The Science of Game of Thrones

[MUSIC] Science is coming. [MUSIC] The Game of Thrones universe is one of the most brilliantly complex and utterly FRUSTRATING
fictional universes ever created. But it IS a fictional universe, and the only
rule of a fictional universe is that it is SELF-consistent. It doesn’t have to agree
with our science, or logic, or even our commonly agreed-upon moral code that says killing people
is not a good thing. There is only one god in that universe, and his name is Gurm.
But despite that, many things in Game of Thrones can be linked to the real, ACTUAL world, drawing
inspiration as if through the thirsty roots of a weirwood tree. Many of these connections
are interpreted by fans, but some have been verified by the bearded one himself.
There are the many competing religious philosophies, the many, many, MANY similarities to real-life
historical characters or the fact that they LOOK like us? But we are not going to be talking
about those… Here’s where I would give you a spoilers warning,
but . . . come on. You clicked on this. Spoilers are coming.
Why are the seasons so crazy? In the Game of Thrones universe winters and summers are
known to last years at a time and apparently show up when they damn well please. We know
that the summer/winter cycle normally averages around 5 or 6 years apiece, and as the story
begins the most recent summer has stretched to nearly ten years. On Earth, seasons are
caused by our axial tilt leaning one side of Earth toward or away from the sun during
our annual trip around it, but George’s world isn’t so predictable.
The Maesters of the Citadel are the geeks of Westeros, who are supposed to calculate
when the next Polar Doom will arrive. Westeros isn’t an industrial society, but the architecture,
metallurgy, and medicine we see in the Known World suggests that these guys are a fairly
scientific bunch. Many theories have attempted to explain the
reason for these seasons, but most of them collapse faster than a Greyjoy’s loyalty.
We know that the Westeros-ian world has a moon, and that it used to have two. Maybe
their moon isn’t as large as ours so the planet’s axis, unstabilized by lunar gravity, wobbles
like a broken top. But, according to astronomers, moons don’t stabilize planets, rather a moonless
planet should spin more evenly than one with a moon.
Then what if its orbit, instead of a nearly circular ellipse, like ours, was extremely
elongated? Well that doesn’t work either. While it could cause extreme seasons, they’d
still show up on a regular schedule. Even complex combinations of orbital stretches
and wobbles, like Earth’s Milankovitch cycles, could be predicted by any society that knows
basic algebra. Well, then maybe it’s tugged on by the gravity
of a neighboring planet, or its sun has a variable output. George R.R. Martin did write
his first novel about a planet falling away from its parent star.
It’s most likely that the Game of Thrones planet . . . it needs a name. Planet Hodor!
lives in a very strange solar system, around a pair of stars. Last April, a group of graduate
students from Johns Hopkins University published a paper showing that if the world of Game
of Thrones was subject to the complex dynamics of three celestial bodies orbiting each other,
predicting a planet’s seasons would be impossible. This has interesting implications for Tatooine
. . ? Of course, it could also be due to magic,
which is cheating. And what about that world anyway? At the amazing
planetary science blog Generation Anthropocene, Miles Traer and Mike Osborne have constructed
a detailed geologic history of Westeros stretching back more than 500 million years into the
fictional past. They determined that, since the North is cold
enough to maintain a wall of ice, which we’ll come back to, year-round, it must be near
this planet’s Arctic circle, and since the south is warm enough to be covered by deserts,
which primarily exist near Earth’s 30th parallel that Planet Hodor has a radius of 4,297 miles
or about 10% wider than Earth. We know that the First Men crossed into Westeros
on a land bridge near Dorne, and like Africa and South America, the coastlines of Westeros
and Essos seem to fit like puzzle pieces. They were probably unzipped beginning 25 million
years ago by a spreading rift, like the one in the middle of our Atlantic Ocean.
And 40 million years ago, Westeros was likely covered by a huge ice sheet, which retreated
as glaciers, cutting the great valleys south of Winterfell and the Riverlands between Harrenhal
and The Twins. The description of the jagged Black Mountains
sounds a lot like our own Rocky Mountains, which were born around 60-80 million years
ago. This would also mark the birth of the Mountains of the Moon and the high Westerlands,
as north and south Westeros smashed together just like the fault beneath the Himalayas.
That violent uplift is what exposed all that Lannister gold from its origin deep within
the crust. That era also would have borne the Iron Islands . . . but we have a different
iron to talk about. Valyrian steel was an alloy forged in the
ancient empire of the Valyrians, lighter and stronger than regular steel, and whose secrets
were lost during the Great Doom, when volcanoes torched Valyria, and its dragons, into charcoal.
That Valyrian steel was forged with dragon fire, which is not actually a thing, but it’s
almost certainly a reference to Damscus steel, an ancient steel alloy developed in India
around 300 BC. Like Valyrian steel, the secrets of its forgery were lost to history forever.
Speaking of dragon fire . . . what if dragons COULD exist? How COULD a living thing breathe
flames? My buddy Kyle Hill came up with an interesting
theory. Like the tiny bombardier beetle, dragons could secrete reactive “hypergolic” chemicals
that, when mixed, react violently and shoot out of an orifice like rocket fuel.
And if dragons chewed on certain rocks and metals, which I imagine are like cupcakes
to them, they could coat their teeth in minerals, creating a spark with rows of deadly knife-like
flint and steel. Unfortunately, our idea of a fire-breathing
flying dragon is about to come crashing back down to Earth, because physics. As Bran Stark
found out the hard way, gravity seems to work in Westeros just like it does here. And that
means the Mother of Dragons’ kids are grounded. The largest bird that ever lived was the giant
teratorn, with a wingspan of 7 meters. Not big enough.
Dragons are probably more like pterosaurs. But even the largest of those, Quetzalcoatlus,
maxed out at 11 meters from wingtip to wingtip and 250 kg. But Daenarys’ dragons are bigger
than that by the time they hit puberty, and dragon lore says they never stop growing.
Even with a pterosaur’s hollow bones, ability to gallop on all fours to take off and huge
stretchy wings, even Hodor could figure out that the dragons don’t work. Unless, yeah
. . . magic. The Wall? Won’t work. A sheer cliff of solid
ice stacked 700 feet tall would melt at the bottom under its own weight and would fall
apart unless it was sloped Wildfire? Works. “Greek Fire” was an ancient
precursor to napalm made from petroleum, sulfur, saltpeter and was the most potent weapon of
its time. Add a little trimethyl borate, and you’ve got a flaming death that’s ready for
St. Patrick’s Day. Milk of poppy? Works. Our opiate drugs from
morphine to vicodin to even heroin are all derived from the poppy plant.
Dire Wolf? Works. The extinct Canis dirus was the largest wolf to ever exist, covering
North and South America, thousands have been found in the La Brea Tar Pits alone.
Of course, the universe of Game of Thrones would live . . . or die . . . just fine whether
or not it agrees with our science. But by combining the two, as Raymond Chandler said,
The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art
from becoming ridiculous What do you think? Does bringing science into
a fantasy story kill the wonder like a guest at the red wedding? Or does it help the fictional
world . . . truly “exist” in our own? I think it makes the story richer than a Lannister.
Let me know what you think in the comments. And remember, a Hanson always pay their debts.
Subscribe, and I will pay you back with a new video every week.
Valar Morcurious.

