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The Skeptical Samurai’s Guide to Comic Books: Iron Man: Part 3

Posted in Comic Books, science, Skeptical Samurai's Guide to Comic Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2012 by theskepticalsamurai

Time for another installment of…

The Skeptical Samurai’s Guide to Comic Books!  Featuring: Iron Man (Part 3)

Alright, so we have hashed out the inspiration for this segment of the blog and we have begun the process of determining whether or not Iron Man could potentially exist in the real world.  To catch up on all of the action check out the original blog post here:

https://theskepticalsamurai.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/the-skeptical-samurais-guide-to-comic-books-iron-man/

And also check out Part #2 here:

https://theskepticalsamurai.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/the-skeptical-samurais-guid-to-comic-books-iron-man-part-2/

But we are far from done dear reader, so buckle up!  It is going to be an exciting ride!

Alright, so we have managed to get power to our Iron Man suit and get it up and running, but how are we going to move the darn thing!?

Even if we use an insanely light metal the Iron Man armor is still going to be VERY heavy.  Consequently, it is not realistic to think that we are simply going to strap it on and wear it like a set of hockey equipment.  This actually raises and interesting point, the Iron Man armor is not simply armor.  Although the name would have you believe it, you cannot simply just expect the user to strap it on and utilize his/her own strength in order to operate it.  Instead, the Iron Man armor will require a complex set of internal components in order for it to enhance the abilities of its user.  With this in mind, the Iron Man armor can more correctly be thought of as an exo-skeleton (but for the sake of this post we will continue to refer to it as armor).

Let us compare the skeletal system of the human body to the Iron Man armor.  Similar to the plates of armor that make of the Iron Man suit, the skeleton is responsible for providing protection and structure.  The skeleton however is not responsible for movement and articulation.  Instead this is the responsibility of muscles, tendons and ligaments.  These are the structures that allow the human body to perform both fine and gross motors skills.  With this in mind, we will require some sort of complex internal mechanisms in order to give our Iron Man armor the ability to move as well as perform both fine and gross motor skills.  Surprisingly, we do not require anything amazingly fancy in order to make this happen.  A complex system of gears and hydraulics would more then fit the bill.

However, when we take in account how complex the operation of such a system would be, that raises the obvious question, how on earth can we expect the user to run all of these systems?  Is the user going to be expected to operate each and every little gear in order to make the armor function?

The answer to that question, dear reader is a resounding, no.

Well then who is going to run all of these complex internal structures!? 

That answer to that question is not “who”…

But instead “what” is going to run all of these complex internal structures.  Fear not dear reader, the answer is coming!

Okay, so keeping the suit upright is not going to be a problem, but how on earth are we going to keep the Iron Man suit stable during flight!?

Alright, let us forget about the Iron Man armor for a moment.  When you think of flying, what comes to mind?  First thing that comes to my mind is a commercial airplane.

Fixed winged aircrafts are naturally stable.  All things being equal, a commercial fixed winged aircraft (read as: a plane) is designed to fly in a reasonably straight path over a given trajectory.

Now I realize that things are actually more complicated then that, but for the sake of argument we are going to assume that a fixed winged aircraft is an inherently straight forward design.  Once we lose the fixed wings, things immediately become more complicated.  So the commercial airplane is not the best comparison for our Iron Man armor.

Thinking of aircraft on a spectrum (the commercial airplane on one end and the Iron Man armor on the other) what would come next?  I would suggest a commercial helicopter.

We have sacrificed the relative stability of the fixed wing for a rotary blade.  While obviously not impossible to fly (I mean if you look outside your window long enough you will eventually see one of these things flying by) the helicopter is inherently more difficult to control (although this is still up for debate amongst the aviation community), but makes up for this increase difficulty with increased maneuverability.  We are getting closer, but we are still a ways off for a comparison for our Iron Man armor.

What about a fighter jet!?  Say something like the F22 Raptor.

Insanely fast and capable of feats simply beyond that of a regular commercial airliner or helicopter.  The F22 Raptor has capabilities similar to those that will be required of our Iron Man armor (granted in somewhat of a bigger package).  This particular fighter jet is meant to push the limits of what an aircraft is capable of.  AH HA!  I think we have a winner!  Alright so why have I taken the time to make this comparison…keep reading and find out!

Upon closer examination of the F22 Raptor one thing immediately becomes clear.  The operator is not “in charge” of each and every aspect of the aircraft.  Now please do not misunderstand me, it as not as if the plane has become self-aware (cool example: Skynet in the Terminator franchise, bad example: the plane in the movie Stealth).  Instead the operator is in charge of things on a macroscopic level, speed, direction, etc.  The plane (or more specifically the on board computer systems) is responsible for the figurative (and sometimes literal) microscopic processes that make these things happen.   The aircraft is simply far too complex and the only way to make it function is with the assistance of on board computers.  We can assume that the Iron Man armor is going to be several orders of magnitude more complex then the F22 Raptor so we will have no choice but to utilize an on board computer system in order to optimize the armor, otherwise we are just going to have a really expensive paper weight on our hands!

So how exactly are computers going to help operate the Iron Man armor?  I mean, do we really need them?

The short answer to that question is, yes, we do need them.

The long answer to that question is…yes we really do need them!  Remember we are not talking about the original Iron Man armor that Tony Stark used to escape from his terrorist captors.  If we were trying to build that particular version of the armor we could potentially get away without an on board computer system.  Instead, we are trying to build the much more advanced Mach V through VII version.  If we want to build that, we NEED an on board computer system!

In the comics Iron Man has an insanely complex on board computer/tech system.  This on board system is what allows the Tony Stark to mobilize in the Iron Man armor as well as fly through the sky.  In the movies this on board computer system is referred to as Jarvis (to the comic book nerds amongst us, this is a tip of the hat to Tony Stark’s fictitious human butler named Jarvis who serves as Tony’s confident and partner in crime).  Jarvis is an on board/interaction computer system that is responsible for making all of the needed second to second calculations and corrections required to keep the Iron Man armor upright and mobile as well as enable it to sore through the sky.

Remember all of those internal gear pictures above.  Jarvis is going to be responsible for making all of those gears function.  What about all of those panels/flaps seen articulating over the surface of the Iron Man armor?

Similar to the fighter jet, adjustments and movements of these panels are what are going to make the Iron Man armor capable of performing fantastic feats.  In addition to these panels the Iron Man armor is also equipped with repulsors (located in the palms of the armor).

Well also capable of acting as an offensive weapon (more on that later) these repulsors can also be used as another means of controlling and stabilizing the Iron Man armor, specifically while in flight.

Now if we did not require our Iron Man armor to move smoothly or perform amazingly aerial maneuvers we could more likely leave the control of the panels and the internal gears, panels/flaps and repulsors with the operator.  However, seeing as we are going to require A LOT more out of the Iron Man armor, it is simply unrealistic to expect our operator to make all of the needed calculations and associated adjustments.  But fear not dear reader!  The dream of a real life suit of Iron Man armor is not dead yet!  Given the capabilities of modern computers (and their continued advancement) it is completely realistic to expect that a compact system could be designed and inserted into the Iron Man armor to assist the operator with operating it.  With the help of Jarvis we will be able to operate the armor and not only keep it upright, but have it perform feats previously not thought possible!

Well that is it for Part 3!

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to this epic Iron Man saga!

This has been the Skeptical Samurai

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Through the process of inquiry…