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    Is Thor Mighty Or Just Magic?
    By Hank Campbell | February 19th 2013 03:30 AM | 39 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

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    If you are a long-time Thor comic book reader, you know Thor's hammer used to be really, really heavy. That means Thor used to be really, really strong. 

    Somewhere along the way Big Hulk lobbyists decided that the green guy should be the strongest character in Marvel comics,so writers gave him both virtually unlimited strength and decided that Thor's hammer, the creatively-named Mjolnir (doesn't it just sound like Norse should sound?) was magic, and that is why only he could lift it.  He wasn't the strongest guy around any more, which left it with being supernatural, kind of a cop-out even to me as a kid.

    Science 2.0 fave Dr. Neil Tyson recently tried to bring back the 'Thor is really strong' concept by stating "If Thor's hammer is made of neutron-star matter, implied by legend, then it weighs as much as a herd of 300-billion elephants" which means only someone really strong could lift it. Of course, it also means it would be changing Earth's gravitational field just sitting there but the really strong Thor part is what is worth thinking about.  Finally, in 2013, can we get out of the supernatural hammer business and back into the reality-based community?

    He cited a neutron star state of matter and that is what remains of a dead star after a supernova is done killing Romulus or whatever all supernovae have been blamed for.  It's incredibly dense, because its protons and electrons have been crushed together by unreal levels of gravity and those proton-electron pairs have become neutrons(1). After that happens, we're left with a dead object the size of Chicago that still has more mass than our Sun - for comparison, if I wanted to lift neutron star material equivalent to the sugar I just put in my coffee, my spoon would have to be able to lift a 100 million tons - basically, I have to be strong enough to lift a mountain.

    So Tyson was right, Thor's hammer was once heavy - so heavy it took an atomic-powered machine to lift it - it still leaves something of a materials mystery. 



    There's not a lot of science in Thor, it is comic book lore and that has changed over time, including eventually making the hammer of Thor so magical a guy in issue #302 lifted it using his brain.  Bonus: he was a math nerd and his brain was able to make geometry real.



    But in simpler Thor days, it was really heavy (yet still outside gravitational and inertial mass) (2), though by 1991, as Matt Shipman from NC State notes, a Marvel trading card locked down its measurements and stated that Mjolnir weighed precisely 42.3 pounds. 



    Uru, like mjolnir, is entirely fictional. Neil can be forgiven for not remembering that it was forged in the heart of a dying star, not from one - he was off getting a PhD when I was reading all those comic books - but 23 inches, as Shipman notes, brings up a different issue, and that may be a clue that Tyson knew a lot more than he  was letting on. What must this Uru metal be, to have enough of a wallop to deck Iron Man yet be in such a small form factor?  For one hypothesis, you have to go read his article.

    If it is not a hypothetical metal, we have one final possibility: Since we can all lift 42 lbs. it may be that Dr. Tyson knows something that we do not know about the true nature of mjolnir.  Has he solved a special quantum state for that mallet wherein since Dr. Don Blake was worthy, it was only 42 lbs., or even as light as a cane, but for regular people it is 2.4 trillion tons yet still outside the rules of gravitational and inertial mass? 

    Probably. He's a pretty smart guy.

    H/T Glendon Mellow

    (1) Read more on the neutron star state

    (2) What else is from a much simpler time?  Travel. Thor passed through our year 2013 way back in 1962, when he battled Zarrko the Tomorrow Man, who went back to the '60s to steal a 'cobalt bomb' because in the future no one had weapons and so he was easily able to make himself the ruler of the world.  





    Thus, if we let social authoritarians ban guns we run the risk of a time traveler from the future going to the past and stealing a powerful bomb and using it to lord it over us.  Ban our sodas and styrofoams Big Brother, but not our 200-round magazines! 

    Comments

    Stellare
    Well, as a relative of Thor!! I am very pleased to see how much space he is given here at Science 2.0! :-) Note, that our family has a property with the name Valhall.

    I think it is equally if not more interesting that Mjølner (Mjǫlnir) hits whatever it is suppose to hit. Imagine having a tool like that. Nobody has got a chance in - Valhall! :-) Oh, the physics of that quality of a hammer.

