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Physiologically impossible, historically improbable

It’s official: Ken Ham’s Ark Park will include…fire breathing dragons. They’re quite definite. Because people have mentioned dragons in the past, and because the Bible specifically says that all air-breathing creatures were on Noah’s Ark, dragons must have been aboard. No other conclusion is possible.

Using this same reasoning, though, they’re also going to have to pack Bigfoot, chupacabras, chimeras, Greys, and unicorns on their big wooden boat. It just gets sillier and sillier.

Comments

  1. lambert says

    Good. Now he can defy the Roman Catholics and include Saint George, the English patron saint that the Vatican denied existed some years ago.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    Fire breathing dragon… right. Since when do green dragons breath fire instead of poisonous gas? I mean, what edition of the Monster Manual is Ham working out of anyway!?

    …And where are the wings!

  3. Dick the Damned says

    Fire breath + wooden boat = safety hazard. (Did Noah have asbestos?)

    Anyway, we already knew that Ken Ham is an idiot.

  4. newfie says

    Don’t forget the breeding population of invisible plesiosaurs in Loch Ness that disproves evilution.

  5. gardengnome says

    I’d like to think Hambone’s really lost the plot but I reckon the whole fire-breathing dragon thing is a ploy to rope the kids in.

  6. says

    Don’t forget that there’s a book in the Old Testament Apocrypha called “Bel and the Dragon” which features an actual dragon slain by Daniel. When I first heard about said book whilst still at school I thought it was laughable and an embarrassment, but Christians seem to have no proper sense of shame about these things.

  7. raven says

    There are other improbable animals that we don’t see around these days in the bible.

    1. Unicorns.

    2. The cockatrice which is some sort of chimaera.

    Behemoth and Leviathon whatever those were.

    In for a penny, in for a pound. Ken Ham’s magic book also says the earth is Flat, the center of the solar system, the stars are just lights stuck on the sky dome, and the moon is a self glowing disk. All of which at least some xians believe today.

  8. anteprepro says

    Greys aren’t on the Ark, silly. They had magical technology that allowed them to continue building the pyramids and protect the Egyptians even when Egypt was flooded by a storm that was strong enough to carve out the Grand Canyon.

    As for unicorns: Nah. That’s just fucking ridiculous.

  9. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ Akira MacKenzie

    I can see serious, untraversable DEEP RIFTS forming on this issue:

    …And where are the wings!

    Dragons don’t have wings! (You might be thinking of Wyrms, which do have wings.)

    We also need to note that, like most societies living on flood plains, there is also a Chinese “Noah” story. It is specifically mentioned that the dragon was saved on the “ ark“.

  10. johnmorgan says

    No problem for Ham to include pink unicorns, as these are universally known to be invisible.

  11. chrish says

    Anyone else see this as less of Ken Ham believing dragons existed and a whole lot more of “Hey the kiddies LOVE dragons, and if I put dragons in my crappy exhibit, it will increase the number of visitors and my profits.” Rubbing his hands together greedily and chuckling sinisterly.

  12. says

    But dinosaurs were mentioned in the Bible (with the right “worldview”–anti-intellectualism or anti-intelligence–you can read them in), so they count while Bigfoot doesn’t.

    Of course dinosaurs could breathe fire. Haven’t you ever heard of bombardier beetles (which couldn’t have evolved their defensive mechanism, naturally)? No, really, that’s pretty much the argument, differences between beetles’ hind ends and dinosaurs’ digestive/respiratory functions be damned.

    Glen Davidson

  13. FossilFishy (Νεοπτόλεμος's spellchecker) says

    How do they explain Sasquatch, hmmmmm? Checkmate theists!

  14. flapjack says

    What no Bonnacon?
    The Bonnacon is a medieval bestiary creature that’s a tailor-made metaphor for Ken Ham’s entire career. It mostly resembles a large bull (though the horns are ram-like) and when threatened unleashes 3 acres of literal flaming napalm bullshit in it’s wake, which lays waste to anything standing behind it.
    http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beastgallery80.htm#
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnacon
    (Mind you if you put one of those on the Ark there’d be no ark)

  15. cartomancer says

    Actually the Cockatrice – a kind of monstrous snake-chicken hybrid – was not an original biblical monster. It emerged from Medieval English folklore and English bestiary lore in the late Twelfth Century. The earliest extant reference to it comes from the university master Alexander Nequam’s De naturis rerum c. 1180AD. The thirteenth-century encyclopedist Bartholomeus Anglicus identified it with the basilisk from late antique animal lore (Pliny, Solinus, Macrobius), whence it derived its characteristic petrifying glare and poisonous characteristics.

    The word “cockatrice” was first used in English to translate the Hebrew “tziph’oni” (from Isaiah) in the Wyclif bible of 1382. The King James version kept it. Previous versions had used either basilisk or just viper.

  16. raven says

    wikipedia:

    The first use of the word in English was in John Wyclif’s 1382 translation of the Bible. This usage was followed by the King James Version, the word being used several times, to translate Hebrew tziph’oni:

    And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.

    —Isaiah 11 8
    Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.

    —Isaiah 14 29
    They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.

    —Isaiah 59 5
    For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the lord.

    —Jeremiah 8 17
    In all these instances, the Revised Version—following the tradition established by Jerome’s Vulgate basiliscus—renders the word “basilisk”, and the New International Version translates it as “viper”. In Proverbs 23:32 the similar Hebrew tzeph’a is rendered “adder”, both in the Authorized Version and the Revised Version.

    While cockatrice is mentioned in the magic book, it’s not too clear what it is, except that it is dangerous. Some translations call them basilisks, which IIRC, is a lizard that, if sighted, turns you to stone.

    The fundie NIV version just calls them snakes. Typical. Despite their claims that the bible is “inerrant”, the NIV rewrites the bible to get rid of some of the more obviously cuckoo stuff. IIRC, the NIV or one of the other latest translations ditched the unicorns too.

    PS We aren’t going to see basilisks in Ham’s pseudomuseum soon. Turning patrons to stone isn’t going to be commercially viable. But since it is mostly a monument to the power of modern plastics to make vaguely realistic objects, a plastic basilisk would fit right in with the plastic dragons.

  17. raven says

    Actually the Cockatrice – a kind of monstrous snake-chicken hybrid – was not an original biblical monster.

    Cockatrice is an English translation for a dangerous creature in the bible called by a Hebrew name. Also sometimes translated as “basilisk”.

    As to which is more correct, cockatrice, basilisk, or something else, does it really matter? It’s all make believe and let’s pretend anyway. Might as well just pick whatever animal suits your fancy.

  18. says

    @raven

    Basilisks are vipers born from the head of Medusa when she was slain and fell to earth when her head was carried by Persius using Hermes winged sandles. they are toxic to anything that touches them and there gaze can petrify like their mother. The Pegasus was also born via her neck stump.

    In contrast a cockatrice is a monster born from a chicken egg that is enchanted and sat on by a large toad. It is half serpent half foul has scourching breath armored feathers and scales and its gaze kills.

