Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Institute of BS Explores - Human/Dragon Transformation in Seraphina by Rachel Hartman


                        Dragons are a staple of fantasy, and a frequent barb in the side of the Institute of BS’s Science Department. Everyone here is a great lover of fantasy; we’re all masochists you see, so dragons are a common subject of scrutiny amongst us. Due to this, the impossibility of dragons has been completely and overly proven (unless you ask Kyoma, who swears that the volatile nature of their guts that allows them to breathe fire, could be fired from another unnamed orifice, turning them into living jets. Pure speculation of course, due to personal fantasy rather than evidence). Or rather, was proven. You see, several months ago, we were presented with Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.
                        Unlike the traditional dragon, Rachel Hartman’s are extremely intelligent creatures with the ability to transform into a saarantras, a dragon in human form. The process that allows this is still unknown, but the problems it creates are amazingly interesting. First of these problems is where does the excess flesh go

                        Before I can go into this, we need to cover a principal of science we adhere to at the Institute of BS, the Theory of Equivalent Exchange. Besides that, we also believe that matter cannot be simply destroyed or created, but only converted into energy, and vice versa. What this means is that the dragon’s extra mass can’t just cease to exist upon transformation into man. We’re left with a few options because of this.
     When a dragon goes from its natural form to that of a human, any extra mass (which there would be a considerable amount of) would be converted into energy. When they become dragons again, they use energy to recreate the extra mass. Problem with this system is the sheer inefficiency of it. The amounts of energy would be massive, so acquiring the necessary amount and storing it would be a monumental task. In addition to that, an explosion would be created upon converting the mass into energy.
     Rather than losing any mass, the dragons just condense themselves when transforming into humans. I don’t think it needs to be said that this wouldn’t work, but if we are anything, it’s thorough. I’d say a very conservative estimation of dragon’s weight would be six tons, and that is an embarrassingly conservative estimation. Even if we assume that when a dragon takes a human shape, it retains the ability to live through and move regardless of such weights, that doesn’t mean its surroundings can. Twelve-thousand pounds spread across such a small area (that of the foot) would be more than enough to destroy wood flooring, it’d pose a threat to stone, and would absolutely decimate shoes. On the other hand, a punch by one of these theoretical creatures would rival that of The Hulk. Now, I enjoy the idea of dragons transforming into the Hulk as much as the next guy, but one has to be clear-headed on such matters, lest we get carried away and ignore the information we have on hand. In Seraphina, a dragon is clearly depicted as being “man”handled, which would be impossible if they weighed 6 tons. Unless you were the Hulk.
     Since exploding dragons and lead saarantrai aren’t feasible, I see only one other scientific explanation; feather-light dragons. If, instead of a dragon’s weight condensing down to the size of a human, it was a human’s weight expanding to the size of a dragon? This would explain why saarantrai don’t destroy everything they touch, why humans can shove them about, and it avoids having to deal with explosions- it avoids every problem of the other two theories. In addition to solving those issues, it also explains how a dragon can manage to fly, without resorting to becoming a natural jet.To carry a twelve-thousand pound dragon with wings alone would be impossible, unless the wings were the size of continents, thus taking so much muscle that the animal in question would need to be even bigger, and the cycle just goes on. However, if a dragon were to weigh a mere two hundred pounds, it could fly faster than an eagle. Once again though, this is not the answer to all our questions. Being so light would greatly reduce a dragon’s ability to fight. Since force = mass x acceleration (F = m x a), the lack of mass would decrease a dragon’s lethality to an unimaginable degree. Decreased mass would allow a dragon to fly faster, maybe taking its viciousness up from “feathertick” to “memory foam.” Not exactly the menacing monsters from the stories, are they?

Seraphina had such great promise as a novel of scientific logic, but it tragically fell into the trap that is fantasy. I wish it wasn’t so obvious that Rachel Hartman didn’t do her research into the field of animal densities, especially when it is so easy to enroll in the Institute of BS’s three week course on Animal Densities and the Corresponding Effects on Flight for a mere 15 payments of 12 dollars. Perhaps I will revisit Seraphina to analyze other aspects of its world. Dragon/human crossbreeding, the mysterious disappearance of a dragon’s stomach when taking human form- there are many mysteries to be unlocked, which might hold the key to answering the density conundrum.

Dr. Cain Freeman PhD M.D. from the Institute of BS Science Department out!

*Seraphina by Rachel Hartman is a pretty awesome fantasy novel. If you want to read my not very good review of it, here it is! (It really is a horrid review. Might have to take it down one day.)

Science relies on collaboration, so please feel free to discuss and debate your own theories on dragon transformation!

1 comment:

  1. I detect one fatal flaw in your (otherwise brillint) argument, namely that dragons are mythological creatures and therefore are governed by the laws of magic and not science.

    And while some clever dude at one time said that any sufficiently advanced technology would seem to a more primitive race like magic, I posit that this is not the case when discussing dragons and other mythological creatures.