5 amazing ways Game of Thrones and science have joined forces

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We can hardly believe the latest season of Game of Thrones is already near its end, and we’ll be left hanging for another year to see how the fate of Westeros plays out.

Over its seven seasons, the show has left a huge mark, and not just on pop culture. The mad popularity of Game of Thrones has seen references seeping into every aspect of life, including politics and even science, and we’ve found some fun examples of the latter.

But please be warned – if you have not caught up with the entire show, you are likely to run into some spoilers below.


1. A game of moulds

The stunning, Emmy-award winning main title sequence of Game of Thrones became instantly iconic when the show premiered in 2011.

Featuring a three-dimensional map of Westeros with moving parts akin to an astrolabe, the sequence pans around various automaton locations of the entire fictional world – and changes depending on the plot of each episode.

There are homages to the sequence in The Simpsons and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but our favourite one is an insanely clever video using macro footage of various species of… slime moulds. It may sound gross, but it’s actually beautiful.


2. A game of mathematics

G. R. R. Martin’s sprawling fantasy series has so many characters, deaths, plot twists, and power struggles that you’d need a complex mathematical algorithm to work out the relationships and warrant a guess as to who really is the main character of this epic saga.

And this is exactly what a couple of mathematicians from Macalester College in Minnesota did last year. Taking A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series, the team used network science to plot the prominence of each character.

Tyrion emerged on top, but there were some surprises in the results, too.

A different team in Germany has also applied some data crunching methods to the popular show, developing a ranking of characters in order of their likelihood of ending up dead next. Handy.

3. A game of time travels

In season 6, a particularly gnarly time-travel scenario broke many minds, as fans tried to piece together how Bran Stark’s actions in the past affected young Hodor and, possibly, the history of Westeros.

Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist from Caltech, tried to explain how Bran’s powers enabled him to be in “two times at the same time”.


“He’s in the past with young Hodor, and somehow there’s a connection made between the young Hodor and Hodor in the present moment,” ventured Carroll, before admitting that the whole scenario is “utter craziness”.

But it did allow for a fun discussion on the different types of causal loops once can have in fictional universes once time travel is added into the mix – we’ll let you read more about that here.

4. A game of heart rates

Data can also be gathered not just on the hordes of characters marching through the series, but also on the hordes of viewers glued to their screens at home.

A recent heart rate study by the developers of an Apple Watch app called Cardiogram revealed that it’s not actually the sex and the violence that gets people’s hearts racing the most when they watch Game of Thrones.

Charting heart beats per minute and mapping them onto the first four episodes of season 7 revealed that the most thrilling scenes tend to involve dialogue, not action (there was one exception, click here to find out which scene that was).


5. A game of wits

Ultimately, the whole story revolves around who gets to sit on the Iron Throne, which makes for a psychological tussle as much as it does for a physical battle involving swords and dragons.

It’s not enough to just have money or power (or swords, or dragons) – when it comes to the mental games, psychologists point out there’s one key personality trait that can ultimately get you ahead not just in Westeros, but in real life, too.

According to a video by BrainCraft, it all comes down to self-control, arguably the most important mental resource for any of the characters. Turns out it’s really just a song of delayed gratification.


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