    Basalisks and cocatrices in popculture are often conflated

  19. cartomancer says

    Yes, the word cockatrice was used to translate the name of a snake-line animal found in the bible, but its origins were not with the bible – it comes from English bestiary lore, inspired by classical natural history. Until 1382 there were no cockatrices in the bible, Wyclif just picked the mythical beast he thought most apt. Nequam, who was the first writer we know of to use the word Cockatrice (in Latin), was also a skilled Hebraist, and made no connection with the beasts mentioned in Isaiah – either as the original tziph’oni or the basiliscus of the Vulgate. Until the 1260s with Bartholomaeus the cockatrice and the basilisk were separate animals, the cockatrice having more in common with the ichneumon whose name shares a similar etymology. Wyclif no doubt thought that Isaiah meant cockatrice, because the beast was a commonplace of English animal lore by his day, but it didn’t even exist before the twelfth century.

    On the other hand Ken Ham is probably one of those people who thinks that the bible was written in Jacobean English, so I can see where he might get confused.

  20. cartomancer says

    Yes, they are all made up, but they were made up by different people at different times. And I, at least, think that’s an interesting thing to bear in mind. The history of cryptozoology is not something everybody finds fascinating, but it does have a history, and I like it and think it’s worth sharing.

  21. tricycle says

    Isn’t this the best possible direction for Ham & company to follow? As they include more fanciful creatures to portray improbable events they become ever more the theme park. Just another theme park based on fantasy and fiction.

    People go to Universal Studios and watch the Waterworld show, knowing the future aquatic dystopia is fiction. People pay good money to have breakfast with Minnie Mouse at Disney World and even the little kids know she’s not real even if she is fun.

    I wonder how many people go to HamPark and truly believe in vegetarian tyrannosaurs. I expect a good number of them are there because it represents a story they find important to their family’s culture, but they understand it’s become a dramatic exaggeration in the hands of Ham.

    I have a picture of my daughter pushing a baggage cart into the wall at platform 9 3/4 in London’s Kings Cross station. We don’t believe that’s the way to Hogwarts but it sure is fun to pretend for a moment.

  22. minniel says

    In the Bible, the term dragon is symbolic of supreme power and authority. When Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh it became a “dragon”. A symbol of power and authority.

    I find this kind of research much more interesting than the constant marginalizing of these ancient texts. To find out the spiritual implications behind them is much more intellectual than criticizing things you don’t understand.

    The idea of dragons is also prevalent in Chinese legends.

    Where did this idea of a dragon come from? What do dragons remind you of? Think about it. How about dinosaur bones? Isn’t it possible people in times past unearthed dinosaur bones and put together the concept of a dragon? Wouldn’t a dragon be a good word to symbolize great power and authority? After all. Dinosaur bones are bigger than men. So it makes sense that a “dragon” would be a way to convey great power and authority.

  23. says

    Since were on cryptozoology worth polinting out that chupacabra refers to two phenomina. One is a gray like creature resembling a feral werehedghog (most possibly derived from the movie Species) and the other is a catch all for any not readily identifiable animal corpse.

  24. coyotenose says

    1.All air-breathing creatures were brought aboard the Ark to save them from the flood.
    2.Dragons breathed fire.
    3.There are no dragons to be found these days.

    Obviously the dragons evolved fire-breathing as a defense mechanism, but silly aminals, they forgot that the atmosphere isn’t made of fire and they all suffocated. It’s just natural selection at work.

    C’mon people, this isn’t rocket science!

    CROCODUCKS

  25. david says

    “But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of the unicorn”—Psalms 92:10

    There are several other references to unicorns in the bible. By the way, I’ve long wondered which horn will be exalted, and what exactly happens in the exalting.

  26. raven says

    I find this kind of research much more interesting than the constant marginalizing of these ancient texts.

    Research. You explanation is just a post hoc guess. It’s reasonable but so what?

    We laugh at the bible because tens of millions of people in the USA try to pretend that it is inerrant, literally true, has anything valuable to say to modern people, and are trying to use it as a weapon to destroy us.

  27. says

    Would a fire breathing animal necessarily be physiologically impossible? Fuel could be provided by an organ containing enzymes which create hydrocarbons from fatty acids. Heat protection wouldn’t be that difficult, so long as most of the combustion occurred out of the body.

  28. says

    @hyperdeath well the bombidier beetle shows that a biological powerful exothermic rxn is possible. If I were doing a dragons are real but natural story id make them shoot corosives as a defense. It becomes fire in retelling because it scorches the skin and leaves burns.

  29. carlie says

    Its possible dragons come from dinosaur bones…inasia fossils had been sold as dragon bone IIRC…but its also probable they come from story and exageration

    Adrienne Mayor’s book The First Fossil Hunters explores this idea in detail, and she has some pretty intriguing and convincing backup for it.

  30. Louis says

    Flapjack, #22,

    …unleashes 3 acres of literal flaming napalm bullshit in it’s wake…

    I’ve had curries that cause that effect.

    Remember kids: Don’t let the bottom fall out of your world, have a meat phall and let the world fall out of your bottom.

    Louis

  31. Alverant says

    If all air breathing animals were brought onto the arc, what about whales, dolphins, and the like who couldn’t survive on a boat without assistance for that long? Oh wait, bible says they’re fish despite the lack of scales, gills, etc.

  32. RFW says

    Let’s all laugh at Ken Ham’s stupidity. Yes, the bibble (in some translations) refers to “dragons”, but it doesn’t say they’re fire breathing. The current meme to that effect has pretty old roots in art and literature, but today it’s mostly due to Tolkien’s dragon Smaug. And though Tolkien was a devout catholic, Lord of the Rings is not a addition to the bibble.

    Ready, Ken? Hahahahaha! Ha ha ha! Haha haha haha! You are stupid!

    One has to give Ken Ham credit for understanding his anticipated customers: they’re nitwits who don’t have a clear distinction between fact and fiction. (This type is also frequently seen in the Craigslist science forum, where they wander in asking pseudo-scientific questions about technologies found only in fiction, notably in Star Wars. They don’t last long.)

  33. Pyra says

    The sooner my kids graduate and I can leave this area behind, the better…… The dumb stings so often. I saw no less than three creation t-shirts at work last night… We’re the first actual exit with anything worth visiting in the region, so it’s to be expected, I guess.

  34. McC2lhu saw what you did there. says

    Shouldn’t this be a big knock upside the head to wake up his swallowers? At what point in human development does it occur that the gene responsible for bullshit detection from conning shysters is removed in creationists and evengelicals?

    Every asshole with a bad sense of hairstyle and shit-eatin’ grin gets on TV or builds a theme park and pretends it’s all about Jesus and waits for the rubes to fill his bank account. It’s like they all belong to a subset of the Venn diagram describing humans wherein they believe any shit from someone that says they’re channeling Jebus. “Just because, why, there’s no way that GAWD hisself would ever let someone lie about something like that just to make a fast buck!”

    If dragons are in, so must faeries, and naked babies with wings, and Djinn, and The Roc (aka. Dwayne Johnson), and the word ‘fuck’, since they all fly. And that’s what Ham should take – a flying fuck to What-Ever-Happened-To(?) Land

  35. prae says

    One could find explanations how dragonfire work and even how it evolved, but the question is: if the dragons are as big as they are usually described, they shouldn’t be needing any kind of additional defense mechanism. Also, if they are flying, they would need a lot of food.

