When it comes to superheroes, we’re fascinated by their charisma and sometimes their good looks, but mostly it’s their super-human abilities to do the things of which we (mere mortals) can only dream.
Typically, their super accessories involve lasers, jetpacks and robots. It’s all very heroic. But it’s also hard science.
At a panel on Wednesday night at Caltech, hosted by the Science & Entertainment Exchange, film professionals talked with scientists about the physics, robotics, and technology that powered “Iron Man 2.” Moderated by Hero Complex overlord Geoff Boucher, the panel consisted of Marvel Studio’s senior vice president of production and development, Jeremy Latcham; co-founder of Legacy Effects Shane Mahan; illustrator Ryan Meinerding; Caltech assistant professor of computer science Andreas Krause; and Caltech professor of high energy physics Mark Wise.
The real science behind the “Iron Man” films, and sci-fi movies in general, speaks to the fact that filmmakers are looking to dazzle an audience — taking them all the way to the edge of believable. To that end, the Science & Entertainment Exchange aims to connect scientists and engineers with moviemakers to help provide scientific consultations in which the experts provide advice on what would be realistic.
Four clips were shown — all extended scenes featured on the DVD release — to demonstrate the science at work within the film. In one scene, Tony Stark shuffles around with a holographic periodic table; in another, he builds a particle accelerator in his basement. But hard science only takes film so far.
As Wise said, “When it comes to science fiction, the ‘F- word is really important.” Of course, Wise was referring to “fiction.”
He described making something plausible, but having to kludge some of the details to take the film from sensible to sensational. Marvel’s Latcham said of blending fact and fiction, “We want it to feel as real as possible. But if you went with what is always real, it would be really boring.” The audience posed questions, too: Why don’t we have jetpacks? When will we get holograms? What is the Iron Man suit made of?
Real-life science is not that far away, in some cases. The holograms and human robotics are in late-development stages.
Krause pointed to current advancements, saying, “There have been great leaps in research, and in the field of multi-robot coordination.”
He also mentioned that “3-D without glasses is coming close to market.”
The huge Marvel Comics fan base will be delighted to learn that plans for Iron Man’s next suit of armor will entail even more updates. Regarding the next film, “The Avengers,” Latcham said, “I think people expect to see changes to the armor, so the suit is always changing.”
Even superheroes have to evolve.
– Lori Kozlowski
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