Throughout the course of Game of Thrones, there’s been so many to learn about the Emmy-Award winning show that will just blow your mind. You might envision the whole series as the ultimate world of fantasy. As it turns out, most of the elements within the series are just purely magical, (or to say the least), out of the world of science; or better yet still, know and understand how the real-world of science works. Here are five lessons you can learn about real science from the fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms. Caution: No Spoilers!
Related media: 9 Deleted Game Of Thrones Scenes You Need To See
#1. Dothraki And Valyrian (Linguistics)
Obviously, most characters in Game of Thrones speak English, but two completely different dialects were invented for the series. These were Dothraki (the language spoken by the nomadic horse warriors), alongside Valyrian (which was also spoken by people east of Westeros). These languages were made up by George R. R. Martin for the book series in a few phrases, but for the TV show, a few phrases were not enough. Enter linguist David J. Peterson.
Languages like Dothraki and Valyrian, (and the universal language of Esperanto) are known as constructed languages or “conlangs.” Here’s where Peterson is a genius. He’s an expert conlangrapher who’s made quite a number of languages for several TV shows. Understanding how he constructed the two conlangs in Game of Thrones uses the rules of linguistics, and could help you even understand your language better — as he explains in a 2015 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.
#2. The Wall (Engineering)
Of course, The Wall in Game of Thrones was one of the fancies that was quite outlandish. The Wall is a massive colossal structure entirely made of ice that stood as a barrier between the Seven Kingdoms and the far northern territory of the wildlings. It’s 200 meters (700 feet) high, and 500 kilometers (300 miles) long fortification that had Castle Black as it’s base.
In fact, to build such a colossal structure, it requires a hollow steel skeleton deeply grounded into the earth, and of course, a ridiculously tall crane. Ancient civilizations like the Egyptians had some amazing feat of engineering — like how they built the pyramids at Giza; and not forgetting the Chinese on their amazing construction of the Great Wall. But it seems no civilization known in history has been able to build something of entirely ice.
#3. Wildfire (Chemistry)
This brings us to the first battle at King’s Landing. Do you remember that volatile green liquid that easily caught fire, and will even burn while floating on water? According to Game of Throne lore, (yeah, that’s now a thing), its recipe is a closely guarded secret. As it turn out, there are quite a number of real-life versions of such a volatile substance akin to wildfire throughout history. One such volatile substance is probably Greek Fire, a liquid that the Eastern Roman armies sprayed on enemy ships in battle in the 17th century.
Its not sure what it was made of, though rumors include everything from sulfur to liquid petroleum to quicklime to bitumen. Another burning potion was napalm — the sticky, long-burning liquid that was used by American troops in the Vietnam war, which led to its outlaw against civilians in the 1980s. As a matter of fact, it is really possible to make a liquid that burns with a green flame, though non of these liquids mentioned above does. This YouTube video explains how to make your own home recipe.
#4. Hodor! (Neuroscience)
Hodor, a simple-minded servant of the House of Stark, was actually born with a different name, but was called “Hodor” because that was the only word he could muster. This isn’t the fact that he can’t communicate — he’ll often utter this word with varying emphasis. He just wasn’t able to speak with words like everybody. The show eventually revealed why he only uttered “Hodor!” — (“Hold the door!”)
However, there’s a real-life explanation: if Hodor existed in real life, he’d likely be suffering from a neurological condition known as Broca’s aphasia. There’s a region in the brain known a Broca’s area that’s responsible for language. When affected, the victim could only utter just a word. The first patient documented could also utter only one word. This was Louis Victor Borges, but was called “Tan.”
#5. Winter Is Coming! (Planetary Science)
This is bar none the most popular phrase in Game of Thrones; and even if you’re not a fan, you’ve surely heard “Winter is coming.” It was pretty common in the earlier seasons of the show because the story is set in a world different from our real world — with seasons so unpredictable that winter could happen at any time and for years. George R.R. Martin, the author of the novel ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire’ — the story that inspires the TV show, had this to say about the fantasy world of the series:
“I have to say, ‘Nice try, guys, but you’re thinking in the wrong direction.’ This is a fantasy series. I am going to explain it all eventually, but it’s going to be a fantasy explanation.”
Forget about fantasies, there’s the scientific possibility of such a world’s hypothetical existence, and scientists have some pretty ideas why. The seasons here on Earth is cause by the tilt in it’s axis (approximately 23.5 degrees at the poles). The more tilt, the longer the seasons. Uranus has 42 years of winter because of it’s 98-degree tilt. This could be the case of the world of Game of Thrones: a planet with a wobbly axis such that it shifts it’s orbit causing unpredictable seasons.
This could also be the Milankovitch cycle: the combination of a planet’s orbital distance, axial tilt, and precession (the wobble in it’s axis) that create varying conditions in the atmosphere that changes the weather and seasons. Another could be simple climate science: from varying weather conditions to the volcanic ash of the Valyrian mountains which fills the atmosphere so often that creates some kind of weather akin to winter; to who knows what the heck George R.R. Martin created in his universe of Game of Thrones.
Though none of these will never show up in Game of Thrones, they have given us a delight in understanding science while enjoying the fantasy world of the Seven Kingdom. Winter is surely coming!
Image credits: HBO / Game Of Thrones
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Thu, Apr 02, 2020.