Could a Giant 'Game of Thrones' Ice Wall Keep Out the Undead in Real Life? A Scientific Investigation

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HBO

The towering icy wall, simply known as "the Wall," on the HBO TV series Game of Thrones is the quintessential landmark between the Night King and his White Walkers and the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms.

But is that massive, 700-foot-tall, 300-mile-long barrier physically possible in real life? Glaciologist Martin Truffer says no.

"Ice deforms under its own weight, and 700 feet is a lot of weight," Truffer, physics professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks said in a statement. "That's way more stress than the ice would be under in the Antarctic ice sheet."

The weight of Antarctica, unlike the Wall, is distributed over a much larger area. Even a cliff less than half the height of the Wall would be extreme for the glaciers that fall off into the ocean (like the iceberg that calved from Pine Island Glacier and disintegrated). Not to mention, the ice that makes up the Wall would "flow out like butter," Truffer said, with that much ice stacked on top of itself.

"The ice would flow out faster than you could put the next ice block on," Truffer added. Temperatures at least 40 degrees below zero could slow how quickly the ice flows, but it would need constant maintenance by the Night's Watch. He presumes that since there are forests around the Wall, it is likely only 10 degrees below zero.

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Jim Hampshire, dressed as a character from "Game of Thrones," attends the opening day of Comic Con International in San Diego, California, July 20, 2017. Reuters

"At that temperature, the Wall would quickly slump within a few months, or maybe even a few days," Truffer told Live Science.

The exercise began in 2013 when Wired asked Truffer if the fictional icy barrier were physically possible, and he explained that the wall would need to be 40 times wider in order to support a height of 700 feet. That would result in a shallower slope, which likely wouldn't keep out any invaders—particularly the Night King. He expanded upon that work in a presentation at the American Geophysical Union conference this week, alongside others during a session focused on relating science fiction to science, including the carbon footprint of superheroes to Jurassic Park dinosaurs.

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Medieval defense walls surrounding the historical city of Dubrovnik, one of the most Southern tourist destinations on Croatia's Adriatic coast, are seen on June 6, 2013. Dubrovnik city walls have become a scenographic set for one of best rated US TV series 'Game Of Thrones'. Getty

The work to figure out the possibility of the "Game of Thrones" Wall was pretty simple. "I just ran through some really simple equations to determine how that wall would deform under its own weight," Truffer told Live Science. "These same equations also have more serious applications in examining the behavior of polar ice caps on Mars."

He concluded in the annual AGU presentation that "special magical powers would be necessary to maintain [the Wall's] shape, even for just a few days."

Though Truffer may understand the physics behind the Wall more than most, he has yet to watch the series, himself. So don't tell him what happens at the end of Season 7.

Could a Giant 'Game of Thrones' Ice Wall Keep Out the Undead in Real Life? A Scientific Investigation | Tech & Science