Like a space shuttle rocket lifting off from your face.
We’re just days away from Avengers: Age of Ultron finally dropping and while I’m sure there are many interesting easter eggs and character developments and robot bashings, what I want to see is the Hulk/Iron Man fight. In the last Avengers, the Hulk was basically invincible, so Tony Stark’s “Hulkbuster” armor must be quite the machine. If it can take on the Hulk, what would a good right hook from the armor feel like?
Answering a question like this usually requires a lot of homework. We’d need to look at the film’s footage for punch speeds and impact times, as well as data on the Hulkbuster’s weight. That’s a lot of guessing. Thankfully, the comics established the strength of Tony’s first Hulkbuster armor years ago, and we can work backwards from there (assuming that the movie is even remotely similar).
In 1994’s Iron Man #305, Stark squares off against a Hulk with Banner-level intelligence. To do so he unveils his Hulkbuster armor, the first iteration in the comics. Right before the two tussle, Tony remarks that the suit is “more than equal to the job.” That means having a “magno-hydraulic pseudomusculature rated at 175 tons.”
It’s possible Tony was referring to something other than the forces the suit generates, like the weight of the suit itself, but it’s unlikely that the Hulkbuster weighs 350,000 pounds (the weight of the largest creature to ever live, the blue whale). So what “rated at 175 tons” probably means is that the suit can throw a punch with 175 tons of force behind it. That’s what the main engine on the space shuttle throws down into the dirt, or what getting bitten by 27 T. rexes at once would feel like. Hulk busted.
But that isn’t the whole story. From this force value we can work backwards to figure out how heavy a Hulkbuster fist might be, and how fast it would smack Banner’s green gob.
The force of an impact can be broken down into the change of an object’s momentum over time, and momentum is the mass of that object multiplied by its velocity. Therefore, using 175 tons of force as what we end up with, we can guess some values the rest of this punch-quation. For example, assume that a Hulkbuster punch can deliver all that oomph over a tenth of a second with a 2,000-lb arm. The result is a 384 mph (172 meters/second) strike.
It doesn’t look like Tony is swinging fists at nearly those speeds in the film (you’d hardly be able to see them), so maybe the Hulkbuster’s force rating is the upper limit of its performance. Change the variables and the suit only gets more impressive. A punch taking a half-second to unload all that force would have to move at Mach 2.52, or two-and-a-half times the speed of sound. Decrease the mass of the arm (which is already the weight of a small car) and Tony is still swinging at jet fighter velocities.
That’s Tony’s secret: he’s always over-engineering.
Kyle Hill is the Science Editor at Nerdist Industries. Follow on Twitter: @Sci_Phile.