Pragmatic 67: Iron Man

29 November, 2015


What if the superhero Iron Man was real? We look at some of his tech and assess how possible it is.

Transcript available
Welcome to Pragmatic. [Music] Pragmatic is a discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology. By exploring the real-world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Pragmatic is part of the Engineered Network. For other great shows, visit today. I'm your host, John Chidjy, and today I'm joined by my guest host, James Smith. How you doing, mate? Good. Yourself? Pretty good. Pretty good. Tonight, we're going to do something a little bit different for Pragmatic, although I've done a Christmas episode, which was a bit weird. But yes, I actually wanted to talk about Iron Man, as in like, you know, the Iron Man. Does everyone, does anyone not know who Iron Man is? I think it I think at this point it'd be really hard to escape yeah Iron Man because there's been now there's been a blockbuster movie so there's been three movies and he appeared in both of the two Avengers movies so the first Avengers and Avengers to age of Ultron so yeah he's gotten around yeah we're not going to be getting rid of him until I think through 2020 because the next up we've got Captain America Civil War where he obviously plays a massive part and then we've got the other two follow-up Avenger films. So, yeah, he's going to be on our screens for at least a little while yet. And that's a good thing because Iron Man is awesome. And okay, I realize that this is pragmatic and this is real-world trade-offs and everything and so on and so forth. And okay, I just want to state up front, yes, we know that Iron Man is a cartoon character of sorts and isn't real. And okay, I get it. I know that. Okay, I get it. But, but, but, but, of all of the superheroes, I find him the most appealing as a superhero because some of the technology that he uses is actually within the realm of possible. You know, he's like, he's a normal guy, you know, smart, sure, but other than that, a normal guy. So, I was thinking about what other superheroes are like that and I was thinking the closest one would be maybe Batman, I guess. Yeah. Yeah, because he's just a normal guy too and he's just got this very unhealthy bat obsession And that's okay, I guess. So, yeah, and so his technology, so getting back to Iron Man, his technology is what makes him a superhero. And that's what's different. And that's why I find him so appealing. I mean, because I, you know, just keep thinking, well, I really could use an Iron Man suit. That'd be so cool. But anyway, so I thought it might be fun just to look at some of the stuff that Iron Man has in his suit, some of the technology that he uses and just look about the realm of possible, impossible, or, you know, Am I dreaming and I'm probably going to crush some dreams. I don't mean to, but I can't help myself. But I don't know. You're here to stop me from crushing people's dreams. Okay, James. Hmm. Maybe. Okay. Well, let's see how we go then. Um, but anyway, yes. So, uh, where are we? Um, oh yeah, that's the other thing I was wondering. Just talking about the Avengers though. And I was thinking, yeah, he's like a normal, normal, normal person. Uh, but cause he hasn't been hit by gamma rays. He hasn't been injected by some kind of mystery substance and zap with electricity or something. He hasn't found some stupid magic ring or anything that does stuff. You know, it's like and he hasn't come from another dimension or a realm or a alternative anything. He's just like a guy and I was thinking on the Avengers actually because technically Hawkeye and Black Widow are also both thoroughly normal. So exactly, but but did you call them superheroes? Yes. What? Okay, they're part of a superhero team. So, kind of, they are superheroes. If you, look, I love Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff as a character because, you know, her backstory and just, Scarlett Johansson just plays the character so well and I would kill to see a Black Widow film and why Marvel isn't making a Black Widow film, I don't know. But yeah, she's just a great character and I think it kind of, they take it up to the superhero level by being so skilled. And maybe Hawkeye takes it to the next level because he's got his fancy selector on his bow where he can kind of change the arrow tip. And, you know, some are grapple hooks, some are, you know, explosions and yeah. Yeah, okay. Oh, okay. Well, fair comment. Fair comment. But I just for whatever reason, I just don't find their gadgets. And okay, his bow and arrow's cool. Yeah, but I mean, come on, Iron Man, right? OK, totally, totally. So, OK, so let's without further ado, I just there's a few key elements I want to talk about, and I guess we'll start with the arc reactor because you've got to start with the arc reactor because the whole suit is powered by this thing. And it's this tiny, teeny little round circle thing that glows. Looks very cool. But anyway, so apparently, according to the films, it generates something like eight gigajoules a second. Okay, that's quite a lot considering that, you know, like, let's see, I worked at a power station, it was 1.44 gigawatts of electricity and there was a huge coal-fired power station. So, yeah, gigajoules a second is not the same as gigawatts, of course, but I mean, it's just, yeah, okay, that's a lot of power apparently, but it's got, it's got palladium as its core, they reckon in the second movie, that's the only time I think they mentioned the palladium core. Don't they mention it in the in the first film because that's