AsianScientist (Apr. 18, 2016) –
From: Maesters of the Citadel
To: His Grace, Tommen of Houses Baratheon and Lannister, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm
CC: Iron Bank of Braavos
Subject: Request for R&D funding of 2 million Gold Dragons
The armed power struggle for dominion over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros has dragged on for decades, with severe loss of life, economic decline and environmental damage sustained on all sides.
We note that there have been no new developments in this unfortunate saga since 2011, and well, nobody is holding their breath. Meanwhile, disease and poverty are widespread, and armed bandits and dangerous predators run rampant.
But not all is lost. On the contrary, we as scientists and observers of the natural world view this prolonged state of uncertainty as an opportunity for action. Advances in science and technology are vital for society to move beyond a paralyzing fear of the unknown, superstitious beliefs in blood magic and a postal service that is wholly dependent on the whim and fancy of ravens. It is thus our duty and desire to put our skills to good use, in the hopes of improving human lives, rebuilding the economy and laying the foundation for a peaceful future of our own making.
To this end, we propose the establishment of research programs that will address critical gaps in our understanding of natural phenomena, as laid out below.
Key research areas
- Climate change
Summers and winters on our planet can last for years, and are unpredictable in their length and severity. One theory holds that our planet orbits two suns; the resulting three-body dynamics make for highly erratic planetary trajectories, which could explain the irregular seasons. Another posits that the angle at which the planet’s axis is tilted with respect to its plane of orbit—its axial tilt—changes as we make our way around the sun; this “wobble” is then responsible for our fickle climate. (Planet Earth, in contrast, has a rock-solid axial tilt of 23.5 degrees, and boringly predictable seasons.)
Definitive astronomical and meteorological studies are urgently needed to get to the bottom of this question, which strikes at the fundamental nature of our universe. Practically, these studies will enable more accurate and longer-term weather predictions, so that everyone will know exactly how much food, fuel and mindless entertainment they need to stockpile.
(Also, we just really want the peasants to stop rolling their eyes at us when we tell them that winter is coming.)
- Charismatic megafauna
The Seven Kingdoms and the land beyond the Wall are inhabited by a variety of fantastical beasts, including direwolves, mammoths and kraken. The biology and conservation of these animals are worthy subjects of study; however we propose an initial focus on a species that currently poses a direct threat to humans.
Dragons, once thought extinct, have staged a dramatic comeback, and now feast upon our livestock as if the poor things were popcorn; it is only a matter of time before they start picking us off as well. Before defensive measures can be devised, however, a full anatomical study is urgently needed to understand their flying and fire-breathing abilities. There is just one small problem—we need a dragon cadaver, and those don’t exactly fall out of the sky.
- Scourges and pestilences
Greyscale, the bloody flux and other emerging diseases together claim millions of lives every year. Disease control efforts are hampered by the fact that we have absolutely no idea what causes them, or how they spread. We hold John Snow’s (*) pioneering work on cholera in high regard, and propose similar epidemiological studies to pinpoint the sources of disease outbreaks. Simple public health interventions, such as relocating the night soil heap as far away as possible from the drinking water, could very well work wonders.
To uphold research standards, as well as weed out crackpots, red priestesses and maesters who have no qualms about experimenting on humans without proper ethics approval, we further propose the establishment of a peer-reviewed, open-access academic journal entitled Nature Fantasy World.
As regards funding: we have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of this proposal to the Iron Bank of Braavos. Science is expensive; since the Crown is already up to its eyeballs in debt to the Bank, what are a few million Golden Dragons more?
Our situation is dire but not without precedent: CERN, today the largest particle physics laboratory on Planet Earth, was founded in 1954 to rebuild European science and reunite scientists in the aftermath of World War II.
In a similar vein, we envision collaborative work across realms—impossible during the war—as a foundation for lasting peace in Westeros.
This article is from a monthly column called The Bug Report. Click here to see the other articles in this series.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Natty Dread/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.