A paper of ice and fire

Fan speculation is one thing. Fact-based, legitimate SCIENCE is an entirely different one.

A paper of ice and fire

I’ve just finished reading this paper, published by some V. Kostov et al. on arXiv (which for those of you who are not into science, is basically a repository for open sourced scientific papers – mostly a serious and respectable home for free versions of papers published by peer reviewed journals as well, but two or three more joke papers away from turning into the Fanfiction.net of physics) and as always, it’s impressive to see how scientists with a bit of free time are always prone to misuse their knowledge by applying it to blatantly unexplainable fictional phenomena. Impressive, but not surprising – after all, I am one of the lot.

The basic idea here is that Westeros’ weird seasonal cycle may be related to it existing on a planet orbiting a binary star system. The complex three-body dynamics, combined with the contribution of two different heat/light sources at different distances, would make the surface temperature oscillate wildly and erratically in the course of the years. Prediction of especially harsh winters seems indeed a lost cause, even though some guesses might be possible: there are trends, it’s just that they tend to break down after a few dozens of years. No millennial proverb would give Westeros’ inhabitants the bit of wisdom needed to make a proper prediction; a painstaking process of observation and deduction will have to be repeated for every generation, and only with the full understanding of Newtonian dynamics and possibly the development of the first computational techniques will effective predictions become finally possible.

As a referee to this certainly interesting work, though, I must point out two problems with this interpretation: namely, that the variability in winters’ length predicted by the model is not even close to the one observed in the actual Westeros continent (the paper predicts the average winter to be 700 days long, with outliers as short as 600 or as long as 800; but we know that in Westeros long winters can last multiple years), and most importantly, that if this was the case, THERE WOULD BE TWO FUCKING SUNS IN THE SKY. Hence if everyone’s not blind or something, I’d discard the hypothesis. Of course there’s also the fascinating possibility of one of the two stars having turned into a black hole at some moment in the distant past, and thus being now basically invisible, a point mass whose only effect is that of dragging the other star in a chaotic whirling dance. That would up the awesome factor in ASOIAF by 10,000 times. Everything is better with black holes!

Also, kudos to the authors for digging up all those quotes as references. Everyone can write a good paper, but it would be worthless without a certainly more boring to write, yet fundamental bibliography.

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