    Creds to you for taking such an interest in 'our Gods' ;-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Hank
     I am very pleased to see how much space he is given here at Science 2.0!
    He's big and pretty, like me. Guys like Thor and I have to stick together.
    "Thor's hammer, the creatively-named Mjolnir (doesn't it just sound like Norse should sound?)"
    Nothing really creative about it - merely stands for Old Norse "The Grinder"... Related words in other Indo-European languages include Russian "molot' " (to grind), "molot" (hammer), as well as English "to mill", "miller"...

    Hank
    I say creative because in Russia its root is lightning and in Swedish it is flour, while in the other Indo-European languages it is a mallet/grinder. I think that a word that works so well in both slavic and germanic branches is clever.
    True enough, it's interesting how languages develop... The common root for grinding/milling gave a rise to Mjolnir and then, most likely, Mjolnir itself was re-introduced as "molniya" (since that's what it's blows were supposed to generate) back into old Russian via early Viking colonies in Holmgard and Aldeigja... Original early Slavic had "perun" (both as god and as the phenomenon itself) for lightning bolt, but then it became "molniya"...

    Gerhard Adam
    Seems to me that a logical point is being missed.  Either the hammer is magical or Thor must be magical.  A magical hammer, explains why only Thor can lift it, but if the hammer was extremely heavy, then Thor [still being subject to biophysics of muscles, skeleton, etc.] could not possibly lift such a hammer without himself, being magical.

    So, it seems that one or the other must be magical. After all, I thought that was kind of the point in being a Thunder God.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Not quite. Magic encompasses Thor in both cases, so it doesn't make any difference whether the hammer owes its weight to magic or ordinary gravity :)  What we really ought to talk about is whether Thor himself is intrinsically magical or merely the subject of some external magical force'..

    ... Ach!!! Why am I discussing this twaddle? Do me a favour and ignore this post!
     
    Gerhard Adam
    Oh, you made me read it before you told me to ignore it.  Now I can't get it out of my head.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    I'll wait until you two are done having your fun before I delete the thread.
    Well, on thinking about it a lot - not - it does seem as though the hammer bore most if not all of the magic (basically because that's what the picture tells us). So Thor could have been a puny little fella who was kind to stray dogs, which made the hammer think he was worthy. I don't suppose even magical hammers are very smart.
     
    Fred Phillips
    Nice to know that linguistic fact. It would have helped me years back when I was shopping in Germany for a coffee grinder. No sales clerks understood "grinder." I was pantomiming blades, making whirring noises and yelling coffee! coffee! Finally one clerk said, "Ah, a kaffee-mueller!"

    If Mjolnir is neutron-star material, it would draw the Earth's core and itself to a common center. Thor's problem would not be lifting the hammer, but finding it. And saving all the folks of Earth from the resulting seismic and tidal upheavals.

    Sigh...Mjolnir is the actual name of Thor's hammer from Norse Mythology, not a made up name given to it in the comics! Stan never knew the Name for Thor's hammer or that it even had one, so he called it the Uru hammer cause it sounded Nordic and magical. So the Hammer being Uru was created by Stan lee, while Mjolnir is the actual name of the hammer of Thor. Now you know and your welcome.

    Also the Hammer is Magical! Odin enchanted the Hammer so that only one who was worthy may lift it, Thor had to earn the right to possess the Enchanted hammer, Thor than became worthy and possessed the hammer, but eventually Thor became proud and arrogant so Odin punished Thor and made him Mortal until he Proved himself worthy of the hammer and his rightful powers, thats why it says the Power of Thor, because Odin put Thor's inherent powers inside the Hammer as well, so when Thor as a Mortal became Worthy again, he would possess his power and the right to possess the hammer again.