what he gets out of the when he's taking apart his Missiles to make it. He gets the palladium Which if people out there don't know it's also used as a precious metal in you can buy palladium rings So, you know, you might get yourself a white gold ring. You might get yourself a palladium ring I was looking at one myself when I got married But so what did you get there? Did you get gold? I went for white gold I went for gold gold that's the gold kind of gold anyway sorry you're gone no that's cool and I think it's only at the end of the first film when he creates a new element which is used to do the power the honor it's it yeah yeah is it the first film or the second film no second film yeah in the second Iron Man movie yeah that's right where you get that's the map yeah the map of the What was it called? The World of Tomorrow. Yeah, the Stark Expo. Stark Expo, that's it. And he had the map of the expo and everything. It was like an element or whatever. So I guess the thing about palladium is I thought, okay, let's look at that just briefly. What's so special about palladium? It's a group 10 element in the periodic table. So nickel, palladium, platinum, oh my God, I hate this one, dumb, stadium, anyway, whatever. But the point is that the elements, they're in the same group and they have similar properties. So it makes sense that something like Darmstadium could be a replacement for palladium, but the longest live half-life of that isotope is about 10 seconds. So it's like if you're looking at the periodic table, those are getting heavier and heavier. So nickel, palladium, platinum, and then Darmstadium. It's like that's actually a radioactive unstable isotope. It's like, "Well, okay. So he's going to make a new element. It's got to be something like palladium, but more like he has to make it. So it's going to be a super heavy element, right? So, because you know how like with neutrons and protons, there's like these magic numbers and the possible magic numbers of neutrons for a spherical nuclei, it's like 184 and some possible sort of numbers, you're like 114, 120, 126, and they give you a different stable series of isotopes. So you can have predicted elements that have never been synthesized before and they're predicting that it's possible that these could actually be stable if we could actually smash the atoms together and make enough of this stuff. I actually looked up the names of these and I'm going to struggle, but I'm going to read them anyway. Maybe these were the elements that he created, one of these. One of them is fluorovium-298, and they get really boring after this. It's unbilinium-304 Unbilhexium, Unbilhexium 310. There you go. Anyway, so of course, like I said, no one's actually synthesized these. And the Large Hadron Collider sort of conjures up these ideas that you could really do this. But, you know, I guess maybe that's a little bit optimistic trying to build a Large Hadron Collider or something like it in your basement, which is what he does in the second movie, right? Exactly, yeah. It's like that's a little bit optimistic perhaps. You know how much power that would take. And just think about the curvature of the track. Think how tiny that basement is. The Large Hadron Collider's got a diameter of, I mean, a circumference of 27 kilometers. Well, to be fair, he has got a pretty big house and he did smash through some walls. So, I don't know. He might have enough space. Okay, so he's got, okay, you do the math on 27 kilometers. It works out as a diameter of 8.6 kilometers or 5.4 miles, right? 5.4 mile diameter. That's a bloody big basement, man. I'm just saying that's big. I know it's got a lot of cars. It's Tony Stark. Yeah, enough said. You're right. It's totally possible. So anyway, oh God, I tried. It's just, the law of, yes, nevermind that. So now let's just move away from the whole, could he make something to replace Palladium? Okay. Probably not in his basement. Probably didn't have enough power. Curvature probably not, was too narrow. Not, no, no no no no no but that's fine it's okay he still did it and it was a perfect shape of a triangle because when you synthesize an element it forms a geometric shape no no he already had the geometric triangle and he aimed the laser beam or like he aimed the beam like he twisted it through the prism you're right and and then it started glowing and see there's the new element you're keeping me honest that's it you're damn right exactly that's what he did sorry god i don't know what i'm thinking all right fine good beautiful triangle glowing triangle but anyway and it tastes like coconut apparently. Anyhow, right let's see. Right, yes, so how does the Arc Reactor actually work? And it's really not clear because it's like the thing sort of like spontaneously fires up and then blink blink blink kind of like a fluorescent light bulb like a starter on a fluoro and magic it just comes to life and you know burns really bright and has lots of power. That's awesome. But you know what got me thinking of is it got me thinking of a perpetual motion machine. Well, that's the whole idea behind it is that it's just going to keep on going. And that's why in the Iron Man movie, that's the excuse for building one at their factory. It was kind of an experiment to please all the hippies to say, "Okay, we're generating our own electricity." Yeah. But I mean, the law of conservation of energy makes that impossible because you You can only convert energy, you can't, you know, you can convert energy from one form to another, you can't, but anyway, whatever. It's okay, it's fine. Tyrone: Damn it John, don't