Magical Metals


As many of you know I have been spending a lot of time reading golden age comics as of late.  One of the things which is striking about golden age comics was a sort of reliance on the concepts that there were unlimited applications of the physical and chemical properties of the elements.  To be fair since that time there have been in fact a lot of discoveries and inventions related to the application of alloys and compounds.  Even compounds containing seemingly inert noble gases like Xenon have been created under certain conditions.  The early golden and silver age relied on a number of metals or compounds which were complete fictional creations - adamantium, vibranium, kryptonite and even the near forgotten Amazonium (the secret metal of the Amazons of which all all Wonder Woman's items were contructed.)  Of course some comic book logic applies here in that alloys were created which had no real way of existing, except maybe by an application of the concept that certain isotopes or specific alloys were undiscovered.  As an anachronistic remnant of the earlier comic book ages these metals still exist, but in today's comic book industry which usually strives for reality, sometimes the lack of chemical knowledge still hits a low.  Most apparent among these was in the two Iron Man movies.  The first one had a bit of a leap of logic as Tony creates his suit out of a titanium-gold alloy.  Though I know a fair bit about chemistry, I am not a metallurgist, but I still fail to see how a soft metal like gold would be successfully molded into an alloy, especially so when gold is not known for its ability to form alloys or compounds with other elements.  This was an overlookable error, and probably was just meant to sound cool (or to justify the gold appearance of the armour).  The bigger issue I had was with Iron Man 2, wherein Tony creates not just an alloy but an entirely new element.  The manner in which elements are created is quite complex, but suffice to say a few things were off with the depiction of the creation of the new element.  The size of the particle accelerator compared to the creation of a group of atoms was first of all a little off the mark.  From a chemical persepctive though the discovery of a new element is almost completely impossible in the manner in which it was presented here.  First of all, the way the periodic table of the elements was outlined was not random but was created because there were specific characteristics about elements which fit perfectly into the layout of the table.  This mean that there are no holes in the table to fill in with a new element.  Secondly because of this the only elements being discovered in modern times are highly radioactive and have half-lifes in the range of fractions of a second.  So even if it could be sythesized it would not last long enough to be made into anything useful.  Not to mention that for how big the atom was shown in the movie, that it would have been something more like in the area of the lanthanides based on how many electrons it was shown to have.  I could go on here, but anyone that has read this far has probably already had enough chemistry.  In closing I guess I don't mind so much the comic book logic that gives us alloys, but in the modern setting certain writers should really know better. 

Posted by tim2081

I don't assume or except any comic book writer has advanced degrees in any field of science. The stories can only be as smart as the writers. I have accepted the fact that physics, biology, and chemistry principles are warped beyond repair in mainstream comics.

Posted by mark5

Nice blog, Iron Man 2 had a lot of plot holes, film error and directing mistakes. Though still a fun film, i also agree-the part where he makes the new element was extremely unrealistic (as i know a fair amount of physics and chemistry), but it's what defined Iron Man under the soft science department.  
I would expect the writers to at least do some research into their work for one. I'm usually disappointed and frustrated when a film doesn't put the effort it should.

Posted by pikahyper

great blog, I gotta say RDJ is freakin hot in that pic ♥‿♥

Edited by Nova`Prime`

I get what you're getting at and I agree it would be nice if the writers knew a little bit more of what they are writing about. But if you can believe a man came from another planet and is powered by our sun, then why can't you believe a super genius can create a new fake element in his basement?