Thor's hammer is not that heavy—but it is scientifically interesting

Feb 18, 2013

In early February, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said on Twitter that the superhero Thor's Hammer (aka Mjolnir) "weighs as much as a herd of 300 billion elephants." News outlets pounced on this, and the news was quickly circulating online. Sadly, Tyson was wrong.

Tyson's reasoning was based on the idea that Mjolnir was "made of neutron-star matter." Not so fast.

"The critical mistake Tyson makes is thinking that Mjolnir was forged of the of a dying star, when it was actually forged in the core of a ," says Suveen Mathaudhu, a program manager in the materials science division of the U.S. Army Research Office, adjunct materials science professor at NC State and die-hard comics enthusiast. "It's well documented that the hammer is made out of 'Uru,' a fictional metal from Thor's native realm of Asgard."

And Mathaudhu can cite documentary sources to back him up. For example, Marvel – which publishes the Thor comics – issued a "Thor's Hammer" trading card in 1991 that states Mjolnir is made of Uru and weighs precisely 42.3 pounds. That's lighter than a herd of 300 billion mice, much less a herd of 300 billion elephants. But it raises a different science question.

Using the dimensions and weight on Marvel's trading card, Mathaudhu estimates that the density of Mjolnir is about 2.13 grams (g) per cubic centimeter (cc). That makes it even lighter than aluminum, which has a density of 2.71 g/cc. So what could possibly be that light and strong?

Mathaudhu has a theory.

"Perhaps Uru is the 'holy grail' of high-pressure physics: a form of ," Mathaudhu says. "Some predictions of the density of metallic hydrogen fall into this range, it requires extreme conditions to form, and could be a tremendous energy source. It's thought to be present at the core of planets, such as Jupiter, and at the core of suns – which are stars, after all."

While Tyson made a mistake in calculating the weight of Thor's hammer, he succeeded in drawing attention to the sciences of astrophysics and materials science – which is a good thing.

Explore further: Study shows more than half of peer-reviewed research articles published during 2007-2012 are now open access

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tyson to change 'no antibiotic' labels

Dec 21, 2007

Tyson Foods said it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a dispute over the labeling of poultry products.

Sun to strike NY streets in magical 'Manhattanhenge'

Jul 11, 2011

It is dubbed "Manhattanhenge" and happens two times a year when the Sun aligns at dusk with streets in a glowing magic trick as rays of sunlight span across New York perfectly, from west to east.

Chandra finds superfluid in neutron star's core

Feb 23, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered the first direct evidence for a superfluid, a bizarre, friction-free state of matter, at the core of a neutron star. Superfluids created in ...

Kodak loses third board member in 2 weeks

Jan 01, 2012

(AP) -- Eastman Kodak Co. says another member of its board of directors has resigned - the third director to exit the struggling company in the past two weeks.

Congressional Hearing on Asteroid Threat

Nov 07, 2007

UC Davis physics professor J. Anthony Tyson will testify before Congress on Thursday, Nov. 8, on near-Earth asteroids. Tyson will talk about the potential role of the proposed Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) in surveying ...

Recommended for you

Color and texture matter most when it comes to tomatoes

Oct 21, 2014

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), evaluated consumers' choice in fresh tomato selection and revealed which characteristics make the red fruit most appealing.

How the lotus got its own administration

Oct 21, 2014

Actually the lotus is a very ordinary plant. Nevertheless, during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) a complex bureaucratic structure was built up around this plant. The lotus was part of the Imperial Household, ...

What labels on textiles can tell us about society

Oct 21, 2014

Throughout Chinese history, dynastic states used labels on textiles to spread information on the maker, the commissioner, the owner or the date and site of production. Silks produced in state-owned manufacture ...