  36. julietdefarge says

    I’ve had the dubious pleasure of seeing a woman wig out in a mall because her male companion contemplated buying a t-shirt with Chinese dragons on it. Amid all the yelling and flailing, I was able to deduce that whatever denomination she belonged to considered that dragons in the Bible were minions of Satan. I’ll bet Ham is getting some fascinating letters and emails.

  37. says

    No Djinn would be right out! They’re Islamic mythical beings that are Gods prototype of humans made out of fire rather than earth! In some tellings Satan is a Djinn who led his kin in revolt over being sidelined for the next model. Compleatly incompatable! Also unlike demons Djinn can be forgiven by god like humans…which frankly makes Alah a bit nicer than Jehova who entirely forsaked 1/3 of his angelic creation forever

  38. says

    minniel:

    To find out the spiritual implications behind them is much more intellectual than criticizing things you don’t understand.

    And just what is it you think we don’t understand?

    *Restraint applied. Three post rule*

  39. anubisprime says

    It just gets sillier and sillier

    And there was us thinking it might get saner?

    They really are a confused bunch of vacuous bunnies are the chronically deluded!

    They rant and rave about demons and ghoulies and Harry Potter sir not being Christian enough or righteous at all for a good Xian to fuck with …yet fall over themselves to pleasure their gullibility factor and tickle their hysteria bone with blatant childish nonsense dressed up to look vaguely biblical.

    All the while swearing black is blue and blue is orange when it comes to their tacky magikal incantation drenched circle jerking on a Sunday!

    Methinks they are fucking barking cretins to a soldier!

  40. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Not to go against the grain here, but adding fire-breathing dragons can do naught but improve any museum.

    They would certainly be the focus of my enjoyment were I to visit Hamland.

  41. ChasCPeterson says

    Would a fire breathing animal necessarily be physiologically impossible? Fuel could be provided by an organ containing enzymes which create hydrocarbons from fatty acids. Heat protection wouldn’t be that difficult, so long as most of the combustion occurred out of the body.

    Was just thinking about the same thing. Surely this has been done before?
    But without googlin:
    Flammable and volatile hydrocarbons are easily supplied by a foregut fermentation system scaled up from like cattle. Big vat of bacteria churning out methane from plants (yeah, it’s an omnivorous dragon). Now add a storage bladder modeled perhaps on the swim bladder of fish–a well-valved place to store the gaseous products of fermentation instead of constantly burping it out. (The valve would have to be a skeletal-muscle sphincter.) Dragons are probably archosaurs, right? Because living archosaurs all have one-way (forward) airflow through the lungs. You could rig a bird-like air-sac system with a lung bypass route and nozzle the gasbladder into it. Forceful abdominal-muscle contraction coupled with relaxation of the gasbladder sphincter and clamping off of the lungs gives a blowtorch-like highspeed outsnort mixing high-oxygen atmospheric air with bacterial methane.
    OK so but the spark. Has to be external to the nares as noted above. I’m stumped, barring some sort of culturally inherited behavioral routine with flint and meteorite iron or something. Wait–would a bomardier-beetle-like chemical reaction ignite it?

  42. ChasCPeterson says

    yeah, good idea. It works in water but the voltage possible from electric meat is too low to arc in air, I’d guess. It would be cool to be wrong though.

  43. says

    What if in prep they coated nostrils with a membrane of some exreted oil or snot to conduct the arc in? Mixture is pushed through breaking the conductive layer as it goes through but makes contact with arc as it does to ignite the rxn?

    Alternativly what about internal beak like structures to act like flint?

  44. says

    It’s been interesting reading the mythical history of cockatrices, basilisks, and dragons. I bow the the superior nerdity of this thread’s commentators.

    One thought I had that I’m now surprised I haven’t heard a Creationist pull: Asserting that archaeopterix, microraptor, and other transitional dinobirds were cockatrices.

    Moving onto Behemoth, since I didn’t see anyone musing about it: IIRC, it was described as having a “tail” that swung like a cedar tree and “stones.” Taking out the suspected KJ euphemisms, that suggests external male equipment, which suggests a mammalian nature, not dinosaur/dragon as Creationists occasionally assert.

  45. Larry says

    With fire-breathing dragons, I’d say Ham-bone jumped the shark but I think that ship sailed a long time ago.

  46. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    yeah, good idea. It works in water but the voltage possible from electric meat is too low to arc in air, I’d guess. It would be cool to be wrong though

    What if the gap were very small?

  47. says

    (Did Noah have asbestos?)

    The magic gopher wood that has the structural strength to allow construction of an ark that size is also fireproof. Also, it can absorb waste, release breathable air, provide food, distill fresh water, and allow animals plenty of room to exercise during the year they are stuck inside. It’s awesome stuff.

  48. ChasCPeterson says

    you need temperature, though, right? not just current. Ignition temp for methane is (g**gles) almost 600 C.
    I don’t know. Could 500 or 1000 volts drive an arc at that temperature or higher? No clue.

  49. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Idk…I mean it only takes a piece of flint struck against steel with force deliverable by my weak little thumb to light my bic.

    I don’ think ignition is necessarily a problem…maybe dragons eat, like, pyroliths, and sort of smack them together in a spark discharging organ.

  50. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    My interest in dragons this morning seems to be driven by my inversely proportional interest in discussing T-fiddy anymore, or actually getting to work floating drywall in my ummm bathroom, for want of any other word.

  51. says

    Typically the Behemoth is believed to be an exageration or misunderstanding of a large mammel…possibly an elephant.

    In jewish folklore its one of 3 great beasts that hold dominion over water, earth and air. Levianthal and Xuul I think are the other two

  52. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Maybe the dragon use hypergolic liquids, that self-ignite when mixed.

  53. ChasCPeterson says

    Maybe the dragon use hypergolic liquids

    oo!
    (g**gles)
    oh my:

    Traditional hypergolics are also corrosive, toxic and carcinogenic, requiring expensive safety precautions on the ground.

    Any nontraditional ones of plausible biological origin?

  54. KG says

    Genetically engineering a real fire-breathing dragon would surely be an appropriate project for a 21st century mad scientist.

  55. 'Tis Himself says

    Genetically engineering a real fire-breathing dragon would surely be an appropriate project for a 21st century mad scientist.

    But I’m a mad social scientist.

    <snivel>

  56. robro says

    Someone should point out to Ken that there are no dragons in the Bible. The same for unicorns, leviathans, and behemoths. Because the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, they didn’t use those English words. I read earlier that “unicorn” is the translation of the Hebrew word for auroch, an extinct ancestor of cows. Also, several of the places in the Old Testament where you find “dragon” in the English describe a sea monster who wouldn’t need the Ark.

  57. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ Chas

    NaCl + H2O —> NaClO (provides the sodium hypochlorate) + H2. This will react vigorously with, for example, methanol (ethanol would be safer for the dragon though as methanol is poisonous – anyway the principle is what matters here) and can spontaneously combust. The Hydrogen is a bonus. The NaClO could be stored until needed in a special dry pouch. (The ethanol could be stored in the dragon’s liquor cabinet.)

