Physics Demystified: Mjolnir

“ Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor. ”

So goes the enchantment by Odin, King of the Norse Gods.

Technically the hammer was destroyed in Ragnarok. But heck, this gif looks dope.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“Hold up. This is a physics blog, not a blog on Norse mythology! Why the hell are we discussing a mythical hammer?!

I’d like to introduce you to one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.

- Arthur C. Clarke

The man himself
Image result for arthur c clarke
Look, even the Pope is a fan!

Clarke said something many years ago, that arguably ignited the imagination of many of the world’s greatest scientists and engineers, keeping them going through many sleepless nights where they questioned if they were going anywhere.

Clarke’s Third Law:

And in the Marvel Cinematic Universe itself, Thor tells Jane Foster:

“The Realm Eternal; Asgard”

Through the Marvel comics, we gleam the understanding that the Asgardians are not in fact, Gods.

(Gods in the traditional sense, are taken to mean omnipotent and omnipresent entities. While, such characters do exist within the Marvel universe, Asgardians do not fall under that description)

Rather, they are an advanced race of beings which have far surpassed humanity in technological mastery and energy harnessing.

Guardian of the multiverse; The Living Tribunal.

( Click here to check out the Kardashev Scale )

Due to their benevolent acts on Midgard (Earth), primitive humans of yore worshipped Asgardians as Gods.

Cue the voice of Sir Anthony Hopkins

“Once… mankind accepted a simple truth, that they were not alone in this universe.

Some worlds, man believed to be home to their gods.

Others, they knew to fear. From a realm of cold and darkness, came the Frost Giants. Threatening to plunge the mortal world, into a new ice age. But humanity, would not face this threat alone. Our armiesdrove the Frost Giants back into the heart of their own world….

With the last great war ended, we withdrew from the other worlds, and returned home, to the realm eternal… Asgard. And here, we remain as the beacon of hope. Shining out across the stars.”

— Odin

With this understanding, we can then get around to unpacking the science of the hammer of Thor, Mjolnir.

So, we assume here, that Asgardians are a race of beings thousands of years more advanced than humans.

We shall attempt to extrapolate some current technologies and scientific concepts which exist today, and envision how they could come together to give us the characteristics of our mighty hammer.

Characteristics of Mjolnir

1. Worthiness

I love you 3000 :(

Due to Odin’s enchantment, Mjolnir will not move an inch, should its wielder be deemed unworthy.

So let us further dissect this:

In order for the hammer to budge only if the entity lifting it is worthy, these things have to occur sequentially.

1. The hammer needs to recognise the user.

The quality it measures here, is “worthiness”.

Somewhat murky and hard to understand, right?

Let’s think about it for a moment.

What are some existing technologies which can tell apart, one person from another?

A fingerprint scanner.
Facial recognition
Retinal scans

Is it inconceivable? That a race of beings advanced enough to conquer distant planets, and open portals to another dimension, could in fact fashion a device that scans certain qualities and reacts accordingly?

It it inconceivable still? that such technology be incorporated into a minimalistic and seamless device, such as the handle of a hammer?

I think, not.

2. Regardless of how much force is exerted, the hammer remains stationary.

For the next segment, we assume that somebody attempting to lift the hammer is unworthy.

Ring a bell?

Recall one of the most fundamental equations in classical mechanics.

Newton’s 2nd law.

Now matter how large a force acts on our hammer, its acceleration is zero (As it doesn’t move).

Let’s do a thought experiment for a bit.

If I push a small pebble on the edge of a table, it moves a little.

Now imagine me pushing with the same force, on a gigantic ship.

This same ship would stay still.

The difference here?

Mass.

The ship is millions of times heavier than our small pebble.

Now let’s turn our attention back to Mjolnir.

Doesn’t look as heavy as a container ship, does it?

It sits innocently atop those 2 books.

It doesn’t crush Tony Stark’s expensive Mahogany table.

Thats about 19kg

What are we missing here?

When left alone, Mjolnir weights a decent 19kg.

But when we attempt to lift it, it suddenly behaves as it has a mass of “300 Billion Elephants” as the picture states.

Could it be that, Mjolnir, is somehow able to vary its mass?

Mass.

The most fundamental of physical properties.

And yet we’re talking about varying it as we please?

I bet ladies out there are saying,

“Daryl, don’t toy with our feelings!”