ruin this for me. John: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Okay, alright. It's fine, it's fine. So here's the thing, because these suits, any suit like that and we're going to talk about some of these, some real world suits, you know, towards the end because you know, these suits are very cool and a lot of people have been inspired by it. And the problem is that you need energy to drive the suit because the suit has mass plus it's also hauling your own ass around so obviously it's going to – it needs energy for that. And if it's tethered to an extension lead, you're not going to fly very far. It's like, "Hey, look at me. I'm flying. Oh, damn it. The cord came out and down you go." Probably not practical or safe. So anyway, you got to have a portable power source, so it's got to be a battery or some kind of thing. And I guess arc reactor sounds better than nuclear reactor. And frankly, I don't know how you do a nuclear reactor in that size and put a nuclear reactor in your chest and see how long you live. Probably not that long. So anyhow. Probably not. No, probably not. Okay. So I haven't got too much more to add about the arc reactor. So let's just say, whimsically, yeah, I really wish that that was true, but never mind. Although I do believe at some point we will have a portable power source that's capable of that, of capable of delivering amount of power for a period of time. I mean, I don't know if that's fuel cells with like a high energy density rechargeable liquid or something, you know, but just yeah, anyway, all right, all right. You want to talk about flight stabilizers? Sure. Yes, because everyone likes to talk about flight stabilizers like, okay, first First of all, so far as we can tell, there is no propellant, right? Like a thruster would have a propellant of some kind, like a jet engine, you know, burns fuel to create, you know, high velocity, hot air out the back and so on, right? But there's no propellant. This all seems to be driven by power from the arc reactor. But if there is a propellant, there can't be very much propellant. So it got me thinking actually about an ion drive. Do you ever come across ion drives in spacecraft? - Just more in science fiction than anything real. - Now, they've actually built them. They actually have ion drives. Seriously, they do. - Cool. - Yeah, and what they'll do is they'll take small particles and they'll accelerate them out back, and it creates thrust going forward because that's Newton's law. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction is the mangled version of it, but it's close enough, it gets the point across. And you know, so ion drives are real, they work. And so I thought, okay, let's assume these flight stabilizers are just like miniature ion drives, just like really refined technology and it's got a propellant that you just can't, it's hidden somewhere. Anyway, because that'd be so cool. Anyway, so I thought, what's the biggest ion drive ever made? Well, the biggest ion drive that's ever made has a thrust, it generates a thrust of 250, wait for it, milli-newtons. Now, a milli-newton is probably not so much, really. It's great in space when you're not fighting gravity, but on the ground, the average Western person, and when I say Western, I don't mean from Western Australia because they're like just this, oh man, hang on. I've got listeners in Western Australia. I love you Western Australia. Anyway, never mind. As in Western culture, we tend to be a little bit on the heavier side and we blame McDonald's and sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Anyway, 80 kilograms roughly, whatever that is in pounds. The point is that at sea level, that's about 800 newtons of force on the ground. So that's 800 newtons of force you're pushing on the ground because of gravity. So largest ion drive, 250 millinewtons. It's probably not going to lift too many hairs on your head, I would suggest. Probably not. No. Now I've ruined it for you haven't I? Yeah but I have to say that the first scene where Tony Stark is experimenting with flight in the first Iron Man movie, it's just so funny. I know. It's a great comedic break. I know. Just when he's like, he's only got the boots and he's like, okay maybe I need some thrusters so I don't get shoved up to the roof and then land on the car which realistically had to get up after that because that was a pretty big... big. Yeah, I know. It's like, God, that must have hurt. I mean, we can have hospital and a concussion. I mean, holy crap. Yeah. But yeah, it's like, I think it started out like 10% of thrust and then you work goes back. Okay, let's try 1%. Okay. But yeah, and just sort of like drifting or floating around in the garage and blowing everywhere. It was pretty cool. I love that part. That is very good. But anyway, so that's ion ion technology. I thought, "Okay, well, here's another cool idea." And not that long ago, someone came out with this idea of what they call an EM drive. Have you ever come across these electromagnetic drives? No. No. It's a relatively new insane idea and the idea is that, well, if you go completely cray-cray as my five-year-old would say, maybe they are like an RF resonant cavity thruster. the full name but the two kind of drives, there's the EM drive and the Kene drive. I love the Kene drive because the Kene drive is actually the name of the drive is based on Scotty from Star Trek as in you can't change the laws of physics. So I can't drive, get it? You see I can't drive? It's like a kind of – Tyrone: That's brilliant. David: It's good isn't it? It's good. Tyrone: That's good. David: supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek name, but the guy's actually serious. And the design—what it's designed to do is it's designed to demonstrate that energy in an RF resonant cavity can actually create thrust, which is theoretically not possible because you can't have an action and a reaction because the magnetic field—the RF radiation electromagnetic field isn't actually going to be able to exert pressure because it's not actually moving matter. So you don't get an action and a reaction in theory. And anyway, so some people said, "Yeah, it kind of works." And other people say, "Well, no, it completely doesn't work." And there's like, "Well, I'd love to believe that that was actually possible." But all the measurements and stuff done on these drives, it's like, "Oh, the measurement equipment can't measure it because it's so subtle amount of force or that essentially the electromagnetic field is affecting the instruments. it's giving like a false reading like it's pulling on the on the force gauges or something. So they haven't independently proven this is even possible. So laws of physics says no. Anyway, whatever. So I'm going to have to have an Iron Man suit with no thrusters at this point. I'm sorry. Oh, John. I know. I'm sorry. All right, fine. Heads up displays. Yes, we have them. Let's talk about heads up displays. Yes, they're totally a real thing. You know, they're so awesome. Eye tracking is a real technology. Right? So fighter jets, you know, like F-22 Raptors and not so sure the Joint Strike Fighters got it. I think they did on a budget. I don't know. Anyway, point is that they're totally a real thing. And every time I see a VR headset, what's the latest one that's the rage? The Oculus or the new, the Samsung VR? Yeah, either of those. But I was thinking originally of the Oculus. yeah and I mean the problems with latency and the problems with um well I guess the difference is that a virtual reality headset's trying to take you away into a completely different reality whereas a heads-up display is really just an overlay over the top more like a Google Glass yeah exactly Google Glass which is now you know because of all the glass holes now it's all like yes I love that name it's so good isn't it it's like hey such a glass hole and it's like That's not technically an insult, but I feel insulted, so I'm going to take it off surreptitiously now and I wasn't wearing anything. I mean, because you got to look like a bit of a d***, you know, but... Yeah, and I think the other one that I heard of recently, which was really, really cool, was a single LED embedded inside, or it was something like an LED, it was embedded inside a contact lens. And it was, I think it was for diabetics to notify them when blood sugar was getting low. Yeah. Yeah. And I was just like, oh, this is, you know, the perfect application because nobody else is going to see that. And you're just going to get like a little notification. Maybe you should check this out quickly and remedy the situation. Yeah. That's actually really cool. I had heard about that. It was a while ago, but I remember reading about it. It's I just I love where the technology is going. Not that long ago, it was difficult to get just a reading of your heart rate using an optical set of set of optical sensors. But now they can, right? So it's not super accurate, but it's certainly a lot better than, you know, it's either that or we have one of those mobile cuffs that pumps itself up on your arm with a battery and then lets it itself out slowly while listening for a pulse. But yeah, so, but yeah, heads-up displays, totally awesome and totally a real thing. Of course, whether or not they're at the same level of sophistication as the ones in Iron Iron Man is probably the stretch, but honestly, the technology does exist. So that is kind of cool. So there you go. Hey, something about Iron Man's suit that is actually real. All right. There's more though. I was thinking about Jarvis. And then I was thinking about Siri. And then I was thinking about, I don't know what this came into my head, but I've I've got it written down. Okay. Jarvis and Siri sitting in a tree. Okay. I guess no, not funny. Not funny. No, because total dad joke. I know, but that, oh, fine. You're right. It is. But the point is that Jarvis and Siri arguing with each other would, I would pay to hear that. Someone should make that happen. But anyway, I swear I've heard something like that where they pitted Cortana and Siri against each other and they're just kind of, Or it was two AIs and they basically just talked back against each other. Or there was the screaming application that would kind of like scream back and forth and it just kind of progressively got worse. And yeah. Oh, God, it's so awesome. But yeah, so I guess I guess the thing with Jarvis is that it's there's two aspects, right? There's the voice recognition bit as in understanding and comprehending. But then there's the artificial intelligence aspect. and I don't think anyone would argue that, you know, messing with something like Siri for a while, the voice recognition is getting better, but certainly a lot better than the drag and dictate days. Yeah. You know, when you had to train it, God, that was painful. But I remember having to do that. Oh God, that's so painful. But yeah, so at least Siri's got that going for it. And it's It's just that the Jarvis of course takes it to that next level. So, maybe 20, 30, 50 years, maybe we'll have voice recognition technology that's as accurate as what Jarvis apparently can do. But I mean superficially, Siri can do that