    ….

    [dinosaur bones ---> dragons]

    More likely large snakes’ (python?) bones, as dragons are long and thin. The “legs” could be that of a prey. Also this could go some way to explaining the dragons’ affinity to water.

  58. ChasCPeterson says

    so back to Ing’s idea.
    A quick internet calculation suggests that an arc across 1 mm of air requires 3000 volts. Maybe a really massive electrical organ of the electric-eel design could do that. You’d need the ends of the electric organ to conduct through electrodes that could be touched and then slightly separated. Perhaps a pair of modified hollow fangs filled with electrolytes and tiny pinholes at the tips?

  59. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Would a fire breathing animal necessarily be physiologically impossible? Fuel could be provided by an organ containing enzymes which create hydrocarbons from fatty acids. Heat protection wouldn’t be that difficult, so long as most of the combustion occurred out of the body.

    An animal capable of ejecting a chemical mixture which ignited on the way out of its body would be possible in principle, but the calorie intake needed to sustain it would be pretty formidable and igniting imprecisely mixed chemical mixtures is harder than you might think.

    For my own writing I had the idea of having dragon-like creatures spit a spray of a chemical which reacted with atmosphere to form perchloric acid. That seems more feasible.

  60. AndrewD says

    @Chas,
    If the fuel store for the Dragon is anaerobic, why not generate a phosphine component which would be self igniting after mixing with air (If I remember correctly the Dragons in Anne Macaffery’s books ate a phosphate rock to generate flame)

  61. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    The thing with perchloric acid specifically is it’s also a powerful oxidizer, so it tends to ignite organic things.

  62. says

    Still brainstorming: is it possible for dragons to have some sort of heat sink system to funnel excesse body heat up to the ignition point to help? Some sort of heat transfering lymph system?

  63. says

    бегемот (bee-ge-MOT)– hard g– is a hippopotamus in Russian. So when I read behemoth I see hippo.

    Plus, hippos are my favorite.

    /end completely random and unscientific intrusion.

  64. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Still brainstorming: is it possible for dragons to have some sort of heat sink system to funnel excesse body heat up to the ignition point to help? Some sort of heat transfering lymph system?

    Probably not, given the way heat transfer works. Simplifying slightly, heat naturally “flows” “downhill,” so you have to expend energy to transfer heat from a colder location to a hotter location (this is how refrigerators work). A heat sink couldn’t even in principle be raised to a temperature above the highest temperature generated elsewhere in the body except by chemical reactions or compression (realistically, of a vapor).

  65. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    …unless the dragon eats a lot of rock and its body retains and concentrates radioactive elements, I suppose. A small natural fission reactor could produce bursts of ignition temperatures, in principle, but the physiological adaptations needed to maintain and survive it would be pretty extreme.

  66. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Wasn’t that “The Flight of Dragons?” I think the idea was the use of hydrogen gas, and there ate multiple issues with that. (Sufficiently low density that the pressures a dragon could realistically expel it at wouldn’t produce enough momentum to make a stream of it – it would float upward pretty pronouncedly to the extent it didn’t just ignite in a blowtorch-like jet from the mouth, plus it doesn’t burn visibly to speak of).

    The classical depictions would really pretty much have to be either a very dense gas or a liquid igniting en route.

  67. duvelthehobbit666 says

    But Bigfoot does exist. He is a contributor to FtB. He has been for a couple months now.

  68. microraptor says

    PS We aren’t going to see basilisks in Ham’s pseudomuseum soon. Turning patrons to stone isn’t going to be commercially viable. But since it is mostly a monument to the power of modern plastics to make vaguely realistic objects, a plastic basilisk would fit right in with the plastic dragons.

    Getting stoned would probably improve the experience.

    Wasn’t that “The Flight of Dragons?”

    Yeah, the old animated movie was the first place I’d seen that explanation, but the fauxumentary “Dragons, A Fantasy Made Real” used basically the same concept for how dragons could fly and breath fire.

  69. llewelly says

    theophontes (坏蛋)
    11 August 2012 at 12:37 pm:

    @ Chas

    NaCl + H2O —> NaClO (provides the sodium hypochlorate) + H2. This will react vigorously with, for example, methanol (ethanol would be safer for the dragon though as methanol is poisonous – anyway the principle is what matters here) and can spontaneously combust. The Hydrogen is a bonus. The NaClO could be stored until needed in a special dry pouch. (The ethanol could be stored in the dragon’s liquor cabinet.)

    I used to have a book, Flight of Dragons , by Peter Dickinson and Wayne Anderson ( http://www.amazon.com/The-Flight-Dragons-Peter-Dickinson/dp/0060110740 ), based on approximately this notion, explaining how dragons flew, lived, mated, bore their young, interacted with humans (mostly violent, ending in extinction for the dragons), and so on. Fascinating concept, lots of interesting coverage of dragon-related mythology, but badly done in many respects, especially much of the biology and anatomy.

  70. Gregory in Seattle says

    Improbable, but not impossible.

    In the old Dragon Magazine, a fan journal for players of Dungeons and Dragons, there was a series called “The Biology of…” where they would get writers with a good basis in science to write “If X from the Monster Manual were to actually exist, how would it fit in the real world?” One of those articles was on the red dragon.

    Red dragons live in arid climates with high concentrations of sodium compounds such as salt, borax and sodium nitrate. Like many creatures in desert climates, dragons rarely urinate. Instead, the sodium is extracted, wrapped in a fatty compound and stored in glands within the dragon’s sinuses, where it is protected by a volatile, non-oxydizing solvent. When hunting or as a defensive measure, the dragon can expel this liquid: the solvent vaporizes quickly, shrinking the fatty compounds and exposing elemental sodium vapors to the oxygen in the air. Voila: a fire-based breath weapon that can only be used a few times before it becomes depleted and must be restored through a gradual metabolic process.

    The bigger issue is that European style dragons are hexapods (six limbs, ie four legs and two wings.) If you assume either non-flying “dragons” or wyvrens (hind legs only, with the forelimbs evolved into wings) then a fire-breathing reptile is not all that far fetched.

  71. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    The bigger issue is that European style dragons are hexapods (six limbs, ie four legs and two wings.) If you assume either non-flying “dragons” or wyvrens (hind legs only, with the forelimbs evolved into wings) then a fire-breathing reptile is not all that far fetched.

    Or maybe “wings” as a panda’s-thumb style extension of the ribs. Most of the “good metallic dragons” in at least the 3E illustrations are drawn more or less this way.

  72. says

    Ing:

    Forget Dragons if they want a real draw they’d add Succubi

    I’d go if they had incubi, especially if the incubi looked like Gareth Thomas or Tom Hiddleston and there were a live demonstration with audience volunteers. /raises hand, waves it wildly

    Some cable TV show a few years ago suggested that dragons appear in the folklore of multiple cultures because they combine the features of three major classes of predator: snakes, wildcats, and birds of prey. It sounded reasonable enough to me, although the narration went off the rails IMO by speculating that the fear is embedded in us from our “distant evolutionary past” as various prey species.