100 thoughts on “The Science of Game of Thrones

  1. nice video. i wish if you can make something like this with the Japanese mangas too… like OP or Naruto or death note concepts.

  2. Baelish like Cromwell? No way.

    Cromwell was a Commander first and foremost, while Baelish has never seen a battlefield. Baelish was a coward, a craven and a schemer with no moral sense whatsoever. Cromwell was a radical Puritan, very brave and pious, and a person who cared about the people he ruled more then he cared about titles or prestige.
    He was a hero of the people (if you weren't Irish or Catholic), as he famously said "The King is not England and England is not the King."

    The GoT equivalent of Cromwell would be either Stannis, Randyll Tarly, Jon Arryn or to a lesser degree Roose Bolton.

  3. U need to link the dragons to that planets gravity pull then u can say they might exist and Fly on a diff planet not ours

  4. I have a theory why the seasons are so unpredictable it might be cause the star changes it brightness like the Star Mira does with no regularity sometimes dimmer than our sun sometimes 700 times brighter?

  5. "Dragons seem to produce their fire-breath by expelling chemicals out of two tubes in the back of their throats: when these volatile substances combine, they undergo an intense reaction which bursts into a directed jet of fire."

  6. The main secret of Domascus steel is the temperature of the smelting process. Most couldn't liquefy iron but the Indians could and so they could remove far more impurities than others. Not only does that make stronger steel but it also is actually more economical as the quality of the ore becomes irrelevant.