now, right? But the AI aspect is what we just don't have. Unless of course Skynet's lurking in your computer and we just don't know and we're about to all die. But it's possible. But yeah, the reality is that Jarvis, it's kind of a full AI that can think for itself. It can perform a whole heap of different actions. Like it even runs his company most of the time. Whereas Siri, it's just, it's really just a whole heap of baked in kind of answers and responses and similar frames and questions. And just analyzing those and giving you back the standard answers. Yeah, exactly. and but but Siri's still got sass and actually so does Jarvis. I mean I remember one of my favorite Jarvis lines is that um something like uh I've also drafted up a safety briefing uh for you to ignore. And I'm like yes but that feels just like something Siri would say you know it's like so yeah Siri's still got sass and that's okay. So anyway. And just and just straying a little bit uh from the movies to the back to the comics um in the in the comics itself with Iron Man um Tony Stark actually creates a whole heap of different AIs for different situations. And at one point he creates one which is called Pepper. P-E-P-E-R. And it's that one's really quite funny. So just while we're on the subject, I have not read, and this is where the comic loving audience turns off or throws a stone at me or something, I've not read a single Iron Man comic, but you, on the other hand, how many do you reckon you've read? - Not a great deal. I basically, for comic nerds out there that'll understand this, I dived into comics really after Marvel rebranded to Marvel now, which is Marvel's version of kind of going back to number one in comic and just starting fresh with all the characters, new backstories, kind of realigning all the continuity between all the different comic series. So that's where I kind of, I jumped in. And before that I also read the Civil War storyline, which was a really great piece of writing. And yeah, I think I've read a couple of the different Iron Man series. I think there was Superior Iron Man, Incredible Iron Man. Yeah, I can't remember all the different names and iterations, All-New Iron Man. And they're about to relaunch it again. - Oh, of course. Why do they keep doing that? So, they write themselves into a corner, then they have to start over and rewrite themselves into a different corner? Is that what happens? Yeah, kind of. So, the latest one is Secret Wars, where all the different Marvel universes, all the different kind of the ultimate universe and the regular universe. So, the kind of the movie universe is a separate... Marvel actually numbers each of the universes, so you can tell them apart. And off the top of my head, I don't know what they are. I should, but I'm sorry, I don't. So like the cinematic universe is actually numbered as a certain multiverse. And then the regular universe and the ultimate universe smash together and Secret Wars is all about, okay, all the different pieces of earth have kind of been hobcobbled together and you've got different characters and they're all kind of smashed together. So that's why they're relaunching them all because some characters have died off, parts of Earth have died and other parts from other universes have come in. It's all very complicated and we should probably get back on track. Oh, that's okay. Look, I was just curious and I, um, cause like I said, I haven't, haven't read any of the comics, but I've seen all the movies and, um, you know, I've done a lot of reading up on, uh, on different exoskeletons and stuff, which is kind of cool, but, um, so, all right. Okay, fine. on topic then, because I want to talk about a specific suit before I talk about actual real world exoskeletons. Please tell me it's the briefcase suit. You know what, you want to talk about the briefcase suit, we can, if you want. No, it's just... I've just connected to that briefcase suit because my first introduction to Iron Man was when I was a kid and it was the animated Iron Man and he was always carrying this briefcase around with him and like he steps into it and then seeing that in the movie but I think I know the suit that you're going to talk about so. Yeah is it the Mark 42? The prehensile suit? Yes. How did you know I was going to talk about the prehensile suit? It's just so freaking cool I mean think about it it's like the suit comes apart and you can call the suit to you it's like come here suit come here get on my hand. like how we can throw the suit away. Yeah. Yeah. And that and that cool move, like if the suits assembled itself and he's not in it and he can do this kind of funny karate choppy move across it and just collapses on the floor. Yeah. That's just so cool. Anyway. All right. So that's the one if you're not following which one I'm talking about, it's the one in Iron Man three. And the line that Pepper throws is so what are you up to? Like Mark seven or eight on that thing? and he looks at his wrist and it's like Mark 42 and he's like, yeah, something like that. It's like, OK. So anyhow, never mind. You sort of see bits of it also in Avengers two. That's the age of the angry metal guy. Oh, yeah. Angry metal dude. Yeah. Ultron. Yeah. Yeah. James Spader, basically, who is such a brilliant voice for Ultron. Just so good. Oh, so good. I know. But anyway. So, yeah, because like when he goes to grab the scepter, he just holds his arm out. It's like, come here, I just want a hand. And so the hand flies over. And when he's trying to pull Thor's hammer up at that party and gets nowhere in a big hurry, he's also got the hand on. And