Sunday, September 16, 2012

How Much Would Wolverine Actually Weigh?

As a scientist, I find that I have many questions about the world around me. Some of them are more pressing than others, it’s true. One of the more pressing ones: how much would Wolverine actually weigh if his skeleton were made of metal? It might be a strange thing to wonder about, but here me out. To be honest, I thought of it while watching the X-men origins movie about Wolverine. In one scene, we see him sit atop a motorcycle. In doing so, we see the suspension groan and creak in protest. Seeing this detail on film was a great thing to me. They went through the lengths to point out that, hey, this guy weighs more than you would expect him to. But rather than be shocked, it got me thinking: what would people expect him to actually weigh? Further, how much would he actually weigh if we were to bond metal to his skeleton?
Metal skeleton?
First, we need to answer a few questions about the human body. For example, how much does an actual human skeleton weigh? Not surprisingly, it’s dependent on a person’s height and weight. Typically, a human skeleton weighs 15% of a person’s total body weight. According to Marvel’s own database, Wolverine is 5’3” and weighs 195 pounds without his Adamantium. Given that he’s in the peak of his physical condition (and that he has 6 extra bones... snikt snikt!), I’m going to make the assumption that 20% of his body weight is bones. That would make the weight of his bones no more than 40 pounds. Since the Marvel Database also tells us that he weighs 300 pounds with his Adamantium, that means his metal adds 105 pounds to his weight… that’s quite a bit. This tells us something important about the Adamantium on his bones, an aside for later.

Who has time to cover those carpals?
This brings us to the next important question: How much bone is actually in the human body? We need to know how much metal it would take to cover a person’s bones to begin with. However, upon further thought, this question is not one that we really should answer. As I thought about it, I realized there were bones in the body that wouldn’t be covered by metal. For example, the small bones in the inner ear (by the way, how would that affect how he heard things?). In addition, could a human’s hand function fully if it were to suddenly become 1/8 inches thicker all around? Essentially, it’s much more complicated to answer these questions than simply to assume that Wolverine’s bones have been replaced by metal bones. In this case, yes, we assume that bone marrow and all of the functions of the bones other than support is still intact. Now, finally, we have a starting place.

To begin with, we must examine our earthly limitations. For example, since we don’t have any metal analogous to Adamantium. In trying to determine how best to answer the question, I came up with three substances: our strongest pure metal, the strongest alloy we have (since Adamantium is actually an alloy), and the strongest material we have. Since our whole questions has to do with weights, we are going to use densities to answer our question. That means we need to know the density of normal bone. It turns out that, for a healthy human, it averages about 1.2 g/cm^3 [2] on the high end. For Wolverine, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say his bone density averages about 1.5 g/cm^3, he is a special case, after all.


Now that we now these vital details about a normal skeleton, and keeping in mind that the decision was made to assume Wolverine’s bones weigh 40 pounds, we can proceed with the different materials selected. The strongest pure metal on earth is probably Tungsten, which has the highest ultimate tensile strength of any metal. This substance has a density of almost 20 g/cm^3, or 13.5 times greater than bone. Given this answer, if we replaced all of wolverine’s bones with tungsten, he would probably weigh something close to 700 pounds! He’d look pretty good for his weight…
Next, let’s take a look at the strongest metal alloy we have around: MicroMelt 10. This is a toughened steel alloy made with a high Vanadium content. They generally use this stuff in tools and punches... stuff that will need to take a beating without deforming. This stuff is about 4 times stronger than Tungsten and has a density of only 7.45 g/cm^3. Doing the math on this, we would see that Wolverine would weigh about 350 pounds… that’s much closer to Adamantium than before!

