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Metro Science: Could the Black Panther's vibranium exist on Earth?

The metal that is key to the Black Panthers power isn't exactly real. But it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

The Black Panther overlooks his kingdom of Wakanda.


The Black Panther overlooks his kingdom of Wakanda.

The Black Panther and his nation, Wakanda, can thank a fictional metal called vibranium for much of the wealth and strength enjoyed by the country and its king. The leader of Wakanda is decked out in a suit of the stuff, which absorbs all vibrations.

But though the character, the country, and the metal are fictional, there are some real-life parallels to Marvel's universe in our own.

Origin Story: The story that Wakanda's vibranium stores arrived when a meteorite crashed into Earth 10,000 years ago is not so far fetched. Earth's accessible gold and other precious metals (i.e., not the bits swirling in the core) arrived on the planet via a barrage of meteorites 200 million years ago, according to 2011 research out of the University of Bristol.

Bullet Proof: A key power of vibranium is its ability to act as a shield. The material absorbs all vibration and shock from an impact. In real life graphene, an ultra thin yet ultra strong material, has been shown to be stronger than Kevlar and absorb blows that puncture steel.

Weaponized Shockwaves: The other power of a vibranium suit, thanks to Black Panther's sister and science whiz Shuri, is how it stores kinetic energy from gun shots for future use.

Physics professor and author of The Physics of Superheroes James Kakalios posits that perhaps energy, in the form of sound waves, could be converted to light through a process called sonoluminescence. And maybe, just maybe stored in what he dubs an "optical battery."

Next Level: Graphene may be the closest thing now, but scientists are at work on structures made up of nanoparticles. As Kakalios told, think of a bowling ball striking a sidewalk versus striking sand. The sand, made up of many small pieces, can spread out rather than crack. Now imagine a wearable material that mimics that. POW!

SCIENCE STORY: Dense as a block

Cedar planks are stacked at a lumber yard, Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Montreal.


Cedar planks are stacked at a lumber yard, Tuesday, April 25, 2017 in Montreal.

Researchers created superdense, yet lightweight, lumber by boiling a block of wood in a solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite, then applying heat and pressure. The block shrank to 20 per cent of its thickness, but was three times stronger. It could be an alternative to steel in buildings, bridges, even cars, they said in Nature.

SOUND SMART: Electroplating

Andres Plana

DEFINITION: Electroplating is the process that uses electric current to coat a metal in another metal.

USE IT IN A SENTENCE: It’s about time you and I electroplate our coin collections together.

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