actually on that point. So all of the parts of this suit, right? You've got hands slash forearms is one bit. Shoulder and upper arms is another bit. You got the head as in the main part of your head, the face. Then you got the torso, the chest at the front, chest at the back, and then the feet and lower legs. And all these bits sort of like come together and interconnect and it's all very, very cool. Because it assembles piece by piece. And anyway, so the problem, the first problem is the arc reactor is still there to power the entire suit. So how does it power the individual pieces when they're not connected? And during Iron Man 3 he's like connect some wires when he's in the shed in Tennessee. He has some wires connected to each of the pieces to like charge them up. Yeah. Which I kind of sort of guess he's maybe built batteries or something into those components. So what he's done in the later films. So in the in the first couple of films the suits actually powered directly by the arc reactor in his chest. But in the in the later films he actually embeds an arc reactor inside each of his suits. And obviously he must have batteries in the separate sections or even smaller arc reactors, maybe in each of these separate sections. Okay. Yeah. All right. Well, fair enough then. So, it's just a matter of how much power you would get in terms of that thrust, right? Because they still couldn't possibly be as big as the arc reactor that he's got in the middle of his chest. So, it's like, well, hmm. But anyway, okay. So, the little thrust that he's got on these, because they need to fly around in the air to find his arm because obviously they're heavy and they got to fly. So they got little thrusters in them. That's okay I guess. But I guess the problem I've got with the whole hand pulling the, trying to pull Thor's hammer up for example, it's like well, you've got a bit of an action reaction, like a physics problem there because if you think about it, all you're really doing is you got your hand in a glove made of metal that's very heavy and you're trying to use that to give you extra strength. So you got these little thrusters on it and the thrusts are what give you that sort of strength, but if you're wearing the full suit, you'd be leveraging all of that power. It's like, how is it what, if I was really seriously trying to lift Thor's hammer with Iron Man, I would have the whole suit on, you know, because I'd want to have all that leveraging power connected all the way through to my feet. I'm just, I'm just saying, you know? No, I know, but at the end of the day, he's not worthy, so he's not going to be able to lift the hammer. Fine. Yeah, but if, but if it goes up in an elevator does that mean the elevators worthy? Yeah this is an interesting point. Oh they had that at the end of the movie it was so funny. It was great. Just slightly segueing have you seen the video of the guy who makes a real Thor's hammer that can only be picked up by him? No no what's that? So he he basically embedded a massive electromagnet into the hammer with a thumbprint scanner so and also a capacitive sensor on the handle. So, what he would do is he'd go out in public and he'd put the hammer down on like a manhole cover. And he would say, all right, try and pick it up. And as soon as they grabbed the handle, the- Because they didn't have their- The thumbprint didn't scan, it would engage the electromagnet, so they couldn't actually lift it up. And then one guy at the very end of the video, he just kind of comes over and he kicks it off the manhole cover and picks it up. It's like, damn it. Oh, that's so cool and some people have too much time on their hands but that's awesome. Totally. Cool, no I hadn't heard of that. I was thinking of getting a link for the show notes for that. That sounds pretty cool. So I guess the only other thing I wanted to say about that is obviously, you know, the additional force that you're going to be putting on that object or whatever else, you need to leverage it against like a physical connection to through to the ground. Otherwise, it's just going to snap your arm or your leg off and it's the extra way that appendages is not going to work. But that's okay because it's Iron Man. Anyway, so it got me thinking, Iron Man suits may well be a ways off but what have we got right now because there are actually suits, not like fully covered suits like they don't you know but they're like more like better described as an exoskeleton. Have you come across any of these in your travels? Like, seen them around on, like, geek websites and stuff? Yeah, I've seen them, you know, there are military applications, there are applications for people with limited mobility or who might be paralysed. You can get ones for Steadicam operators which are more designed for, they're not so much powering the person but they're just giving them extra stability and extra strength just to hold the heavy items yeah yep so I had a look and there's there's three I just want to quickly talk about then there's links for each of these in the show notes two of them are made by Lockheed Martin and the first one they call Fortis and it's an excess skeleton that attaches to your waist your legs and arms and what it does is it sort of provides, it's an unpowered, call it like a lift assisting, like a lift capacity assisting exoskeleton. And it just works by you know, counterbalance, counterbalance leveraging and such. And it can make something that weighs about 16 kilos which is 36 pounds essentially weightless. And that's good for jobs like if you're doing sanding or using cutting tools