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Alicorn, also referred to as the horn of a unicorn, is commonly associated with fantastic and powerful abilities, such as a potential to purify and render poison harmless. However, I am only looking to explain a handful as best as possible and as realistically as possible.

The following is a short list compiled from my copy of The Secret World of Unicorns, which I have been using as a reference for some time.

  • Alicorn bubbles if placed in cold water, but the water stays cold (no mention of whether the horn disintegrates or not though)
  • Sweats in the presence of poison
  • Kills a scorpion if placed alongside the creature in a jar
  • Cures arsenic-fed pigeons
  • Smells sweet if burned
  • Can be used to draw a circle that no spider can cross
  • Can be dipped in water to purify it and into poison to render it harmless
  • Can heal mortal wounds
  • Can be dipped into other liquids to create medicines

Already, I'm under the assumption that the alicorn may be something that has to be regrown after each usage (which in turn could explain the rarity of a unicorn's assistance, but that's another story). Regardless, I am looking to explain the above traits as best as possible.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Aify, L.Dutch, Amadeus, Vincent, sphennings Jul 29 '17 at 21:37

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Science based and reality check tag for a part of non existing animal??? $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jul 29 '17 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ You should limit yourself at 1 ability per question, otherwise it's too broad. Also, I think this is on topic, we already discussed about possible scientific explanations for magic and many different creatures ability such as the hydra heads regeneration. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jul 29 '17 at 14:50
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Most of the properties of alicorn could be explained by defining the chemical composition of the horn. For example, if the horn is made up of calcium, it would react with cold water to produce hydrogen, thus explaining its bubbling effect. However, this would also heat up the water, so this might not be useful in your case.

One thing that comes to my mind is that the horn be made up of combination of diatomaceous earth (DE) and drugs like opioid and heroin.

  • DE is highly porous in nature, so this could explain the bubbling effect when immersed in cold water.

  • Opioids burns with sweet smell, so that might explain the 'burning with sweet smell' property of alicorn.

  • The abrasive and insecticidal properties of DE could cause the scorpion to die when placed together in a jar.

  • While drawing circle with alicorn, the horn might lose some of its substance because of friction, and the combination of drugs and DE kills the spider. (I'm not too sure if this could work though)

  • The purification property of DE could explain the purification/toxicity reduction property of alicorn.

  • Combination of diatomaceous earth and drugs in alicorn could partially explain its healing properties as well.

  • Opioids in alicorn might release morphine when dipped in other liquids to turn it into medicine.

Also, you could add antidote for arsenic poisoning in the composition to cure arsenic-fed pigeons.

However, if you use this idea, the challenge would be to explain the presence of fossilized remains of diatoms in a living being.

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You can maybe explain healing traits in parts thank to symbiosis, mutualism and evolution :

"Mutualism is the way two organisms of different species exist in a relationship in which each individual benefits from the activity of the other."

(taken from Wikipedia).

Sometimes, there is mutualism between predators and prey, as the cleaning symbiosis between Egyptian plover and Nile crocodile.

You could have a sort of mutualism between natural predators of unicorn and unicorn : unicorn heals predators, predators don't eat unicorn, and the evolution make the corn more efficient, as those with better healing traits will survive more often.

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  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! You should remove that part about this being a comment as that is a reason to delete answers here. Please focus on answering the question. You raise a good point, so no need for saying it's just a comment. And please use the citation markdown ">" at the start of a line for a citation as well as linking to the source. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Jul 29 '17 at 5:55
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It there were a vital essence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitalism), or a deadly essence, alicorn could be operating on that.

Everything in your list has to do with poison, except the "deadly wounds" item. Maybe there's a base level of deadly essence in the body, and being cured of it would enable an unencumbered body to heal faster?

The alicorn universe would be very different from our own, with different fundamentals of chemistry, medicine, and physics. Aristotle and Galen would be useful starting points.

Really, their influence is already present; the notion of a substance that could dispel any poison is pretty Platonic-idealy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idealism)

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