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Dragon breath

Everything about the mythical and charming beasts!
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Krakenthekrab
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Dragon breath

Post by Krakenthekrab » September 23rd, 2016, 7:35 am

It's a question I've always asked myself is how do dragons breath fire, ice, or poison, or whatever in the mythical world. Is there a scientific way or will I just have to use my imagination and keep trying to breath fire myself? :3
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Rasalom » September 23rd, 2016, 7:58 am

For fiery breath is a simple solution. You just take MMH (monomethylhydrazine) and mix it with oxydizer (nitric acid HNO3 or nitrogen tetroxide N2O4) and it'll ignite by itself. It's what they call a hypergolic fuel.
And the best part is MMH is organic in origin (it's present within death caps) so theoretically it could be created in dragons body. Be advised however, MMH is the thing that makes death caps deadly poisonous, and it stinks like a rotten fish...

About Ice, idk. I mean there are ways to create ice by manipulating the presure, instead of a temperature (your fridge does that daily), but that's a far cry from being feasible for organic creature.

Poison? Simple mixture of digestive juices, like it is for poisonous snakes. There is a snake (a cobra i think) that can spray it's venom at it's victims, so... It's actually the simplest mechanism of those three.
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Aracth'nil » September 23rd, 2016, 2:33 pm

Anything that's a hydrazine is generally highly toxic and harmful even if breathed in though. It damages your body in some way, and since dragons are commonly perceived as reptilian mammals or something similar, wouldn't it still be harmful?

Also, hydrazines are so reactive that unsymmetricaldimethylhydrazine (UDMH) is used as a rocket fuel.
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Koatliqua » September 23rd, 2016, 3:17 pm

Drake's Compendium of Dragonology offers a much simpler explanation.

Steer and Wood write that "Essentially, fire-breathing in dragons is made possible because of their venom glands, which are similar to those commonly found in cobras or asps. As with these snakes, the venom is held in a sac and released through two specially adapted teeth, or fangs. Dragons that can breathe fire secrete a piece of flint and a piece of iron pyrites in a special pouch in their mouths, jiggling them to produce a spark that lights the venom, which is then blown from the mouth in a fiery blast."

There are two ways of approaching an explanation. There's the modern approach, where we explain it through the use of chemistry and science, which puts it into a kind of science-fiction world. Then there's (in my opinion) the fun approach, of explaining it through the eyes of relatively primitive medieval science, suited to fantasy lore.

Personally, I prefer Drake's approach, as I think dragons fit better in a medieval inspired fantasy setting as opposed to a futuristic sci-fi world. Though however you plan to explain it, it ought to be reasonable for the technology of the time.

With regards to ice breath, the book goes on to say: "Unlike that of other species, frost-dragon venom is not highly flammable. Instead, it has a corrosive action that is similar in almost every respect to the effects of frostbite."

They also offer a nice illustration!

Image
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Darastrix » September 23rd, 2016, 3:55 pm

You are ignoring the simplest solution. E. coli, which is present in a large variety of reptiles (and why you should wash your hands after handling them) spontaneously produces H2 from glucose. If the digestive tract has a high degree of e. coli bacteria present then the excess gas would be easily bioaccumulated and potentially stored in a secondary set of lungs. It is this set of secondary lungs that assists with flight as well, lowering the overall density of a dragon and providing some moderate lift. You can then have a Sach's organ such as the one on an eel located along the neck, which as the dragon's neck is much longer than a humans or an eel, would be sufficiently capable of producing a spark given a dielectric breakdown of a confined space filled with H2. Initially this is not harmful as it is just ionized hydrogen, but upon contact with O2 in the air a rapid oxidation takes place and you produce a visible flame.

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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Rasalom » September 23rd, 2016, 5:55 pm

Aracth'nil wrote:Anything that's a hydrazine is generally highly toxic and harmful even if breathed in though. It damages your body in some way, and since dragons are commonly perceived as reptilian mammals or something similar, wouldn't it still be harmful?
Yes, but there are species resistant, and even immune to it (mostly insects), so it might be possible for a dragon to be immune as well.
I mean it would take just a specialised protein.