“You mean I can eat like i’m 80kg, but look like i’m 50kg? ”

“You mean, I can eat like Fat Amy?” (Discliamer; I loved her in Pitch Perfect)
“But I can look like Josephine Skriver?!”

Well, maybe you might just be able to.

Physics, may hold the key.

Enter the “Graviton”

Now let’s turn our attention again, back to Mjolnir.

A possible explanation, to why Mjolnir has variable mass, is its ability to emit Gravitons.

The harder you pull, the more gravitons get emitted, the heavier it gets.

The instant you let go, the hammer stops emitting gravitons, and it reverts to its original weight of 19kg.

Magic!

A civilisation several millennia ahead of us humans, could have well achieved the technological know-how required to manipulate the fundamental forces of nature.

3. The ability to summon Mjolnir.

Every five thousand years, the nine realms come into alignment via the Convergence.

Can I just take a moment to say how much I love Marvel for ensuring Norse Mythology is portrayed properly during the films?

Sequentially from the foreground to the background, we see the realms connected to Yggdrasil, the world tree.

1. Alfheim. Land of the Light Elves, Fairies, and Pixies.

2. Muspelheim. The Realm of fire. Home to Surtur and Mephisto, the fire demons.

3. Joutenheim. Land of the Frost Giants.

4. Vanaheim. Home of the Vaenir, Goddesses of fertility and wisdom.

It has been established in the Marvel cinematic universe, that these realms are once again, not realms in the mythical sense, but a worlds separated by the vast interstellar void of the universe.

I’m unable to find the gif, but I recall clearly a scene where Mjolnir fell through a portal that opened due to the convergence.

It ended up, in a different realm on the other side of the universe.

But it still, it instantly changed direction and flew (presumably) toward Thor when he attempted to summon it.

Thor was an almost incalculable distance away from Mjolnir.

Yet, it responded to him.

Now, there is a problem here.

According to special relativity, c is the maximum speed at which all conventional matter and hence all known forms of information in the universe can travel.

Even information itself, cannot travel faster than the speed of light.

In reality, if Mjolnir ended up on a distant planet somewhere in the universe, it would take decades, or even centuries, for Mjolnir to react to Thor’s command.

Is this just a simple facet that the scriptwriters overlooked deliberately?

Or are more mysterious forces at play?

At this point, you should be able to figure out that the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Spooky action at a distance; Quantum entanglement

One of science’s great mysteries.

Remember once again, this blog’s purpose is to pique the interest of the layman in physics. So, no scary math and jargon shall appear.

In essence, when two particles are ‘entangled’. They become mirror images of each other.

When one spins clockwise, the other spins anticlockwise.

When you alter the axis of rotation by 45 degrees, the other gets altered by -45 degrees.

And here’s the kicker:

When you attempt to change one particle, the other particle enacts the corresponding change immediately.

When I say immediately, I really mean immediately.

There is zero time delay.

Once 2 particles are ‘entangled’, there is some inexplicable telepathic bond between them that transcends both time and space.

How are they communicating?

Even if these 2 particles are separated via the vast interstellar distances of space, where light would take ten thousand years to cross.

When you attempt to change one particle, the other particle enacts the corresponding change immediately.

Even if these 2 particles are isolated, encased in observation facilities between layers of cement, lead, concrete, such that no form of electromagnetic wave can pass in, or out.

When you attempt to change one particle, the other particle enacts the corresponding change immediately.

The trillion dollar question here, is how in the world is the information being sent?

Could it be the power of love?

We shall leave this question for another day.

But the implication here, is that regardless of the vast interstellar separation between Thor and Mjolnir, they can communicate in way that does not violate natural law.

And there we have it!

The science of Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor!

I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing this piece.

Perhaps you may have also wondered, Yes I am also a huge, huge fan of Marvel.

I apologise if I went off track for a bit and started sharing my knowledge of Marvel comics, instead of physics.

But truly, the films and comics feature physics in a way that few other things are able to and have been a huge source of joy for me ever since the day i wondered into comic books aisle of my local library as a kid.

As we explore more physics phenomena and concepts, I will continue to draw heavily on the Marvel Universe where appropriate, for it makes things easier, I suppose for the audience to grasp these concepts.

That will be all for now.

Hope to see you back here soon!

Warmest regards,

Jimmy Neutron ;)

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Daryl Tng

Daryl Tng

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Physics major from sunny Singapore! I write about physics, coding and quantitative finance.