that are very heavy, you know, that's very handy. But of course, it is unpowered so you don't have to worry about plugging in to charge it and of course, you don't need an arc reactor. So, which is good since they don't exist. Anyhow, so I thought that was an interesting one. But if you want a more true analog to an Iron Man suit, they also make one. I mean, Lockheed Martin, they make one called the HULC and they're up to the mark two of that. That's the human universal load carrier. That's what that stands for. Now, that can handle 91 kilos. That's 200-pound load carrying that for about 20 kilometers or just 12 miles, but that's at slow speeds. So, it can sustain a 12-kilometer-an-hour or 7-mile-per-hour average walking speed or burst of up to 16 kilometers an hour or 10 miles an hour running if it needs to. Now this particular one, you know, with that range, they don't give you an operating time in the brochures or anything, but have a look in the show notes. It's an interesting design and it's sort of got these little strap things that you can use to attach to heavier load items and sort of have it strapped to you and carry them around rather than having full arm extensions and, you know, all that sort of thing. But if you want one that looks more like an Iron Man suit, the most like that is the Raytheon on XOS 2 and it's a lot more versatile and in terms of its capability but the problem is with that is wonderful, brilliant, as futuristic as it looks, it's also expensive but you know, let's not worry about that. It's still tethered, it's still got an extension lead. Tyrone: That's - yeah. Ben: So it's like - Tyrone: That's kind of a downside. Ben: Yeah, it's like here's this awesome, absolutely amazing exoskeleton and here's your 500km extension lead. There you go. Have fun. Don't get it twisted or anything. Snagged on anything. Yeah, voltage drop, blah, blah, blah. There's the battery problem all over again. Never mind that. So yeah, honestly, I just think that this is very much the future, but actually, yeah, another thing that just occurred to me, it wasn't in the notes, but you remember in Avatar, how they had those, um, there's Avatar, they had them. There's Els- Elsium, I think it was. Elysium. What was that one where with Damon and where he- - Oh, Elysium. - Yeah, Elysium, where he actually got the exoskeleton, like, screwed and bolted into his bones. Like, ouch. Like, really ouch. - Yeah. - Anyway. - That reminds me of, um, Iron Man 2. - Hmm. You know, it's Iron Man 2 where the other guy is experimenting with creating his own exoskeletons. And you see the videos of him trying to do it and people are inside the suits and they got a twist. And then the exoskeleton twists all the way around and breaks the guy's back. And kind of that worries me about exoskeletons. Okay, what happens if you accidentally add an extra digit to the degrees that it's allowed to rotate in the code and you accidentally kind of kill someone? - Yeah, that would be a problem. That would be a big problem. - It's just a stray zero. - Yeah, I mean, I've very, very briefly had a look at some of the code that drives like a robotic arm, like a three axis rotation robotic arm at a brick works once. And I was looking at that and the code in behind that, that if you mess it up, you put a protective cage around the outside. If you mess it up and the bricks go flying off the end or the thing hits the wall, you've got a protective safety cage. But if you're going to put a person inside that robotic arm, yeah, if you get it wrong, it's really, really bad. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm not going to be volunteering for that. Someone else can volunteer for the first few hundred times and then maybe we'll see. But, you know, hey, so you know what? Have I just ruined Iron Man for everybody? I think I'm sorry. I didn't I didn't mean to. No. No. Good. Because Iron Man is totally real. Okay. And I'm getting a suit for Christmas, apparently. Actually, so just going back, you know how you were talking about the Lockheed Martin powered suit, the HULC. Yes. Just sound out the name. Hulk. Ah, so good. You're right. I didn't get that. I just noticed that. I was like, oh, my God, that is. Yeah. Unless they have no idea that they've done that, which I don't think. There has to be one guy in marketing who decided to like put that little joke in there. And everyone's like, "Oh, what's the deal? What's so funny?" Yeah. Oh, that's totally a backronym, you know, which is an acronym, but it was reverse engineered from the word. Although, I guess, they couldn't work the K in because if it was Hulk with a K, then human universal load, kryptonite. No. Klaxon. No. I just can't think of a good one for K. So, yeah, they had to switch it to a C. It could be a Kazan Noonee, who's the professor who developed it. I don't know. But anyhow, yes. But no, that good catch. That did not jump out at me. But you're right. Go Hulk. This is all this all been. Yeah. See, isn't it interesting, though, because a lot of the lot of stuff in cartoons, you know, we make into movies inspires people to try and build this stuff. And so it wouldn't be great if we had a powered exoskeleton or suit like Iron Man. And I do wonder if it had not been for comics like that, whether or not ideas like this ever would have found mainstream interest and whether or not the military would even be exploring things like this. I don't know. Maybe it would have, maybe not. But I just I have a feeling that it goes back far beyond attempts to actually build this stuff. And I think it's awesome because it's sort of as an