Real Life Fantasy: Heat-reactive metals

When we shared that crazy rectangular iceberg a while back, we said there would be more about bismuth in the next RLF entry.


I’m cheating a bit with this entry, and directly quoting the online Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for bismuth:

“Bismuth is a rather brittle metal with a somewhat pinkish, silvery metallic lustre. Bismuth is the most diamagnetic of all metals (i.e., it exhibits the greatest opposition to being magnetized). It is hard and coarsely crystalline. It undergoes a 3.3 percent expansion when it solidifies from the molten state. Its electrical conductivity is very poor, but somewhat better in the liquid state than in the solid. With respect to thermal conductivity, it is the poorest of all metals except mercury.

“Although it does not tarnish in air at ordinary temperatures, bismuth forms an oxide coating when heated and is oxidized rapidly at its boiling point of 1,560 °C. The yellow colour of this oxide distinguishes it from those formed by other metals. At red heat, bismuth reacts with steam, but it is not affected by cold, air-free water; it combines directly with sulfur and with the halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine). The element is not attacked by hydrochloric acid, and only slightly by hot sulfuric acid, but it is rapidly dissolved by either dilute or concentrated nitric acid.”

The bold and italic sentence above (emphasis mine) is what makes bismuth so dang cool.


a chunk of elemental bismuth
A chunk of regular old bismuth.


WHOA! Rainbow bismuth
And this is rainbow magic oxidized bismuth!


Similarly, here’s what happens when you expose bars of titanium to different wavelengths of light voltages of electricity (thanks, Cory, for the correction!):

Found this gem on Reddit a while ago. Link in pic.

Speaking of Reddit, I also found a video of a person torching a brick of pure copper:]

The thing is, oxidation does some pretty wicked things to many of the elements found on Earth… And thermodynamics (ie heat, or the lack thereof) changes everything. The amount of heat needed to catalyze a chemical reaction depends on the element or compound, atmospheric pressure, density, volume, etc.

Aaaaand, as some of you may know, we humans have trace amounts of several metals in our bodies–each essential to our good health.

LiveScience comes through again! Thanks y’all.

Calcium (that’s right, calcium is a metal!), cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, and zinc are the primary metals found in humans. They also produce distinct colors when exposed to heat, or used to create compounds. Or both. Cobalt is associated with blue, manganese with violet, magnesium with green, et cetera.

You see where I’m going with this?

Drafters use the chemical compounds in their bodies to create luxin. The same compounds that exist in all of us. Being lightsick, like being hungover, stems from a person’s body chemistry being out of balance (which is why hydration and electrolytes are so helpful in recovering from too much… drafting).

So my question for you, faithful Chromeriacs, is this: is The Lightbringer Series epic fantasy… Or science fiction?

5 Responses to “Real Life Fantasy: Heat-reactive metals”

  1. Daemar

    So… something like this:
    ??? – Paryl
    Strontium – Sub-Red
    Lithium – Red
    Iron/Calcium – Orange
    Sodium – Yellow
    Magnesium – Green
    Cobalt – Blue
    Manganese – Superviolet
    Potassium – Chi
    For normal drafters, anyway.

    • The Dread Pirate CAPSLOCK

      Yes, exactly! I was a bit rushed trying to get this post finished and didn’t take the time to figure that out. Very well done, friend! Thanks for sharing.

  2. BenT

    I would call it “Epic Sci-Fantasy” in that classic Sci-Fi is all about (relatively) the future/past technology leading to exploration (space mostly, but water/inner/etc are included in exploration)
    Science as the loosely based premise of the book is not apparently obvious unless you are attempting to “deep dive” and understand the history/science of the magic system. Because it isn’t very obvious, it makes the jump to Fantasy, appearing to be a very “magical” system.
    There are many fantasy series where magic takes a toll on the user without giving a truly obvious reference to a scientific base (relating to our universe).

  3. Cory

    I just wanted to point out that the bars of titanium weren’t exposed to different wavelengths of light, but different voltages of electricity.


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