Gravitons Make Flight Work: an article by: GF Willmetts.

October 30, 2016 | By | Reply More

Back in the 1980s, the now late editor/comicbook writer Mark Gruenwald declared for ‘The Marvel Universe Handbook’ that the main means of propulsion for flying Marvel super-humans or other species was the manipulation of the sub-atomic particle, the graviton. This is a long debated but yet to be discovered in our reality as its thought that the graviton is the very weak minute particle that makes gravity work or rather what keeps objects together. It acts as both a glue and an attraction that keeps matter together and can also be easily broken by simply jumping up in the air. Of course, unless you reach escape velocity, you quickly land on the ground again. This relationship ensures that we all aren’t ground-dwellers.

For the scientifically inclined, gravity is the fourth of the main forces of the universe, the others being electro-magnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces. We know gravity is there because we see examples of it all the time. Drop an object and it will fall to the ground or table or whatever you’re letting it fall. If you throw it a distance, the fall will be in a hyperbolic curve but still land again. You have to exceed 11.2 km/s (7 miles/sec) to not come down to Earth and even in orbit, an object will eventually be dragged down without the occasional nudge to keep it up there.

Proving the graviton exists is still problematic but it did lead me to writing an article at the time in my comicbook fandom days and I thought it was about time that I brought a revised edition on-line, especially as I’ve been discussing the problems with some other super-human powers this year, it was time to show how one ability could not only work but be responsible for other effects as well.

I should point out that not all those who fly in the Marvel Universe use gravitons. Those armoured suits that the likes of Tony Stark use don’t. After all, there are several inventors like Bentley Wittman, the Wizard, and Adrian Toomes, the Vulture, who have harnessed small anti-gravity devices but when you consider they only fly at most around 90mph, does not compare to Iron Man who can exceed Mach One. If Stark had wanted an anti-gravity device then he would have incorporated it into his various Iron Man armours. I should also point out that as I lost touch with the Marvel Universe shortly before the multiple changes of the 1990s, so don’t treat it as gospel for anything beyond that period although Marvel’s own desire for consistency might well mean it’s still employed, even if it might be sub-consciously.

Unlike the DC Universe, where non-mechanical flight can be from a variety of sources from whatever the likes of Superman and Green Lantern use, they aren’t the same. The only consistency is the Thangorian Nth metal, which is also inside the Legion Of Super-Heroes’ flight rings and called in the 31st century element 152 or valorium, there has never been any acknowledgement of the graviton, unlike the Marvel Universe. I use the term ‘super-human’ only as a generic term rather than to distinguish how these people were born with or developed their powers later.

To manipulate gravitons in the air would be the equivalent of being suspended underwater without any weights plus the ability to manipulate them for propulsion without flippers. In effect, you would initially be floating and then moving like a guided missile. It does need some control because a total loss of inertia and you would be accelerating away from the Earth far faster than a rocket. Only James MacDonald Hudson’s Guardian armour has an inertia release facility but he only ever used it for a split-second horizontally in an emergency as you would be stopped or impaired by any object in your way.

For those super-humans who can travel in space, this would explain how fast they can truly travel, limited only by their physiology to survive in a vacuum. They are also not likely to go this fact in an atmosphere because friction would surely set them on fire or if protection from same, make it unbearably hot for those around them. You don’t even have to understand the maths or physics of the graviton to use it, although you would need to know how to reduce the effect to stay on the ground. All perfectly reasonable but does need some form of conscious control or you’d be walking on air all the time.

However, I had another application that hadn’t been considered. Although not all super-humans fly, many of them can lift weights that far exceed their own body weight. No matter how big your muscles are, the weakest area is still the wrists, followed by the stomach or abdomen muscles. Normal weight-lifters use a wide belt around their middle to reduce strain there for that reason. There is also the matter of lifting the weight and not even leaving a depression in the ground. There’s a marvellous painting by Joe Jusko showing Jennifer Walters, the She-Hulk, lying outside a muscle park on a beach holding an enormous weight in one hand and not a hint of that reflecting in any depression in the sand. Even if the sand was on a layer of bedrock, the weight would have made some sort of impression. No wonder the muscle-men were envious.

She-Hulk character (c) Marvel

She-Hulk character
(c) Marvel

To my mind that led back to gravitons and just a different manipulation depending on the individual super-human’s ability to use them. My thoughts in the original article was that they just increased their own graviton flow to lift the weight up. Now, I would add to that and say that they also reduce the graviton flow of the object that they are lifting as well. This would explain why the likes of Robert Bruce Banner, in his Hulk mode, can also toss heavy tonnage like a cupcake. Just because something is a known heavy weight, it doesn’t mean it maintains this tonnage when picked up by a super-human, even if they do have big muscles. The amount of mass that can be raised depends entirely on the graviton flow from any particular individual. It would also explain why said objects stay intact and don’t break at any particular stress points. Well, until they crash against something. The object loses weight not mass after all.

There are a lot of Marvel super-human who can either lift heavy weights or fly but fewer who can do both, let alone at the same time, probably the late Franklin Hall, the aptly named Graviton, doing both being a prime example. Sub-dividing in this way, you would have a power distinction, dependent on who can manipulate gravitons the best. The Hulk is considered at the height of strength and can lift anything up to 100 tons or more depending on how angry he is. He cannot stop his impact from leaping leaving craters as dead weight where he lands because he cannot manipulate his ability to fly. Bruce Banner periodically mutates into this Hulk form after being eradicated by gamma radiation, as indeed are various other people, many are but not as ‘strong’ has him and certainly not in their human form. Probably the closest from another radiation source in having a physical body change is Benjamin J. Grimm, aka the Thing, although his is more stable. For a smaller radiation dose, one has to look at Peter Parker, the sometimes Spider-Man, who can press a tenth of the Hulk’s nominal press limit. One could surmise it is not the amount of the radiation received but the effect on the body or the particular organ. Unlike normal Earth, the number of beings who can be affected by radioactive sources in a beneficial way is a lot higher in their reality.