Also, hydrazines are so reactive that unsymmetricaldimethylhydrazine (UDMH) is used as a rocket fuel.
And that is why I've taken it into account. We've even had a similar discusion on Forum Draconis (polish forum for dragon enthusiasts), and after a heated discusion general idea was the MMH is the best bet. Though not flawless.
Thing is UDMH is a product of a few quite nasty chemical synthesis (either Olin Raschig process, or by hydrolyzing the N,N-dimethyl-N'-acetylhydrazine, which comes from N-methylated acetylhydrazine, by using formaldehyde on it; while MMH is produced by a fungi.
Koatliqua wrote:There are two ways of approaching an explanation. There's the modern approach, where we explain it through the use of chemistry and science, which puts it into a kind of science-fiction world. Then there's (in my opinion) the fun approach, of explaining it through the eyes of relatively primitive medieval science, suited to fantasy lore.
But the purpose of this is to give a viable scientific explanation, isn't it?
The big question is: what would be the chemical formula of that venom. What compound produced in the living organism would ignite from a spark. And wouldn't it be better to remove the "sparky-thing" from the equasion? After all, flint is a sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz. It's highly unlikely a living organism would develop one of theese...
Darastrix wrote: Initially this is not harmful as it is just ionized hydrogen, but upon contact with O2 in the air a rapid oxidation takes place and you produce a visible flame.
To be of any use it would have to be in such condensed state to be liquid; otherwise it wouldn't be enough to sustain the flame.
Do you know what will happen when you ionize liquified hydrogen?
A hydrogen plasma is created.
And hydrogen plasma is harmful to any living tissue.
Last edited by Rasalom on September 23rd, 2016, 5:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Koatliqua » September 23rd, 2016, 5:58 pm

Rasalom wrote:
But the purpose of this is to give a viable scientific explanation, isn't it?
Well, you know, use science to explain magic.

Fire-breathing dragons are things of mythology, fantasy, and the imagination. Why get bogged down in mundane reality.

The original question was whether or not there would be a scientific explanation or for him to make up his own. The latter sounds more fun...
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Rasalom » September 23rd, 2016, 6:00 pm

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Clarke's third law. :roll:
Krakenthekrab wrote: Is there a scientific way or will I just have to use my imagination and keep trying to breath fire myself?
Last edited by Rasalom on September 23rd, 2016, 6:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Koatliqua » September 23rd, 2016, 6:01 pm

Rasalom wrote:Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Clarke's third law. :roll:
Oh god, please do not make me delve into all my issues with Clarke's flawed rhetoric.
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Rasalom » September 23rd, 2016, 6:03 pm

Okay.
Still, sounds legit...
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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Darastrix » September 23rd, 2016, 7:24 pm

Rasalom wrote:
Darastrix wrote: Initially this is not harmful as it is just ionized hydrogen, but upon contact with O2 in the air a rapid oxidation takes place and you produce a visible flame.
To be of any use it would have to be in such condensed state to be liquid; otherwise it wouldn't be enough to sustain the flame.
Do you know what will happen when you ionize liquified hydrogen?
A hydrogen plasma is created.
And hydrogen plasma is harmful to any living tissue.
Not true. Hydrogen has an explosion limit in standard atmosphere of 4-77%. Actually, condensing H2 into a liquid makes it much safer and concentrations above 77% are rather benign. We utilize these concentrations during heat cycling of catalytic materials in radioactive environments with temperatures exceeding 800 C. You really want a dilute hydrogen gas to be flammable as you need an ignition medium (oxygen in this case) to be able to sustain the flame. Now, in some cases of rapid release of the gas you have oxygen displacement, this can appear to extinguish the visible flame, but the energy content in a given volume remains quite high and may spontaneously reignite.

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Re: Dragon breath

Post by Rasalom » September 24th, 2016, 5:37 am

I'm not talking about explosion, but ionization of the liquified element that in normal conditions is in gas state.
A plasma that has to be contained inside living organism.
It's generally bad idea, 'cause we have two problems that living tissue has to deal with simultaneously - high temperature and ESD - electrostatic discharge.

Though high temperature we can rule-out as a factor (cause dragon's body should be naturally heat-resistant), the ESD wil cause uncontrollable spasms while breathing fire. (not to mention all the damage to nervous system, and blood electrolysis).
After discharge it takes quite some time to bildup a charge anew, and dragon's breath can't be that limited.
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