Dragons cannot just create fire. It has to come from somewhere. However, we will want to know how they create fire for various reasons.

In Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern”, the dragons are igniting phosphine-bearing rock they eat and then ignite. The energy comes from the substance that burns like coal. A system like this is actually practical if you have a dragon that’s amenable to it. However, this isn’t going to be much of a challenge for science. You just burn the rock instead of relying on the dragon to do anything with it.

In the movie “Reign of Fire”, you get an excellent and somewhat realistic example of dragon-fire. They can generate fire, but it is an energy-intensive process. They have to eat a lot to sustain it, and one benefit of generating the fire is that it helps them create digestible food.

Any conventional dragons are incredibly dangerous predators, due to the sheer volume of prey they’ll consume. Burning may make meat more easily digestible, but I’m not sure there is a good caloric trade-off. Cooking makes meat much more accessible for us, but dragons will eat so much I’m not sure it is worth it. And the fire will scare away prey.

You could study the dragon to figure out how its body can generate such an exothermic reaction and combustible, sprayable fuel. You’d have to have both fuel creation like the mutated bees in “Defiance” making gasoline-like substances and a delivery mechanism.

If you could study the fuel generation system, you could end up with bioreactors creating fuel as potent as napalm or jet fuel, seeding with dragon cells.

Study the biology of dragons to understand what lets them create such strong, sustained exhales. That could be useful to propulsion. The aerodynamics of dragons is less important to science, since we already have data on so many other flying species. However, we’d still study the heck out of newly discovered megafauna. We’d be more interested in determining how they survived and arrived, unless it was something obvious like the Kaiju portal in “Pacific Rim”.

Would anyone try to learn how to tame dragons? There would certainly be scientists trying to learn about the behavior of the species. Being able to control their movement so they don’t burn cities becomes paramount. However, there isn’t much need to “tame” them and create mounts like the dragons of Pern. They created the dragons and dragon-riders to deal with an existential threat, an airborne parasite that devoured everything if it hit soil. And being an isolated, low-tech colony, they had to genetically engineer a native species (how convenient) to create dragons. They couldn’t just create dragons out of thin air. This engineered species was made with a calm temperament and affinity for humans. In fact, if it doesn’t pair-bond with a rider shortly after hatching, it dies. That process is certainly safer for humanity than hoping that you can tame a baby dragon whose first instinct is to eat you. Someone may buy one for a zoo and try to tame it, but there will be as much resistance from animal rights activists as scientists who want to study it. Yet you’d certainly see genetic sequencing of dragon DNA and analysis of its biology.

What is certain is that you won’t get people trying to tame dragons and turn them into biological weapons. See “Jurassic World” for a realistic (yes, I am using that word) example of what will happen if you’re trying to weaponize smart, powerful predators. It is a waste of time and resources, since you have to feed it, care for it and supervise it when it isn’t in action. And you can use those resources on drones that won’t accidentally eat a handler.

Or have dogs. They can even be carried by parachuting soldiers and deployed by someone who carries them in a side pack. Furthermore, I get the impression the dogs are much more obedient. Worst case scenario, it rips off fingers, not the target’s head, before it stops. Therefore, you won’t get the military-industrial complex trying to create military dragon riders. Sorry, not sorry.


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