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10 thoughts on “Inventing Iron Man

  1. says:

    As the title suggests this book examines whether Iron Man could exist in the real world As with Michio Kaku’s book Physics of the Impossible answering the uestion involves defining the various meanings of “impossible” One way to parse the uestion is “Is Iron Man possible today given the existing state of technology?” In and of itself this uestion is of limited interest because the answer is “no” There’s certainly a demand and so if Iron Man could exist given current technology he probably would That’s not to say it isn’t interesting to learn about what technologies are holding us back and where the cutting edge of relevant technologies lies—both of which are addressed by the book Still a interesting inuiry is “Will Iron Man ever be reality given the physical laws that we know to govern the universe?” While intriguing it’s also a harder uestion to definitively answer It’s impossible to foresee all the technological developments that might come along to answer the seemingly insurmountable challenges eg Tony Stark’s inevitable Traumatic Brain Injury TBI The book deals with the critical uestion of what challenges would have to be overcome for Iron Man to be reality As Zehr suggests the appeal of Iron Man is that he’s considered to be among superheroes for the common man Like Batman the sufficiently bright and diligent nerd may fantasize that “That could be me” You or I can’t be Superman or Wolverine but given enough money smarts and training we could be Batman or—even better—pilot the Iron Man suit Put in this light the book may seem like just another frivolous attempt to capitalize on the popularity of superheroes to sell books However there’s actually a great deal of food for thought packed in the book Like others I read the book because its title is Inventing Iron Man and not Neuro motor control of a self propelled armor system or some other suitably scholarly title Dr Zehr has the bona fides to delve into this topic He is a Professor who investigates uestions of how the nervous system controls movement That subject may not constitute the sum total of critical concerns but it’s one of the most important challenges For Iron Man to move the way he does in the movies and comic books Tony Stark’s impulses to move have to be transmitted seamlessly to the servo motors that move the suit From dodging Col Rhodes’ ie War Machine’s punches to ducking RPGs Stark can’t be uick enough if he has to manually steer the device Then of course there’s the issue of feedback Any neophyte meditator who’s had his or her foot fall sound asleep will know how difficult it is to walk surefootedly when one can’t feel anything through one’s foot Iron Man 3 spoiler commentary in this paragraph One of the most damning challenges for making Iron Man a reality is the high probability of severe concussions Let’s say you make the suit out of a material that is virtually indestructible? This may be possible However the pilot’s mushy brain is still sloshing around inside that impenetrable armor One can remotely pilot the suit in order to negate this as has been done in the comic books and the third movie but—at that point—is it still Iron Man? I know from a writer’s perspective it’s a lot harder to maintain tension if there’s nothing human on the line In the third movie about 30 autonomously piloted suits get wiped out and the viewer doesn’t care—the only source of tension is that Tony Stark is without armor half the time Some of the most interesting discussions are about where the current state of the art lies with respect to a direct mind control over mechanical systems; b a “flying suit”; and c robotic movement enhancers Zehr conducts interviews with those engineers and technologists involved in such technologies and finds out where we are presently Letter “a” above seems to be the least developed of the three technologies but they are all active lines of research I enjoyed this book and found it interesting I think anyone who is interested in the state of technology and its limits will find it a nice pop sci introduction to the subject The use of superheroes as a pedagogic device may be overdone but it continues to work because we are fascinated by the edge of possibility and that’s what superheroes represent

  2. says:

    When reading superhero comics or watching movies about the such it is very likely to uestion whether their feats or abilities were able to exist in the real world While a real life Superman may be uite far fetched the existence of Iron Man actually seems feasible given the technology currently available to us This book makes a brilliant scientific evaluation of the engineering necessary to build an Iron Man armor It also analyzes the effects of such an exoskeleton on human anatomy and physiology Initially the book discusses the normal structure and function of the human skeletal muscular and nervous systems and how these would be affected by the introduction of a mechanical exoskeleton such as the Iron Man armor It then goes on to elaborate on the applications and implications of having such a system controlled directly by the nervous system while illustrating potential decay of the human body inside the armor after extended use At the same time present day technologies including exoskeletons and prostheses are showcased throughout the book with regards to their function and possible applications within an Iron Man armor The book also delves into the amount of time and resources needed for development of Iron Man I personally enjoyed this book a great deal It evaluated the engineering behind Iron Man in immense depth while still leading the reader to ask him or herself further uestions It is also uite fascinating as it showcases clear impossibilities with regards to Iron Man's technology while at the same showing how close we really are to developing such a system I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in engineering or anatomy or who simply likes Iron Man

  3. says:

    I picked up the book expecting to read about the amazing technology that goes into the making of the brilliantly engineered suit that we call Iron Man expecting explanations of all the sophisticated tech that would have went into the marvel that Tony Stark has createdBut it turned out to be something different Actually like what the title suggests Written by a neuro scientist you can guess what the content would be like It revolves a lot around the current state of prosthetics the science of brain and its control of the body the physical and psychological training needed for piloting such a suit the deteriorating impact that would be caused by itIf you are looking for the tech only part this might not be the right choice But if you want to delve into above areas mentioned areas it is a good read If I've to give you one good reason to read this one it definitely has to be the perspective it gives you on the state of modern day science and tech how much effort that would go into making of a superhero marvel like Iron Man if at all we could someday achieve it

