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The science behind the magic of 'Thor: The Dark World' 

November 9, 2013 3:10pm
If you were asked to name superhero films heavily related to science and technology, you’d probably put Christopher Nolan's “Batman” trilogy, the “Iron Man” movies, or perhaps even “Captain America” at the top of your list. 
 
Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are, after all, equally reliant on technology, and Steve Rogers is essentially a laboratory experiment with a really good throwing arm.
 
The point is this, the “Thor” movies probably wouldn’t even make your top 10. The realm of Asgard is all about magic, where there are seemingly unexplainable things like Mjolnir, the Bifrost Bridge, those really cool black hole grenades, Loki’s ability to fool everyone all the time, and the utter ineptitude of Asgard’s military force. 
 
However, acccording to Arthur C. Clarke, magic is just science we don’t understand yet. Asgardian magic is no different. Fear not, fellow mortals, for science is here to shed light and reveal the secrets behind some of the magic in the Nine Realms.
 
Oh, and by the way, this piece contains spoilers for “Thor: The Dark World.”
 
Black hole grenades
 
The Dark Elves may not be the victors in the movie film, but at least they managed to show us a weapon much cooler than anything Tony Stark invented so far: handheld bombs that turn into miniature black holes upon detonation. 
 
Pick one up, chuck it at a hapless foe, sit back and relax as your enemy gets bent in ways nature never prepared his body for (complete with sickening bone-crunching noises) and forcibly sucked into a tiny portal of gravitational terror.
 
In reality, a black hole is what’s left of a star after it “dies”, i.e., when its own intense gravity has managed to make it collapse into itself. It’s got a pull so powerful that you would need to move faster than the speed of light in order to avoid getting sucked into it, which kind of spells doom if you’re not the Flash or Speedy Gonzales.
 
Actually, scientists have already succeeded in “creating” black holes. Sort of. 
 
In 2009, a couple of scientists from China managed to replicate the effects of a black hole, using an electromagnetic device that can trap light and turn it into heat energy. This discovery has the potential to move the process of collecting solar energy forward by leaps and bounds, as it eliminates the need for large solar panels, and also allows energy to be collected in areas where light is too scattered.
 
However, we’re still a long way from being able to create actual black hole grenades. The problem of finding a way to contain black holes in the first place is a pretty significant one – how the heck do you put a self-contained black hole inside a grenade shell?

Besides, you might want to think twice about the wisdom of accessorizing yourself with a belt full of dead stars that, with a single, accidental tap of the finger, can painfully end your life faster than you can say “Kurse.”
 
Illusion and mind control
 
In Norse mythology, Loki is the god of mischief. To further his goals, Loki employs a variety of tricks ranging from subtle verbal suggestion to flat-out “oh my Pagan god, he cut off Thor’s hand!” multi-sensory sleight-of-hand.
 
One could say that Loki’s powers involve a combination of mind control and optical illusions. The images Loki projects are three-dimensional and intangible, essentially making them holograms.  However, the trickster god is hardly the only one with holographic projections at his disposal. 
 
Pioneers in various fields such as academics, medicine, and even videogames have already found success in creating actual holograms. 
 
Even special effects studios have been able to simulate hologram technology in creative (read: 19th century) ways during live concerts – basically an illusion of an illusion, which sounds like something straight out of Inception.
 
As for mind control, guess what? It looks like we’re getting there, too. 
 
A recent study on brain activity reveals findings that may someday pave the way for the creation of mind-reading or mind-controlling devices. Various experiments have shown that mental transmission is indeed possible, whether between two animals or two humans. 
 
If you’re still not convinced, scientists from the University of Minnesota would like to show you a neat little project they’ve been working on – a helicopter you can control and steer with your thoughts


 
Now, all we need to do is hook up actor Tom Hiddleston (who plays Loki in the movie) to one of these devices and watch the fun unfold.
 
Bifrost bridge
 
The omniscient Heimdall stands guard over the Bifrost Bridge, a rainbow passage that connects to all of the Nine Realms. 
 
