Hi there Science Of Superheroes followers, after last week's dip into the world of bionics with the Bennett family, this week you join us in Canada where our epic journey takes us in search of information about another form of body enhancement. This week we're looking at Marvel Comics' Wolverine, or to be more exact his adamantium skeleton!
Hopefully by now you should know the drill, so let's get back to it.
SO TELL ME, WHAT EXACTLY IS THE POINT OF A SKELETON?
A skeleton is a support structure for the human body that consists of fused and individual bones and is wrapped in ligaments, cartilage, tendons and muscles.It keeps people from being big lumps of immovable skin and it protects the body’s organs due to bones being lightweight, yet hard and strong.The average human adult skeleton is made up of 206 bones (270 for babies) and it is approximately 14% of an adult’s weight. Oh and the word ‘skeleton’ comes from the Greek word skeletos, which means dried body (how lovely).In terms of Wolverine it’s an even stronger support structure covered in (fictional) Marvel metal, adamantium!
OK, SO WHAT'S ADAMANTIUM AND WHY'S WOLVERINE'S SKELETON SO SPECIAL?
Wolverine is an extremely popular Marvel Comics character created by Len Wein, Herb Trimpe and John Romita SR, who first appeared in 1974.He was an instant fan favourite from his first few appearances and one of the reasons for this was down to his (almost) unique skeleton.Wolverine’s skeleton differs from a regular person’s because firstly he has a set of retractable claws in his wrist, giving him six extra bones (three on each arm) and secondly because his entire skeleton is infused with adamantium; an almost indestructible metal that’s sort of related to vibranium (you know the stuff Captain America’s shield is made from).Adamantium was the brainchild of Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith and was first introduced into the Marvel Universe in Avengers #66 in 1969.Since then adamantium has been used and referenced numerous times, but became synonymous with the mutant Wolverine when his skeleton was covered in the metal as part of a secret process (called the Weapon-X Program) to turn him into a super soldier.In the real world adamantium is as fake a metal as they come, but it does have some connections to the real world don’t ya know.Adamantium takes its name from the noun adamant, which refers to a legendary impenetrable stone; and the adjective adamant, which refers to something that’s too hard to cut or break.In the Marvel Universe adamantium is more or less the same as what we’d call unobtainium, which is a term used to describe a material that for whatever reason is physically impossible to obtain (hence the name) and therefore can do whatever the situation calls for.
WHAT DID IT DO FOR WOLVERINE?
Well apart from keeping him in an upright position, his skeleton worked in conjunction with his mutant healing factor (aka his ability to heal any injury) to make him pretty much Marvel’s most indestructible superhero.You see what made Wolverine pretty unique was the fact that he only survived the process of having metal fused to his bones, because his superpower allowed him to heal when most other people would have died.As Wolverine was born with a set of retractable bones in each wrist, the adamantium also covered those as well, which allowed Wolvie to pop out a set of razor sharp claws to help in his fight against evil.
WHAT WOULD A METAL SKELETON DO FOR ME?
Erm, probably not a lot, as outside of comics, people just don’t go and get themselves a metal skeleton.Of course some people have metal plates and pins fitted to their bones (generally after an accident or injury) and there are also surgical procedures like hip replacements, which swap joints for prosthetic implants; usually titanium hips (have you forgotten already what we learnt about the bionic Bennett family?).These procedures are usually undertaken to reduce the pain caused by arthritis but are generally regarded as the most successful of all orthopaedic operations.That said replacing a whole skeleton with titanium (or any other metal) is not really going to happen as it would cause too many problems.You see as well as being a support structure, bones are important in the production of white and red blood cells (a process called haematopoiesis); they help remove foreign elements from the blood and they store important minerals, like calcium!A metal skeleton just wouldn’t do this and hypothetically speaking replacing bone with an alloy like steel, which is used throughout the world in the construction of buildings and cars and therefore strong enough to hold together a body, would just be daft.The weight difference alone between bone and metal would be a problem and then there’s that thing about how difficult it would be to actually replace a human skull and how you’d actually survive the operation?!?!Basically it just wouldn’t happen.Chances are you’ll probably need a hip replacement when you’re older though, so you can at least pretend you’re like Wolverine.Sort of.
And now you know.
SUPER SCIENCE EQUATION: Metal skeleton + Ryan = Erm... a dead Ryan.
That’s all there is for this week.We’re off to Hawaii to catch some waves.... see you next time!