Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Science of Magic

I need some help from all you science nerds out there.  (and I use the term nerd with love and endearment!)  I’ve been trying to toy with alchemy, trying to make it more understandable (at least to me).  I thought if I could figure out some rules about it, that it might start to drive some missions and backstories.  So here’s what I’m starting with:

Humans breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.  For lack of a better term - plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen.  The two systems work together in a symbiotic relationship.  (Please don’t get too technical if I’m using some of these terms incorrectly.)

So the same should be true in alchemy.  There must be offsetting reactions out there.  Case in point - dragons breathe out fire.  So shouldn’t there be something that “creates” air, water or earth?  But before I figure that out, I do have to figure out dragon fire breath.

At first I assumed that dragon breath was some manner of “normal” fire - carbon combines with oxygen to create carbon dioxide and heat.  I’ve been around a lot of campfires, and trying to figure out how much carbon a dragon would need to consume in order to get that kind of fire delivered, and it doesn’t seem reasonable.  (and dragons can’t fly, but it’s fantasy, but let’s keep going anyway)

So I thought - instead of just saying it’s magic, why not say it’s alchemy.  Still magic, but now we’re getting into the nitty gritty.  OK, if it is magic, what is it?  I’m going to speculate that it’s a nuclear reaction.  The dragon consumes and stores some manner of heavy metal.  Because the dragon is not sorting the different isotopes, the best fuel heavy metals are not as dense as you would find in a modern weapon (which I believe should be 85%+ of the radioactive stuff).  So what I’m saying is that the dragon subconsciously uses alchemy to cause a nuclear reaction within it.  Instead of several kg of fissionable material, it has maybe several grams of the metal and (I think I read maybe 3% of uranium is the fission fuel kind) only some much smaller subset is fuel.  So when a dragon breathes the E=mC2 equation produce a lot of energy, but nothing on the scale of a nuclear warhead.

OK - So here’s here I need your help:  Let’s assume that if the dragon can naturally create a nuclear reaction through alchemy, that the dragon’s body can withstand the effects (because I give dragon hide natural resistances to fire).  But does this make sense?  Could a small nuclear reaction within the dragon be focused and projected out via the mouth in what most humans would believe to be fire?

Assuming you completely shoot holes in my theory, what do you think it is?  The idea that there is a small portal in their throat that opens its way to some elemental source of fire doesn’t work for me - that’s not a reasonable magical use in my mind (just as I despise the concept of a portal to another dimension behind the eyes of the world’s greatest superhero).


  1. Well, maybe fire dragons spit some kind of alcohol/solvent which catches fire when in contact with air (because their stomachs are in a vaccuum).
    And maybe a Ice Dragon spits that refrigerant fluids, like CFC or even ammonia, which freezes the air and creates ice/Snow.
    You know, that sort of stuff.

  2. I like that - the stomach can only hold so much fuel/alcohol. Not trying to argue, but I wonder if an alcohol fire could cause the kind of devastation we think of from a dragon breath attack? But you may be on the right track - alcohol is natural enough to believe it could actually happen - could actually form in a stomach or second stomach. That's good! but more of a natural answer than I expected.

  3. When I worked the rigs out west, many pumpjacks ran on their own natural gas that brewed up from the light sweet crude. Very flammable, very deadly. Think of it like propane. A blow torch (is that what they're called in America?) or Bhutane gas.
    Also, up here in forestry country, we have a lot of big woods equipment. That requires pickup trucks to have these huge cylinders of acetylene, another tank of oxygen. Now, Acetylene / oxygen is used most often as a welder's aid. You want to cut 1/4 steel plate, you fire up an acetylene torch. More modern are the plasma cutting torches.
    Compounds such as these could make breath weapons like fire very deadly. Oxygen, Acetylene and an electrical spark is a recipe for small scale devastation.
    Okay, that's fire. Now, stinking poison gas. H2S, or hydrogen sulfide. It's common in fracking of shale gas, or water injected light sweet wells. Sometimes a frack with cause it to seep up into the water table, or worse, the surface. It smells like rotten eggs, and is deadly. I got hit with an air pocket of sour gas once, unconscious in seconds, had to e dragged away and masked with oxygen. That is what's required. And it's still somewhat flammable when released, too, but it'll kill your brain before it needs to be sparked.

    1. oh yeah, liquid nitrogen for your cold breath weapons!

    2. sulfuric acid (battery acid H2SO4 for acid, though their are many alternatives here, including magnesium and hydrochloric acid. Many compounds will eat those plate mails right off!

    3. Acid and poison gas - I agree - lots of options.
      I'm going to do some research on acetylene - I had done some previously when trying to create fantasy era spotlights (without massive magics) and felt they required alchemy to work in a fantasy era (limelight, etc.). Natural gas? hmmm. gotta think that through too, because of what I think would be the "storage" requirement. Maybe I'm thinking about it wrong, or it can be condensed easier than I think.
      LOTS to think through!!

  4. Yeah, Fire, Ice, Poison breath weapons.
    About lightning... maybe little metallic particles are spit during the breath and a strong chain lightning effect involves those.
    I think sulfuric acid seems more like those necrotic damage from black dragons, eating up flesh.
    Radiant breath from white/platinum dragons would works just like a flash grenade, pyrotechnic metal-oxidant mix like magnesium or aluminium, and a oxidizer such as ammonium perchlorate or potassium nitrate.
    Maybe Sonic breath (idk if there are dragons with this one) is actually a infra/ultrawave potent cry.

    About Fire Breathing by fuel:

    1. I like the gif! The two distinct jets of flame are a cool touch and to me seem reminiscent of fangs - fangs of flame!