  4. says:

    35 Not great somewhat disappointing Not a big fan of the author's style The book is a lot of neuroscience and considering how an Iron Man suit could connect to one's brain and how the body would adapt to it

  5. says:

    One of the most prevalent themes of speculative fiction is the examination of the idea of improving a human through the use of technology There are a myriad of versions whether it be through bionic implants cyborgs or full up androids housing human minds but the most successful execution of the idea is likely the story of Iron Man Iron Man was created by Stan Lee Larry Lieber Don Heck and Jack Kirby of Marvel Comics in 1963 He’s appeared in than a 1000 comic books several animated series and two feature filmsTo have such success and longevity a character has to maintain their humanity so that the audience can identify with them Iron Man is able to do this better than other characters for two reasons – first because the human Tony Stark can easily be separated from the machine and second because Tony Stark is a very human character – a mesh of exaggerated flaws and charmWhen the audience attempts to identify with the character they inevitably ask themselves could I do that? Could I assuming I was a genius billionaire become Iron Man? In the new book Inventing Iron Man The Possibility of a Human Machine EPaul Zehr attempts to answer that uestion from the perspective of someone that is both a professor of neuroscience and kinesiology and a comic book geekThis is the second time Dr Zehr has examined via a book such a uestion A few years ago he wrote a book called Becoming Batman The Possibility of a Superhero It too incidentally is a great bookImagine for a moment the challenges of creating and being Iron Man What are the uestions you would ask? This is how Zehr attacks the problem Can a machine emulate the actions of a human? Can a human interface with such a machine? Can a human inhabit such a machine? How would using it impact the body? How long could one be Iron Man?This is a book written for the curious Don’t expect short simple yes or no answers This is a book that leaves the path to explore tangents that bring a greater understanding of the variables involved Zehr draws on his own expertise but also brings in experts in diverse areas that serve as parallels to the idea of Iron Man The Iron Man costume would have to provide the life support of a NASA EVA spacesuit the protection of an army bomb disposal team’s protective suit the flying capabilities of Yves Rossy’s Jet man wing and the dexterous control of NASA’s Robonaut It would also have to interface with the brain like the medical prosthetics used to help paralyzed persons The curious person like Zehr can’t just stop there with the technical possibilities but has to look at the human perspective How much training would it take to control the suit? How much concentration to operate it? What would happen to the body as it experienced the stresses that Iron Man endures every day To maintain a connection between the reality that is being examined and the original source character in the comic books and films scattered throughout the book are uotations and illustrations from the comics to explain how the comics have addressed the same uestions Sixty one different comics are cited throughout the bookI’m an engineer and an instructor so I look at any technical discussion from two perspectives Is it technically correct? and is it being described in a way that is understandable to the audience? Inventing Iron Man succeeds on both counts It is a fast and fascinating read I read the 180 page book in a single sittingInventing Iron Man The Possibility of a Human Machine is published by the prestigious Johns Hopkins University Press The list price is 2495 On com the hardback is 1585 and the Kindle edition is 999To learn about the book visit the official website inventingironmancom

  6. says:

    Review reposted from my blog whatistechnoagaincomThere needs to be books like thisA couple of years ago I read and reviewed a book called Becoming Batman The Possibility of a Superhero Unlike many other superhero meets something topics usually that “something” is philosophy related this one interested me on two fundamental levels it talked about Batman from the appreciative standpoint of specific comic book issues and it showed me with rock hard scientific proof which aspects of my favorite caped crusader were possible to achieve by way of body and mind and which were notNow the author of that book is back with another investigation into the possible and impossible and this time he’s adding another layer to the inuiry human and machine E Paul Zehr who so kindly provided me a review copy of his latest work on sale October 1 has chosen Iron Man as his sopho course of study and he follows through with as much curiosity and passion as his first Inventing Iron Man The Possibility of a Human Machine uses Tony Stark’s original and remodeled suits as a launch point to answer countless uestions about man and his capability to connect with complicated machines and to investigate how close to current technology those wondrous armors areThe uestions lead the reader down paths of neuroscience and kinesiology the study of human movement to possibilities of flight the myth of multi tasking the effects of substance abuse the damage sustained by prolonged biological interface with a machine to the long lasting effects of subjecting the human body to a second exoskeleton that does all the major work for you As with Becoming Batman the most fascinating parts of Inventing Iron Man are the avenues of discussion most comic book fans never consider like how wearing the Iron Man suit would expose Tony to the same gravitational issues that astronauts face when they return to Earth or what realistic explanation could be offered in replacement of Stark’s fictional origin storyLike a true costumed hero Zehr masks learning in the guise of pop culture enthusiasm—the language and life blood of comic book nerds Readers will forget they’re being taught real world information and that at the book’s center—and Iron Man’s heart—is the same science and technology they were exposed to in school The techno speak weighs down the occasional chapter but most of the time the author has a good handle on making the language accessible and easily understood I wish Zehr had written all my biology textbooksInventing Iron Man The Possibility of a Human Machine is a perfect source to learn about the history of Iron Man and the strength and limits of the human body and brain If you’re already a genius level Iron Man fan then you’re bound to discover a new facet of your beloved hero Take it from a girl who knows her Batman ever better now than before

