Now we’re past the solar eclipse, clearly the most important event of 2015 is the start of Game of Thrones Season 5, which finally reaches our screens in April. To mark the occasion, Life has teamed up with our friend, comedian Helen Keen, to explore the science of Thrones in a specially commissioned show.
OK, if you’ve watched the TV show, the science doesn’t exactly leap off the screen. It is, after all, a quasi-medieval sword and sorcery fantasy, and they’re not exactly famed for their scientific accuracy or hi-tech gadgets. Star Trek this is not. But appearances are deceptive. In their world-building efforts, author George RR Martin and TV producers David Benioff and D.B Weiss have been careful to make their creation believable and at least rooted in some form of historical reality, which means there’s actually a lot of science to explore. More, certainly, than the last series of Doctor Who. We’ve actually ended up with more Game of Thrones science content than we can fit easily into one show.
It’s been a lot of fun to put our Science of Game of Thrones show together. Helen and I have been exploring questions like ‘Are Danerys’ dragons anatomically possible?’, and ‘how could they actually breathe fire?’ As well as ‘Could The Mountain actually have crushed Oberyn Martell’s head with his bare hands?’ All of which have led us on some very bizarre and interesting byways.
The skull crushing question ended up with me exploring road accident research from the US that was used to set the standard for bike safety helmets, and has led to a very entertaining demo… which requires a brave volunteer from the audience! I won’t spoil it by telling you what for. For the dragons I have spent more time than I expected seeing if it’s possible to source a cheap flamethrower on Ebay. Hint: it isn’t. And that’s probably for the best, but I’m positive the demo we’ve come up with, which we’re currently testing in the lab, will entertain nonetheless.
For another topic we made the interesting discovery that all the armour available to buy on Etsy seems to come from Ukraine. As a result I’m anxiously checking parcel tracking websites while keeping an eye on the regional politics in the hopes the armour makes it to us and isn’t needed to help fight off invading Russians. We’ve also been trying to identify a real-life equivalent of ‘The Strangler’ – the poison that killed Joffrey, which reminded me, as if I didn’t know already, that however worrying and gross your interest in something might appear, there are people on the internet who have spent way more time thinking about it than you have. As a result we have plenty of candidates, and are now thinking a more difficult question would have been ‘What wouldn’t have killed Joffrey?’
We’ve discovered that medieval Japan and Syria were getting their steel from the same source, somewhere in India, and that both independently seem to have discovered that a really good way to temper a white hot forged blade was to plunge it into a still-living prisoner. Nice. Which also served to remind us that however worrying and gross the happenings in Game of Thrones may be, there’s almost always someone in the real world who has gone further.