By RazzaTazz 6 Comments
The last Iron Man story arc before Fear Itself was Fix Me, wherein Doctor Octopus forced Tony by threat of violence to new York City with a nuclear device to figure out what was killing him. The writer introduced the concept of the god number, a mathematical concept which applies to a puzzle or complex system, in that everything has a base solution, and everything else in addition to this is an unnecessary step in the process. Tony references a Rubik’s cube in that it requires at most 20 moves to solve any scrambled puzzle. Although not a doctor Tony (which he makes quite clear numerous times) sets to work to try to help Otto. The end result was an interesting enough solution, as it superseded a technical solution. The concept that there is some kind of God number though is a common one in comics. It shows up in at least two areas. The first is languages. Other than some alien or digital intelligence, or being granted intelligence by the gods, learning a language takes an immense amount of time, but the smart heroes of comics have their resumes padded with the languages they speak. This is occasionally used for a good dramatic moment, but mostly knowledge of a number of languages adds nothing to the character. Furthermore the amount of time required to master a language is so high, that failing a God number (as in that language can be conceived as a complex puzzle) that the knowledge of numerous languages would essentially be a superpower in itself.
Another aspect of comic book god number use is in computer hacking. Of course some logical and artistic allowances have to be made for the portrayal of computer hacking but generally speaking, this too is regarded as something which is overly simplified. Computer networks are regarded as all hooked to the internet and all networks are almost instantly accessible, which failing some sort of super cipher hack (which could also be regarded as a god number) would be impossible. Making this aspect of the concept even more complex is the concept of the ghost in the machine. Although this would eventually come to be known as something different under Descartes, the original concept applied to machines in the early industrial era. Despite seemingly perfect design and engineering, machine would act independently and do strange things. People explained that this was the “ghost in the machine” of that the complexities of the device made it do things that were beyond anticipation. In a sense computers perpetuate this. Sometimes things happen on computers which are even beyond the understanding of the best computer scientists, and even faced with a god number solution for some computers, even then some things would till go wrong.
Of course the concept behind comics removes much of these constraints, but still in terms of hacking and knowledge of languages, although they are real world activities, they get portrayed in an unrealistic way due to the ease of mastery.