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Is Iron Man possible? Hardly

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

As May approaches, so too does the big summer blockbuster movie season. That means you can bank on a number of flicks based on comic books coming - this year we've got additional instalments in the Hulk and Batman franchises. And, of particular interest to we here in tech land, there is of course Iron Man.

For the uninitiated, Iron Man (the real "man of steel") is the alter ego of billionaire industrialist, playboy and sometimes alcoholic Tony Stark. As the original story went, Stark built weapons for the U.S. military and was captured by enemy forces during the Vietnam war. The Viet Cong forced Stark to build them a killer weapon. Instead, he secretly built the Iron Man armour, which he donned and turned on his captors, fighting his way to freedom and back to the good ol' U.S.A. From there, he turned over a new leaf and pledged to fight evil and the forces of darkness, yadda yadda yadda. Somewhere along the way, he switched the armour colour scheme from its traditional red and gold to red and silver, thus causing huge upheaval in fandom before eventually reverting back to the old standard.

Iron Man has always been particularly interesting to comic fans with an interest in technology because, rather than being bitten by a radioactive bug or finding himself in some weird experiment gone awry, he got his powers the old-fashioned way: he built them. It's in that spirit that Wired Magazine has a nicely done piece by James Kakalios, who is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota and the author of The Physics of Superheroes.

Kakalios posits that Iron Man's armour is a nice idea, but far from achievable, primarily because the energy needed to power the suit's functions - such as jet boots and repulsor rays - would be greater than that produced by a full-sized nuclear power plant. That's hardly the capacity that could be stuffed into a man-sized suit. On the bright side, Kakalios says Stark's cybernetic helmet - through which he controls the armour - is actually not that far off.

I've always wondered a couple of other things. Firstly, how does such thin and form-fitting armour provide him with so much protection? Iron Man is capable of withstanding tank-fired shells, or blows from the Crimson Dynamo. How so? Secondly, what kind of internet access does Stark get in that thing? Is he using 802.11n Wi-Fi, WiMax or something even better? And what kind of a web browser has he got in that helmet? It must also be cybernetically controlled, so why can't Stark share that technology? Surely it would revolutionize the web experience?

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Comments

Monkey

Winnipeg

I think you ask too many questions Peter... HE might come lookin for ya :D

Posted April 24, 2008 11:35 AM

DMO

Haha way to rain on my parade, Peter. The little boy in me just ran to his room, crying. But oh well, I'll always have my Iron Man action figure...even if he doesn't have enough energy as a nuclear power station, or worryingly thin armour.

Posted April 25, 2008 03:45 PM

Tony Stewart

I thinks Iron Man is a lame version of Superman.

Smoke.

Posted April 27, 2008 01:23 AM

Reality Sucks

Calgary

Still a comic book...
Still a hero...

Posted April 28, 2008 02:48 PM

Charles

Toronto

The suit's armor is thin because it has been designed with nano-scale materials that exceed the hardness of diamond - something to do with the way the molecules are latticed together.

It doesn't need to be thick to stop tank shells; but the suit has to provide a bit of negative feedback thrust to counter-act the sheer kinetic force of impact...otherwise Iron Man would be thrown half a block when he's hit. The gyro-stabilization software takes care of that automatically.

The power source is proprietary technology from Stark Industries - but I heard a rumor that it is, in fact, a nano-scale fusion reactor, carefully packaged in a lead casing and shaped with a special lens that can shutter open to provide a burst of raw energy (the 'chest beam' weapon).

Stark isn't hooked up to the Web; he's actually finagled his way (hey, he's a billionaire) to being one of the first few to log into the Grid...the fiber-optic network which will replace the Web in a few years. Connection speeds are up to 300 times faster - Tony can download the entire season of South Park in about 3 seconds and watch it in his helmet on long intercontinental flights. He's using a modded Beta of Firefox to interface.

Hope that answers your questions! ^_^

Posted April 28, 2008 08:29 PM

Garet

Winnipeg

I don't really see how you compare Iron Man and Superman. I'd say Iron Man is a cooler Batman...

Posted April 29, 2008 08:05 AM

Luc

Buckingham

Dang it Charles,

That was almost too deep for your own good....

Why doesnt Superman simply turn back time every time he as a problem to overcome, it would seem logical to me... forget fighting the odds...

Spin the Earth back a few hours and Voila !

Posted April 29, 2008 06:51 PM

MK

Chicago

How you compare Iron Man to superman or batman is beyond me. Superman, he's from another planet and Batman, come on, Batman has gadgets and hardcore training. Iron Man is a genius in a highly thoughtout and planned suit. Iron Man is a man with nothing but intellegence that learns how to harness his intellegence for the greater good. Batman is out for vengence and Superman just doesn't know any better seeing as how he's not from Earth.

Posted May 5, 2008 08:37 PM

Garet

Winnipeg

I compared Iron Man and Batman because they are both born of tragedy and esentially rely more on gadgets and intelligence than anything else. Only Iron Man is interesting. Batman has gotten so stale.

Posted May 6, 2008 10:29 AM

Jenn

I think we're all forgetting one tiny detail: its a comic book. Of course its not plausible.

Posted May 8, 2008 02:02 PM

ryan.allan

evrything starts out as since fiction then with time and inovation becomes real world fact. tech has to develop to that level or just like supermans home planet earth will blow up one day "millena way mind you." I prefer to be an optimist and put my monney into tech like this

Posted May 15, 2008 09:22 PM

kdog

krypton

Okay. Let's hear your inputs.

Batman, Superman, and Ironman, all stuffed into a wrestling ring to duke it out in a massive Battle Royal alas WWF style. Could have the Cat Woman prance about with the signs, the Hulk filling the role of the loud mouth manager, Spiderman as the towel guy, and the Joker as the announcer.

What do y'all think?

Posted May 29, 2008 08:53 AM

wwe=lame

whereever

kdog;

What I think? How dare you degrade two of the most inovative superhero's of all time and Batman. For one; It wouldn't be a staged show. Hell no. For two; people at ring side would die at ring side, leading to law suits. Don't ever compare Superhero's to the WWE/WWF.

Jenn;
And no wonder your freinds say you'r boring...

Posted June 6, 2008 09:34 AM

Peter Nowak

Toronto

Charles: you officially win a No-Prize!

Posted June 6, 2008 11:07 AM

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