While Heimdall spends most of his time standing still and glaring menacingly, he’s definitely no slouch when it comes to combat. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, really; after all, why else would Odin think that the best defense against frost giants, cloaked spaceships, and angry elves with laser guns is a grumpy dude with a sword? 
 
Anyway, the Bifrost Bridge is pretty much what you’d get if you combine the Starship Enterprise’s tractor beam and a bag of Skittles. It’s the fastest and most convenient way to jump from realm to realm, and you get a really nice color display along the way, too.
 
If Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen are to be believed, it is possible that bridges like this actually exist. These wormholes, also known as Einstein-Rosen bridges, can theoretically serve as a straight path, shortening the distance between any two points in space-time. In other words, they’re effectively teleporters. Of course, Einstein and Rosen didn’t say anything about Asgard actually existing.
 
Don’t get excited yet. There is no solid proof that wormholes do exist, and in the event that we actually find one, it would most likely be too small and unstable for us to travel through. Right now, it’s all a bunch of scientific what-ifs. 
 
If we somehow manage to prove the existence of wormholes, we could simultaneously open up a ton of exciting possibilities for intergalactic escapades and even time travel. There’s hope that, someday, people might be able to go back in time to see dinosaurs.
 
 
Mjolnir
 
Thor’s weapon of choice, Mjolnir is a one-handed hammer that bestows upon its user a wide range of enchantments including flight, weather control, electricity manipulation, and energy absorption. 
 
Unfortunately, this powerful weapon can only be wielded by someone worthy enough to lift it. 
 
Mjolnir’s a pretty versatile weapon. Aside from the usual “bash-people’s-faces-in” approach that Thor seems to love so much, the son of Odin can also slam it on the ground pretty hard and make everyone within range keel over in agony, or just straight-up throw it into someone’s guts and send them flying through a couple of buildings. 
 
In relation to that, we’d like to introduce you to the Thunder Generator, which might as well be the Hebrew equivalent of the saying: “they’ll never know what hit them.” 
 
Originally intended to shoo away birds that feasted on farmers’ crops, researchers discovered that, by tweaking the specs, the Thunder Cannon can be used to knock people off their feet. Literally. Capable of generating 60-100 shockwaves per minute within a 50-mile radius, this remarkable “stun cannon” can incapacitate entire crowds of people, and is absolutely lethal up-close.


 
Thor can also use Mjolnir to summon lightning bolts, call storms, and generally shock the living daylights out of his enemies. The weather manipulation part is a bit tricky -- aside from the fact that there’s no such thing as a weather control weapon available right now (or is there?), turning yourself into a living lightning rod probably isn’t the best battle tactic. 
 
It is possible, however, to harness the power of electricity and deliver a punch that’ll surely shock your enemy. All you need is the BodyGuard, a laser-guided stun gun masquerading as a cyborg arm.

Designed in 2004 by cameraman David Brown, the glove, which covers the entire forearm, can generate up to 300,000 volts of pain, which is more than enough to make any opponent want to sit down and settle things peacefully instead. Assuming said opponent could stay conscious long enough for that.


 
Perhaps the most practical application of Mjolnir’s mystical abilities is when Thor uses it to fly. He simply spins it around, flings it, and then grabs on to it, using his Asgardian powers of defying physics to steer the hammer. 
 
This caught the ire of a few hardcore geeks, though, who immediately called shenanigans on Thor’s high-flying high jinks.

Wired.com’s “Angry Nerd" invokes the Law of Momentum Conservation, saying that Thor shouldn’t be able to change direction mid-flight given the circumstances, as this smashes straight through the laws of physics, leaving them shattered on the ground. He further emphasizes the point by saying that Thor could just use his magical powers to fly, instead of carelessly throwing science a mead-soaked conundrum. 
 
This proves two things: one, that quite a few members of the superhero-adoring set are adept at putting the “science” in science fiction; and, two, that the same people might need to step back and re-assess their priorities. 
 
After all, given that it's a film about an alien deity patterned after a mythical Scandinavian god  who creates thunderstorms with a hammer, the plausibility of Thor’s piloting skills would have to be pretty low on the list of things that “Thor: The Dark World” owes science an apology for. – KDM, GMA News
 
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