You'd think that a fantasy show would be untouchable by real-world science, but nothing is untouchable to Neil deGrasse Tyson—not even the Game of Thrones dragons.
The dragons of Game of Thrones [Image by HBO]
Warning: Game of Thrones season 7 spoilers ahead.
Is there anything more emblematic of the fantasy genre than large, mythical, fire-breathing dragons? Usually, we don't really question the believability of the common elements of fantasy, as long as they don't get too outrageous. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but studying fantasy elements to see how scientific they are is another.
Famed television personality, astrophysicist, and unofficial spokesperson for science in general, Neil deGrasse Tyson, has weighed in on how scientific the dragons of Game of Thrones are. Surprisingly, it seems that if the dragons existed in the real world, they wouldn't bee too out of place, scientifically speaking, that is. In a series of tweets, Tyson spoke of how scientifically acceptable the dragons and most elements pertaining to them were.
The dragons had plausible wingspans [Image by HBO]
First, let's talk about the dragons' wingspan. Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire—the book series on which the show is based—say that dragons can grow large enough to swallow a horse whole. According to Tyson, the wingspan of the Game of Thrones dragons is sufficiently large enough to plausibly be able to carry the large beasts in flight. Apparently, the size of the wings indicate that they're actually useful, unlike the wings of Renaissance angels, which are too small to be useful.
The dragons seem to have forfeited their forelegs to grow wings. [Image by HBO]
Tyson also liked that the dragons' wings were also their forelegs, like the wings of bats, modern birds, and flying dinosaurs.
The series ended its first season with Daenerys Targaryen hatching three live dragons from fossilized, stone-like eggs. At the end of the seventh season, however, one of the three now-grown dragons was felled by the White Walkers, the series's mysterious main antagonist. The White Walkers have an army of undead soldiers, which turn any person and animal they kill into a mindless zombie as well. Unfortunately, Daenerys lost her dragon Viserion to the undead army. The dragon became an undead dragon fighting for the enemy, and began breathing blue fire instead of red.
Would it also be scientifically possible for Viserion's fire to melt a wall of ice that has stood for thousands of years, like it did in the season finale?
Watch Viserion bring down the legendary Wall.
Tyson called the show's thermal physics “intruiging”. He said that the now-undead Viserion was now breathing blue fire, not ice. Blue fire, according to Tyson, is at least three times hotter than red fire. Thus, it would have been plausible for blue dragon flame to bring the Wall down in the season finale.
Take note of the chains at the 0:17 mark
One thing that Tyson didn't like, however, was the scene in which the undead wights were pulling Viserion's corpse out of the icy water up north. In the scene, the chains the wights used to pull Viserion out were a little slack. Given how large the dragon was, the chains should have been straight and tight, since they were pulling such a heavy load.
It seems that the fantastical Game of Thrones dragons were scientifically possible, but the showrunners seem to have dropped the ball on real-world physics.
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