Frost zombies, giants, heroes who somehow aren’t hit with a million arrows — there’s a lot of fantasy in HBO’s Game of Thrones. But wildfire, the liquid that bursts and burns a verdant green, destroys encroaching fleets, and maybe obliterates an entire city is closer to reality than you think.
In the video above, scientists are igniting a compound called trimethyl borate, a colorless liquid often used for reactions in organic chemistry. And just like wildfire, it burns an otherworldly green:
Trimethyl borate looks the part, but it doesn’t share wildfire’s more destructive properties. It likely wouldn’t explode like gasoline or burn unyielding like napalm. You can make the stuff at home too — boric acid, antifreeze, a metal container, a lighter, and you’re good to go. Of course, you don’t want to end like literally everyone on Game of Thrones, so don’t attempt to stage your own Blackwater Bay without goggles, gloves, and a fume hood (if you don’t know what a fume hood is, it’s a good sign you shouldn’t make the stuff).
Game of Thrones intersects with real life more often than you’d expect from a hard fantasy show. Author George R.R. Martin just got a particularly spiky brittle star named after him, The Mountain might actually be able to crush a guy’s head, and there is a real neurological disorder that reduces your vocabulary to just one word.
Wildfire too has real world origins. So-called “Greek fire” was the wildfire of the 600s, used by the Eastern Roman empire primarily in naval battles where the liquid would continue to burn even after contacting water. Sound familiar?