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Iron Man is a punching machine, and now we have the numbers to prove it
Marvel

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Iron Man is a punching machine, and now we have the numbers to prove it

Could probably get away with a kinder, GENTLER, machine gun hand.

Who would win in a fight, Superman or Muhammad Ali? It happened.

Of course, that was in DC Comics, where ridiculous things like that aren’t out of place. Over in the more grounded Marvel Universe, Iron Man would still murder the greatest boxer ever, just not as overwhelmingly.

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And thanks to the real numbers provided by writer Christopher Cantwell in last week’s Iron Man #7, we can figure out exactly how effective that murder would be! Physics is fun.

Check out this page, but don’t get intimidated by the weird words.

Iron Man #7

Don’t mess with Tony right now.
Credit: Marvel Comics

A “newton” is a unit of force, equivalent to 1 kg⋅m/s2. While that sounds space age, the newton is just the SI unit equivalent of the imperial unit of weight, the pound. One newton is equal to about a quarter of a pound (or, more precisely, about 3.5 ounces).

Rhodey seems to think Tony’s base level of a 20,000-newton punch is fine, and if he were taking on a normal person (and not a cosmic god-being like Korvac), he’d be right. That’s about 10 times as much force needed to crush a human skull. Since Iron Man punches at 385 miles per hour (about nine times the speed of the fastest punch ever recorded), we can use the acceleration due to gravity near the Earth’s surface (9.8 m/s2) and F=ma, the second law of motion credited to Isaac Newton (hey, do you think that’s where they got the unit name???), to determine that a 200-lb. man would have to jump off a two-story building to generate the same amount of force.

Which probably wouldn’t be advisable since, as Rhodey alludes to in panel 3, the ground doesn’t give. Or, to put it in terms of Newton’s third law of motion, the ground is applying an equal and opposite force to the person jumping.

People can survive a two-story fall, though, and that blocked hyper-punch still might not make Tony’s heart explode. It’s been estimated that an acceleration of about 75 times that of gravity is needed to kill an adult, which works out to be over 66,000 newtons of force for a 200-lb. man. That’s if the force is applied over the entire body — if it’s concentrated in a smaller area, less force would be required. Same way you can lie on a bed of nails and be perfectly fine, but if you step on one, you need stitches and a tetanus shot.

Of course, as Iron Man says, Korvac will give, and it won’t really matter. Graphene, a sheet of which is a lattice of carbon only one atom thick, is tough stuff (that we haven’t managed to manufacture in any kind of really usable amounts yet), but it’s not going to stop someone from being knocked back in the near-vacuum of space, where there’s barely any friction to slow you down. Leave that kind of ridiculous “immovable object” stuff to DC. No one wants the Snyder cut of Iron Man #7.

Iron Man is a punching machine, and now we have the numbers to prove it

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.


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