673 N) 60 6-36
8 2 lbs (8.9 N) 0 0   21 1750 lbs (7,785 N) 70 7-42
9 4 lbs (18 N) 0 0   22 2000 lbs (8,897 N) 80 8-48
10 8 lbs (36 N) 0 0   23 2250 lbs (10,009 N) 90 9-54
11 15 lbs (67 N) 0 0   24 2500 lbs (11,121 N) 100 10-60
12 30 lbs (133 N) 1 0   25 2750 lbs (12,233 N) 110 11-66
13 60 lbs (267 N) 2 0   40 6500 lbs (28,915 N) 260 36-216

*ST = Strength equivalent: typical human = 10. **Damage: 10 points can kill a typical human.

Telekinesis can also be used as an active defense, to block/parry a blow or to swat away a thrown object. The user must be able to see the attack and be quick enough to respond to it -- things like bullets could not be deflected in this manner, unless the user had some superhuman method of being able to see and react to a bullet in flight.

Thermokinesis

This is the ability to raise or lower the temperature of an object by exciting or slowing molecular motion within it. The rate at which this is accomplished depends on the mass of the object and the PK power of the user: 1 kg of mass can be heated or cooled by 28 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) each second for each level of PK power.

Electrokinesis

This is the ability to increase or dampen electrical activity. A user can attempt to damage a device by triggering an electrical surge, or shut one down by dampening the electrical field within it. This ability can even be used to attack a person, by disrupting the electrical impulses of the nervous system.

Feedback

Although most PK abilties provide no direct feedback (the target must be visualized or sensed in some other manner), some sensitive psychokinetics do have the ability to sense electromagnetic fields or even matter itself. The ability to sense energy has a relatively short range (typically tens of meters), and the ability to sense matter has an even shorter range (often less than a meter), but users with these sensory abilities may be able to directly image the interior of a target without any other outside assistance, making them especially dangerous.

I had said in posts before that "there is no TK sense," but that was something of an untruth. What I meant was that telekinesis itself does not have inherent feedback, and that Fireblade in particular does not have this separate PK sensory ability.

I Canna Change the Laws o' Physics... or Can I?

In addition to the question of how the effect is generated in the first place, psychokinesis as described in Outsider violates two laws of physics: the First Law of Thermodynamics (which states that energy cannot be added to or removed from a closed system) and Newton's Third Law of Motion, which states that for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Outsider "solves" this problem by not dealing with it: in an argument similar to the one used for hyperspace, we merely suppose that the PK force and the energy that powers it is somehow summoned from "outside" our observable system.

This may seem like a cop-out -- and it is -- but given the story requirements, there aren't many better options. More "realistic" psi systems that require the psi's body to supply the energy for her abilities and to experience an equal and opposite reaction force would make such abilities useless in story terms.

The more "realistic" you try to get with telekinetic systems, the more problems you run into. If you're experiencing the Newtonian "pushback" from your TK use, chances are you're experiencing that force specifically in whatever organ is producing the "TK field". How much force you can apply is going to be limited by how much pushback force you can withstand yourself, and if said organ is your brain, that's going to be a serious limitation. Even if the pushback force is somehow spread across your whole body, your TK is still going to be limited more or less to the amount you could physically lift yourself. Trying to lift a boulder is out of the question... you'll crush yourself. Then there's the question of the first law of thermodynamics: how do you supply the energy required to generate TK force? If your body is required to supply this energy through it's own metabolism, this is also going to limit you to lifting not much more via TK than you could physically. I recall someone telling me about a system for powering TK -- I think it might have been a Niven short story -- in which the TK user "paid" for the TK use by having heat drawn out of his body... and if he lifted something too heavy, he'd freeze to death. You could develop some sort of "equal exchange" system to justify the power source, similar to that used in Full Metal Alchemist, in which which the TK user converts matter to energy and uses this to somehow generate a force. However, it seems to me that these "solutions" create more believability problems than they solve, as they sound as much like magic as any other part of the system.

The Outsider story requirement is that Fireblade has very powerful telekinesis, able to apply several tons of force. Given this requirement, it seems to me the only "realistic" solution is that this force and the energy required to power it can't originate directly from Fireblade's body, as the "equal and opposite" force would kill her, and a humanlike body really isn't capable of producing that kind of energy anyway. So that means it has to come from somewhere else. Where? I think it's best in this case to say "nobody knows" and leave it at that.

Adding detail does not always add realism. If you're on shaky scientific ground to begin with, trying to explain a system you don't understand can do more harm than good. There is also the issue of artificial replication: the more you understand about the mechanism that makes psi work, the more likely you should be able to artificially replicate the effect and eliminate the need for living psis altogether, which defeats the purpose of having psionics in the first place.

Q&A

Does the force available depend on the mass, volume, or cross section of the object? Or can it be exerted on a small pebble as easily as on a wall?

I think this would depend on your degree of skill at manipulation. Ideally, you could choose whether to spread the force across a large area or focus it on a small area.

As for the PK...regardless of heat capacity or phase changes? Or for your typical bag of mostly water?

Both PK applications involve adding energy (in the form of heat or kinetic energy) essentially from "somewhere else," so I wouldn't think that conductivity or heat capacity of the target would matter.

Speaking of which.. can Loroi detect the use of telepathy (specifically subtle tk) by other Loroi?

Telepathy can be detected, but it's not automatic, especially if the user is attempting to conceal it. Psychokinesis can only be detected by individuals with specific skills to detect it.

It has been mentioned that Teidar can take out armored vehicles. Fireblade can exert several tons of force but that's not even enough to lift a turret out, much less tear it apart, and she's one of the most powerful Teidar there is. If by tear apart you mean she can pull bits and pieces off then yes, faced with an Abrams she could probably rip the Ma Deuce off of it or break the optics, but she's not going to be able to split the tank in half.

Fireblade can punch holes in armored vehicles (or anything else) by heating a location on the surface until the structure begins to fail, then applying force to the heated section. This does take several seconds, so a quicker and more effective way to disable an armored vehicle is usually to attack something more vulnerable: the treads, the weapon, the fuel tank, the crew,. etc. Since Signature detection can be used to locate the crewmembers, even if they are not visible, the crew is an especially vulnerable target.

See also: Telepathy