Science of Iron Man 2

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The Science of Iron Man 2" was held on October 13th, 2010 at CaltechSuperheroes aren’t the likeliest scientists, but according to Caltech physicist Mark Wise, Tony Stark’s science is accurate. During “The Science of Iron Man 2,” a panel presented by The Exchange and Caltech, Wise pointed to an extended scene from the Iron Man 2 Blu-ray as a depiction of hard science. The scene, which Wise consulted on, depicts Tony Stark building a particle accelerator from scratch. Wise gave the scene an “A” for scientific accuracy, stating “That could be a real accelerator.”

Mark Wise was not the only panelist to speak on Tony Stark’s behalf. Marvel Studio’s senior vice president of production and development, Jeremy Latcham; co-founder of Legacy Effects, Shane Mahan; conceptual illustrator, Ryan Meinerding; and Caltech assistant professor of computer science, Andreas Krause, shared their insights on how science played a role in the movie’s development.

Iron Man's glove next to Shane Mahan's namecardFielding questions from moderator Geoff Boucher (writer and editor of Hero Complex for the Los Angeles Times), the panelists weighed in on the science or stretches of science in the film, including the four extended scenes screened that evening.

Krause spoke of science fiction becoming reality—companies are trying to build an exoskeleton similar to Iron Man’s. In fact, an exoskeleton has been developed in Japan that allows the bearer to lift about five heavy sacks of rice. Mahan and Meinerding explored the design concepts of the suit, even down to where the bullets were located in the War Machine suit.

Jeremy Latcham (center) speaks about The Exchange's involvement in the film, while Mark Wise (left) and Andreas Krause (right) look on.Latcham joked that the production team was surfing Wikipedia for answers before The Science & Entertainment Exchange came along. The Exchange connected him to Mark Wise, which led to the scientifically accurate accelerator scene—a crucial plot point for Tony Stark. Latcham also treated Marvel Comics fans to some inside information on the upcoming (and highly anticipated) film The Avengers: Fans can expect Iron Man’s suit to have a few updates. He also revealed his relationship with The Exchange involved consults on both Thor and The Avengers; he wanted the films to be as real as possible without giving up any of the “wow” factor.

Panelists (from left to right): Geoff Boucher (moderator), Shane Mahan, Mark Wise, Jeremy Latcham, Andreas Krause, and Ryan Meinerding. The concept art shown was created by Ryan Meinerding.As the evening continued, the questions kept coming:

Is Stark’s holographic period table correct?

Could Iron Man really survive a fall while wearing the suit?
No. “Landings would really hurt,” joked Wise.

Are robot drones a reality?
Not yet, though Krause pointed out, “There have been great leaps in research, and in the field of multi-robot coordination.”

What is the Iron Man suit made out of?
Light-weight resin with carbon fibers.

How far away are we from having those interactive holograms?
It’s actually one of the most realistic parts of the film, in terms of near-future technology.

How close are we to having something like a compact power source?
There isn’t really anything in the laws of nature that says it isn’t possible, but we’re not anywhere close to it.

At the close of the panel, fans stayed to speak with the panelists and get up-close looks at Iron Man helmets straight from the movie.

For more information on this event, check out:

 The Science of Iron Man 2 Liveblog,
 The Science Behind ‘Iron Man’ at Caltech, Los Angeles Times Hero Complex
 The Science of Iron Man at Caltech, Comic Book Resources
 ‘Iron Man 2’ Creators Had Science in Mind, Home Media Magazine

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.