From scientific american.com: What does a narcissistic flying reptile that loves the taste of crispy dwarves have in common with a beetle that shoots hot, caustic liquid from its butt? More than you think.
A few weeks ago, audiences were finally treated to the Cumberbatch-infused reptilian villain from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit. Smaug (pronounced and interpreted as if you smashed together “smug” and “smog”) is a terrible dragon that long ago forced a population of dwarves from under a mountain. He laid claim to all their treasures. He burned all their homes. The titular character of the book is then tasked with helping a company of these displaced dwarves take back the mountain from the beast. It wouldn’t be easy—the most common descriptor of a dragon is “fire-breathing,” after all. But unlike other aspects of the book and now the film that are wholly magic, Smaug’s burning breath is actually one of the least magical, and can be wrangled into plausibility. Doing so involves looking inside a beetle’s butt, a Boy Scout’s satchel, and a bird’s throat. [Read More]