Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who Jon Stewart lovingly nicknamed the Buzzkill of Science back in 2013, is back to debunking scientific inaccuracies in pop culture, this time taking on the dragons of Game of Thrones.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) September 24, 2017
Viserion’s blue flame could have devastating powers in the upcoming eighth season, if Game of Thrones plays ball with the earthly laws of thermodynamics.
Combustion is an exothermic chemical reaction between a fuel source and an oxidant, typically oxygen. The orange colored flames we’ve seen from Dany’s dragons come from a type of incomplete combustion called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is typically the first chemical reaction in a chain of events we know as fire. Before combustion ever occurs, heated fuel releases incompatible chemical components as gases, which then appear as differently colored flames when burned. Complete combustion occurs when the only yields from the chemical reaction are carbon dioxide and water. This “perfect” chemical reaction burns a bright white-blue color.
Complete vs. Incomplete Combustion. | Image via YouTube
So, of course, Tyson’s not wrong. The difference in temperature between “red hot” flames and “blue hot” flames is about 1500°F. This could be a huge game changer when it comes to the eventual and inevitable fight between Drogon, Rhaegal, and the now-undead and potentially unstoppable Viserion.
Game of Thrones won’t be Tyson’s first time ruining a good thing, the physicist has been known to “debunk” movies’ scientific flaws, including but not limited to issues with nutrient levels in The Martian‘s soil, Sandra Bullock’s hair (among many others) in Gravity, anything having to do with zombies, the naming of the lightsaber, cryogenics as a whole, and, really, I could go on and on and on.
Buzzkill of Science strikes again. | Image via Kotaku Australia
You either love or hate Tyson’s corrections, but we can all agree that Stewart’s right: Tyson’s tidbits of information are a bit of a buzzkill. Suspension of disbelief is integral to any work of fiction, especially sci-fi. Depending on whether or not the Game of Thrones writers take the dynamics of combustion into account in their storyline, Tyson’s fun fact could be very fun, or fall very flat.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good scientific inaccuracy in film – Armageddon is one of my all-time favorite movies. The 1998 Michael Bay classic features American Sweethearts Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler, Ben Affleck, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Billy Bob Thornton. The film is widely known as the most scientifically inaccurate film ever, with 168 distinct inaccuracies (ranging from merely improbable to legitimately impossible) during its 150 minute run time. Here’s a very fun fact: spotting inaccuracies in Armageddon is part of NASA’s management training program.
Just in case you forgot, here’s the plot of Armageddon:
NASA spots (too late) a rogue asteroid the size of Texas heading directly towards Earth. Billy Bob Thornton, in a relatively convincing role as the Director of NASA, calls upon Bruce Willis to save the day because there’s no one more qualified in astrophysics than “the best deep-sea oil driller in the world.” Spoiler: they save the world. If you’ve ever wanted to see Owen Wilson say “wooow” in a spacesuit while going through astronaut training, this is the movie for you. / Image via Alamo Drafthouse
Unsurprisingly, Armageddon does not grace Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s list of favorite films.
Here’s hoping the Game of Thrones fandom welcomes its inaccuracies with as much fun as NASA did with Armageddon, but I seriously doubt it.
Featured image via Nerdist.