Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Most Scientifically Accurate Superhero, the Science of Superman, and More
Now, in the latest Cosmic Queries episode of Star Talk, Tyson decided to do what every group of comics nerds do in their spare time and talk a little about the physics of superheroes. First, he chose the most scientifically accurate superhero, as well as the least accurate:
"He's more real than Iron Man because the energy source that Iron Man is drawing from to concentrate that much energy in one place - you'd basically vaporize everything in this country. So, you can't concentrate energy. Anything that you've ever used that has a lot of energy going on with it gets very hot very quickly. That's what energy does. If you fire a gun enough times the gun gets warm. It can even get too hot to touch [...] The concentration of energy is not real."
But just in case you thought Tyson was biased towards DC, Neil also made a comment about Iron Man being able to "wipe the floor" with Batman, even though Batman is more realistic. That's sure to get the Marvel vs. DC fan war brewing again!
Tyson also discussed the weight of Thor's hammer, and it's predictably astronomical:
If Thor's hammer is made of neutron-star matter, implied by legend, then it weighs as much as a herd of 300-billion elephants— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) February 5, 2013
Neil later said that a physicist and Norse god specialist with knowledge of Thor lore corrected him on this, and stated that the Mjolnir is actually no more than around 6 pounds. However, Neil also said, "I like my answer better, even if it's wrong!" I'm inclined to agree.
And finally, Tyson claimed that if Superman were to follow the laws of physics, then his "flying" ability is actually just jumping:
Neil further stated that the original version of Superman was described as being able to "leap tall buildings in a single bound," and that this would be the more realistic iteration of the character. He also mentioned that hovering, as Superman often does, doesn't really work out with laws of physics (duh).
If you haven't checked it out yet, there's a lot more in this episode of Star Talk that you're going to want to hear, including: what Superman could do with his farts, a refutation of the misconception that human's only use 10% of their brains, the answer to whether Lois Lane could actually bear a half Kryptonian child, and even a brief, non-serious dialogue about who would win between Batman and Superman. You check it out here.