  73. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    It sounded reasonable enough to me, although the narration went off the rails IMO by speculating that the fear is embedded in us from our “distant evolutionary past” as various prey species.

    Isn’t there some evidence that creatures have evolved to instinctively regard certain traits associated with predators as threatening? Mice has an instinctive aversion to cat urine, for instance, IIRC, and ancestral primates would have been preyed on by all three of those groups.

  74. Gregory in Seattle says

    @Azkyroth #99 – It is even more basic than that. Herbivores have an instinctive aversion to the spoor of carnivores: witness the fact that lion dung is very effective as a deer repellant, even though deer would never have seen lions in the wild. It has something to do with the protein compounds and metabolic by-products of an all-meat diet.

  75. Menyambal --- Sambal's Little Helper says

    Didn’t there used to be giant fire-breathing termites that were also carnivorous? (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) If we can get Hammy convinced those existed, he will have some explaining to do.

  76. says

    Azkyroth, admittedly I’m not familiar with the research. I could see a species evolving to instinctively regard certain traits associated with predators as threatening — if said predators preyed on that species. What that TV show suggested sounded akin to “memories of past lives.”

  77. kosk11348 says

    I love how confidently they answer their own objections.

    But aren’t dragons huge? Contrary to popular opinion, the average size was only about that of a sheep.

    And how they know that?

  78. says

    The obvious way to ignite a dragon’s hydrocarbon spew is phosphorous, which is already involved in a lot of metabolism.

    Presumably physiological methods of producing white phosphorous or some such thing aren’t impossible, and with a little friction, voila, a nice fire with which to start the larger flame.

    Glen Davidson

  79. says

    Amusingly, some of the more isolated villages in the Afghan mountains believe in the existence of dragons, among other things.

    Glad we’ve reduced northern Kentucky to the same level of superstition that you typically see from villages so isolated that they mistake American patrols for Soviet ones.

  80. says

    Regarding hypergolic mixtures, hydrogen peroxide is one possibility. At very high concentrations, it causes many combustible materials to spontaneously ignite. It is a natural product of many metabolic reactions, but concentrating it may be difficult.

  81. says

    Only air-breathing animals on the ark

    So they mean dragons are fire INHALING and not fire EXHALING like I always though it was?

    What danger are they? Too busy gathering around volcanoes and forest fires gasping desperately for flames to be worried about.

  82. imthegenieicandoanything says

    “Silly” is about the tenth word I would use to describe it, or anything done by Ken Ham. “Evil” would run about third, given that “nauseating” would be first. And its resulting actions second.

  83. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Azkyroth, admittedly I’m not familiar with the research. I could see a species evolving to instinctively regard certain traits associated with predators as threatening — if said predators preyed on that species. What that TV show suggested sounded akin to “memories of past lives.”

    My interpretation of the hypothesis was that it was proposed as a behavioral atavism, since apes, per my understanding, are descended from creatures that looked and lived relatively like “typical” old-world monkeys, who would presumably have been prey for such creatures, and there would be no particular selective pressure to *abandon* the fear of large raptors once it had evolved (large snaked and big cats, of course, there would be more immediate adaptive pressures for hominids to avoid). I can certainly see a nature show host easily mangling that, though…

  84. Lofty says

    Fire breathing draons being related to snakes would of course have a forked tongue. The original use of the forked tongue is to hold a piece of flint ready to scrape against the teeth covered in a safety match type substance, causing ignition instantly. So the reason fire breathing dragons died out is horrible humans kept stealing its flints to build houses.
    Trufax.

  85. says

    Some cable TV show a few years ago suggested that dragons appear in the folklore of multiple cultures because they combine the features of three major classes of predator: snakes, wildcats, and birds of prey. It sounded reasonable enough to me, although the narration went off the rails IMO by speculating that the fear is embedded in us from our “distant evolutionary past” as various prey species.

    Falsified. Typical Chinese dragons lack wings…they do have antlers though

  86. Hatchetfish says

    raven, #3:

    There are other improbable animals that we don’t see around these days in the bible.

    1. Unicorns.

    2. The cockatrice which is some sort of chimaera.

    3. Gods.

  87. birgerjohansson says

    I was thinking about Beowulf. If they have dragons on the Ark, surely they should include trolls as well?
    P Z, get your Comicon friends out with their troll costumes, picketing the theme park with placards saying “Ken Ham unfair to trolls and orchs”.
    — — — — — — — —

    Naked Bunny with a Whip,
    The Ark was bigger on the inside than the outside, like the Tardis.
    — — — — — — — —
    If the athmosphere was compressed to the density of water, it would be ca. 10m (30 ft) deep. How do you squeeze out a flood-scale water layer from that? Remember we are talking about drenching mountain ranges.
    And afterwards the flood water (that also must have flooded the oceans to the same height) magically disappears. More high-tech Tardis manipulation of spacetime?

  88. says

    I’ve heard speculation that one possible origin for stories of things with deadly sight and fire breath could be some species of amphibian that shoot nasty stuff from behind their eyes

  89. Owen says

    IIRC there were also “the fountains of the deep” – although where you hide that much water under the crust is anyone’s guess.

  90. says

    If the athmosphere was compressed to the density of water, it would be ca. 10m (30 ft) deep. How do you squeeze out a flood-scale water layer from that? Remember we are talking about drenching mountain ranges.
    And afterwards the flood water (that also must have flooded the oceans to the same height) magically disappears. More high-tech Tardis manipulation of spacetime?

    bah obviously it wasn’t water but a down pour of nanite machines

    The machines formed a giant ‘liquid’ ocean and deconstructed everything not on the arc. This is why there’s no fossil evidence. Once the job was complete the “rain” was recalled back to the ship.

  91. KG says

    Single-horned animals are pretty common.
    It’s just keratin. – Lion IRC

    When you find an Indian or Javan rhinoceros, narwhal* or other one-horned animal that can be tamed by, and only by, a virgin, let me know.

    *The narwhal’s horn is actually a tooth, but I’m being generous. I can’t think offhand of any other living animals that are generally one-horned, although I’d assume you get individual sheep, antelope, stag beetles etc. in which only one horn develops.

  92. alkaloid says

    If the fuel store for the Dragon is anaerobic, why not generate a phosphine component which would be self igniting after mixing with air (If I remember correctly the Dragons in Anne Macaffery’s books ate a phosphate rock to generate flame)

    Wouldn’t any phosphine that reactive be highly toxic to the dragon too, though?

    What about an small MW ether peroxide that’s generated like the bombardier beetle system iirc; namely that they’re mixed right before it is supposed to be caught on fire from two glands in which one made the ether while the other made the hydrogen peroxide?

  93. Menyambal --- Sambal's Little Helper says

    It’s been a long time, but I think Isaac Asimov said there was a middle-eastern ox that was always depicted in wall paintings as viewed in profile. The profile view only showed one horn, and the locals took to calling it “unicorn” in the local language.

