Following the success of Game of Thrones, Neil deGrasse-Tyson has joined in to enjoy the series. And he does it in the best way he knows: spreading on Twitter the science behind dragons.
No one would have thought that in a (great) series as Game of Thrones we could find scientific dissemination. Fantasy, of course, yes. Safe entertainment. But, science? That’s when one of the world’s most famous and famous astrophysicists, the excellent Neil deGrasse-Tyson, arrives and shows you that we were wrong: dragons have a lot of science to explain. You do not believe it? Let’s dissect one right here.
The science of dragons
Let’s get into flour. What is a dragon? The way of seeing them is different according to the culture to which we refer: the dragons are a species of great lizards; or snakes (which are not as related as you might think). But, in general, a dragon is a reptilian being, usually winged and, often, able to spit fire through his mouth. Let’s stay with this last image. We can consider dragons as ancestral lizards. That is, a kind of dinosaur. This is because they have warm blood, which is not typical of modern reptiles (which are poikilotherms whose temperature varies by medium.) Dragons do not need to take the sun. They are very awake and fast, like a mammal, or like the dinosaurs would be the dinosaurs, and this can also be seen represented in their size, which is enormous for a reptile. words, a dragon could not be a kind of modern supercharged lizard because his body would not allow it. It has to be, yes or yes, a cousin to the dinosaurs.
One of the most impressive skills of dragons is, of course, the ability to fly. How does a bug so huge to undertake the flight? deGrasse Tyson explains several of the most important questions in this regard. The first is about the size and distribution of the wings of dragons. As we can see throughout the series, dragons have wings that are longer than wide, of a size considerably larger than their own trunk. This is due to a question of basic aerodynamics: a large weight needs a large surface that increases lift. Its shape allows to increase the efficiency of the angle of attack, which means that the dragon can fly, as the astrophysicist explains. A very interesting aspect of ‘modern’ dragons (unlike the ancient engravings) are their wings.
The wings of the Dragons of Game of Thrones are an evolution of the previous members: arms, claws and fingers. As if they were bats. Indeed, these animals evolve their fingers into the bones that support the membranes of the wings. Therefore, at the ‘tip’ of his wing we actually see the thumb while the full wing is the deformed ‘hand’ of the bat. In the case of dragons we see almost exactly the same structure. This is not evolutionarily related to bats, but would have given rise to evolutionary convergence, a phenomenon by which we can find very similar structures in animals completely distant in evolution. Examples of convergence are the wings of birds and bats, as we mentioned. And the pterosaurs, for example, also underwent an evolution similar to that of our fantastic dragons. So, why not?
Lizards spitting fire
Let’s go to the other great skill (and probably the most fantastic): fire. The human mind has played with this idea for centuries. Although we have never encountered animals that are capable of spitting fire. Is it such a crazy idea? After seeing bugs that shoot blood through the eyes, throw venomous hairs from the back or catch things with their tongue, perhaps the spitting of fire does not seem so farfetched. How could it happen? We know that snakes and some beetles are able to spray very caustic or poison on their enemies very accurately. In the case of dragons, the system would not be due to a liquid product, but could be methane, accumulated in a part of a special crop of the mythological being where the food would ferment and methane would accumulate. This crop could have a sphincter and a musculature (probably the abdomen), which would propel the gas like a jet down the throat of the dragon.