engineer, I sort of look at this and I feel the need to try and build a nine man suit. I just, you know, every now and then I'm like, I should try and build one. Maybe you should start with a Mark I. And that's what I really like about the comics is when they were first written, kind of the suit of armor was a literal suit of armor. and it was much more realistic to the time and obviously as the years progress and technology becomes more advanced the suits themselves kind of take years so they're still years ahead but they're kind of closer to where we are so and that's what I really liked about the first film is the first suit he builds it almost looks like something that you could build because you know he had the powered flight and that was actual using propellants to to kind of fly him up in in the air and then he crashed to the ground but it was actually something that you know you think you could actually build with today's technology. Yeah that's true you're right and and if i remember rightly he had like um like a thick leather or whatever else as a protecting layer for some of it and uh yeah the the mask was just like a really did beat the crap out of a bit of steel to sort of like and you could see the weld lines on it and yeah it was very very very backyard again but it It was, you know, but yeah, you're right. It resembled something that you could build. And I guess that's the thing, like I said at the beginning of the episode, why I find Iron Man and his suit to be so compelling is because it feels like it's within the realm of possible. And if all it takes is to put a suit like that on and you could be, you know, have superhero probabilities, then that feels like it's a more real possibility someday, rather than just, "Well, I'm just going to hang out in this chemical lab or crime scene lab and hope to get struck by lightning and get super speed," rather than just frying to a crisp, which is probably what would actually happen and die. TYLER: Or get exposed to gamma rays, you know. GARETH Yeah, which is totally not going to kill you either. And it's just— TYLER: Well, no, the important thing is to get struck by enough gamma rays. GARETH Ah. So what's the enough level? that like 10% or 15% or I see this is the anyway. It's okay. I mean, when I lose my temper, I don't turn green. I turn red, though, like bright red. And that's- You could be the Red Hulk. Is there such a thing as a Red Hulk? Come on. Yeah, no, there are totally there are different colours of the Hulk. Seriously? Yeah, it's a big thing in the comics. I think the Grey Hulk is the one that- One of the Hulk's is actually very smart and articulate and also got like the super strength and the other ones like super angry. And then you've got the green who's kind of the... Yeah, look it up. There are different types of hulks. I'm actually going to do that now because I want to see the hulk come up and say, well, with his big, big muscular fist and say, now, please, if you could refrain from doing that, gentlemen, and I will not have to rearrange your face. No? Something like that. OK, fine. Well, that... See, this is the thing I'm missing out. I have missed out, I think. So I'm going to fix this. OK, well, you know what? We should probably leave it there. Do you have anything else you want to talk about Iron Man? Or should we just leave it? If I've crushed anyone's dreams, I really do apologize. But honestly, I guess I still remain enamored with the idea of Iron Man because it seems so possible. Yeah. And it's not magical. Exactly. It's like we can we could get there someday and that would be so awesome. So my favorite superhero. Totally, totally possible. Same for me. Yeah. So there you go. So, yeah, that's the biggest draw for me. Yeah, exactly. So go Iron Man and I want an Iron Man suit and I better get one for Christmas or Santa's going to hear about it. Yeah, okay. Anyway, right. Good. Lovely. If you want to talk more about this, you can reach me on Twitter @johnchidjie or you can follow Pragmatic Show to specifically see show announcements and other related stuff. Please remember that Pragmatic is now part of the Engineered Network. It also has an account at engineered_net that has different announcements about the network and all the shows and you can check them out at If you'd like to get in touch with James, what's the best way they can get in touch with you, mate? Probably just on Twitter @smithjw Too easy. All right, if you'd like to send any feedback about the show or the network Please use the feedback form on the site. That's where you also find show notes about this episode Anyhow, oh and also the network has a Patreon account. So if you like what we're doing here at the Engineered Network and you'd like to contribute something or anything at all, it's all very much appreciated. It helps to keep the network going as well as to promote some new shows that will be coming up shortly and helps us to find some new shows as well. Make sure you check out Nutrium, which is a podcast by some chemical engineer friends of mine and also Causality, which is a solo podcast that I do that looks into cause and effect of different disasters and miscellaneous things. So, anyhow, there you go. That's it. And so, yeah, thanks everyone for listening and thanks for joining me, James. No worries. It's been great. Cool. Go Iron Man. 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James Smith

James Smith

James is “Product” at Culture Amp and has a rarely posted blog but is also one of the people on the wonderful podcast The Verse.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.