It’s not every day an issue of Avengers has a full-blown dissertation on comic book science in it. Today must have been a special day.
This week’s Avengers #679 from Marvel, part 5 of the 12-part “No Surrender” weekly storyline includes one of the team of writers, Mark Waid’s full explanation on how Metal Master can control Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir.
In “No Surrender,” the earth has been “kidnapped” and taken to places unknown by The Grandmaster. He’s one of the Elders of the Universe. You’re probably most familiar with The Collector, who made his Marvel Cinematic Universe appearance in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The Grandmaster is all about contests and games, and as such, he’s using the earth as a battleground between the Lethal Legion and the Black Order. As the Grandmaster and the Challenger watch, the two teams battle for the Pyramoids while the collected Avengers try to maintain order and stop the collateral destruction of the earth.
Okay, it sounds a little silly. Maybe a lot silly, but yet – it…works. It’s huge and sprawling, and one would think, a leave-your-brain-at-the-door type of story.
Until Waid dropped the physics.
The scene that Waid was referring to, and what reportedly had the other writers debating was when, in part 2 (Avengers #676), Metal Master was able to gain control of Thor’s hammer, despite the fact that it’s not made of any known metal, but rather Uru. The metal is mystical in nature, and in the case of Thor’s hammer, forged in the fiery pits by dwarven blacksmiths – and then enchanted by Odin. This is the comic book Mjolnir we’re talking about, not the movie version, they physics of which have been discussed a lot by the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and our pal, Suveen Mathaudhu to name just a couple.
As for how Metal Master could control magical metal, Waid went all-in on his physics in a manner we love: he hooked his idea on something real – gravitons. Then, he took it to a theoretical extrapolation, and then – went all-out comic book awesome with it.
All in all, it’s a terrific example of a sudden appearance of some cool physics in a comic book. And if it gets someone out there interested in things that Waid mentions, like how gravitons (not proven to, but predicted to exist) mediate the force of gravity, just like photons are the force carriers of the electromagnetic force, then that’s all the better.
To barely scratch the surface of what Waid’s talking about here, there are four fundamental forces in the universe (from weakest to strongest): gravity (force carried by hypothesized gravitons), electromagnetic (force carried by photons), strong nuclear force (force carried by gluons and mesons) and the weak nuclear force (force carried by W+, W– and Z0 bosons). Fundamental forces and their carriers are always being poked at and have, for a few decades at least, been thought to be the ground floor of physics, but that view is shifting, and there may be basements and basements beneath. Not to mention, a recent paper had some physicists hypothesizing that alternate universes – and the life therein – could get by without the weak nuclear force.
This is straight up standard model of particle physics stuff, just to explain how Metal Master can manipulate Thor’s hammer.
And then he gets into inertia…and how it’s not the hammer moving…it’s the earth.
And if you can’t tell, Waid knows a thing or two about physics…it was his minor in college, and he clearly keeps up with his reading.
Avengers #679 (and previous parts of “No Surrender”) are available at your local comic book store, or in digital versions at Comixilogy.com.