Fire, Ice, and Physics: The Science of Game of Thrones

Sean Carroll (Foreword by)


Exploring the science in George R. R. Martin's fantastical world, from the physics of an ice wall to the genetics of the Targaryens and Lannisters.

Game of Thrones is a fantasy that features a lot of made-up science--fabricated climatology (when is winter coming?), astronomy, metallurgy, chemistry, and biology. Most fans of George R. R. Martin's fantastical world accept it all as part of the magic. A trained scientist, watching the fake science in Game of Thrones, might think, "But how would it work?" In Fire, Ice, and Physics, Rebecca Thompson turns a scientist's eye on Game of Thrones, exploring, among other things, the science of an ice wall, the genetics of the Targaryen and Lannister families, and the biology of beheading. Thompson, a PhD in physics and an enthusiastic Game of Thrones fan, uses the fantasy science of the show as a gateway to some interesting real science, introducing GOT fandom to a new dimension of appreciation.

Thompson starts at the beginning, with winter, explaining seasons and the very elliptical orbit of the Earth that might cause winter to come (or not come). She tells us that ice can behave like ketchup, compares regular steel to Valyrian steel, explains that dragons are "bats, but with fire," and considers Targaryen inbreeding. Finally she offers scientific explanations of the various types of fatal justice meted out, including beheading, hanging, poisoning (reporting that the effects of "the Strangler," administered to Joffrey at the Purple Wedding, resemble the effects of strychnine), skull crushing, and burning at the stake.

Even the most faithful Game of Thrones fans will learn new and interesting things about the show from Thompson's entertaining and engaging account. Fire, Ice, and Physics is an essential companion for all future bingeing.

Product Details

Price: $24.95  $22.46
Publisher: MIT Press
Published Date: October 29, 2019
Pages: 296
Dimensions: 6.3 X 1.1 X 9.1 inches | 1.2 pounds
Language: English
Type: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780262043076
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at Caltech and the author of popular science books, including The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself.


Mostly this is an excellent and entertaining work, especially as topics such as the material sciences rarely get interesting write-ups. A great addition to fans of 'Science of' books, and one that will likely entertain the more sceptical sort of Game of Thrones fan.

--Starburst Magazine

Thompson has a dry sense of humour that leavens the thoroughly explained science.


An exciting and informative read for fans of the show who often asked how would that really work? and it's a must-read for new fans who will binge-watch the whole series in the future.

--Ars Technica

This engagingly weird book tackles such fundamental Westeros-related questions as, could a 700ft-high ice wall really last 8,000 years? Nope, it would flow, as glaciers do, and end up more of an ice hillock. And how long would it really have taken Viserys Targaryen to die when molten gold was poured on his head? Less than 3.5 seconds, from a boiled brain. Daft, yes, but tremendous fun.

--Slice of Scifi