  7. says:

    When I saw this in vine I went back in forth this or something elseI'm geeky in that I love comics robots the concepts behind the things in this book Less nerd in that if you go all full on deep science and medical and math you might lose me if it leads us down a long curving road of technical mumbo jumbo Would I understand what the heck a professor of neroscience had to say on the subject? Thank goodness I did settle on this book and he realized not all of us are his studentsIn fact in the Prologue I was already laughing as he asked his young children too young to know of Iron Man what they thought of the concept sounded hot and started to explain the issues with such a suit in very mild science'y terms I could actually understand It went on from there Including pics of the various Iron Men over the years the toys the movie Every little detail of each broken down with the pros and cons would they or wouldn't they work What problems would they present to the wearer of such a suit Every little hypothetical issue you could possibly imagine for a real life Iron Man is presented here I don't think pre orders are on the horizon any time soon But someone is definitely working on the issues involved in creating a real life Iron Man and probably reading this book while doing so

  8. says:

    I know that when I was a kid I would read the super hero comics and dream of becoming one of those heroes Of course for most of the superheros the powers were fantastical but a few were within the realm of possibility E Paul Zehr also had these dreams and a professor of neuroscience and kinesiology has continued his explorations of the actual possibilities of our human superheros In Becoming Batman The Possibility of a Superhero he looks at the limits of human performance and whether a person could actually become the Batman He now takes a look at Iron Man in Inventing Iron Man The Possibility of a Human Machine He surveys the latest research and developments in brain machine interfaces neural prosthesis robotics and human performance Taking the history of Iron Man from the comics he charts where the science actually is in producing such a creation and makes educated guesses about how far we are from a real Iron Man Both books are very informative; there are some amazing things being done today and the potential for enhanced human performance is growing at a rapid pace If you love the superhero comics you will definitely enjoy these books on the actual science

  9. says:

    Inventing Iron The Possibility of a Human Machine is a very intriguing informational book that discusses the possibilities of achieving very similar or almost the same technological achievements reached by those in Marvel Comics Particularly Tony Stark aka Iron Man Paul Zehr is not the average nerd writing about his theories about on an online blog no he is a neurologist who has actually done many studies contributing to Iron Mans development As you go through this book you will be told of the many test and interviews with people of many occupations regarding to the progression of our ideals of an Ard Avenger Not only does he touch down on the science behind Iron Man armor he discusses some issues that deal with a person’s use of the suit such as; physical restrictions mental stress and dangers to the public that can come from the use of the suits With all this in mind understand that this book uses a lot of intellectual words and may be considered boring to those lacking a love of comics and science I would say this book can be a tad bit difficult for the average reader but if the topic interest you I would totally give it a shot

  10. says:

    This wasn't nearly as engaging as Zehr's previous book Becoming Batman The focus is primarily on the function of neurons and how they work with muscles I had been hoping for a little engineering and physics and a little less neuroscience It wasn't bad just not the book I wanted it to be It still gave me a lot to think about trying to work out practical Iron Man concepts that reuire fewer of what James Kakalios calls miracle exceptionsI felt a little too much time was given to what felt like first year science lessons in anatomy and biology I didn't need to know the details of how a neuron works to get why motor neurons are something to look at for our theoretical robot suit

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Inventing Iron Man Tony Stark has been battling bad guys and protecting innocent civilians since he first donned his mechanized armor in the 1963 debut of Iron Man in Marvel Comics Over the years Stark's suit has allowed him to smash through walls fly through the air like a human jet control a bewildering array of weaponry by thought and perform an uncountable number of other fantastic feats The man who showed us all what it would take to become Batman probes whether science and humankind is up to the task of inventing a real life Iron ManE Paul Zehr physically deconstructs Iron Man to find out how we could use modern day technology to create a suit of armor similar to the one Stark made Applying scientific principles and an incredibly creative mind to the uestion Zehr looks at how Iron Man's suit allows Stark to become a superhero He discusses the mind boggling and body straining feats Iron Man performed to defeat villains like Crimson Dynamo Iron Monger and Whiplash and how such acts would play out in the real world Zehr finds that science is nearing the point where a suit like Iron Man's could be made But superherodom is not just about technology and Zehr also discusses our own physical limitations and asks whether or not an extremely well conditioned person could use Iron Man's armor and do what he doesA scientifically sound look at brain machine interfaces and the outer limits where neuroscience and neural plasticity meet Inventing Iron Man is a fun direct and parallel comparison of comic book science fiction with modern science If you've ever wondered whether you have what it takes to be the ultimate human machine hero then this book is for you

  • Kindle Edition
  • 224 pages
  • Inventing Iron Man
  • E. Paul Zehr
  • English
  • 10 March 2016

About the Author: E. Paul Zehr

Black Belt Brain at Psychology Today Magazine and my guest blogs on the science of superheroes over at