For most people, the closest we come to being a superhero is when we dress up like Superman at Halloween. But electrical engineer Allen Pan has taken the fantasy one step further — he built a real-life Thor’s hammer.
Pan hosts the YouTube channel Sufficiently Advanced, in which he tries to “make pretend things into real things.” His channel is inspired by a sage quote from sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” CBC reported.
And this mythological object would certainly qualify as “magic.” In the Marvel comics and movies (but first, Norse mythology), the god hails from a place called Asgard, filled with an advanced race of people who presumably have some pretty far-out technology, Tech Times theorized.
Whatever this technology (or magic) is, only Thor can wield Mjölnir. Tony Stark learned this fact in Avengers: Age of Ultron, when he tried and failed to lift it. Ever the scientist, he theorized that it was installed with a fingerprint scanner.
Challenge accepted! Allen came up with a pretty awesome way to simulate Thor’s hammer in the real world and tricked a bunch of passersby at Venice Beach in California to pick it up like Stark. The result is pretty funny, as the challenged think for a perhaps a couple fleeting seconds that Pan is magical.
In a nondescript driveway, Pan has plopped his real-life mythical Mjölnir on a sheet of metal and calls to people — men, women, and children — to pick it up. Later, he tests it on the street using a manhole cover. They each grunt and struggle and giggle, emerging red-faced and surprised. Allen cheers them on, knowing all the while that each one of his victims will fail.
Then he emerges to complete the trick. Sauntering casually over to his hammer, he bends down to lift it easily, then glances at his audiences to await their amazement.
In the video, he also demonstrates just how he made a real-life version of Thor’s mythical Mjölnir. The secret: magnets and, as Stark suggested, a fingerprint scanner.
CNET explained that in order to affix the hammer to the ground, Allen installed a microwave oven transformer magnet, which creates a magnetic field using electricity and has a very powerful magnetic pull that makes it appear as though it’s too heavy to lift. Of course, it has to be placed on a metal surface for that to work.
On the handle of Pan’s real Thor hammer, which looks a lot like the movie version, is a touch sensor. That is connected to a Pro Mini and a solid state relay. This relay acts like a switch, turning on the electromagnets in the hammer’s head when it’s touched. As soon as someone grasps on to the handle, the magnets are engaged and attach tightly to the ground.
In other words, that person is deemed unworthy to wield Thor’s hammer.
Then comes the trick that makes Allen look like a real Norse god. He can use the switch to turn off the electromagnets and does it through a fingerprint sensor keypad programmed to only recognize his fingerprint.
So when he grasps on to the handle and passes his thumb over the scanner, the magnets switch off and release their grip on the ground.
And voila, Allen proves to the confused people of Venice Beach that he’s magic.
Of course, he can’t call it magically into his hand and can’t destroy mountains with it, though it could probably take down more than a few bad guys. And unlike Thor’s hammer, the “unworthy” can still move the real one.
The flaw with the non-magical version of Mjölnir: if you don’t touch the handle, it will simply slide off the metal surface.
[Photos Courtesy YouTube Screengrabs]