One thing we know about dragons is that they tend to have the kind of breath that makes a furnace in a steel-works look cool. Which is fine and dandy – but how does that actually work? I’ve got a few theories.
- Hotter on the inside. If we assume dragons to be endothermic, they’re going to have a lot of waste heat. What better way to cool down than literally breathing some of it out? A lot of animals cool down that way. Maybe dragons have taken it to the next level. How would that work, physically and biologically? No idea. Asbestos-lined throat, maybe?
- Hypergolic reaction. Maybe dragons have glands in their mouths that secrete – oh, I don’t know, nitrogen tetroxide on one side and unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine on the other. Mix the two together and breathe out. Whoom! Don’t hiccup, OK? Of course there’s the tiny problem of hypergolic compounds being viciously corrosive and deeply toxic, quite apart from how they might be produced biologically. Oh, did I mention hydrazine is also a powerful carcinogen? The real worry in dragons is that the fire might not be quite hot enough for that magic knight-vapourising effect. But hey, details…*
Magic. Dragons just breathe fire. Get used to it.
- Internal boiler. Maybe the dragon is on fire internally and can kind of belch that out every so often. Fine and dandy, but what happens when some errant knight chucks a bucket of water straight down their kisser? Boiler explosion, that’s what. Nasty.
- Primary school teacher. All the primary school teachers I had were dragons that breathed fire. Maybe dragons are actually primary school teachers? That would explain a lot.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016
*All this aside, hypergolics are a common rocket fuel and are, in fact, used in real dragons. Space-X’s ‘Draco’ and ‘Super-Draco’ motors, as fitted to their Dragon capsule, use it. Just saying.