Bam! Science Inspired by Superheroes

By Eric Roston - 2013-12-17T14:48:54Z

Photograph by Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

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Thor's Hammer

Thor belongs to a family of godlike beings. His super-powers are channeled through a divine hammer that gives him access to natural meteorological disturbances.

The hammer is made of Uru, a metal found only on his world, Asgard. It was forged inside a dying star, an environment that isn’t replicable in labs. 

Suveen Mathaudhu suggests Thor-wannabes turn to laboratory research into how high temperatures and pressures can transform materials. At pressures equal to those deep inside the Earth, for example, materials start to show properties that don't appear at the surface. Zirconium is experimentally promising as a super-hard substance because, unlike many others, it retains the properties cooked into it in high-pressure, high-temperature experiments. 

Incidentally, Thor’s hammer, known in Norse myth as Mjolnir or “that which smashes,” shouldn’t be confused with that other thing that smashes.

Left, Thor, 2011