With the fifth season of the worldwide sensation Game of Thrones soon to premiere on UK television, we at LSMedia thought what better way to celebrate than by taking a look at the science behind what is set to be one of the defining features of the upcoming season: dragons. Are they scientifically feasible?
Dragons appear in many cultures across the world: from your European, conventional fire-breathing ‘burn-the-village-down’ variety to your mystical, moustachioed, eel-like Japanese variety. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the European variety (dragons with moustaches are just silly).
We can safely assume that the ingredients to make any self-respecting dragon are: fire breathing; incredibly tough scales; ability to fly and an attitude to rival that of a “n-nosssh at all drun-thk” reveller refused entry to Cava.
There are plenty of cases of mean-attitudes in the animal kingdom. From the aptly named Tasmanian devil to the cute-sounding honey badger. Despite their small size, these creatures are notorious for their aggressiveness and lack of willingness to back down from a fight. Couple this with a boost of the aggression-producing hormone testosterone, our dragon can live up to its terrifying reputation.
Incredibly tough scales would certainly be achievable: take the pangolin for example. This creature, found across Africa and Southeast Asia, is covered in hardened, keratin plates. These would surely add enviable protection for a dragon against the spears and arrows of the townsfolk.
All dragons must fly, yet this is where things become a bit tricky. As any aeronautical engineer will tell you, for something to fly, it must have the correct weight to up-thrust ratio. Birds achieve this by maximising wingspan and reducing weight through the use of hollow bones and light feathers.
We’ve kitted our dragon out with a full body of hard, incredibly heavy scales. See the problem? We couldn’t counteract this with hollow bones because they’d snap under the weight and wouldn’t be very useful in a fight. So sadly, this is where our dragon’s dreams of flight are shattered.
That just leaves fire-breathing on our list. You might think this is the least likely ability, but there is one example in the animal kingdom that resembles this: the bombardier beetle.
The bombardier beetle uses an exothermic reaction to create a toxic, vaporised chemical substance at temperatures of about 100°C, which it can then shoot at predators as a defence mechanism.
Using this principle, we could have a chemical-breathing dragon, which would still have the desired effects on its foes, and sounds pretty cool too.
All in all, a dragon in the conventional sense wouldn’t be scientifically possible. But we could see Daenerys ride into battle on the back of a walking, chemical-spewing, keratin-clad behemoth.
However, what this article doesn’t take into account is the magical side of Game of Thrones. I personally think this is a bit of a cop-out, but hey-ho, whatever floats George R.R. Martin’s boat…
You can watch the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones tonight at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.