The general comparison is that those who exhibit super-strength tend to expel their graviton effect and those who fly mostly contain it. Those who can do both just project both ways. It does explain odd anomalies like Namor McKenzie, the Sub-Mariner, flying with tiny wing ankles and even the various winged mutants like Warren Kenneth Worthington III, the Angel amongst his other aliases. Although its often cited his low weight by not having bone marrow allowing his wings to carry him aloft seems contradictory compared say, to the likes, of the Calvin Rankin, in his first group collective Mimic, where he also carries the muscles of the Beast or even the winged lion-limbed modified John Horton, the Griffin, who are both far muscularly bulkier. One could surmise that the Angel’s reduced weight would suggest his graviton flow is slightly on all the time. At least that gets around how, before his Archangel mode, why he was fairly robust and wouldn’t have problems if he bled from a wound. This would ensure Worthington does have bone marrow and not to in a serious condition if he was bleeding. Unlike other flying super-humans, the Angel’s wings grant him more manoeuvrability at the cost of greater speed. Considering that the Angel is one of several winged beings, also including the Condor from an Inhumans off-shoot, the Bird-People, suggest that this physical mutation is more common and stable than others.

Those who fly without any auxiliary appendages and who can fly in space can exceed even greater velocities. Some can even exceed the speed of light although some do cross inter-dimensional space to reach other star systems. For this we have to turn to Einstein. All natural objects in the universe are attracted to other objects. Greater masses attract smaller masses, which is why no matter how high you leap into the air, you’ll always fall to earth. For graviton manipulators, they can control how far and fast they descend. In space, they can attune to another large graviton source and be drawn to it. The only limitation then is how they survive in space, air supply and nutrients for extended periods. One could surmise that they also have something else going for them but that requires a different kind of study and looking for common denominators they have in common. At that level, certain super-humans share something in common with some extraordinary aliens and extra-dimensional beings.

I should point out that there are some exceptions to the rule. Max Eisenhardt aka Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto and Lorna Dane, Polaris, manipulate magnetic fields. Ororo Munroe, aka Storm, relies on weather manipulation. Sean Cassidy, Banshee, and Theresa Cassidy, Siryn, are an odd mix and I suspect some graviton connection to the way they emit sound waves and can glide on them.

By rights, flaming people like the Human Torchs, Jim Hammond and Johnny Storm, cannot levitate solely by bursting into flame, although it does make a good propellant. It does draw an interesting comparison as Hammond is an android and Storm a cosmic radiation mutate as to what they have in common. The same also applies to the synthezoid Vision, whose android body is based on Hammond’s, although his levitation is caused by reduced body density and minimal graviton manipulation but can clearly not fly particularly fast. This does suggest that this applies to both of these androids.

Of course, most telekinetics can levitate or even fly, Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl amongst other names, being one of them. Telekinesis is the ability to manipulate energy and physical objects, so adjusting the balance between objects and gravitons is relatively easy. What differentiates between the various super-humans who can is in how powerful and the level of concentration need that each particular talent has. It does indicate another area of access.

Teleportation also requires some graviton control as well. What bonds us to our planet also gets in the way when moving from one place to another instantaneously. Although the likes of Telford Porter, the Vanisher, can teleport over the Earth, Lila Cheney teleports to other planets and back and must surely have a way to compensate for gravitational differences or be squashed by the difference in planetary gravity and accelerations. Occam’s razor science law should be noted here in don’t over-complicate an answer.

There is some cross-connection to users of the Pym Particle. After all, matter is shunted to another dimension in miniaturisation, but still retains normal-size strength and mass suggesting it can still be used. However, when a person grows to giant-size, none of them are subject to the Square-Cube Law, where the larger you are, the treble your weight and cross-section, meaning the more immobile you become. There is also the suggestion that they gain this extra mass is also drawn from this other dimension at giant-size. As we have seen with the likes of Henry Pym, Janet Van Dyne, Clinton Barton, William Foster and Scott Lang, this clearly doesn’t happen. When you enter the graviton into the mix, plausibility becomes possible enabling most of the benefits with fewer of the downfalls.

I should point out that I don’t think the Pym Particle is akin to the graviton. Considering what we know about the String Theory and possibilities of other dimensions, it shows more kinship with that. The graviton flow is out of the control of the user because none of them can extend this to flying with the exception of Janet Van Dyne, who as the Wasp, could fly when miniaturised being equipped with wing implants that worked at reduced size. Considering that both Pym and Van Dyne originally used gas and then tablets to activate the Pym Particle before discovering that they could then will the mass/size change does tend to suggest that this medication gave access to but not contain the Pym Particles itself. It would explain why the Fantastic Four and the Hulk, who have been miniaturised a couple times in their careers didn’t develop control over it themselves. Although the likes of giants like Galactus and the Celestials don’t exhibit size-changing abilities, their personal control of gravitons would also circumvent the Square-Cube Law. They also don’t need to adopt a swimming posture when floating at speed.

Looking through this article, it does look like the graviton is the answer to many of the super-human abilities of many if not most of the super-beings in the Marvel Universe. If anything, it is the comicbook equivalent of the Unified Field Theory. It simplifies than over-complicates things and saves over-thinking how they can accomplish such feats on a regular basis. I just like the way it can all work together and that gravitons make weight-lifting relatively easy if you have the control.

(c) GF Willmetts 2016

Category: Comics, Science, Superheroes

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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