  7. 6:47
    Greek fire wasn't explosive though. In fact it burnt very slowly like a candle and when by itself looked like just burning tar. What made it so dangerous was the fact that it was very sticky, had very high heat retention and doesn't solute in water. So in a naval battle when a bit of burning Greek fire hit your ship it was pretty much over as there was very little you could do as removing it was nearly impossible. Throwing water onto it doesn't work as it has more than enough thermal energy to evaporate the water and then just reignite and since it doesn't desolve you can't use water to wash it off either.

    It likely did not contain saltpeter though. Saltpeter was as expensive as spice so it was only used in tiny quantities in science experiments as it had to be imported from China where it occurs naturally. It wasn't until the mid 14th century when people learned how the synthesize saltpeter that it was commonly used. However by that point the Byzantine Empire was a shadow of it's former self and Greek fire was rarely used.

  8. I love Scifi books like Martin's. It is a very richly written world, even if it isn't a possible world.

    Then again I read every night before bed. Mostly fantasy books. But I enjoy them. ๐Ÿ˜

  9. Wow I adore your choice of words. Whoever is writing scripts for these videos should write a book. I would love to read it for sure.

  10. Westeros is flat… if esos is easy and Westeros is west then what west of Westros? That's where the maps stop!… Area says.

  11. Page 200 in The knight of the seven kingdoms se find out there is a constelation named The Ice Dragon and its blue eye points to the North so the planet must have a somewhat predictibile tilt axis and trajectory.

  12. Did anyone think of the core of planet hodor changes its density and/or shape from time to time? What if that happened along with a planet orbiting a distant very hot Sun?

  13. He's wrong about the Damascus steel. It's not lost. It can be made today and it's not an alloy. It's made quite simply by forging (that means that it's not an alloy) 2 metals with different properties and than put the forging into some acid, the acid "eats" 2 metals in different speed and therefore it shows the Damascus pattern and there it is the Damascus steel.
    In the show the metal is made by melting the metal, which is stupid cause no matter how strong some metal is the sword made by casting will be bad, soft and brittle, so it means that the Valyrian steel just looks like but isn't a Damascus steel.

  14. I like having a fantasy narrative that encourages me to ask questions about how the world works and gets me curious. It can be annoying when two things don't line up according to the internal logic and the reader just isn't supposed to think about it. If magic is included and I don't understand anything about it, using it as a solution to a problem can feel cheap.

  15. Also before I watch this video, i'm gonna pull up a point of scrutiny. According to science half of the characters should be mangled and horrific because IncEST makes deformed babies.

  16. okay, you're all nice little chumps all so concerned about a world albeit admittedly better than lord of the rings. That's nice you little people.
    BUT HEY!! GUY in glasses, I CAN'T BELIEVE you didn't say anything about incest gene recession.
    I DEMAND YOU MAKE A VIDEO and warn people about how contemporary entertainment is turning people as stupid as if they were actually products of incest!!!
    Come on YOU SHEEP, flock to meeeeeh

  17. What are your thoughts on the weather patterns in Westeros after that massive volcanic explosion that destroyed Valyria?

  18. The worst video l have ever seen in my life. A total trash. I think you can not make anything like Science of Game of Thrones, as it isn't science at all. ln doing so this is representinon of stupidity in front of people. Only Harvard University thought and going to
    introduce history based syllabus the "Real Game of Thrones". I doubt that the science can dare to make parody or blooper of G. R. R. Martin's imagination and master piece whose adaptation in TV series has been challenging to D. B. Weiss and David.

  19. You're assuming the people of Westeros keep track of time reliably. The ancient Roman calendar wasn't very accurate and it shifted every now and then and needed correction. Julius Caesar crossed into Greece when Pompey's forces thought it was winter, when it's dangerous to cross the seas, but it was actually closer to our modern October.

  20. Why can't the dragons be filled with lighter than air gas like hydrogen to fly? This would also be flammable. Animals in nature make electricity and hydrogen.

  21. I always assumed the irregular seasons were a combination of wobbling planetary axis and inconsistent sun energy (both of which were mentioned in this video). I don't know if this combination can be mathematically proved as a viable solution to not being able to predict seasonal changes over 1000 years of civilized data (I'm assuming only 1000 years as being the reliable seasonal data available), but combining those effects with additional changes to the regular axial precession/tilt changes and changes to the regular variable solar effects over the same period (due to all other astronomical bodies in the relative area)….it seems feasible.

  22. wtf did you do to the earth in that first graphic
    do you want people to think the rotation axis just changes when it's time for a different season

  23. I always thought of the winter as a sort of mini-Ice Age, only happening within shorter intervals. Like the buildup of ice sheets beyond the wall sends waves of icy wind down south, similar to how the Ice Age cycle happens.

