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Inventing Iron Man

Hardback
, 224 pages

29 halftones, 12 line drawings

ISBN:
9781421402260
November 2013
$26.95

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Inventing Iron Man

The Possibility of a Human Machine

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 alone, 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 Man.

E. 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 question, 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. Zehr also discusses our own physical limitations and asks whether an extremely well-conditioned person could use Iron Man’s armor and do what he does.

A scientifically sound look at brain-machine interfaces and the outer limits where neuroscience and neural plasticity meet, Inventing Iron Man is a fun comparison between comic book science fiction and 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.

E. Paul Zehr is a professor of neuroscience and kinesiology at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and the author of Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero, also published by Johns Hopkins. For more information about finding your inner superhero, visit www.inventingironman.com.

"Like a true costumed hero, Zehr masks learning in the guise of pop culture enthusiasm... a perfect source to learn about the history of Iron Man and the strength and limits of the human body and brain."

"Zehr's university-based research includes neuroplasticity, akin to neural rewiring, associated with exercise training and rehabilitation. This expertise, combined with Zehr's childlike curiosity and proficiency in martial arts, makes Inventing Iron Man—along with Becoming Batman before it—a fascinating exploration of human potential."

"A unique and much recommended read for anyone with an interest in the reality of super science."

"Highly commended to all who enjoy a look into the world of superheroes—but science nerds will like it, too."

"The character of Iron Man represents a compelling and culturally popular interpretation of what may be possible in the future with enhanced prosthetic devices."

"A fine pick for science fiction and science holdings alike."

"Back in the sixties, when I first dreamed up the concept of Iron Man, I thought, 'What if a man had a suit of armor, like the knights of old—but modern armor that housed all sorts of miniaturized, technical weaponry? Such a man would seem to be the ultimate superhero.' At first, I didn't give much thought to what that suit of armor might mean to the man inside—how it might affect his body and/or his brain and subtly blur the line between human and machine. But now, almost 40 years later, E. Paul Zehr has tackled that very subject. Inventing Iron Man is his fascinating vision of the real-life implications of my original concept."

"E. Paul Zehr, surely one of the coolest of professors, has done something interesting, enlightening, and maybe just a bit quixotic. He has built a bridge between the fantasy science of superhero comics and the eyes-front innovations of real-life technological innovators. It is a primer on what's possible now and what might soon become possible in our world and what Iron Man's been up to in his."

"This wonderful book lays out... the only true way to see the Iron Man—as a prosthesis... a book that educates and delights. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did."

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