Superheroes Round 1: The Avengers
Superheroes… the modern myth. It’s not fantasy — there’s generally a dearth of wizards. And, well, while I’d count it as science fiction, it’s so squishy in terms of the “science” part… and there’s so much superhero stuff, it deserves its own category.
So, let’s start with one of the big, recent ones.
Since this is a let’s-get-together superhero film, I won’t be worrying about the issues with the individual superhero’s powers so much here, and (mostly) taking those as a given. That said…
The Joint Dark Energy Mission
That cool facility at the beginning that was doing the cool research? They stole a real acronym. The real thing was a planned telescope for looking for the cosmological kind of dark energy — whatever it is that’s making the expansion of the universe accelerate. It’s since been blended with another project, and the current planned mission is called the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope. If you really want to know more, check out “dark energy” or “physical cosmology” on Wikipedia. You will notice a distinct lack of tesseracts.
Dude, It’s Loki
You’ve got Loki. And you know he’s planning things. Even while he’s all-too-happily in captivity…
… why are you just sitting there with Loki in your hold? Why not Just Shoot Him? Or, if that’s too evil, why not send him back to Asgard with Thor? Or at least, seriously, take him somewhere other than the base right next to all your nice toys, where he can sneakily sabotage things and try to distract you from his real plan. Then all you have to do is head off with the tesseract, and you’re good.
Dude, You’re Loki
Um, if you’re planning some vengeance and conquest… why start the gloating before you’re done? That distraction while you were detained was not so helpful.
And Fury? You had him down for the count at the beginning. Why don’t you Just Shoot Him when you have the chance? Or even better — mind control him! He’s be a useful tool, if he could wear shades to hide the glowing eye of mind control… or maybe just one contact.
And really. Keep a closer eye on your tools, and don’t let your mind-controlled scientist build an off switch to your gate of doom. And when you can’t mind-control Iron Man, why don’t you Just Sh- oh, I said that already. And for pete’s sake, don’t start lecturing the Hulk while he’s close enough to beat you up.
The mind control is great, by the way, but if a concussion is all it takes to break it… that’s pretty wimpy mind control. You have to keep an eye on your minions. Why are you even bothering with the distraction on the helicarrier? Why not, say, plant a decoy source of gamma radiation in Australia? You’ve got all that Asgardian know-how. Use it.
Seriously, man, it’s like you haven’t even read the Evil Overlord List.
Let’s do a little math. The helicarrier looks a little like a Nimitz-class carrier. So, let’s say it has about the same mass — roughly 100,000 tons. Assuming it doesn’t have a magical arc reactor (since it’s unlikely Tony Stark would sell them one), let’s assume it has the same kind of power generation as the aircarrier. That’s two nuclear reactors, that give 104 MW each.
Now, let’s assume we can scale up a typical helicopter. It won’t scale perfectly — it should be harder to lift the helicarrier than the same mass of helicopter — but it’s a place to start. A Black Hawk helicopter has a power-to-weight ratio of 158 W/kg. (In other words, it takes 158 W per kg of weight in the chopper to keep it up.)
Assume the helicarrier is equally efficient, that means it takes about 10^8 W, or about 10 GW… which is more than any stationary nuclear power plant on the ground produces. And about fifty times what an aircarrier can produce. This thing can’t hold itself up.
If you do a similar calculation for the air pressure difference you’d need to keep it up, you’d find that even sheer vacuum above the deck wouldn’t be enough when they’re flying at altitude. Or you could calculate that the blades would have to force air downward at several times the speed of sound…
And let’s not even get into the cloak. Even it if worked, you’d still hear it coming. And then there’s all that waste heat…
Power The World
And then, the exploit: we could have powered the world with the tesseract, but it’s too dangerous. Fine. Instead, let’s build lots of those arc reactors, like the one Tony’s using to power his office. That’ll work great, right? Loads of long-lasting clean energy? Why are we not doing this already?
And if you want to have a look at someone else’s take on The Avengers… look here.