MicroMelt Alloys
Lastly, let’s examine the strongest material we have ever been able to create (as far as Ultimate Tensile Strength can measure): Graphene. This is some of that super high tech nanotechnology stuff you sometimes hear about. This substance is so cool, the guy who made it actually got a Nobel Prize in physics that year. The tensile strength as far as they could measure it, was in the region of 87 times stronger than Tungsten. Even more shocking: this stuff has a density of about 1 g/cm^3… think about that for a minute, if we replaced Wolverine’s bones with the strongest material we can make, he would weigh less than he would with normal bones. For posterity, he would weigh about 185 pounds.
This guy is Graphene!
Going Further

            If you’re like me, you may have noticed an interesting trend that developed with the different materials. It would seem that, as you increase the tensile strength of the materials you examine, the density decreases. As it turns out, this trend isn’t true. As I took a look at the three types of materials I selected (pure metal, metal alloy, and synthetic material), I found that the density of one material usually stays similar to a material in the same category. In fact, if you look at pure metals, the trend would suggest that the stronger metals are actually more dense than the weaker ones. If you look at the artificial components, alloys and synthetic materials, it is here that you might see this trend. Being fully aware that I am not a metallurgist or a doctorate in the field of tensile strength, I would hazard to say that the ordering of atoms in a material play a big role in the tensile strength of that material.
           From the information that Marvel has given us, in combination with the information we have about the human body, we can make the claim that Adamantium is an alloy with density close to 2.6 times normal bone: or 3.93 g/cm^3. This places adamantium very near Titanium in density, an interesting coincidence. Perhaps in a future entry, I'll examine more closely the properties of Adamantium. For now, I want to hear your thoughts and fears, your agreements and disagreements. Please put your comments below and tell me something you'd like to read about and I'll see what I can do!


For the record, Batman would totally win.

He's supposed to be 5'3"?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My First Trip to PAX!

     Travelling to Seattle was something that I was quite excited about. I’ve always wanted to stay in a hotel where I could see the mountains and, lo and behold, my wish was granted. What I didn’t expect was that my hotel room was on the 36th floor and that it looked over downtown Seattle right towards the Space Needle…

 When I saw this, I realized this trip was a good idea.

PAX, or Penny Arcade Expo, is kind of a big deal. The first thing I’d like to mention is that there is a huge difference between hearing there will be 60,000 attendees and knowing there will be 60,000 attendees. The first day in Seattle, my friend Corey and I had no idea where we were going. To put it simply, there were crowds of people everywhere. There was hardly a place to sit down, and if you did find one it was still warm from the previous person who vacated that spot.

 I walked in and saw this first thing

The first thing that we wanted to do is witness the Penny Arcade Q&A that happens first thing in the main theatre in downtown Seattle. Corey and I wandered around in the main convention center until we found the queue room… that’s right, there is a room at PAX dedicated solely to lining up for things (I said 60,000 people right?).

So many nerds…

Well it turned out that we weren’t even in the correct place. This line was solely for those people going to see the exhibition hall. What I mean to say is, these were the people waiting in line to play the video games that were showcased in the very next room. Thanks to the guys in line next to us wearing the DayZ outfits (sweet Ghillie suit, bro!), we were able to figure out where we were actually supposed to go.

We walked the 10 minutes to the correct line, and this one was outside a theatre about a block away. While waiting here, there was a PAX Lady-Enforcer wandering around handing out pipe-cleaners. Most of us did not avail ourselves of these crafty little guys, but some of us decided it was better to play with them than stand around. Some of us created some pretty funny stuff, like the guy who made the six inch penis (such girth!). Others created some pretty interesting pieces, like the guy who made a 3-dimensional stick figure wearing a top hat (tipped at a precisely determined angle for jauntiness) and a cane. I was able to supply this stick figure with a small sword to adorn his person. This was when I came up with my idea to make pipe-cleaner trinkets to hand out to people that I got along with, that did something cool, or had really awesome costumes.

I met a bunch of people that first day, like the nice couple that sat next to us for the Keynote speaker (Ted Price of Insomniac Games) and the Q&A (Penny Arcade's own Mike and Jerry). Corey and I also stuck around for the Rooster Teeth panel, which was a lot of fun.

Ted Price, Q&A, and RT in that order

After seeing the things that we wanted to as far as panels were concerned (at least on this first day), we decided to check out the exhibition hall. We saw a bunch of really cool exhibits in the hall. While the Firefall one definitely took the cake, there were a few more that really drew my attention. In particular, I had a lot of fun at the Planetside 2 booth, the Firaxis booths, and the Flying Frog Productions booth.