    The Hammer could very well be 42 lbs but it is enchanted so nobody but Thor or any one just as worthy can lift it, Thor is Supernaturally strong without it as he is a god and a son of The king of Gods Odin and Mother Earth Jord/Gaea.

    vongehr
    Guys - I thought this is a science site?  Look: Tyson is once again wrong, as so often.  Thor rotates the hammer around fast to let it suddenly go upwards and jump to large hights dangling from the hammer(at least in the film he does - I don't read comics but dig chicks, so end up in movie theaters).  Since that manover is impossible if not Thor is somehow also superstrong holding onto the ground via hidden eagle-like feet during the upwards arcs of the hammer's rotation, we must conclude that it is all magical and inconsistent, which is why we don't read Thor comics.
    Wow, look at you, you might dig chicks I Highly doubt they like you, you look like a bigger nerd than A supposed comic fan would look, I happen to go out, get laid and kick ass, and at the same time read Thor Comics! Gasp! People have layers you lame test! Labeling somebody something for what they like is past its heyday, grow up fool! That may sound ironic coming from a coming fan, but I know you get the point, trying to act cool here, looking like a geek yourself! Bwahaja! Look in the mirror pal, your like the odd kid trying to fit in so he ridicules the even odder kid! Lol! Its All Fiction and Magic and make believe, so shut the hell up! Or keep convincing everybody your cool and get chicks! Hahha!

    vongehr
    Come back when you grasp my argument or have contributions like the decay-time of neutrons at the surface of a body much smaller than a neutron star, which should still be mere minutes!

    (Cool in science is when you can do the funny while staying on top of the science!  Neil Tyson isn't good at that, but you ... .  Pick a venue where you have a chance of scoring and don't wait for me to show up at comicon.)
    Lol! There is nothing scientific to contribute to this, its all comics and fiction, magic and make believe, but you seem rather ashamed to be answering this question, so you throw in little bits about, you liking women and nobody reads Thor comics, and your a professional on this? Your a hypocrite, you pretend to Mock at this yet its interesting enough for you to reply to, There are geeks than there are closet geeks, your like a fan of star wars ridiculing a fan of D&D, What argument are you actually providing? Other than protecting your inferiorly complex? Of coarse Thor's hammer is magic, was that not a sufficient enough answer? Did you really need to put all the little bits in?

    vongehr
    Having a hard time to grasp the concept of a science site and its generally alledged aim?  No harm done - stick around - maybe you get it once you read something else here that happens to be more relevant to you than comics (though that may need growing up, ha ha - sorry, couldn't stop myself).  Perhaps if somebody makes fun while getting the medical science about errectile dysfunction or the causes of homosexuality all wrong, maybe then it hits you.
    Wow your humor is as forced as your supposed masculinity, lol!
    There are tons of subjects here that I would assume suit your fancy far more than this one here, my question if is, why did you choose to comment on a topic that does not suit your preferred subject? Are you that board? There is soo much in your original reply to this topic that could have been left out, your Opinion of Tyson and your last sentence regarding magic, should have sufficed, but you chose to make it known you were not a comic fan and even scoffed at it, in my opinion, like I said you have no layers, no diversity, I am secure with my masculinity and will admit to being a comic fan, among other things, you see I feed the child in me, and the adult that I am equally and am not ashamed of that, you my friend are afraid of being judged, its ok..I understand, school was very tough on you and you never met the manly expectations of your father, shame..I feel your pain.

    vongehr
    Good - we are making progress - you start to ask questions.  Why did I choose to comment, why in that way?  Good questions are like locks:  We find the shape of the key by analyzing the shape of the lock.
    Have a great weekend.
    Fair enough, same to you, though I can't help but wonder what kind of conversation may piqué your interest.

    MikeCrow
    I view magic much as Clarke might "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".
    The fun is trying to figure out how science might explain the magic. Sure it's not "Science", but it just might become science :)
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    They use that sort of reasoning in later comics. And also in 'The Avengers' movie that is what Thor means when he warns them about using the cosmic cube - it sends a signal that humans are ready for 'another level' of war.
    MikeCrow
    I enjoyed the scenes in the first Thor movie where the yahoo's were trying to "get" the hammer, and the one chained his truck to it, with the results as you might expect.

