Bobby Drake, code-named IcemanIceman bio courtesy of Marvel is our subject matter today. One of the original X-Men, he first appeared in The Uncanny X-Men #1Credits and info on The Uncanny X-Men #1 where his mutant power was revealed to be the ability to lower the temperature of his body and immediate surroundings to less than 0 degrees Celsius. This power meant his body tended to acquire a protective coating of frozen water.
As I’m sure fans are already aware, be it from the comics, cartoon series or films, Bobby can’t actually produce ice. In actual fact what he does is condense the water vapour always present in the air and manipulate it. It’s an interesting idea for a mutated human ability. Unfortunately I do have to question where the heat he subtracts goes. Heat that you subtract from any given situation must be compensated for by an amount delivered somewhere else. The Second Law of ThermodynamicsExplanation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics would suggest that the heat added is most likely greater than the heat subtracted. For a more everyday explanation, take your refrigerator. Your fridge removes all the heat inside it and makes it nice and chilly so you can store all your goodies. The heat doesn’t disappear though, it gets fired out the back of your fridge. So my question remains; where does the heat go when Iceman freezes the air? Sadly it’s not something I can really fathom an answer to and I don’t see Marvel coughing one up for me anytime soon. It obviously has to go somewhere but for just now it’s a mystery!
As Iceman gained more control over his powers, he not only had the ability to form a protective shell but he could also project ‘freeze rays’ meaning he could ice up other people and objects. The coolest manifestation of this were the ice slides he frequently used to get around while fighting. In principle he’s basically making a big ice mountain underneath himself to gain height and then generating some nifty ramps to get him where he needs to be. Assuming that you could actually control the temperature the way it’s stated he can and that it’s humid enough to provide an appropriate amount of moisture in the air for all that ice creation then this in itself doesn’t violate any physics principles.
The problem lies in the fact that they always made his ice slides super stable. Which just isn’t practical. The center of mass, or center of gravity if you prefer, of an object is the point at which it acts as if all its mass were concentrated in that one spot. Ever tried balancing things on your fingers? If you have you’ll have found that you could only get things to balance at a specific sweet spot; the center of gravity. Where this sweet spot is entirely depends on the distribution of matter in the object. You can test this out for yourself, just get some random objects and try balancing away.
Bringing it back to the ice slides; the more Iceman extends them the further they move from their center of gravity, that being the ice mountain he set up for himself back at the start. With Iceman gliding across the top of the slide, the torque created would outweigh the strength of the slide itself and as a result that baby should crack. Avoiding this would be reasonably easy if he would just reinforce the underside of his slides with pillars, but he doesn’t.
The comics don’t ignore the fact that his feats are a physical implausibility though, they actually have Iceman himself address it which I quite like. The comic panel shown to the left is taken from The Uncanny X-Men #47Credits and info on The Uncanny X-Men #47. It’s a fun little dig at the fact that yes, what he’s doing is physically impossible but Marvel know that.
It IS a comic book after all. Where would the fun be if it was all solely based on reality?
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