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Geek Chic

Will the world ever have a real Iron Man?

5/8/2013

Let’s say you’re 10 years old, you’ve just seen “Iron Man 3,” and your life is completely changed; you want to be Iron Man. Chances are you’ll never be bitten by a radioactive spider, and it’s too late to have been born on Krypton. But if you study hard enough, you could potentially become Iron Man, right?

Most likely not. The chances are impossibly slim that you will one day build your own exoskeleton super-suit and fly around the planet fending off bad guys. But, theoretically, there is a chance.

First, let’s examine the education necessary to build a fusion-powered, body-molded jet that responds to its pilot’s thoughts. From that very simplified description, you’d need a Ph.D.-level understanding of nuclear, software, materials and aerospace engineering, plus physics, chemistry and neuroscience. Tony Stark was a gadget-building prodigy growing up, so I guess he could master all those concepts. In the real world, though, if you’re a 10-year-old who hasn’t started building robots to do your homework, you better hit the library and not leave until you’re 35.

Next, the materials. Inside the Iron Man suit are computers, fiber-optics, mechanical-interlocking parts and the exterior is supposedly made of either Vibranium or Nitinol (depending if you follow the comics or the movies). If you’re hoping to work with Vibranium, too bad — it’s fictional. Nitinol, on the other hand, is real but very expensive and requires a highly specialized production environment to fabricate.

Finally, the power supply. The tuna-can-size “arc reactor” that powers the iron suit is pure science-fiction, and the only reasonable replacement would be a nuclear reactor… in your chest. So while you’re studying all those different areas of science, plan to spend a few extra years inventing cold fusion.

Altogether, that is a lot of homework and penny pinching. My advice, aim for Batman. Becoming the Dark Knight only requires Tae Kwon Do classes, a tricked-out SUV and a utility belt (shark repellent optional). CV

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @ResponsiblyWild.

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