 Left side: Planetside 2.  Right side: The Drifter from Last Night on Earth (Flying Frog)

What’s interesting to me is that I should be so drawn to the Firefall booth. It’s interesting because I really have no interest in MMO games specifically. In fact, there was only ever one of them that I played for a significant amount of time: Star Wars Galaxies. That’s just because I’m a massive Star Wars nerd, but also because the game offered something other than just combat. While the game of Firefall doesn’t really attract me, the mythos does. I mean, who doesn’t like looking a huge dude in powered armor?

Yes, that’s Hawk from American Gladiators with professional cosplayer Crystal Graziano

What surprised me about PAX, from a personal perspective, is the thing I found to be the most rewarding: my interactions with the developers. Corey and I went to the X-Com: Enemy Unknown panel to hear them talk about many of the game design choices they wanted put into their game and ultimately had to take out because it wasn’t workable or it wasn’t fun. Through watching this panel, I found that I had many more questions that really made me feel enthusiastic about the game. In fact, I was able to go to the Firaxis booth and spend time talking to Pete Murray, their marketing person. It was such an awesome feeling being able to get actual face time with a member of the company who understood and shared my concerns for the game. One of the most pressing questions I had about this game: will it be mod-able? The answer surprised me. I actually expected to be spoon fed some pre-fabricated answer. What he told me was this: “While the game won’t support mods at the initial release, this is something that the team would really like to have in the game.” Now my interest was piqued… but my concern: will the game be too easy? I come from a time when video games were hard. Yes, it is my opinion that most games these days aren’t all that difficult.

Take the original 1994 X-Com, for example: this game required you to take desperate measures just to complete a mission on the hardest difficulty setting. You had to make very tough calls like “do I sacrifice this base to the aliens?” or “which soldier do I use to draw the enemy’s fire?” In a game like the original X-Com, you can’t help but be attached to your soldiers. Each soldier has things they were good at and things they were bad at. They were given names and specific functions on my team based on their strengths. After time, I found myself creating back-stories for each of my soldiers all in my head. I was super stoked to see that they kept this in the game for the new release, but would the game be difficult enough? What I wanted to know was if there was a way to get into the game’s files and adjust the numbers to artificially make the game more difficult. Can we get more aliens? More explosions? More frequent alien attacks? He told me that there isn’t really any need to edit the values ourselves. Their most difficult game setting, aptly named “impossible,” was designed to not be beaten. In fact, Mr. Murray made the claim that this difficulty setting could not be beaten without save-scumming. The design team feels so strongly about save-scumming that they threw in an “iron man mode” which prevents this from happening. To be honest with everyone, this interview got me so excited about this game, that I actually went out and preordered it along with Borderlands 2 (the last time I pre-ordered a game was for Dead Rising 2 in 2010). Firaxis, for giving me what amounts to fan lip-service, you have ensured another customer. Thanks so much for talking to me, Pete Murray.

What I ended up learning about myself by the end of PAX2012 was that my interests no longer include playing video games as one of the top items. As I’ve gotten older, I have begun to appreciate board games more and more. I’m not trying to say that I don’t love video games, I’m only saying that my interests have shifted away from playing them. In fact, what I realized was that I love talking about video games even more than playing them.

It was such a wonderful time for me being able to talk to the guys from Firaxis and 2K, as well as have a conversation about Star Wars: Galaxies and Planetside 2 with Donna Prior of SOE. These people really were very kind to me, and I’m happy to say I’m a fan of their companies and their products, when before I was quite cynical. At the end of the day, I like talking about video games and nerd culture so much, that I’ve designed a blog to talk about it.

Feel free to send me a message so that we can discuss stuff! Tell me your concerns and fears, your loves and your hates!

Oh, and have some more pictures from PAX2012!

Batman PAX2012
Danaerys Targaryen PAX2012

Deadpool and an Ewok...sure! PAX2012

Ladies... PAX2012

Team Fortress 2 Taunts PAX2012

Tribes 2 PAX2012

WOW Character? PAX2012