  94. Rasmus says

    Fire-breathing aside, is there any way that such a big animal could get off the ground? I’ve been told that animals that are shaped like a big lump don’t scale well because the mass is proportional to the cube of the size while things like muscle strength and bone strength are proportional to the cube of the size… There’s no way you could get an animal weighing in at several tonnes to fly.

    Or I guess maybe God could work around that by shaping the dragon like a long and thin snake with lots and lots of wings down it’s sides. Or maybe he could create a dragon shaped like a huge flying wing, like a B2 bomber.

  95. Rasmus says

    Sorry, that should be cube v.s. square, not cube v.s. cube.

    By the way I just googled and found out about Quetzalcoatlus, a flying animal that they estimate weighed up to 250 kg. Pretty impressive in and of itself, but pathetic for a dragon if you ask me.

  96. thebookofdave says

    Noah must have been able to spare a few square cubits for griffins and jackalopes! I should put in a suggestion for his fantasy themepark artists.

  97. JohnnieCanuck says

    Don’t forget the sidehill gougers. They’re really real. I’ve seen their trails.

  98. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ Rasmus

    Flying snakes are no problem. Linky. But also check out Draco (=”dragon” !!elebenty!!) lizards: Linky

    *sigh* But we still haven’t solved the pyrogenesis problem.

  99. McC2lhu saw what you did there. says

    Jackalopes are as American as apple pie and baseball and a year’s supply of Turtle Wax. He wouldn’t be remotely patriotic if he didn’t include them.

  100. ChasCPeterson says

    Indeed there are many questions about how or even if Quetzlcoatlus could fly at that mass. You pretty much have to make up a different sort of muscle tissue than exists now. The largest flying birds (Kori bustard and certain male swans, about 20 kg) are right at the limit of what skeletal muscle can do as far as physiology can tell. I’ve found that paleontologists don’t like to talk about this.

  101. ibbica says

    *lol* thanks, Steve – I was pretty sure it had gotten out somewhere but couldn’t be bothered to search myself :P

  102. Amphiox says

    Fire-breathing aside, is there any way that such a big animal could get off the ground? I’ve been told that animals that are shaped like a big lump don’t scale well because the mass is proportional to the cube of the size while things like muscle strength and bone strength are proportional to the cube of the size… There’s no way you could get an animal weighing in at several tonnes to fly.

    Certainly not with the shape that dragons are traditionally supposed to have. The fossil record demonstrates that animals as big as giraffes can fly, but they have to have the right shape, and they have to be extremely lightweight for their size, being no more than the mass of a very heavy human, stretched out to that extreme size.

    By the way I just googled and found out about Quetzalcoatlus, a flying animal that they estimate weighed up to 250 kg. Pretty impressive in and of itself, but pathetic for a dragon if you ask me.

    Standing as tall as a giraffe, I would not call that pathetic. (In fact, doesn’t that fit well into the range of medium-sized D&D dragons? Not the huge ones, but the smaller species?)

    Indeed there are many questions about how or even if Quetzlcoatlus could fly at that mass. You pretty much have to make up a different sort of muscle tissue than exists now.

    Well, I think it is pretty much established that the big azhdarchids could fly, and with within-the-normal-range of known muscle performance. Exactly how remains open to discussion.

    The largest flying birds (Kori bustard and certain male swans, about 20 kg) are right at the limit of what skeletal muscle can do as far as physiology can tell.

    Extinct birds such as the Haast’s Eagle (historically confirmed to be able to fly) and the Teratorns (very likely to have flown) reached 30 kg. And Argentavis is estimated to have exceeded 70kg.

    The big issue for these big flyers is take-off. Once you’re in the air and have built up some speed, the wings can produce enough lift to keep even such big bodies airborne, but accelerating to take-off speed and getting off the ground is the biggest hurdle. Quite probably these big ancient flyers did in fact have significant troubles getting off the ground if caught in unfavorable circumstances. The modern big birds have been observed to similarly struggle taking off.

    Or maybe he could create a dragon shaped like a huge flying wing, like a B2 bomber.

    To be that big you have to to have the internal structure of a B2 – ie external skeleton, hollow interior. So you can’t be a vertebrate. Your energy distribution system cannot be wholly liquid and contained in tubes (modern jets of course have liquid fuel engines, but the energy for all other operations except thrust is transmitted electrically) or else you run into the size limitation that arthropods run into.

    There is also the question of how your flight characteristics and other essential functions scale, as a living organism can’t be assembled full size from pre-fabricated parts and has to grow from a zygote (can you imagine a reasonable embryology for a B2?).

    And finally, there is take-off speed. B2 (and other jets) can only get enough lift to be airborne at jet speeds. They can’t take off without reaching such speeds on the runway, and if they slow down too much in the air they’ll stall. Any flying organism the shape and size of a B2 faces the same problems – it would need a jet engine to be able to take off.

    Of course I suppose a fire breathing dragon could have a jet or rocket-assisted take-off mechanism.

  103. microraptor says

    When you find an Indian or Javan rhinoceros, narwhal* or other one-horned animal that can be tamed by, and only by, a virgin, let me know.

    Isn’t the tamed by a virgin thing something that was added to unicorns during the Middle Ages?

  104. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Indeed there are many questions about how or even if Quetzlcoatlus could fly at that mass. You pretty much have to make up a different sort of muscle tissue than exists now.

    Well, I think it is pretty much established that the big azhdarchids could fly, and with within-the-normal-range of known muscle performance. Exactly how remains open to discussion.

    I would assume there wasn’t much flapping involved…

  105. says

    >I’ve found that paleontologists don’t like to talk about this.

    From what I can see they’ve been very busy talking about this.

    From wikipedia:

    >After factoring wingspan, body weight, and aerodynamics, a sophisticated computer program lead the two researchers to conclude that Q. northropi was capable of flight “up to 80 miles an hour for 7 to 10 days at altitudes of 15,000 feet”.[17] Mike Habib further suggested a maximum flight range of 8,000 to 12,000 miles for Q. northropi.[17] Henderson’s work was further criticized by Habib, who pointed out that although Henderson used excellent mass estimations, they were based on outdated pterosaur models, and that anatomical study of Q. northropi and other large pterosaur forelimbs show a higher degree of robustness than would be expected if they were purely quadrupedal.[18] Habib believes that large pterosaurs most likely utilized a short burst of powered flight in order to then transition to thermal soaring.

    Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quetzalcoatlus#Flight

    Note: I was previously “Notkieran”, but I can’t sign in as that any more.

  106. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

    So none of us believe in cryptids? Fantastic, now we can pat ourselves on the back in the knowledge that we are Real Skeptics!

  107. David Marjanović says

    Alternativly what about internal beak like structures to act like flint?

    Beak = fingernail material.

    you need temperature, though, right? not just current. Ignition temp for methane is (g**gles) almost 600 [°]C.
    I don’t know. Could 500 or 1000 volts drive an arc at that temperature or higher? No clue.

    A visible arc is by definition glowing white – thousands of °C, not hundreds.

    Methane ignites as easily as hydrogen. Mixtures with air are explosive.

    Any nontraditional ones of plausible biological origin?

