Is Iron Man possible? Hardly

By Peter Nowak,

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?

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.




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

Posted April 24, 2008 11:35 AM


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.


Posted April 27, 2008 01:23 AM

Reality Sucks


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

Posted April 28, 2008 02:48 PM



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



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



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



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



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


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


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



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




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.

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

Posted June 6, 2008 09:34 AM

Peter Nowak


Charles: you officially win a No-Prize!

Posted June 6, 2008 11:07 AM

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment


Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy


World »

Updated Trump endorses raising minimum age for more weapons, revives idea of arming teachers
U.S. President Donald Trump is endorsing stricter gun-control measures, including raising the minimum age to 21 for possessing a broader range of weapons, and continues to talk about the possibility of arming teachers in the aftermath of yet another mass school shooting.
'It's not a concentration camp': Bangladesh defends plan to house Rohingya on island with armed police video
Bangladesh is racing to turn an uninhabited and muddy Bay of Bengal island into home for 100,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar, amid conflicting signals from top Bangladeshi officials about whether the refugees would end up being stranded there.
New Saudi Arabia to build opera house in bid to shed conservative image, lure tourists
Saudi Arabia, a state where concerts are banned and music is prohibited in restaurants and stores, says construction will begin on the kingdom's first-ever opera house as it moves to shake off its conservative image and lure in tourist dollars.
more »

Canada »

Canadians split 50/50 over pipeline debate: poll
There's no shortage of opinions on whether the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project should go ahead and the role provincial governments should play. Now there's statistical evidence that proves just how split opinions are.
Analysis Karina Gould wants to save democracy from fake news. How? video
In 2016, Western democracies awoke to an uncontrolled and potentially dangerous world of political disinformation, targeted ads, bots and foreign interference. How Justin Trudeau's government intends to respond to this new reality should become clearer this spring.
December retail sales slide, ending three-month run of rises
A run of three straight months of increases in retail activity ended in December as sales were off by 0.8 per cent for the month, Statistics Canada says.
more »

Politics »

Analysis Invitation to attempted murderer throws cloud over Trudeau's India visit
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to India has been overshadowed by the presence of a B.C. man convicted of attempted murder of an Indian politician in the 1980s.
Convicted attempted murderer invited to reception with Trudeau in India video
Jaspal Atwal, a convicted former member of an illegal Sikh separatist group, was invited to dine with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a formal event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner Thursday in Delhi.
Hockey Canada's French-name policy criticized by Quebec-based politicians
Hockey Canada was widely criticized Wednesday after a news report indicated a public address announcer at the Winter Olympics was told by the national governing body to stop using French pronunciations for the names of some Canadian players.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

'I've never seen anything quite like this': Canadian designers basking in Meghan Markle effect video
Canadian fashion designers are benefiting from the so-called Markle effect, the term used to describe an instant spike in demand for clothing, jewelry and other items Meghan Markle wears since she and Prince Harry announced their engagement last November.
Harvey Weinstein quotes from Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence in his defence
Harvey Weinstein wants a judge to dismiss a federal sexual misconduct lawsuit against him and invoked the words and actions of Oscar-winning actresses, including Meryl Streep, in his defence.
'You felt he was on your side': Longtime CBC Radio personality Arthur Black dies at 74 video audio
Black died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
more »

Technology & Science »

New SpaceX launches experimental Starlink internet satellites
SpaceX has launched a Spanish satellite and two experimental internet-beaming satellites into space.
More than half of federal government scientists still feel muzzled, poll finds
More than two years after the election of a federal government that says it wants scientists to speak freely, more than half of federal scientists responding to a new poll say they still don’t feel they can.
Twitter bars tactics used by 'bots' to spread false stories
Twitter Inc. said on Wednesday it would no longer allow people to post identical messages from multiple accounts, cracking down on a tactic that Russian agents and others have allegedly used to make tweets or topics go viral.
more »

Money »

December retail sales slide, ending three-month run of rises
A run of three straight months of increases in retail activity ended in December as sales were off by 0.8 per cent for the month, Statistics Canada says.
CIBC tops Q1 profit expectations, hikes dividend
CIBC says it is boosting its quarterly payment to common shareholders by three cents to $1.33 per share as the bank reported first-quarter earnings that were better than the market had been forecasting.
GM cutback in car production at Oshawa plant to be extended: report
General Motors Co. is reportedly extending a cutback in car production at its plant in Oshawa, Ont., into April and May before it begins a second shift to produce pickup trucks later this year.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
American twins key women's hockey gold-medal win over Canada
Long before they scored the game-tying goal and the shootout winner in the Americans' dramatic gold-medal hockey win over Canada, twin sisters Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando played out their golden moment in street hockey battles while growing up in Grand Forks, N.D.
Live Watch the Olympic Games Hockey Show
Watch Olympic Games Hockey on CBC for tournament highlights and analysis.
Canada's gold-medal hopes in men's curling dashed by U.S.
Canada's run of men's curling gold at the Winter Olympics ended at three Thursday with a 5-3 semifinal loss to American John Shuster in Gangneung, South Korea.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »