Science: That Iron Man Portal Gravity Issue Thingy Again

Pub discussions are the greatest. You wouldn’t think that combination of the steady flow of alcohol and deafening volume of music allows for great innovations in science, but many of history’s greatest scientists were shotgunning pints down in their locals while arguing over how to split the atom with their hands behind their backs.

Thus, it was invariably in a pub when the “gaping physical improbabilities in cinema” topic got thrown around. Empire had an excellent article on this subject a few years back, using simple calculations to prove that, had the stunt from the motorcycle scene in MI:2 been done at the alleged speed on film, it would have instantly killed (crushed) both Tom Cruise and Dougray Scott (and saved us from the War Of The Worlds remake as well as HITMAN, probably).

"For science!"


Though at first it would seem fruitless to discuss a point like this in relation to Avengers Assemble, a film where, for the most part, physics gets the same treatment as a blue-eyed city-slicker would in Deliverance 3 double D, the subject of discussion is the moment where Iron Man involuntarily escapes through the tesseract gateway at the climax of the battle in Manhattan, lots of people want to know why he simply falls back through the portal rather than floating adrift in space as soon as his engines turned off. Admittedly not being a qualified expert in portal mechanics and thus far being unable to raise the attention of anyone at Aperture Science for an educated explanation, we can roll up our sleeves and see if good old fashioned Newtonian laws can answer the question.

N.B.: Even though Stark says “it’s gonna blow in less than a minute”, the pilot’s declaration is actually the correct time, blowing up 2 minutes and 30 seconds after launch, on his mark. We’ll give the film the benefit of the doubt and accept that the scene is in real time.

Let’s reason that the portal opening itself either has no gravitational effect, or it has a ‘sucking’ effect, drawing anything from one side toward the other, seeing as if it has a ‘pushing’ effect it would be impractical to travel through it. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll also assume that the gravity from Earth is a constant 9.7m/s^2 through the portal. First we need to know the velocity of Iron Man. The launched nuclear missile appears to be an AGM-88 HARM, which has an average speed of 2,280km/h. Iron Man does have to catch up to the missile, meaning that he is traveling faster at one point, but he slows down to grab the missile, so he is presumably traveling at the same speed as the AGM-88 now.

-"So that's what happens to the Hulk's trousers at supersonic speed..."

As soon as Stark goes through the portal and his engines stop working, it takes 59 seconds for him to fly back through it again. The question here is: is this physically possible? Assuming he flies through the portal at the missile’s velocity, he flies for 19 seconds until his engines cut and his momentum begins to dwindle. This would mean he travels 12km into the breach before he even begins to slow down. His speed is still a lot lower than escape velocity, so gravity would be decelerating him right away. Though after 59 seconds, his velocity would still only be 60.7m/s, and in the wrong direction.

However, if we take into account the nuclear blast, which explodes 14 seconds after Iron Man’s engines fail, the explosion would be 5.330km away (the distance between the missile's final destination and Iron Man's current position, accounting for deceleration due to Earth’s gravity) from him. No indication is made as to what yield the weapon is, so I’m going to suggest it’s the B-61, a standard nuclear warhead in the USAF, which has an air blast radius of just over 5km (further in a vacuum) that exhibits a pressure of 3.1575N/m^2 and would indeed wipe out most of Manhattan.

Let's take Iron Man (Tony Stark + suit) to be around 130kg, ~95 for the man himself and the rest for the suit, as a normal-sized man with no military training doesn’t want to wear a suit of armor much heavier than that. More than likely he has built-in weight-compensation systems which lighten the load on him too, but that's a whole other post. Just roll with it. This size body would have an impact area of 0.8245 (taking into account average male shoulder width, Robert Downey Jr.’s height) then the force would immediately accelerate Iron Man back in the direction of Earth at a starting 210.7m/s^2. Allowing for 1 second before the blast hits him and pushes him back, he will have 45 seconds to travel 15.532 km. Should Earth’s gravity be acting on him, he would clear 16.737km in this time and make it through the portal.

-Shawarma, anyone?

Right, that settles that argument. Now if someone wants to know the structural properties of Captain America’s adamantium shield when under the stress from Mjolnir, they’d better buy me a pint first.

Sport: The Genius Of Panenka & Calvente

It was astonishing, bewildering, some would even say downright stupid. Even now, you can bet your house and your parents’ one too, the Panenka is being talked about somewhere right in the world at this very moment. It was the 20th of June 1976, the final of the European Championships was being played out under enormous tension in impoverished, communist Yugoslavia. Czechoslovakia, having beaten Johann Cryuff’s Netherlands 3-1 in the semi final 4 days previous, had thrown away an early 2-goal lead against tournament favourites West Germany. Though the momentum had firmly swung towards Helmut Schön’s men, the Czechoslovakians matched their counterparts man-for-man, stride-for-stride. After 90 minutes, it was 2-2. After 120, still no change. The championship would be decided on penalties.

Penalty shootouts are the most vocally reviled, yes secretly adored part of association football. When a game is determined by 10 kicks of the ball in a deathmatch between striker and keeper, the watching world will become transfixed. The audience will shout, cry, scream and flop to the floor as the agony of seeing composed adults momentarily lose all their nerve, technique, and bottle becomes too much to bear. Czechoslovakia had taken the lead 4-3 before current Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness sent his shot into the evening sky over the bar. Antonin Panenka stepped up, knowing that scoring would give his team, the tournament outsiders, the first title in their nation’s history. What happened next was an unprecedented display of arrogance, style and, above all else, bottle.

The sheer confidence exhibited by the midfielder to execute a penalty of such sublime audacity was enough to make the watching crowd press their hands against their heads to contain the inevitable bits of brain matter spewing all around the Crvena Zvezda stadium. No one had taken a penalty like that before. To debut it on one of the biggest stages in world football was as remarkable as it was ludicrous. In a game that had been more or less unchanged in over half a century, seeing something so new and radical was like receiving the greatest loyalty card bonus in history – getting free accommodation in the Hilton for life because every so often you stop into the hotel bar for a lunchtime basket of chips, or being given a villa in Labadee because you bought a Wyclef Jean record. Many names throughout history are forever associated with/mocked for missing penalties (Baggio, Stam, Beckham, Adam, Ramos, even Messi and Ronaldo this year), but only one name remains synonymous with scoring one.

Until July 24th 2010, that is. Ezequiel Calvente once again innovated and radicalized the penalty kick with a method that was perhaps less like the ‘Panenka’ and more akin to Kevin Pietersen’s switch hit move in cricket. The young Spaniard picked up the ball against Italy after a foul in the box and placed it on the spot. The ‘Calvente’ run-up disguises the hidden beauty of the taker’s intentions. Hitting the ball with the standing leg is no accident, poor Nicola Leali in the Italian goal had no idea what had just happened. It takes real skill to put the ball in the net like that and not fall and break your tail bone doing it. At first you look and think ‘so what?’. Then, after a second look, the viewer would feel their brain shifting gears without the clutch. It looks like a clipping error, a glitch in the matrix. In fact, it was history.

It would be a disservice to the art of the penalty by not mentioning the late Theyab Awana’s cheeky backheel spot kick against Lebanon. But rather than the thought and time that was put into Panenka and Calvente’s moves, I can’t shake the thought that he was just trying to be a jerk. He was fined by the UAE FA afterwards for being "disrespectful toward his opponents".

Games: Vanquish / Orthorobot

Who remembers The Descent? A rollicking horror adventure that was more than the sum of its parts, despite stealing pretty much every single aspect of the film from every single horror that had already been made in the last few decades from the characters, to the location, even down to the crumby, but traditional horror flick ending. Such an analogy can be used to describe Vanquish in relation to every single 3rd person action game since the start of the seventh generation of consoles. Vanquish is a thoroughly ridiculous and unashamedly superficial game that chewed up the Gears Of War trilogy and spat out everything that didn’t involve firing a gigantic gun at a robotic monster with 100 or more gigantic guns, all firing at you.

The game sweats adrenaline, bullets and alpha-male homoeroticism at any chance it gets and escalates the struggle of style over substance to all-out war - there’s a button for simply smoking a cigarette and then throwing it away, not even attempting to shoehorn in a reason for doing so; like the way Metal Gear Solid promoted chain-smoking as a sniping aid. It’s single-player only, and the campaign will last between 6 and 10 hours, but the game has that unique replayability of titles such as Starwing and Time Crisis that keeps you coming back again and again for just… one… more… delicious… explosion. When a game gives you rocket-propelled knees it’s hard to pretend there’s any sense of pacing. Similarly, when a game is this much fun it’s hard to complain.

If you’re looking for depth on the level of Skyrim or Mass Effect, turn around and start running now, you’ll find no trivialities such as ‘story’ and ‘character development’ here. If you’re looking for a fast-paced action game where you get to blow up thousands of enemies that are already exploding, and thought Ikaruga was about as intense as a Teletubby's naptime, you can’t really do a lot better. It’s buckets of fun and a perfect stopover until Darksiders 2 in August. It’s available for as low as €14.99 in game stores right now.

Or, if you’re not the kind of gamer that likes spending money, you could do an awful lot worse than check out the online catalogue of free Stab Yourself games, with the mind-bending, dimension-shifting Orthorobot being the pick of that particular bunch. Stab Yourself accepts donations via PayPal, but they don’t actually want you to stab yourself, in case that wasn’t all that clear.


Moral Turpitude

Are we all still out there? Good.

Ched Evans:

This week you may or may not have heard something about Welsh footballer Ched Evans, convicted of rape and sentenced to five years imprisonment after having had sex with a teenager who a jury had ruled was not in any condition to consent. This is unarguably rape and he needs to serve his time.

What is more disturbing is that so many people don't see what he did was absolutely wrong - many petrified by their own experiences of drunken sex and one-night standery immediately set thousands thinking this could happen to me and jumped to his defence, portraying the victimised girl as all manner of things which will not be repeated here ( that's what Twitter is for). A more accurate example of what happened in Rhyl last year would be you drunkenly sleeping with someone, another person showing up as you sleep and molesting you.

Marlon King:

Marlon King is a nasty piece of work. 14 convictions, jailed twice, once for sexually assaulting a woman who had rejected his advances, beating her and allegedly shouting: "Don't you know who I am? I'm a multi millionaire! You're not even in my league!". Wigan restored so much faith in football's integrity by sacking the player immediately after his conviction. Within two months of his release, he was signed by Coventry City, and became their top scorer, as well as the team's player of the season. King currently plays for Birmingham City.

An announcement about Evans' employment with Sheffield United is imminent. It is certain The Blades will see fit to terminate his contract, and it's equally certain he will be signed by another club upon his expected release in 2 years for good behaviour, though plenty of things may be considered 'good behaviour' compared to rape, for example: arson, blackmail and puppy-drowning.

PFA Team Of The Year:

And then there's the thinking behind Ched Evans' selection in the PFA (Players Football Association) League One Team Of The Year last night. Evans had a great season for Sheffield United, scoring 35 goals in 42 matches is hugely impressive, and the voting for this event had taken place long before his judgement. The PFA decided to retain Evans' position on the team, despite the conviction, on the basis that they were concerned with how he played on the pitch, and they felt a change in the awards would have represented the manipulation of a democratic vote, however logical it may seem.

The moral dilemma of whether or not to compromise a group's values by the expulsion of a man who is drowning in immorality is one that has not been undertaken lightly. Even if I disagree, the PFA, Gordon Taylor and Clarke Carlisle are to be admired for their dedication to the integrity of their institution. The very same men stood against King, who slandered them for not supporting a convicted criminal, and they will act likewise for Evans when his appeal is (presumably) dismissed. Though in this case, I feel they have maybe not given enough credit to the severity of what has happened. Could they justify retaining ex-Brazil hopeful Bruno, if he was in England and had been on the list prior to his conviction? Perhaps integrity has not best been served by inaction.

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