    Just to make you a little jealous, I'm the original owner of a Thor Special No.3 it is a bit worn, but still in good shape.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    I don't own a lot of early Thor's, they weren't very good, but with issue #125, around 1966, on I have a lot of them. I do have a complete set of the Fantastic Four, though, and key issues of Spidey, Avengers, etc. As you can see, by the time of your Thor special, the art and storytelling had gotten a lot better. 
    MikeCrow
    I wasn't a big collector when I was young, I've got maybe 5-6 total, but I did like Fantastic Four, DareDevil, and I have a Hawkman and Atom comic. My son, has started collecting, and has some number of boxes of them, a lot of Spiderman comics.
    Never is a long time.
    Fred Phillips
    Parents, do not emulate my mother, who threw away my comics collection when I left for college. I would be a rich man today...
    Hank
    That so many do throw them away is why they have value, so parents, toss them out.  Because I have about 25,000 - and they are a retirement I feel a lot more certain about than social security.
    I'm going to start a conversation here based on Thor's legendary strength, if we believe like the movie mythos wish us to believe, than Thor is nothing more than an alien from an advanced civilization, if so, and judging by how small the floating planet of Asgard looked, is it possible for a humanoid being of Thor's statue to possess enough strength to toss a tank in our planet or even brush one ton vehicles aside like styrofoam? What requirements would the Planetoid of Asgard need to breed beings of such strength? If we do not assume the armor he wears is what gives him such strength, I'd rather not go that routt, so again in order for a Humanoid being of Thor's statue to possess such strength, what would there need to be aside from a clearly far greater gravitational pull, my Theory would have to be that Asgard itself is a sort of star with such a great gravitational pull that it could create such beings, but is such a possibility? Now we are getting somewhere, I am interested in some view points.

    Hank
    In mythology he had gloves and a belt that made him super-strong, otherwise he was just a really strong guy. Now, in Norwegian stories a 3 year old can chop a horse in half and drink a keg of beer so a really strong Viking guy is really, really strong to us - and magic gear adds to that.

    In the comics, his strength varied wildly but to move a tank would require him to have 30,000 lbs. of human muscle - clearly not possible.  In the movie, Thor looked about 225#, tops.  But obviously if he is composed of neutron star matter, he could lift weight equivalent to over 21,000 mountains so a tank would be no problem. How he is not shaping the gravity of everything around him, and sinking into the earth, must be what Odin's magic spell does.
    but could supernaturally strong beings actually exist or is it nonsense to Think so?
    If they could exist, what would the requirements be aside from special armor and such, also Thor was so heavy in norse mythology he was forbidden to stride the bifrost bridge

    Hank
    Asking if he was supernaturally strong is the wrong question; the answer is obviously 'no'. The only interesting question is 'if he was supernaturally wrong, how would we explain that according to natural laws?'
    MikeCrow
    His muscles are not the same as ours. Not having read many Thor comics, does he suffer injuries as a human would?
    Never is a long time.
    Did you mean supernaturally wrong? Perhaps I am missing some subtlety but I'll assume it was a typo and you meant "strong" :)

    No-one seriously gives a crap about Thor, but the boundary between his world and ours is not merely that one is fictional and the other real. In addition, the magic must end at some point - your question asks where to put the dividing line (or grey zone, take your pick). The logical problem is not unique to mythology. Every time you use the word "if" about something, knowing that in fact it's not true, there must be a boundary between your imagined world and the real one where counterfactual propositions have to co-exist with factual ones. This applies to all parallels ranging from metaphors where it is obvious if someone is pushing the analogy too far through to subtle models in quantum physics where it is not clear whether the model breaks down or whether naive "common sense" does!

     

    Yes Supernatural was the wrong word, ok how about physically strong enough to do the things I've mentioned, apes are far Stronger than us for instance, it is said that Asgardian Bones,Muscle and Tissue is Three times as dense as a humans, I don't think that would enable one to toss a tank or no sell an oncoming semi Truck! Would it? Would magic be the only explanation? or is it possible the Type of planet he comes from can create such a being? What could be an explanation or Theory?
    I'm still sticking to my Theory that Asgard has a gravity superior to the Earth's somewhat like earths gravity compared to the moon,

    Gerhard Adam
    Magic is the only explanation.
    Mundus vult decipi
    MikeCrow
    No magic for the hulkster, and while about the most you'd get from gamma rays is dead, I don't think in the comics they're magical either.

    But I digress.......
    Never is a long time.
    Fred Phillips
    I loved that moment in The Avengers when Hulk got irritated with Thor and back-handed him clear across the street.
    MikeCrow
    Everyone in the theater liked that one, but I think him treating Loki like a rag doll was priceless.
    Never is a long time.