Game of Thrones fantasy meets physics in lecture

Sasha Anand, Assistant Entertainment Editor

Game of Thrones is a fantastical world full of fire breathing dragons and high-stakes duels and a giant ice wall.


Scientist, comic book series writer and Game of Thrones enthusiast Dr. Rebecca C. Thompson, gave a talk called Fire, Ice, and Physics: The Science of Game of Thrones. She explained the actual science behind some of the most notable magical features from the series.


Thompson applied these features to our own world through a series of science experiments in another installment of the Arts and Lecture series on March 28 in the USU Ballroom.


After giving a brief summary on the background of the story, she broke down the true meaning of the well-known phrase “Winter is Coming.” She said that the weather patterns for Westeros are not as predictable as real world patterns.


Thompson said that in Game of Thrones, Khaleesi gets told the story of the creation of dragons that went something like “there used to be two moons, one of them exploded and the pieces fell down to the earth as dragons.” While this idea of dragons is in no way possible in this world, for the world of the show it is not that far off scientifically, Thompson said.


“The moon pulls on Earth just enough to keep it stable. So what would happen if there were two moons and one went away?”


If the Earth’s axis tilts 60 to 80 degrees, it would become a chaotic system. After a long time, the seasons would be very irregular. The destroyed moon could scientifically be the cause of the creations of dragons and such, Thompson said.


Dragon fire was the only thing to stop the eternal winter, Thompson said, and to explain how dragons actually breathe fire, she lit corn starch on fire to create a dragon-like fire.


Among laughs from the audience after she joked that this only worked about 50 percent of the time, she lit the corn start on fire, creating a brief torch-like flame. The audience applauded.


The next thing described was “dragon glass,” or more commonly known as obsidian. When obsidian is cooled quickly, it turns into a glass.


“When obsidian cracks,[…] it is always going to have a sharp edge” Steel on the other hand is “iron mixed with carbon and changing the carbon content changes how steel works.”


To demonstrate the effect that the cold has on different objects, Thompson froze objects in liquid nitrogen: a banana, a racquetball and some flowers. The liquid nitrogen was so cold it turned the air in the balloon to liquid then back into a gas. The flowers shattered like glass along with the banana and the racquetball, to the audience’s delight.


Lastly, Thompson said the logistics of the ice wall, put up to defend Westeros. She concluded that the wall, being 700 feet tall and 300 feet wide was “under a lot of pressure, probably like a lot of the college students,” she joked. Ice, she said, melts under pressure. Thus, the wall itself will not actually hold up over that long of a period of time.