  24. When Sam is in the citadel, in the background are shots of a book showing a plantary orbital system that was star shaped around numerous (stars)

  25. He forgot to talk about "the Others"! I can confirm that they can also exist in reality, because I think my ex was definitely one of them.

  26. Daenery's Dragons are Huge specially Drogon – Already the size of Balerion. Regular dragons of Valeria weren't even huge enough to escape a Volcano. So an exceptional case can exist once in a while. I think that sorts the dragon-science problem

  27. It's clear that westros is in the Northern Hemisphere, the further north being like North Pole connected to The North like Canada, but through land not islands. If there was no Nordic region in Europe then the continent wld seem as far from North Pole as essos is seen. Just imagine the known world on a globe.

  28. I think it would be great if the writer could explain in detail where the magic meets the science. It would add to consistency (though it may increase the predictability of some parts of the story) and make the story more fascinating. It doesn't have to be all science, but showing with some level of complexity how the magic and science work together would be amazing.

  29. There is a common storytelling archetype for seasons. In summer characters fight, in fall their arcs have a downward spiral, in winter their lives have plunged into darkness, and in spring there's resolution & hope for the future. Asoiaf series uses that structure perfectly with no care for reality because like you said, a fictional world doesn't have to.

  30. Got two questions somewhat off topic why do humans laugh and why are eleven and. Twelve not called one teen and two teen?

  31. Could it be that the world of Westeros actually has a relatively minimal axial tilt, and its "winters" are more like small ice ages in our world? Perhaps there is a large volcano somewhere on the planet that spews out large amounts of ash and aerosols at intervals of around half a decade…

  32. ok it always bugs me when people pretend Damascus steel is some sort of super metal just cause we dont know exactly how it was made when it was made but just cause we dont know how ancient cultures made it does not mean modern Damascus is any different in fact its better now cause the steal used in its production is better which also means its pointless to make unless its for art/making pretty knifes cause making damascus was probably a way of purifying the metals in the same way the japanese used folded steel

  33. "…it doesn't have to agree with our science or our logic …"

    Here's how our earthly science and logic don't work in GOT universe!!!


  34. Posted on Google+: 11/13/2018
    Where does our "real world" and the "world of Game of Thrones" possibly meet? This video does a wonderful job bridging that divide…well as best as anyone could.

    April 2019 Final Season promo:

  35. If I remember the little I know about the wall of ice, it was created using some kind of liquid in addition to water. This could have caused the ice to form a different type of crystal, one not subject to melting at the same temperature or pressure that ice is.

  36. Gentle The Science of Game of Thrones thank you for your efforts. Your graphics are wonderful but could you extend the time just a tiny bit???? The one you did of the characters and their historical counterparts was great but I needed to rewind and pause because the images went by too fast. Looking forward to more of your work. I do wish you much success in all your efforts.

  37. where does "science" come in to a fantasy story? how's this sound" just because you CAN make a video doesn't mean you SHOULD". so many things that are real and could use some thought and you waste your time on this?

  38. If the Dragon used a biological eletrolis pricess they cloud extract hydrogen from water and this would aid flight

  39. Its gotta be based upon known science or it is childish…..but then martin well…i certainly.dont think he is great of a writer..too msny utube channels.consider.him some sort of god…

  40. You stole that dragon stuff from Flight of Dragons, you big cheat! Also why are they casting swords rather than forging swords when they're valyrian?

  41. The Damascus that you claim the method of production has been lost is not so, wootz steel and Damascus are both still made today and it's technique is documented and reproduced around the world. Also it does not have any qualities much different from other steels available today. It is still just mostly iron with some carbon and incidental phosphorus.

  42. Always hated the map of all the lands in asoiaf, since everything looks so unnaturally rectangular and perpendicular.

  43. It seems as if technological advancements in the GOT is unduly slow if it occurs at all. Humans appear to have the same level of weapon and transportation technology etc. in the current timeline (Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryean as King of the North) as they did prior to the original Long Night which occurred thousands of years ago. Matter of factly, there appears to be no technological advance whatsoever with the possible exception of the Scorpion and really that is just an upscaled bow and arrow. I leave Valerian steel out of the conversation because it is metal enhanced by magic.

  44. I've always thought that the unpredictability of winter could be due to some form of climatic instability, perhaps due to volcanic activity, or unstable ocean currents.

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