    Hm. Methanol is imaginable, provided it can somehow be collected and then kept away from the rest of the animal, which is hard to imagine; it’s hypergolic with nitric acid, which can be produced by some bacteria, but probably not in serious concentrations.

    In short, no, not as far as Wikipedia tells me.

    auroch

    Au(e)rochs(e). Ochs = ox.

    NaCl + H2O —> NaClO [...] + H2

    You’re talking about what here – electrolysis??? Not biologically plausible in the least.

    More likely large snakes’ (python?) bones, as dragons are long and thin.

    Fossil pythons/boas are way too rare for that, and not really big enough.

    Perhaps a pair of modified hollow fangs filled with electrolytes and tiny pinholes at the tips?

    Why not!

    For my own writing I had the idea of having dragon-like creatures spit a spray of a chemical which reacted with atmosphere to form perchloric acid. That seems more feasible.

    How???

    If the fuel store for the Dragon is anaerobic, why not generate a phosphine component which would be self igniting after mixing with air

    The problem would be to keep the phosphine from diffusing into the rest of the body. Phosphine has been described as “heavily toxic”.

    …unless the dragon eats a lot of rock and its body retains and concentrates radioactive elements, I suppose. A small natural fission reactor could produce bursts of ignition temperatures, in principle, but the physiological adaptations needed to maintain and survive it would be pretty extreme.

    Gives a whole new meaning to the term “Godzilla Threshold”.

    Red dragons live in arid climates with high concentrations of sodium compounds such as salt, borax and sodium nitrate. Like many creatures in desert climates, dragons rarely urinate. Instead, the sodium is extracted

    Dude, you can’t “extract” elemental sodium from anything without electrolysis (or elemental potassium or worse). It’s outside of biochemistry.

    deer would never have seen lions in the wild

    Well, except in India. (And, up to 2000 years ago, much of the Middle East all the way to Greece.)

    The obvious way to ignite a dragon’s hydrocarbon spew is phosphorous, which is already involved in a lot of metabolism.

    Elemental phosphorus, which does burn very nicely, is not involved in biochemistry at all. There’s no energetically feasible way for biochemistry to make it.

    Regarding hypergolic mixtures, hydrogen peroxide is one possibility. At very high concentrations, it causes many combustible materials to spontaneously ignite. It is a natural product of many metabolic reactions, but concentrating it may be difficult.

    Concentrating it is definitely difficult and dangerous.

    Indeed there are many questions about how or even if Quetz[a]lcoatlus could fly at that mass. You pretty much have to make up a different sort of muscle tissue than exists now.

    Not true. Find Michael Habib’s work (start from Wikipedia), and perhaps Jim Cunningham’s if he has published.

    The largest flying birds (Kori bustard and certain male swans, about 20 kg) are right at the limit of what skeletal muscle can do as far as physiology can tell.

    Teratornis died out, like, yesterday. When you predict size limits in biology that were easily surpassed last ice age, something’s wrong.

    The fossil record demonstrates that animals as big as giraffes can fly, but they have to have the right shape, and they have to be extremely lightweight for their size, being no more than the mass of a very heavy human, stretched out to that extreme size.

    No, there’s no way you can get realistic estimates of Quetzalcoatlus below 230 kg or so, and that’s a mind-bogglingly obese human (though not the world record, amazingly enough).

    I think it is pretty much established that the big azhdarchids could fly

    Their anatomy simply makes no sense for flightless animals.

    and with within-the-normal-range of known muscle performance. Exactly how remains open to discussion.

    Like motor-gliders: anaerobic bursts of flapping followed by gliding.

    The big issue for these big flyers is take-off. Once you’re in the air and have built up some speed, the wings can produce enough lift to keep even such big bodies airborne, but accelerating to take-off speed and getting off the ground is the biggest hurdle. Quite probably these big ancient flyers did in fact have significant troubles getting off the ground if caught in unfavorable circumstances. The modern big birds have been observed to similarly struggle taking off.

    That’s why I mentioned Habib and Cunningham. Pterosaurs didn’t take off the way birds do! They jumped off with their forelimbs, not their hindlimbs. This way they could use their flight muscles to take off, something birds can’t do; and that allowed them to take off very quickly indeed. Habib and Cunningham have done the math, and at least Habib published it a year or three ago.

    The thin struts of bone within the hollow wing bones line up with the stresses of taking off, not so much those of flapping, because the stresses of taking off were higher.

    Any flying organism the shape and size of a B2 faces the same problems – it would need a jet engine to be able to take off.

    …if it’s also as heavy as a B2, means, made of metal. But then, a B2 can’t flap.

    I would assume there wasn’t much flapping involved…

    There was. Azhdarchids (unlike some other kinds of pterosaur) simply wouldn’t work as albatrosses. That’s why their wing sizes & shapes were much different from those of albatrosses.

    So none of us believe in cryptids? Fantastic, now we can pat ourselves on the back in the knowledge that we are Real Skeptics!

    First of all, if you believe in something, you’re not skeptical.

    Second, not all cryptids are equally plausible. Compared to any dragon, Bigfoot would be utterly unsurprising, and the orang pendek will be discovered next week.

  108. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ David M.

    NaCl + H2O —> NaClO [...] + H2

    You’re talking about what here – electrolysis??? Not biologically plausible in the least.

    Oy Vey, my cunning scheme won’t work then.

    OK, how about this then: They collect dust bunnies in their lairs. These are stored in a special pouch with jade comb and cats pelt. Dust bunnies are very unstable and flash at the smallest (electrostatic) discharge. This will then ignite the ethane/air mixture….

  109. Amphiox says

    No, there’s no way you can get realistic estimates of Quetzalcoatlus below 230 kg or so, and that’s a mind-bogglingly obese human (though not the world record, amazingly enough).

    That’s why I said very heavy human. No, it wasn’t me mixing up kgs and lbs. Nope. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

    Pterosaurs didn’t take off the way birds do! They jumped off with their forelimbs, not their hindlimbs. This way they could use their flight muscles to take off, something birds can’t do; and that allowed them to take off very quickly indeed. Habib and Cunningham have done the math, and at least Habib published it a year or three ago.

    Yeah. I heard about that hypothesis, and I have no doubt that it is the reason that Quetzalcoatlus and co mass at least triple the top estimated mass of Argentavis, the largest known bird. But I kind of suspect that they are near the physiologic limit for flight with that body plan, even with the forelimb launch (as several similarly large species have been found, but none larger, suggested that size is approaching some kind of limit), and it may be that clumsiness on takeoff and the disadvantages that might accrue when being ambushed by a T. rex while on the ground serves as that physiologic limit for getting any bigger.

    Compared to any dragon, Bigfoot would be utterly unsurprising, and the orang pendek will be discovered next week.

    Bigfoot/Yeti/Orang pendek (in reverse order) might well be the three most plausible of all cryptids. If any one were discovered and confirmed tomorrow, I would be surprised (and excited), but not shocked.

  110. Amphiox says

    Pterosaurs didn’t take off the way birds do!

    And considering the positioning and anatomy of their hindlimbs, and how they are bound up with the flight membrane, if pterosaurs tried to take off like birds they would be even worse off and would be limited to even smaller masses, than birds.

