Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has explained how Daenerys’ dragon Drogon was able to burn down King’s Landing on Game of Thrones. When he’s not probing the mysteries of the universe, Tyson spends his time spreading the gospel of science via his Star Talk podcast as well as frequent guest appearances on talk shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Sometimes, Tyson also chimes in on popular culture, with a specific emphasis on scientific accuracy (or lack thereof) in movies and TV. In the past, Tyson has explained why Godzilla could never exist, taken on the outer space shenanigans in Guardians of the Galaxy, and also given his take on why Ant-Man might be able to kill Thanos by flying up his butt and expanding, but probably shouldn't. Most infamously, Tyson once even took the normally meticulous James Cameron to task for inaccurate constellations in Titanic, irritating Cameron so much that he digitally adjusted the stars for a later Blu-ray release.
Now, Tyson has turned his gaze on the biggest pop culture phenomenon of 2019, HBO’s Game of Thrones. Specifically, Tyson has addressed questions about how dragons were able to wreak so much havoc in King’s Landing with fire despite the city mostly being made of stone. In this instance, Tyson doesn’t set out to debunk the show’s science, but actually confirms its accuracy by explaining exactly how dragonfire was able to cause so much carnage in King’s Landing. Speaking to Insider last month, Tyson said:
"If you have a pocket of air and you rapidly and instantly heat it, it's a bomb. That is what bombs are. They're rapidly expanding air creating a shockwave. If you have a dragon, it's not just layering flames. It has [aimed an] insertion of very hot air. That hot air will expand catastrophically and blow stuff down."
Indeed, the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones showed Daenerys’ dragon Drogon not just burning civilians with abandon, but also blowing down huge stone buildings including the Red Keep. According to Tyson, if dragons were in fact real, they would absolutely be able to do exactly what was shown on Game of Thrones. Tyson did not however weigh in on another Game of Thrones question: how a modern day coffee cup could possibly show up in a world where technology is at a medieval European level.
While Tyson normally aims his keen scientific eye at movies and TV shows that fail miserably at correctly mirroring reality, this is one time where he actually broke with habit and upheld the accuracy of something that was depicted on screen. Of course, Game of Thrones was never meant to adhere entirely to the rules of science, as it takes place in a fantasy world where completely unreal things like zombies and magic exist, but it still gets points for being right this one time.