User comments : 18

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lurker2358
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 18, 2013
I have 3000 invisible, intangible unicorns on my ranch.
praos
3.1 / 5 (9) Feb 18, 2013
Hammer density is close to that of graphite, and substantial part of white dwarves is carbon. Its strength rhimes well with both CNF and graphene. As for "metal" part, both materials are good conductors. More than that, this theory was experimentally verified. An analysis of a sample of Thor's hammer, taken by flaking off of commics' pic, showed high content of carbon, mostly in form of graphite.
InterPur
3.2 / 5 (5) Feb 18, 2013
I have a dragon-repellant statue in my front yard. Since I have never seen a dragon in my front yard, my repellant works.
I will make a dragon-repellant statue for anyone for $5,000.00 - with free shipping!
Anda
5 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2013
Let's get serious.
Eh @natello, you really think that was a research? C'mon...
Birger
5 / 5 (9) Feb 18, 2013
Guys, this is playful back-of-the-envelope estimates made during the coffe breaks of researchers with a past as comics readers. No tax money was expended, nor did anyone intend this to be taken seriously.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (7) Feb 18, 2013
I have a dragon-repellant statue in my front yard. Since I have never seen a dragon in my front yard, my repellant works.
I will make a dragon-repellant statue for anyone for $5,000.00 - with free shipping!
Is it pretty? If it is pretty you can expect to make some money.

Thors hammer is like excaliber - only he can wield it. Not a matter of weight or strength. So technically it could possess a field of some sort which anchors itself to a location and only moves as intended by Thor. It is also indestructible and can move accurately and with great force, indicating that the object itself is only a conduit for some sort of energy. As such it shares some of the characteristics of fictional stasis fields.
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 18, 2013
Guys, this is playful back-of-the-envelope estimates made during the coffe breaks of researchers with a past as comics readers. No tax money was expended, nor did anyone intend this to be taken seriously.

Agreed.

Shees. Aren't scientists allowed to have a little fun once in a while? After all: without them you'd be still living on trees. Cut the guys (and girls) some slack.
TransmissionDump
3 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2013
Can someone please take it and wallop the odd water surface ripple.
ValeriaT
1.3 / 5 (7) Feb 18, 2013
After all: without them you'd be still living on trees.
With ignorant approach of contemporary science, physics in particular we will return there soon... BTW If politicians are useful, why people are doing defenestrations occasionally?
Lurker2358
5 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2013
It is also indestructible and can move accurately and with great force, indicating that the object itself is only a conduit for some sort of energy. As such it shares some of the characteristics of fictional stasis fields.


It's called "Reality Warp," which is a character or artifact which is able to modify the laws of physics or logic.

Other examples in fiction are:
Superman (comics)
Relm Arrowny (Final Fantasy)
Bugs Bunny-breaks nested realities and can modify the laws of physics.

Relm and Bugs have logic warps, and are able to make things that are totally preposterous come true: The paintings come to life, or the rabbit can just write in a new option on a computer's control dial and it "works" as if it was programmed that way, etc...

Superman and Thor merely have "physics warps" whereby new laws of physics must be postulated to explain their abilities, but they are otherwise self-consistent within their own fictional universes.

At any rate, most comic abilities are warps
Gawad
3.8 / 5 (6) Feb 18, 2013
Well, the physicists returned into their homes contentedly and they calculate the weight of Thor hammer instead for the money of tax payers. Am I the only person on the world, which considers such stance ignorant and immoral?


Yes.

And spoken like a true loser.
cyberCMDR
5 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2013
Actually, Thor's hammer is made of a substance that can interact with the Higg's field in a variable manner, such that its effective mass can be controlled by Thor.
ValeriaT
1.3 / 5 (4) Feb 18, 2013
IMO the original Thor's name was Aethor. It was just lost in Wiking's translation.
MandoZink
5 / 5 (1) Feb 18, 2013
Should the tax payers pay for such research?

I bet they thought a lot about this on their own time. Hell, I'm doing it right now.

In all seriousness, Neil deGrasse Tyson should have considered what would happen when a neutron-star density hammer the size of Thor's is dropped as many times as it probably has been. I'd cause more than just a peal of thunder.

I'll think about it on my lunch hour tomorrow.
zaxxon451
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2013


Egleton
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2013
Should the tax payers pay for such research? Especially at the moment, when the physicists ignore cold fusion or ZPE engines findings for decades?

Where's my hammer?
Digi
5 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2013
I for one like to hear such comparisons, as a kid I still remember the 'teaspoon of neutron star' analogy. If it motivates people to think and debate, it has to be a good thing!
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2013
Neil deGrasse Tyson should have considered what would happen when a neutron-star density hammer the size of Thor's is dropped as many times as it probably has been. I'd cause more than just a peal of thunder.

At the very least they should have never gotten the helicarrier off the ground with that thing on it. (And possibly the hammer should have sunk through the Earth's crust to the center like a knife through butter whenever it was dropped - and while Thor's holding it he should have been pulled down right with it)