    Speaking of which, anyone have any ideas regarding the physiologic limitations for size for bats? A four-limbed lift-off ought to be possible for bats, but the maximum mass for bats seems to be less than for birds. Could it have anything to do with the relative inefficiency of mammalian respiration?

  111. Amphiox says

    I wonder if a biological plausible mechanism might be something like that of the spitting cobra – a liquid spray containing enzymes that react with organic material in an exothermic reaction that rapidly raises the temperature to the flashpoint, causing the target to burst into flame.

    Or combine that with the Bombadier beetle, mixing two components that when combined react explosively. One could be ejected from each “fang”, with the two streams converging on the target, causing the explosion on the target, and well away from the dragon’s mouth.

    We could also go oriental and have the dragons breath steam, boiling water being easier to achieve for organic chemistry than fire, perhaps.

  112. strange gods before me ॐ says

    First of all, if you believe in something, you’re not skeptical.

    I believe in the existence of an external world.

    Also butterflies.

  113. Amphiox says

    Someone should point out to Ken that there are no dragons in the Bible. The same for unicorns, leviathans, and behemoths. Because the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, they didn’t use those English words.

    In Ken Hamm’s reality, god’s language is King James English.

  114. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

    @Ing: Sorry, quite an obtuse joke if you don’t have the context (and a pretty weak one even if you do). I was alluding to PZ’s critique of skeptics who steer away from difficult or potentially contentious issues (such as atheism, f’rinstance) and seem to think that not believing blatantly stupid stuff is all it takes to be a skeptic.

  115. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    OK, snakes:

    How about a Cape or Mozambique Spitting Cobra. See Pic. Now imagine if that happened with a glorious African sunset going on in the background? It would certainly look like a jet of flame. The effects of the venom are also much like being severely burned. Now if it burst after eating a ginormous cane rat and the little legs stuck out the sides?

    We best put all these ideas together and run a poll. The Hamster needs all the help he can get.

  116. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    OK, the snakes are looking good right now:

    Herodotus:

    There is a region moreover in Arabia, situated nearly over against the city of Buto, to which place I came to inquire about the winged serpents: and when I came thither I saw bones of serpents and spines in quantity so great that it is impossible to make report of the number, and there were heaps of spines, some heaps large and others less large and others smaller still than these, and these heaps were many in number. This region in which the spines are scattered upon the ground is of the nature of an entrance from a narrow mountain pass to a great plain, which plain adjoins the plain in Egypt; and the story goes that at the beginning of spring winged serpents from Arabia fly towards Egypt, and the birds called ibises meet them at the entrance to this country and do not suffer the serpents to go by but kill them. …

    As for the serpent its form is like that of the watersnake; and it has wings not feathered but most nearly resembling the wings of the bat. Let so much suffice as has been said now concerning sacred animals.

    That pretty much settles it. All Hammy needs to do is sticky tape a couple of stuffed bats wings onto a couple of snakes (ie:”serpents”) and let them run riot. (Also he seriously needs to watch those shekels, now that YHWH is not coming along as an “angel investor”. Animatronics is just so godamned expensive…

  117. theophontes (坏蛋) says

    @ Ken Ham

    Here is the suggestion for 10# cut price dragons:

    Item 1: Flying snakes x 10 + shipping: 10 x $60 + $60 = $660

    Item 2: Freeze dried cave nectar bats (appropriately sized to match snakes, allow 2 off per snake) x 10 + shipping = 10x $60 + (say) $30 = $630

    Item 3: Scotch tape (heavy duty) say $10

    Item 4: Snake bite serum (job lot): say $200 (Allowance item)

    TOTAL: ~ $1500 for ten (10) dragons

    Notes: Save the bat bodies. By adding prosthetic wire arms they can double for the demon/troll/humunculus displays. Also, buy near end-of-shelf-life serum. It is much cheaper and prayer works so much better anyway.

  118. ChasCPeterson says

    I think it is pretty much established that the big azhdarchids could fly, and with within-the-normal-range of known muscle performance.

    *shrug* then there’s some ‘splainin’ to do. I don’t see how anybody can claim to know anything about pterosaur muscle physiology.

    Extinct birds such as the Haast’s Eagle (historically confirmed to be able to fly) and the Teratorns (very likely to have flown) reached 30 kg. And Argentavis is estimated to have exceeded 70kg.

    yeah. Turns out my info was outdated (see below)

    From what I can see they’ve been very busy talking about this.

    They have not. The models discussed at your ‘kipedia link make no use or mention of limitations on power generation or muscle physiology whatsoever afaict.

    A visible arc is by definition glowing white – thousands of °C, not hundreds.

    no shit. The question was whether an arc could be produced by a reasonable voltage, not whether an arc is hot enough to ignite methane. Ing had previously suggested running the current through some sort of conductive mucous (without, I inferred, a visible arc). anyway…

    Not true. Find Michael Habib’s work

    ok, pulled some stuff to read later.

    Teratornis died out, like, yesterday. When you predict size limits in biology that were easily surpassed last ice age, something’s wrong.

    Well, a few things, probably. For one thing it turns out that the negative mass-scaling of available flight power is not negative, as I was taught and used to teach, but seemingly slightly positive. So (according to Ellington (pdf), it’s impossible to accurately predict the intersection point of the scaling of power required to power available (which was the old argument suggesting an upper limit in the 25-kg range). So I have been wrong about that these many years.
    But also probably Argetavis was no flying ace, at least in the take-off department.
    So I’ll grant bird flight to 75 kg or whatever. We’re still in a very different ballpark from Q.

    They jumped off with their forelimbs, not their hindlimbs.

    It kills me that you guys think it’s just about jumping. It’s about the flapping right after the jumping. But I’ll read the Habib shit at some point.

    [This guy sees the potential problems but seems to think the answer is a really dense atmosphere!]

  119. ChasCPeterson says

    have to move on to real life stuff, but I just read this. I still don’t get it. Giant pterosaur on a level plain with no wind uses its forelimbs to vault forward and up, all the flight-muscle power applied and so it vaults…and then what? What’s the criterion for ‘successful launch’? How does the thing not fall flat on its face on that first up-flap? and then flap down hard enough to beat gravity plus?
    I even watched the video. THe thing sails upward for no physical reason at the end.
    but hey, I’m skeptical.

  120. fastlane says

    raven:

    As to which is more correct, cockatrice, basilisk, or something else, does it really matter? It’s all make believe and let’s pretend anyway. Might as well just pick whatever animal suits your fancy.

    Blasphemer!!! Everyone knows that the one true, definitive (collection of) work on make-believe/fantasy animals is 1st edition AD&D.

  121. Rasmus says

    The question was whether an arc could be produced by a reasonable voltage

    You’ve probably seen the sparks that that subway trains can make. The voltage is ~700V, which is only slightly more than what an electric eel can produce… Promising…

    The eels can deliver up to 500 watts according to Wikipedia, but it doesn’t say for how long they can sustain that. I’m assuming the fuel would take some time to ignite.

  122. Marcus Hill (mysterious and nefarious) says

    @fastlane: And everyone knows the best monsters are in the Fiend Folio.